A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sometimes You Have to Kill Your Own Snakes. Or Not.

I didn't grow up in the country. I lived in a small town until I was 14 and we moved to Houston. My dad was an outdoorsman and we went fishing and to alligator infested swamps and lakes growing up. (Photo - me, David, Kathy) For a few years after I was grown I lived in a rural area on a couple of acres. We had horses and I learned to ride and care for them. But I never lived in an actual country setting. Most of my life was spent in big cities.

All that changed a few years ago when I retired and moved here full time on our 54 acres. Most of the time I am by myself and I have had to adapt and learn new skills. If Rick was not gone so much with his job I would never have done some of the things I have had to do, including confronting some deep-seated fears. 

These last couple of years have been the times that try people's soul for me; the best of times, the worst of times.

It all started with the bad drought summer before last and the fear of wildfires. This was a new fear for me. I've always been near a fire truck; in fact, when I was a child we lived across the street from one (in the photo). I've always had one within a mile of me. Out here there is no back way to escape on our street unless you take off on foot. Several times at night and in the morning I have walked outside and smelled smoke from fires. Our neighbors saw lightning start a fire a couple of times. Once I worried so about the smoke I called the Sheriff's department to see if anyone had reported a fire near me. They sent a deputy out to be sure and we walked the property and determined it was smoke from a fire elsewhere in the county. 

Last summer I had a close encounter with a rattlesnake. I was putting birdseed out and stepped right a'straddle one. He came out from between my feet and coiled. He went one way and I went the other. I was lucky he didn't bite me; I can only assume he was as startled as I was! If Rick was here I would have yelled for him. But I was alone so I got the shotgun, even though I was shaking, and killed him and put him in the pasture for the buzzards. I was shook up and my friend Lois said the whiskey manual says one finger of whiskey for each foot of rattlesnake. So I had 3 fingers of whiskey.

Then the least dangerous but the biggest of my fears confronted me. What I call the Invasion of the Wolf Spiders. I am afraid of spiders beyond all reason. Even pictures of spiders, toy spiders, dead spiders, little spiders, big spiders, poisonous spiders, non-poisonous spiders, even Charlotte. I normally don't mention this phobia because I have found that people are cruel and will hide toy ones, etc thinking it is funny to scare me. It is not funny. It is a horrendous handicap to have to live with and I wish I didn't have this phobia but I do.

This past fall we were invaded by these giant, palm-size, furry spiders. They were at eye level on the hay barn inches from my face, on the porch, on the steps, in the sheds (even on top of the drill bits I needed though I seldom use them), in the wheelbarrow, and worst of all, in the cabin. We have had them in the sheds before. We spray for bugs there so usually there were only dead ones and then only a couple. Rick would always try to get rid of them before I saw them. Even the dead ones send my heart racing and fear paralyzing me. My cabin is one room plus bathroom and porch. So I have no place to run. First there was one in the fireplace. I called Rick crying with fear. He said I must have brought it in with the wood, which freaked me out more to think it was so close. Then there was one in the middle of the floor when I returned from town. Again, paralyzed with fear, I called Rick. He said be strong, kill it, throw the wood out, be brave, you can do it, it must have come in the door.

I finally got the book out with photos of the cabin during construction and determined they were getting in from the corners of the fire surround. I plugged these with steel wool. I had the electric company turn the outside light off as we thought that might be drawing them in in large numbers, even though I have another fear, a fear of the dark. Before it was over, I had encountered 21. I imagined another 10,000 living under the house.

But I was as brave as I could be and I got through it, although I was damaged by it and have nightmares still.

Then this week as I was mowing the yard I came upon a 5 foot rattlesnake. I use the walk behind mower instead of the riding mower because I like the exercise. I saw him just as I went to turn around. There was no one to call on for help but myself, so I got the shotgun, killed him, cut his rattles off, threw him in the pasture for the ravens and buzzards, and got the bottle of Garrison Bros bourbon out. 

In addition to these fears and phobias I have come to face, are the usual country chores to learn of caring for the longhorns in rain and snow, covering the garden for the late freezes, water line problems, mice in the pumphouse, and the usual assorted problems of country living. Rick and I were discussing this today and my transformation into a country girl and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. These are all part of the things I endure to live in the country and I figure it's a trade-off I am willing to make.

And then......

We are adding a deck to the bunkhouse and went to the shed to inventory materials me might need. Coming back we walk right past a 5 foot bull snake. He takes off for the canoe and makes himself at home there. Now, I don't have a phobia about snakes. I learned from my dad not to kill a "good" snake and I follow that. I find them beautiful and fascinating. But as my brother Andy says about electric fences "they won't hurt you, but they'll make you hurt yourself". I figure it I run into this fella in one of the sheds, I will harm myself getting out! He's hiding in the canoe still and I hope he wanders off soon but I'm sure he will be my neighbor because it's a nice place to live.

So, just when I think I can relax into my experienced country girl role, one more encounter to see if I'm made of the "right stuff". I'm not sure if I am made of the "right stuff". But I'm sure I'll carry on, battle my fears even though I won't leave them behind, and pay the cost to live the good life. 

Now, let's see, 5 feet of bull snake equals 5 fingers of whiskey.............

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place

Over the years lots of things have kept me awake. Getting up with the kids when they were little, waiting on teenagers to get home, worrying about personal problems, and lately the aches and pains that go with being 63 years old and with minor, yet annoying, injuries I mostly do to myself working on my projects.

There are plenty of problems in the world to keep us all awake and as all of you with kids know, you always worry about them being safe and happy. However, none of these things or pains woke me up last night. No, I came out of a sound sleep to worry about where I was going to store our suitcases in the little cabin.

I thought I had accounted for everything we own and had made a place for everything. It's been a few years since we used a suitcase and I guess I forgot we had any!

We really only have a couple of options. Under the bed or the beds in the bunkhouse or in the storage building. I just cleaned the storage building out and unless I want to toss out the holiday decorations I kept, there is no room there.

If I had a car with a trunk I could keep them there. But we both drive a truck and I already use my back seat to store things to be donated and things to be recycled that don't fit in the toolbox. So that's out.

Under the bunkhouse beds I have extra blankets, air mattresses, bulky winter clothes, the sewing machine and fabric, some holiday pillows, tablecloths for the picnic tables, tote bags and purses, and a box of toys for Bixby. I like to leave some room for guests to put their bags so I can't put anything else there unless I toss something out.

That leaves our bed. It has our shoes in boxes and some canvas storage bags where we keep some work clothes. It has a dust ruffle to hide everything. I've left a little room to put some family mementos I wanted to keep but even that is not enough room for suitcases.

Living small requires being ruthless sometimes with what you keep. We have already donated truckloads of stuff and have sold some furniture, some of which we really liked. But, you know, you can't take it with you and it's a comforting feeling to have only what you really need or love.

So, I'll rethink a few of the things I have under the beds, maybe store my work clothes in my suitcase, and make it work. Or use the suitcases as the storage containers for the blankets, etc. Or maybe reevaluate some of the things I kept in the storage shed. Do I really need a plastic container of large margarita pitchers with lids? Maybe I could fill those with water and put in the freezer for when we need ice. Hmmmmm, I think I'll do that anyway. Then I can use that plastic container to store our new garden frost covers instead of buying one.

Living in a small space requires you to think a little more creatively about what you have and what you use it for. It requires "nesting" things that will hold stuff, turning the item itself into the container.

Now, I've got all these new storage ideas running around in my head. I'll probably be awake all night making plans! Let's see - if I put my shoes in the canvas storage bag, then I have room where the shoe boxes are for mementos, then put the purses in the tote bags, and put the tote bags in the suitcase, then etc, etc, etc................

(Photo - Spring cleaning; rugs on the clothesline!)