A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Her leg was broken and dangling, near where it joined her body. She was frightened by our vehicle and trying desperately to jump the fence. It was her left front leg and she kept trying to stand on it to spring over the fence. Each time she would fall and then move further down the fence line looking for a hole to go through. We slowed almost to a stop to keep from stressing her further. She finally found a hole and disappeared.

She looked to be in bad shape and a lot of pain. Living close to nature as we do, you see a lot of suffering. Most of the time you can't help. We can't feed enough to keep the deer alive during a drought. There are too many and not enough money. We provide water and we put out a little corn for the deer year round and milo for the turkeys. We feed the birds. We put food scraps out for the foxes and small animals. 

But when you see a deer suffering like this you can sometimes end it's suffering. Rickie saw it a couple of days later and she looked worse. He made the decision to shoot her the next time he saw her. 

Our friends Scott and Martha came over for dinner the next day and Scott said he had seen what looked like a pool of blood in the road in front of our place. We told him about the deer we had seen and wondered if it was from her.

Sarah and Bixby came over Christmas Eve and spent the night; Justin had to work and couldn't come. Bixby had fun learning to be a ranch hand. He liked the Mule, both helping to drive it and dancing in the bed of it. He also thought the flat bed trailer was good for running. He helped feed the longhorns and the fish and birds. He was a good hand and that's the best compliment you can get on a ranch.

We had a turkey dinner and opened some presents and the kids tried the bunkhouse on for size. They left this morning ahead of the blue norther that is blowing in now. We're gonna have some mighty cold weather the next few nights. 

After they left Rickie saw the injured doe by the feeder. She had lost the broken leg at the shoulder. She was eating some corn and having a little trouble keeping her balance but she looked better than she had. We are thinking she probably got the damaged leg ripped off crossing the fence and the blood in the road was hers. 

We've had a three-legged doe living here in the past. A friend named her Tripod and she lived for many years, raising a baby each year.  Everyone watched out for her and gave her the respect she deserved for her toughness and the daily battle she fought. Scott and Martha had one by them also that they called Stubbette and she too had and raised babies. A couple of years ago a mountain lion got her.

As we watched the newly created three legged doe, Rickie said to me "well, what do you think? Leave her be?" I agreed. With losing the leg she has a much better chance to make it. She may or may not survive but she's not going down without a fight. That's what it takes. 

We decided to call her Trinity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I awoke to 18 degrees this morning, a long way from the 80s we had a couple of days ago! Woodrow and Gus were waiting by the fence. They wanted some hay to get their internal furnace fired up. I put long underwear on for the first time this season and ventured out!

(Photo - my friend Belinda made the Santa pillow on the bunkhouse shelf.)

I started the fireplace going yesterday afternoon. In the bunkhouse I took down a Tony Hillerman book with Jim Chee stories to read by the fire, with a cup of coffee with a little Bailey's Caramel added. I had read it, of course, but it has been a long time. Hillerman was the first author to instill in me some knowledge and a love of the Four Corners area. When Sarah was a senior in high school some years ago we went on a vacation there. Sarah called it the Hillerman tour. I kept seeing the places Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn lived and worked. Shiprock, Canyon de Chelly, Turquoise Mountain, Window Rock, Crownpoint. We made the rough drive out to Chaco Canyon and then on to Mesa Verde. It was beautiful. 

I added another log to the fire this morning and got it going again. After it got above freezing I refilled the galvanized washtub we use as a woodbox. I'll keep the fireplace going today and tonight. 
(Photo - my sister Kathy gave me the Christmas longhorn on the mantel above.)

Outside the back porch the little pine siskins were hopping around on the frozen water in the star shaped birdbath I have there. I added some warm water to it for them. My 5 year old great-grandson Anthony made me some pine cone feeders, with help from his Nana Lisa, and I had hung them on the sign above the birdbath. The pine siskins have eaten one already.

Rickie had done some winterizing this weekend so we were ready for the freezing weather. Our main worry is always the water lines. We have them all over the place; to the garden, the water tanks, the bunkhouse, the cabin, and of course, the pumphouse where they all originate. After we had 5 water line breaks one year on the water tank lines, Rickie made some modifications and added some valves so we can drain the lines there. 

My friend Martha and I went on a Christmas homes tour in our county a week ago. We saw some beautiful houses and a little tiny chapel in a community called Ivy. The Library Club, the sponsors of the tour, had the chapel decorated and served refreshments there. It is a beautiful place with a lot of history. It has been a schoolhouse and a chapel and a gathering place since the late 1800s. 

This summer I added a mobile device to make a hotspot at the cabin. You have to be on the porch where there is a clear line back to the tower to get a 4G signal so you can have internet access. With the freezing weather I didn't want to leave the device on the back porch. So I found that it would work in the bathroom window and now it has a new home. 

(Photo - the curtain hides our water heater and supplies. The little ceramic Santa in the window was a gift, made many years ago by my friend Debbie.)

(Photo - I made the sheep pillow; it has a hooked wool top I made years ago. The Santa pillow and the Cabin pillow were gifts from friends.)

The cold weather, the fireplace, the Chrismasy things I love, a pot of beans on the stove and a good book. In this place, at this moment, right here and now, life is good. As Augustus McCrae said, "The only healthy way to live is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When "Aunt" Doesn't Quite Say It All...

My family lost another loved one to that devil Alzheimer's yesterday. Aunt Carolyn was finally released from her suffering and is at peace. 

She was only 11 years older than me and she helped me through lots of hard times and we shared lots of good times.

Family fishing trips, making us all spaghetti; laughing uncontrollably at family fish fries; teaching me how to make pecan pie and cherry pie and how to give a house a good cleaning; being a second mom to my siblings and I; rocking my babies and pouring her love out on them. (Photo - Aunt Carolyn with my oldest son Larry.) She was a fantastic cook and whenever you would visit you knew you were going to get some good Southern home cooking.

She had a way of seeing things the way they were and she didn't mince words. She would not tell you a lie even if it meant saying things to and about people she loved if she thought they needed to be told. She was not afraid to stand up for what was right or to stand against everyone else if she thought they were wrong. I learned from her and the other women in my family to be strong. 

I don't have a lot of photos of her. Most of them are in my mind. But she was a part of everything of importance and most things trivial in my life up until later years when we lived far apart. (Photo - Aunt Carolyn with my brother David.)

When my mom was in her last year and a half of her own Alzheimer battle, Aunt Carolyn called every few days to check on her. Even as her own Alzheimer's was starting to change her life. 

She would have me call her from the nursing home whenever I was there with Mama. She wanted to talk to Mama and did up until it was clear Mama could not talk on the phone. Then she just talked to me and my siblings so she would know how Mama was. During this time Aunt Carolyn moved into an apartment, then assisted living. We weren't sure how to tell her about Mama passing away but she must have known in her heart because she called me that day to see how Mama was. She and Mama were like sisters, even though they were sisters-in-law, and I guess she felt the loss.

Aunt Carolyn had a heart of gold and she would do anything for those she loved. Her family was the most important thing in her life. Her sense of humor was famous in our family and we smile as soon as her name is mentioned. Even now, through our tears.

She was one of a kind and my family suffers a great loss with her passing. I have only one aunt left in that generation and then we are all truly on our own. If we survive this world it will be only because of what they taught us and showed us by example.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Future

The Ghost of Christmas Past visited me last week and today the Ghost of Christmas Future made an unexpected appearance. Well, maybe not Christmas Future, just Future. But then again, it is December.

I was third in line in the drive-thru at the bank in my small town. Normally, it is in and out fast but today the man at the beginning of the line must have had a lot of business because we were there for a while. 

I found myself looking at the truck ahead of me and felt the hand of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come at my shoulder, pointing. A white pickup, a bit older than my white pickup, with a little more wear. The back window was busted out, with fragments of cracked glass all around the rim. Odds and ends of this and that in the truck bed. The license plate was bent backwards on each side as if it had been backed into a fence post or a trailer tongue.

The lady driving was 10-15 years older than me with a face wrinkled by the sun and wind of west Texas. Her gray hair was a little shorter than mine. It looked like she had combed it with her hands, which is the way I've been combing mine lately.

She got her cell phone out and made a call. I got mine out and checked Facebook. She ran her hands through her hair. I ran mine through my hair. A man with a cowboy hat walked by from the parking lot. He nodded to me and I nodded back. He nodded to her and she nodded back. 

I was beginning to get the feeling that we were much alike when the man in front finally finished. He drove away; she moved up, finished, and drove off, avoiding the 18-wheeler unloading at the hardware store next door. I moved up, finished, and drove off, avoiding the 18-wheeler unloading at the hardware store next door.

My next stop was to get a Diet Coke before I continued my errands. I drove down the street to the Sonic, ordered at the drive-thru, and pulled around toward the window. There was one customer in front of me. It was the lady in the white truck from the bank. 

When she finished her errands in town, she probably went home and put feed out for a herd of cattle or goats. When I go home, I will put feed out for two longhorn steers who are pets. She probably got up several hours before me and will probably go to bed way before I do. 

We are different and yet we are the same. I'm a watered down version of her. We are women who love this life and this part of Texas. When I looked out my windshield I saw myself 15 years from now. I wondered if she looked in her rear-view mirror and saw herself 15 years ago.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Last year I got Rickie an iPod for Christmas. He said it was the best present he ever got. In his job he is on the road a lot and anyone that does that knows radio stations are not what they used to be, even on satellite radio. 

I got to thinking about presents I had gotten in the past and what my favorites were. The one that always comes to my mind first was the 1950s/1960s version of the iPod. It was a General Electric Model P797B leather transistor radio. (The photo is of one like mine, only a different color.) It was about the size of a Kindle or small tablet of today, only thicker, of course. Had to accommodate all the innards of a portable radio back then. 

It was a beautiful baby blue, almost a turquoise. I remember running my hands over the smooth surface and thinking how lovely it was and how lucky I was to have it. I had never seen blue leather before and didn't even know it existed! The leather (leatherette, actually!) cover became a flap in the back, like an envelope, and this was how you accessed the insides. I loved it dearly; it was my pride and joy.

Back then we kids stayed outside all the time. Our tiny house was no place to hang out; way too crowded with a family of kids. We stayed outside until after dark every day, as all kids everywhere did.

One day when I had been out late, I forgot and left it outside on a table. It rained that night. The next morning it was ruined. I was sick beyond tears. Especially since it was my fault for not bringing it in. I learned a hard lesson that day and after that always took better care of my treasures. We were a poor family and no one could go out and buy me another one. I was about 10 or 11 and even I knew that and never even asked. Mama and Daddy had sacrificed and worked hard to be sure we had a nice Christmas every year and I had not given their gift the respect it deserved.

Another favorite present I got was also one from my childhood. It was a beautiful boxy cropped jacket with a fake fur collar. It had a matching skirt. My sister Kathy and I each got one. One was mint green but I can't remember the color of the other one. The fake fur was dyed to match the outfit. It was just about the most beautiful thing I had ever had! It reminded me of my mom's coat and I felt so grown up.

The coat my mom had was a long wool overcoat with a shawl-type beaver fur collar that I loved. I can remember being about 5 years old and when she came home from work every day in wintertime, my brother David and I would meet her at the door. The cold air blew in with her. She would crouch down to be on our level and hug us. I would bury my face in the beaver collar and rub my hand over it. I thought we must be very rich to afford a coat like that! I can still see that in my mind and feel that warm, safe feeling.The picture in my mind is as clear as any photo. Years later when I was grown I asked her if she still had it; I was going to ask her if I could have it. She said she had recently given it to her cousin Florine. I wish I had asked her earlier. 

I was not much for dolls as a child. I was more the Cowboys and Indians type of girl. (The photo here is of my brother David, me, and my sister Kathy.) But one year I got a big "life-size" doll. She would walk if you held her hand and wobbled her back and forth. Her mouth had an open hole in it; she must have had a toy bottle that came with her. My brother David and I crushed a lot of crackers one time and stuffed them down her mouth. After that we could shake her and hear the crackers rattling around in her stomach. We were easily entertained.

Another present I want to mention was not one I received but one my boys were given. I love the idea of it and wanted to share it with you all. My boys' great-grandparents lived on a farm near LaGrange. They had 14 kids, and as you can imagine a bazillion grandkids and great-grandkids, etc. Every Christmas Grandma Betty would go to the bank and get a sack of silver dollars. Any of the little kids that came to see her received a silver dollar. If you didn't take the time to come visit the old folks, you didn't get anything. My boys treasured these silver dollars and as far as I know, they still have them. When they were in junior high some neighbor kids broke into our home and stole them. They took them to a ceramic shop down the street and bought some worthless ceramics with them. Their mom found out and went to the shop and bought them back and returned them to my boys. 

From this silver dollar gift I learned a few lessons. Number one, a gift doesn't have to be costly to be treasured. Of all the things Larry and John have received in their lives, this is probably the one they held on to the longest and surely one that meant a lot to them. Number two, if you don't care enough about the giver to stay in touch, you may find yourself without a gift. Number three, if you have 14 kids and a bazillion grandkids, you have to think creatively to make a gift memorable. Number four, it's not just the silver dollar but the memories attached to it from the visit to the farm that make it a treasure. Grandma Betty was wise in knowing that if you came you would take more than a silver dollar away from the visit.

I hope you all have a memorable holiday this year and take away more than material gifts from your visits and gatherings. I hope you have a place to sit by a fire and sip a warm drink. I hope the Ghosts of Christmas Past that visit you are all dearly loved Ghosts and I hope their visits warm your heart. I hope you can be a child once more and see things from a child's view. I hope you are safe and have a roof over your head. 

Peace out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fall Arrives at the Ranch

Saw a female flycatcher on the garden fence this morning. She was beautiful with the sun on her. It's been several weeks since we had any birds here. I left for a few days a while back. At that time I had so many I couldn't keep them fed. Lots of cardinals and scrub jays making their own brand of music.  We also had around 100 white wing doves.

(Photo is a draw on our road in November 1989, the first year we had our place.)

When I came back they were all gone and all I hear is the sound of silence. They heard a call I can't hear, I suppose, and off they went. I put seed out but it hasn't been eaten. We have lots of native food this year. My neighbor said he had the doves at his place and they are feeding on the doveweed that has flourished this year. 

Even the squirrels have left the sunflower seeds alone. They have been working industriously to bury acorns. It's good to see them doing something constructive instead of trying to tear the bird feeders up.

We have had lots of butterflies these last couple of weeks. They cover up the zinnias and the golden-eye daisies in the garden, like these Queens and Painted Ladies. 

Rickie saw a fox walking the fence line behind the cabin this weekend. We haven't seen any in a while so I'm glad they are still hanging around. They come to where we put food scraps out and one year we had a fox that would almost let us walk up to him there. That year they had a den just past the longhorns' pen by the caliche pit.

I haven't seen the turkeys lately. Heard one gobbler a couple of weeks ago and saw him on the ranch cam. And the jackrabbits have disappeared also. 

We had a beautiful moon on Halloween night. The Hunter's Moon. I got a new camera this year and was finally able to take a decent moon photo!

The seasons are changing. The leaves starting to turn; seeing some red on the sumacs and some yellow on the cedar elms and the peach trees. Some of the Spanish Oaks are just beginning to turn the beautiful red we see around Thanksgiving each year. They fill the big draw on the east side of our place. From the beginning Sarah and Rickie and I have always walked over there when we were here for Thanksgiving. We sit on the ground and look up. The red leaves against the clear blue sky, like you get in a dry climate, is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. We have never been able to capture that color in a photo but we keep trying.

Our Spanish Oaks are all old and are dying. There aren't any little ones to take their place. One day they will be gone and we'll be gone as well. The most I can hope for is that they last until I am too decrepit to walk over there and sit beneath them. 

I'll be over there again this year and I'll sit a little longer than I used to. I'll try to store the way it looks in my mind and when I can't get around any more, I can close my eyes and see it again. And remember the way it was when the air was crisp and cold and burned your nose and throat a little when you breathed; when we buttoned our coats up and put our gloves on. When we walked down the draw and the leaves on the ground rustled with our steps. When we talked little and then only in whispers, respecting the beauty and the quiet. 

And maybe, just maybe, some little Spanish oak acorns will hide away from the deer and nestle in next to a bushy cedar that is just the right size to protect it. And when I am long gone, one or two of the grandkids or great-grandkids will walk over and sit beneath a beautiful red tree the week of Thanksgiving. And maybe, just maybe, they will know I was there doing the same thing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Except for a few things, mostly decorative, the bunkhouse is ready to go! After the holidays and hunting season we will skirt the bunkhouse, build a front deck, and put a crushed granite path to the cabin.

I made this headboard from an old door my Dad gave me years ago. Rickie and I built the frame this weekend and he installed the ceiling fan. My son-in-law's grandfather made the lamp from a beverage bottle from Venezuela, where his grandmother is from.
The plumber had to become a carpenter and add some wood to move the tiny sink away from the wall so he would have room for the p-trap. I tiled it and now there is a tiny counter!
The shelf over the bed has a plug handy for charging electronics. There is one by each bed. This one was made from the last piece of the old door. Well, almost. I have a 6" piece left! My daughter-in-law Lisa made the flannel throws on each bed.
This bed is the top part of the trundle bed we had. We left the bottom of both beds open for storage and so guests can slide their suitcases and shoes out of the way. The little chair was mine as a child. All the photos are some Rickie took on our place.
My friend Miriam's cabinet is the coffee bar. It is also used to store sheets. I am going to get something to hang on the wall in the corner so I can move the mugs, paper towels, etc off the top. Need to make a trip to Ikea or a craft show! Also need to hide that AC cord some way.
We will have a curtain closing in the bath area and a fabric skirt on the sink. I've got a metal conduit piece we are going to bend and hang. It's close to the bed but it's a tiny bunkhouse and the only way to keep guests from having to go to the cabin at night and during bad weather. I'm trying out fabrics on the swing arm rod on the wall shelf. It will hide Advil, toothpaste, etc. The shelf was made from wood from an old bookcase Miriam gave me and some tin we had left over from the hay shed project. The towel rack was made from wood taken from an old house remodel in Doss, Texas. 
Books we already had at the cabin moved over to the bunkhouse. My son John donated the little fridge for guests. The little stool was made from wood from a cherry tree from Rickie's home place in Mississippi. His brother's father-in-law made it years ago. The trash can is a painted bucket bought long ago at a craft show.
I got a tempered glass top for Miriam's cabinet. The boards that make up the top are uneven so I used some state quarters and some older coins I like to even up the glass.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rango the Fence Lizard

Just as I got comfy in the bed, the scritch-scratch noise started. I turned the light on to see what I could see. Nothing jumped out at me. Lights off. Scritch-scratch. Lights on. Nothing. I had heard a scratchy noise in the window by the bed last week before I went to Houston; when I got up and looked nothing was there. It was about 5:30 am, so I just got up. Now I wondered if something was here then and was still here. 

We have lots of unpleasant critters out here and with the changing weather lately a lot seemed to find their way inside. I killed two scorpions in the bathroom last week. There is a mouse living happily in the garden shed, ignoring the bait I put out for her. She comes out every time I go in there and laughs at me. One day she came out just so she could run between my feet and listen to me scream and see me jump. I’m sure she gets bored in there by herself and takes her entertainment where she can.

I've been finishing up painting the trim for the bunkhouse; the baseboard, window trim, etc. We’re going to put it up tomorrow and Rickie will install the lights and that baby is done! Except for waiting on the plumber to get here. And for skirting and a porch, which we will do after hunting season. I already have a commission from Rickie to make a ground hunting blind frame so I need to get on that pretty soon. 

After Rickie and I put the walls, ceilings, and sub floor in a couple of weeks ago, he had to go back to work. (We had already done the insulation.) The first project I did was the floor. We had decided on a self-stick vinyl tile as an inexpensive option and one I could do myself. I used drywall mud to cover where the sub floor plywood sheets meet. Then snapped the chalk line and things went pretty fast after that. Only casualty was a big knee blister!

Next I caulked the seams in the beaded board paneling and began painting. The ceiling is left natural with a clear coat and the walls are painted. My mom was the painter in our family in spite of the fact that my dad at one time made a living as a house painter. I never saw him paint. I don’t think he liked it. I remember seeing my uncles paint. The way they held the paintbrush, gripped low just above the bristles. Making a smooth edge with no tape needed. 

Mama was always painting something. She would brighten up our rooms with some bright apple green or red paint. I learned to paint by watching her and I learned that if you want something painted, you just paint it yourself. Even if you are married to a painter. Most of the women in my family paint so we have passed that on. I’m not necessarily crazy about painting, especially as I get older. My hands hurt. But that is offset by the clean feel and look when something has been painted.

I've had Mama on my mind as I've spent these days by myself painting away like she did. I wonder what she thought about as she painted. Sometimes it crosses my mind that this little bunkhouse was the little house I wished I had built for Mama in her last years and I pretend I‘m building it for her now. I wasn't retired then and wasn't out here so that wasn't something in the cards. And she wouldn't have wanted to move anyway. But I always wanted her to have a happy little cheerful house where she could live in comfort and peacefulness. Where I could bring her some homemade soup and she wouldn't have to cook. Except to make me round steak and gravy, which I can never make like she and Mamaw did.

The bunkhouse project has taken its toll on my old self and I was happily exhausted when I finished the last of the trim painting today. I cleaned the job site and myself up, put some homemade vegetable soup on and settled down with the book I’m reading. Just to see Rango the fence lizard on the fireplace in front of my chair. The scritch-scratch mystery solved. 

I’m not afraid of lizards; in fact, I like them. But not in the cabin because they can surprise you when you least expect it. The fence lizards love the porch and they will head for the cabin any time you leave the door open for a second. Rickie can catch them but I couldn't catch one if there was a million dollar prize for doing it. I've spent hours trying the box or the towel technique that is advised. No luck. 

So. Johnny Rango and I are here together. As the soup cooks and the sun shines through the window on him. I’m trying not to stress him and I hope he is trying the same with me.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Soft Rain's A-Gonna Fall

There's a soft female rain falling outside and the temp is holding steady at 60 degrees. It's been a long time since we had a weekend like this and boy, are we enjoying it! It's nice to have any kind of rain, but especially nice to have one that is not accompanied by lightning.

The bunkhouse project is moving along and in about 3 weeks it will be complete except for the outside skirting,a deck on the front, and a crushed granite path to the cabin. We may not get to those until after the first of the year. From now until then is one of the busiest times of the year for us, so we'll see on those outside things.

Last weekend Rickie worked on some electrical stuff while I worked on insulating the walls. Then we both installed the ceiling insulation. After he left to go to work, I finished the wall insulation and crammed insulation into the little cavities around the windows and door. 

We sprinkled boric acid powder along the base of the wall cavities before we insulated them. This has no odor and is a natural product from the Mojave desert. It is supposed to help keep us bug-free. 

I also wrapped the plumbing pipes with foam insulation before splitting the wall insulation around them. It's probably not necessary but we did it anyway. We have the Pex pipes and they are more resistant to freezing and breaking. Also the plumber installed the pipes with a hose bib at the cutoff so we can drain the pipes when we are worried about freezing. We have the Pex piping in the cabin and it has been great with no problems so far after over 8 years.

A couple of weeks ago John and Lexi and Zac came out for a visit and to check out the bunkhouse. We were on hold waiting on contractors so we didn't get to do any work on it. We did get to discuss college football in Texas.
The electrician finished his part and the plumber did everything on his end except for installing the fixtures. He is waiting on us to finish the walls and floor before he can do that. Rickie will install the light fixtures once we get the wallboard up. He's already installed the front porch light, although it's not in the photo below. 

I painted the front door yellow. It's a favorite color of most of the girls in our family and Rickie and I both like the color we used. All the warm colors are my favorites although I also like turquoise.

We picked out a self-stick floor tile and purchased it already. It was actually the least favorite of the tiles I brought home to try out. But we put 8 different tiles down and tried them out for a couple of weeks and this one "took a licking" the best. When I cleaned the tiles the darker ones didn't look so great after some use. Seemed to have a haze on them. I've had dark floors before and have never liked the upkeep on them even though they are my favorite as far as looks go. This holds for vinyl and wood floors; I've had them both. So we chose a lighter one that has a slate texture. It goes with the neutral wall and trim colors we chose.

I'm going to clear-coat the ceiling and paint the walls and trim. Rickie and I got the wall and ceiling beaded board plywood sheets and the underlayment plywood for the floor this weekend. I tell you what, don't go to one of the big home improvement store without taking help with you. We had to move about a dozen sheets of the beaded board plywood to get to some that weren't damaged. Then load 20 sheets of that on two carts and move the dozen back to the pile. Then we needed 5 of the underlayment sheets. Then we loaded them into the pickup and tied them down. And unloaded at home inside the bunkhouse.

Next weekend we'll install them and then I'll paint and put the tile down. We have purchased all the supplies for the inside of the bunkhouse except some trim boards and a ceiling fan. We also purchased a couple of tools I have been wanting. One is a Dremel Saw Max I've been drooling over. We're going to try that out on the cutouts on the wall boards and I'm going to use it on a headboard I'm making. We also got a pocket hole jig I've been wanting. Rickie has commissioned me to make a ground deer blind frame for him and I'm going to see if it helps with that. If I can figure out how to use it! Ha!

(Photo - little mini coffee maker for the bunkhouse)

For those of you considering a tiny house or guest house, I told you I would keep you updated on costs and the total so far, including the bunkhouse shell, comes to around $8000. We haven't received the bill from the plumber yet and we have about $200-$300 still needed on supplies. So it is possible to build a tiny house spending a relatively tiny amount of money. I don't know if you can even buy a car these days for that amount of money. Other than the shell, we have hired only the electrical rough-in and the plumbing and are doing the rest of the work ourselves. The parts we are doing are not complicated but some do require two people and some basic tools. 

This morning when I went to throw some hay out for the longhorns, a cottontail was hanging around. As he hopped this way and that way to get away from my path, he discovered a pile of cracked corn on the ground. I was mixing up some birdseed yesterday and discovered as I picked up the bag of cracked corn that it had a hole in the bottom. I left him there with his breakfast. There's no crying over spilled feed in the country!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blue Shadows on the Trail; A Bunkhouse Project Update

It was late afternoon and I found myself wandering  over to the bunkhouse. Rickie had the idea to situate it facing down the hill and it blocks the late afternoon sun. It’s very shady and the breeze blows up the hill. Low and behold, Rickie had beaten me there and was sitting on the steps enjoying the view! And some whiskey!

We had done everything we had set out to do that day on the bunkhouse. We had installed the steps so we can get in and out now without a ladder. I had cut the boards that week and Rickie brought the stringers for them. It didn’t take long to put them together.

Out next job was to cut a hole in one end wall and install the Air Conditioning/Heating unit. It always seems a little worrisome to go cutting a hole in a perfectly good wall but it went smoothly. We got the unit in and trimmed around it on the outside. We had some leftover cedar fence boards and cut them down and used them for the trim.

Then Rickie did some shovel work to uncover his water lines to the longhorns’ water tanks. They are near the electrical pole and we needed to get them uncovered so they won’t get cut installing the electric line to the bunkhouse.

The electrician had been out earlier in the week. He had rescheduled his trip out so he could go help his grandma load some cows. That’s when you know you are in Texas! And that people are still raising kids to know that family is important. He has the inside wiring done and is waiting on the plumber, who is going to dig the trench for the line to the pole. Then he’ll come back and finish up.

We had good news from the plumber. It seemed at first that we did not have enough drop to the septic tank. But the fellas kept digging and trying to get to a lower spot before the tank and we lucked out! If they had not been determined and kept at it, we would have been faced with hundreds of dollars needing to be spent on a lift station or the other option of no plumbing in the bunkhouse. Well, that option is more acceptable to men than women, I think!

And we got more good news. There are support beams under the bunkhouse and we were afraid they were in the way of where the toilet needs to go. They are near each corner so moving the toilet location was not an option. I was afraid we would have to do a back flush toilet. But again, the fellas measured under the bunkhouse and in the bunkhouse and said they could make it fit. 

After much online searching, I located a tiny sink and it will be delivered tomorrow. I also ordered a dual flush toilet, a tiny 2.5 gallon point-of-use water heater, and a faucet. I am going with a bar faucet so it will be easier to get a coffee pot under there. I’ll pick all these things up next week at the home store.

The plumber should be out the first of next week. I am anxious to get this and the electrical work finished. Then my fun can start!

I bought 3 different vinyl floor tiles and put them temporarily just inside the door (we have to add a plywood subfloor before installing) so we can all walk on them and I can see which one looks like it can take a lickin’ the best. I have already decided I don’t like the color of one. All seem to be taking the dirt and caliche ok so far but it hasn’t been long. I’ve had unexpected issues with every floor I’ve ever chosen so I hope I don’t pick something I am annoyed with later.

It was a week of good luck all around. I had a flat tire in the yard Sunday after unloading some building supplies I brought back from Kerrville. Rickie had already gone back to work so I was on my own. I sure was glad I had it here and not out on the interstate! I have changed a flat on a pickup several times and I believe I could do it again if I had no other options. But I called a place in town and a couple of nice fellas came out and changed it. They took it back to fix it and I went in later and they put it back on.

I feel very lucky to be in a place with such people as all these that helped me out this week. I come from a family of people that worked as contractors and mechanics.  There are no better people to help you out. The small independent contractors get the job done and they always seem to remember that people come first. The plumbers got here before the auto fellas and when they saw the flat tire they offered to change it. The auto shop men offered to bring the tire back once it was fixed. The electrician said he was only going to charge me the hours he estimated it would take even though it is going to take a little longer. (And I redesigned the whole layout on him after we first talked, but we won’t go into that.)

Meanwhile, back on the bunkhouse steps after our work day Saturday, Rickie is sipping his whiskey and I am drinking a Corona. The doves are settling in the trees and the shadows are growing long.  The cardinals and finches are eating the last of the birdseed by the water tank in the yard and a doe is huffing at us from outside the fence. The new wood on the steps and in the bunkhouse is giving off that sawdust smell I have known and loved since childhood. That smell that makes my grandfather, my dad*, and my uncles come to the surface on the river of my thoughts. Sometimes I think that smell is the main reason I like to work with wood. Like an addict, I keep looking for projects so I can get my fix. The sawdust smell mingles with all the other smells; the caliche, the cedar, the smells of the land.

"Shades of night are falling, as the wind begins to sigh, and the world’s silhouetted against the sky………"

(*My dad was a plumber, not a carpenter like my grandfather and uncles. But I still associate this smell with him. It is the smell of the job site, the new home construction, where he did a lot of work.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Bunkhouse Project

The little bunkhouse project is in full swing! The bunkhouse made its way from the San Antonio area out to our place on a trailer. The boys that brought it out had been here before. Their company built our cabin shell and they also delivered two barn style storage buildings at different times. The first one was brought out at least 15 years ago. One of the young men returning with the bunkhouse had probably not had his driver's license long when he brought that one!

They were very careful with my prize and knew what they were doing. It wasn't long before it was unloaded. 

They just dump it off the trailer and it falls into place. Then it was a tight fit to get the truck and trailer out from between the bunkhouse and the trees and septic lines in front of the truck. The boys did it without one scratch on a tree or the cistern!

It was soon blocked up and leveled! Then off they went to deliver a load of lumber for another project. It's a long day's drive to anywhere out here and they had a full day of driving ahead of them after they left here.

The little bunkhouse is nestled in among the live oaks. It has its back to the driveway so that it can take advantage of the view across the hills. 

We will add a deck to the front later. The electrician is wiring it now and the plumber is coming out Monday to see what he needs to do. Rickie is on his way here with the air conditioning/heating wall unit.

We will have twin beds in the bunkhouse, a small partitioned area with a toilet and a coffee cabinet and sink. We will put two of our bookcases out there. And there is room left over for a couple of air mattresses on the floor. We will have a little refrigerator for half and half for the coffee, and ice for the whiskey! I have taped everything off with painter's tape on the floor; it's bigger than it looks from the outside! Except for the wiring and plumbing we will do all the work ourselves. It will be fun!

After years of debate on whether to add on to the cabin or add a bunkhouse, we have made the decision to go with the bunkhouse. This gives us more options for family and friends and gives them some independence and privacy. It is also much cheaper. We will keep our bed by the fireplace in our cabin. Where the daybed was we will put an Ikea closet from floor to ceiling for lots of storage. What clothes won't fit we will get rid of. Our policy is to make the possessions fit the space not build space for possessions. I have lived for over a year with a small amount of clothes that I have out here with no problems. We will sacrifice one window in the cabin so that we can put one bookcase there. We have 4 total in the apartment in Houston, so we will consolidate down to 3 total. We have books we treasure and some photos and artifacts. 

We will also make a few changes in the end of the kitchen. We will remove the wardrobe there now that we use for a closet and put in a base cabinet for pantry and large items. This will give us more counter space for things such as the yellow stand mixer I love! My husband, the hunter, gave away his very large custom, made in Louisiana, oak gun cabinet and in its place he has a small mesquite rack that was made in Texas. It needs a little wall space so by removing the wardrobe we will have room for that. In a tiny cabin with lots of windows and doors there isn't much wall space.

I'll post on the progress as we go along! In case you are considering a similar project, I'll include costs so that you can have an idea of what a bunkhouse in central Texas costs!

So far, the 10' x 16' bunkhouse shell of cedar siding, metal roof, a steel door, two windows, and two extra windows added, including tax and delivery was $4700.