A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taking a Back Road with the Bowie Brothers

Rick said he was pretty positive he was the only person in the world that got a call this afternoon from someone saying they had found where Jim Bowie and 10 other men fought off 164 Indians, killing 80 of them. I'm pretty sure he is right.

The summer doldrums have set in here so I thought I would drive up to Brady, run some errands there, eat some good Mexican food, and get away from ranch projects. I did all this and headed back home. I did pick up another quart of paint. It's a red called Hot Tamale! I think I'm going to paint the legs of the little work table I made and leave the top unpainted. 

The county I live in and those surrounding only have one road that's more than two lanes, and that's the interstate. So you could say all our roads are back roads. But what really determines whether a road is a back road or not is whether it qualifies for the finger wave. If it's a road where you lift one or two, no more, fingers from the wheel in salute to any drivers you meet, then you are on a back road. These are my favorite roads. You plug your phone in and listen to all the good music you have downloaded, preferably Texas music, and sing along. 

If you come to a ranch gate and it's flying a U.S. flag, it will always have a Texas flag too. Most of the gates you pass won't be very fancy. If they are chances are good the people live somewhere else and this is their hunting ranch.

You won't see much traffic on a back road. In fact on the main road to Brady from Menard I only met two or three vehicles. None of us gave the finger wave because we knew we weren't on a back road. 

Coming back I decided to take a sure enough back road. I've been on parts of this road but not this part. I soon came to a historical marker. I stopped in the middle of the road and backed up. You can do that sort of thing on a back road. 

I pulled over to read the marker. It told about a fight Jim Bowie, his brother Rezin, and 9 other men had with 164 Indians. I did wonder if someone had counted them to get that exact number of 164. But, hey, it's Texas. If we say we were attacked by 164 Indians, you can believe it! 

Rezin Bowie invented the Bowie knife that his brother Jim is remembered for. The brothers were in the area looking for a lost silver mine when they ran into the Indians and had to fight it out. 

I take a few minutes to look around. There is a ranch gate there by the marker. The countryside in our whole area is sparsely populated and most people have their houses set back where you can't see them. It's easy to imagine that you are back in the time of Bowie and Indians and lost silver mines.

You never know what you'll find on a back road and that's part of the appeal. There's a little church on the Ivy community back road. You drive along beautiful Bear Creek on a back road near Cleo. On the road over from us there are old wooden telephone poles with blue glass insulators on them below you on the hillside, almost hidden in the trees.

My dad loved back roads. When we first moved to Houston from Louisiana we went back to Monroe a lot to visit family. The uncles used to make fun of him because he got off the interstate as soon as he could and went the back way. It took longer but it made him happier to travel that way. I used to wonder why. But I don't wonder anymore. 

And then, there's that back road that takes you to the best place, home.

Monday, July 29, 2013


No, not the kind you eat! But if you have ever tasted Rick's guacamole, you wish it was that kind. Delicious!

It's the name of the color of paint I bought last week. The lady at the paint store and I were having a conversation about how hard it is to pick paint colors. I told her I like my paint colors to be named after food and if I don't like the color name I won't buy the paint. Crazy, I know, but I have to have some way to narrow down the thousands of colors!

I painted the screen door on the cabin back porch and the risers on the bunkhouse steps. I considered painting each riser a different pale color, like yellow and blue, in addition to the green. But I figured that was more than Rick could live with. He's not as crazy about paint as I am! I like the green because it is so often brown out here in dry country. 

I've fallen madly in love with the houses Reclaimed Space does and was inspired to paint the screen door. I rarely stop at one thing, so had to find something else to paint and there were the steps! Check out Reclaimed Space!

We've had a colorful week with the cenizos blooming! We have several we planted but this one came up in the driveway. It is gorgeous! I could hear the hum of the bees on it long before I got close to it. 

The little bunkhouse was shared last week by Tiny House Design and Tiny House Talk. THD did a post about using a shed as the basis for a tiny house. Since that is what we did with the bunkhouse, I commented on our experience and costs. THD then did a post on that using some of my photos from the blog. Tiny House Talk included it in one of their posts for the week. They both used only one inside photo and it was one before we had put the curtain up around the toilet area. As you probably know, our main purpose of building the bunkhouse was to have room for as many beds as possible and for our bookcases. To keep family and friends from having to go to the cabin in the dark we added a toilet and sink. There wasn't room to wall it in so we bent a galvanized rod and hung it and added a curtain. But the photo that was used in these posts didn't have the curtain.

Well, there was a lot of serious distress over a toilet in a one room bunkhouse without a curtain! So I'm thinking I probably shouldn't share my "hunter's toilet" with those city slickers. When we were building the cabin there was a period we had to shut down the travel trailer bathroom and the cabin didn't have one yet. I cut the bottom out of a 5 gallon bucket and with a toilet seat moved it around as needed, carrying my shovel for restoration work on each site. It happened to be in the winter and some mornings the snow fell around you as you took the seat! I called it a "hunter's toilet" because I got the idea from a hunter down the road that comes out every year. I've since seen it on Mary Jane's Farm Glamping ideas and she uses a disposable diaper in the bottom! 

So I thought I would share a photo of the toilet area with the curtain in case it has been distressing any of you! :) It's not a perfect arrangement, but I think everyone that comes out will agree it sure beats going to the cabin in the dark and cold and maybe rain and trying to avoid rattlesnakes!

I finished the outdoor kitchen with a little help from Rick on the stove section. It's easier to get things put together with two people! He hooked the stove up and it's ready to go. I used it for the first time this weekend. I decided to make the grape jelly outside. We didn't have many grapes due to a couple of late freezes. Even though I covered them, we still lost most. But the jelly came out delicious and it was nice working outside! It gets messy getting the juice from the grapes. I still have to make a cover for the stove for when we aren't using it. 

I found that I needed a little table in addition to what I already had. Last week I dismantled a 23 year old picnic table we had that had some rotten wood on the legs and braces. I saved the top pieces that were still good. Today I made a small table with some of that wood. I wanted it to be small enough that one person could move it around so we can use it for different things. I'm not sure if I am going to paint it or leave as it and wax it. I'll let it set a while and then decide. I like the feel of the old wood after I sanded it. It's not the most beautiful table but it's sturdy and the cost was zero! 

In addition to all this old wood, old tin, painted wood, beautiful blooms, and jelly we have had lots of birds around. Here are a couple of the more beautiful ones, although there are some not so beautiful ones that I like just as much or more!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stand By Me


It was a phone number we all knew by heart. Our own personal 911, the number we called when we needed help. Often a last resort, but sometimes the first call we made.

The man that answered the hotline knew us all by voice. He listened to what we had to say and took the steps necessary to help us. Sometimes he had us come by for money or to borrow a vehicle. Sometimes he went on the road and came to us to solve our problems with plumbing, mechanics, or other household issues. Often he came when our cars wouldn't start or we had a wreck and no way home. 

But even more valuable than these things was the comfort we knew he would give us. He let us cry; he didn't tell us everything was fine and we shouldn't worry. He took our heartbreaks as seriously as he did when we had our house flooded or lost our job. 

He came when our babies were born. He came when our kids graduated and got married. He came when we were threatened and physically abused. He came when we were verbally beat down. He came and he stood with us, whether in good or bad times.

He came when my marriage fell apart. He took off the cowboy hat he always wore, turning it in his work worn hands, sat beside me on the sofa, and said to me "what do you want to do, sweetheart? Tell me and I'll support you in whatever you decide."

When he lost his eyesight to macular degeneration and could no longer come to us, he continued to answer our calls for help. We had only to dial the number and tell him the problem. He understood that sometimes a person only needs a phone call and someone to listen to them. And when we called and told him one of his grandchildren needed his help, he made a point to call them, not once, but every week or so, just so they knew he had their back. That they didn't stand alone in a world that is often hard to navigate safely through. He stood with them.

Eight years ago this month, our dad was taken from us by a heart attack in the middle of the night. The hotline operator we had come to depend on no longer there to answer our calls. I keep his number in my cell phone, removing the area code after my mom passed away so I don't accidentally dial it. It comforts me to see his name and the familiar number. Sometimes I call him up in my mind. He always answers and I hear his soft voice telling me "I'm so glad you called, sweetheart; I was just thinking about you."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Granite - It's Not Just For Countertops!

We've spent the last week making some walkways and improving the outside areas between the bunkhouse and the cabin. We got a load of granite gravel (decomposed granite). We wanted to use something that was permeable in case we ever get any rain (keep hope alive)! And something that had a natural Central Texas look to it. We also have to be able to drive over it to get to the back pasture. And we wanted something affordable.

Rick and I started out digging by hand to make a trench several inches deep for the walkway. He used a pick and I used the shovel, following in the areas he had picked. Our ground is rocky, so it was slow going. 

The next day we were rescued by our good friend and neighbor Scott and his tractor! He not only did the digging but moved the gravel and spread it out for us, and spread the dirt he removed. We get by with a little help from our friends!

Sarah and Bixby came out that afternoon and Scott gave Bix some lessons on how to operate a tractor. Then we left the fellas working and went to the river to cool off and continue Bixby's river rat training!

We were all done in for a few days and I tackled the outdoor kitchen area today. We didn't dig it out as it is a little low there and somewhat bowl shaped. When it rains water doesn't run over that area. Scott had told me to call him back when we got ready to move some more gravel. But I am always thinking up projects and hate to impose them on others, even though I know he would have come and helped me. It went better than I thought and I was finished by 1:30. I still have to build another part of the outdoor kitchen counter to hold our two burner stove. I'll attach it at a lower height to the side of the bar cabinet I already made. And I still need to add a shelf to the bar cabinet to hold an ice chest.

The next part of the project is moving the fire pit. It will be where the scraped area is in this picture, which puts it between the cabins. Can't wait to gather round it in the winter, star watching and making s'mores! 

The gravel finished off the outdoor cowgirl/cowboy tub and shower, which doubles as a swimming pool for little ones.

With the bunkhouse project winding down, it's on to a new deer blind before hunting season gets here!

"The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong." Thomas Carlyle