A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

There's Always a Project in the Country

I thought I was finished with the outdoor kitchen and then a couple of things came up. I ended up with a pallet and built a table where we can eat, play cards, work puzzles, whatever. It cost about $15 in material besides the pallet, which came with the new AC unit we bought. I actually had the material already from other projects. I had one chair and bought the other three for $9 each and spray painted them. I had a hard time finding the metal chairs. Everywhere I checked had plastic ones. Finally found the metal ones at WalMart. We don't have an actual table in the cabin; we eat at the island, so I was happy to have a table! We have had some beautiful ones over the years in different places we've lived but none of them survived the downsizing. 

Rickie has two BBQ pits. One is small and low to the ground and is perfect for just the two of us. He asked me to build him a table to put it on. I made it about 3 or 4" shorter than I would have, but I had 4 pieces of 4 x 4 left over from another project and wanted to use them. We have to get a piece of metal to put on top of it then he can sit the little pit on top of that. I used some of the decomposed granite to extend the kitchen area to include it. (You can see the shadow of the hammock in this photo!)

Rick had recently ordered a couple of Adirondack chairs online. Found some that weren't too expensive but they were unfinished. I finally got them stained and love how they came out. We want to use them by the fire pit so we can recline and look at the stars! (They have pull out foot stools.) But we needed a place to put them off the ground when we weren't using them. So I used the last of the granite gravel and made a place for them. In front of them we're going to have our fire pit. We're waiting on the nice but busy fellas at the welding place in Fredericksburg to get our ring with swing arm grill completed. Then we'll put some stone around the outside of it. Hope to get it finished soon so it will be ready for the Thanksgiving week! My sister Kathy and her husband and grandsons are coming out again this year for some deer hunting!

We have a little garden of volunteer plants by our septic tank cleanout, which is covered in some rocks to disguise it. The wildflowers and the garden flowers have all been pretty the last few weeks with the cooler temps and rain.

Bixby and Justin came out a few weeks ago and Bix has become quite a little climber. We had a good time doing ranch chores and exploring. I took him to the turkey feeder to see and smell the milo and toss some out on the ground for the deer. I love the way it looks and smells; it's my favorite grain! In fact, I think I'm going to fill an old clear jar and put it on the mantel. It has beautiful orange and yellow fall colors.
We broke the pallet table in, having our breakfast, which we cooked on the outside stove, there. Everything tastes better outside!

The area by the pumphouse is filling in with plants and odds and ends. Just like I like it! The chickens were a gift from my sister Jackie. I made the Howdy sign from a piece of leftover metal we found here. 

I finished a project that I've had on hold for over a year, closing in the bottom of the woodshed. I used stone from the property and moved it there a long time ago. Then it got hot, and one thing then another interfered. I was kind of dreading this project too. I closed in the other shed with stone a couple of years ago. But I had some cut stone left from the cabin and it was easier to use that. This project required me to try this and that stone and finding ones that fit. I like how it came out though. I added some trim boards and they'll age and match the shed. We had a couple of big flat stones that worked out great for a step into the shed.

This little area by the birdbath I made a few years ago is one of my favorites. The birds love it and the plants have been really pretty this month. The Mexican sage is blooming purple flower spikes now. It'll die in the winter and we've not had any luck getting them to come back here. If the winters are a bit warmer where you are they'll come back each Spring and get nice and big. It's on the other side of the rosemary in this photo so it's a little hard to see the plant.

This is a busy time of year here and it's our favorite time! We've got some more projects in the works. And it's time to move the big washtub that holds firewood onto the back porch. We'll soon have the fireplace going!

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The People That You Meet When You've Walking Down The Street

The young man in Silverton was rearranging the fetishes in the glass display case. I'm a sucker for the little animals carved by the Zuni and Navajo artists. We bought the first one for Sarah 28 years ago when we went to New Mexico on vacation and have been collecting them ever since. We settled on a little turquoise beaver for Bixby and a brown bear with a turquoise fish in his mouth for ourselves. The blond haired young man told us he was a carver and took a beautiful tiny black bear out of his pocket. It was smooth and the shape of the face and ears was perfect. He offered it to me to hold and one of the things about fetishes is how they feel when you hold them. As you rub them and move them around your fingers you are reminded of the strength and characteristics of the animal they represent. It is said they offer protection and as we talk about this the soft-spoken young man smiles and says yes, anything to trick us into thinking everything will be all right. He said he may add some turquoise eyes to his bear but he may just keep carrying it in his pocket as he has for some time now.

Down the street in the jewelry store we discover the young married couple that own the store are miners. They own a mine that once belonged to John Jacob Astor IV, who perished aboard the Titanic. How the couple came to own it or how they were trained as miners, I don't know. I wish I had asked. The young man said they make the trip every so often to get more stone, hiking 4 days to get to the mine. They dynamite it and remove it in slabs then cut it into shapes using templates he showed us. They polish it and a 30 year old woman in Durango makes it into jewelry. The stone is pink with gray and is called Astorite, after J J Astor.

The older man in the Durango jewelry shop stops me at the door and asks if he can look at my earrings. He asks how long I've had them and I tell him about 25-30 years. He inspects each one and pronounces them good turquoise. What that means I'm not sure! He says there isn't much of the good stuff left anymore. He pulls out a stool and sits down and tells us his story. His great-great-great aunt lived in the South during the Civil War. Some Yankee soldiers came to her house and asked to be fed. She cooks them up a Southern meal and they all drop dead. She has poisoned the food. She hightails it to Oklahoma, where the family all settles. He's from there but has chosen to live in Durango instead. And who can blame him. It's beautiful. And they have good breweries!

We drive up to Arroyo Seco, a community of artists outside of Taos. We were hoping to find some apples to bring home but so far haven't seen any so we ask the friendly lady in one of the shops. She said late freezes got all the apples. Last year they had so many they were making some into chips and giving away to visitors to her shop. They have 100 trees and the abundant crop allowed for sharing with the bears! This year no one has any.

She is selling brightly colored pottery in her shop for one of the Seco potters. She tells us he made a beautiful urn when her nephew died recently. The priest said it comforted the congregation to see the father cradling the urn as he walked out of the church after the funeral. As she was relating this story to another local woman a while back, she noticed tears in the woman's eyes. It seems the potter had made an urn for her grandmother and she is touched by the story of the woman's nephew.

A dog has entered her shop with us. Her name is Lucy and she belongs to the potter. Lucy visits all the shops to get treats! 

Down the street this potter has his shop and workplace. He has a deck on the banks of a beautiful little creek. What a place to do your work! Scott isn't there but he has his pottery all over the deck and on tables in the yard. He has a box on the door and if you want any pottery you put your money in the box. It's a simpler, kinder place to be where you can do that. We are told by the last shop owner that someone recently stole all his large bowls. But he continues to use the honor method so that his pottery is available if he isn't around. His honor is greater than that of some of his visitors. We purchase a few items and put our money into the slot on his money box. It makes me happy to know there are places like this still, where a person's honesty is tested and the failures of that test don't harden a person's heart.

A visit to another artist's shop puts us in touch with a woman from Denver that is working there. She quit her high-powered Denver job after 25 years and moved to the Taos area, changing her lifestyle. She now spends her days working in the shop, bike riding with her husband and hiking up Mount Wheeler, the highest peak in New Mexico. She gives us a big smile when we tell her we live in a 464 sq foot cabin! We talk about lifestyle changes and the joys that come with a simpler life. 

We are drawn to a weaver's shop where we see many beautiful rugs, wall hangings and clothes for sale. The shop has several looms in the back room where they teach classes. The weaver working this day is from Vermont. She made several of her rugs there and has them for sale. I ask her if it is hard to let them go. She says yes, but she decided it was better than just keeping them in storage because she has more than she can use at her home. She gives me information on a 3 day weaving class they have and encourages me to come back. It's an expensive hobby though so I'll just have to enjoy looking at the beautiful results of others' efforts. 

A young man carrying a dog comes down the stairs and greets us as we enter his pottery shop. He's from Michigan and came to Taos for graduate school. He met his wife there and the rest, as they say, is history. He has several small kilns in his shop and invites us back to look at them and his work in progress. He has a large kiln out in the mountains and he goes there when he has a lot of items to fire.

Back in Taos, we stop off at the Adobe Bar for a Blue Moon beer. The young man there admires my turquoise and silver bead necklace. I tell him I got it in Arroyo Seco and he asks if we went to the Taos Cow Ice Cream shop. We told him we tried to but the lone girl working there was overwhelmed with lunch customers and told us she couldn't sell any ice cream then. I wanted to try the local flavored ice cream, made with pinon pine nuts and lavender and was disappointed. He has gone there since he was a kid. Recently he moved back to the area after living in San Diego for a while.

We are fortunate to be able to purchase some small items on our trip and we enjoy them and the memories they carry. But one thing we most like to collect is stories. Stories of the area and stories of the people we meet. This trip we met many people that have changed their lives; that have been drawn to the mountains and the high desert and have followed their hearts there to live the life they want.

I'm always sad to leave New Mexico and Colorado and the people that share so many of the same interests and beliefs I have. There are pockets of this same type of people in Texas but, unfortunately, that's not the face we have been presenting lately to the world. I hope one day soon we can talk about art, and plants, and outdoor activities, and craft breweries, and Cowboy Buddha margaritas, and all the things we like instead of all the things we hate and live up to the meaning of our name. Tejas, friend. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Friends That Shape Us

Growing up we had some good friends, Papa and Ruth Gordy. Papa Gordy was named Otis but no one ever called him that. He was Papa Gordy to everyone.

They were some of my parents best friends. Papa Gordy was a deacon in our church and Mrs. Gordy was my Girls Auxiliary leader at church. They were kind soft-spoken people and the memories I have of them are all good ones.

With Mrs. Gordy my class went to visit a girl in the hospital who was older than I was. She was in her late teens and had been badly burned. She was burning trash and threw some gasoline on it; the back draft of the flames on the fumes burned her. We were all scared, horrified actually, and silent on the visit but Mrs. Gordy talked to her as if everything was normal and that calmed us down and gave us courage. She died a few days after we visited her. I learned from Mrs. Gordy that sometimes you have to be brave and strong so that you can comfort others and that sometimes that is all you can do for them.

While we were still living in Monroe the Gordys moved to Grayson, Louisiana. This was about 40 minutes south of Monroe. It was also before we lived in Houston and a 40 minute drive won't even get you across town. At the time it seemed far far away. My parents weren't big on driving long distances and my dad never went over 25 miles an hour if he could help it. My grandparents lived in West Monroe and we only visited them on the weekend because it was such a drive. About 15 minutes at Daddy's speed!

But my parents loved their friends the Gordys so we went to visit them more often that I would have imagined. The Gordys had children but they were either younger or older than me. I was closer to Mrs. Gordy than to her children. I loved to visit her partly because she had a whole collection of Connie Francis records! This was getting pretty wild in my circle. She let me play them on her record player and I spent most of the time on our visits doing just that. Where The Boys Are had me dreaming of a handsome true love, Everybody's Somebody's Fool proved to be prophetic in my case when Lipstick On Your Collar told the tale; then I was Breaking In A Brand New Broken Heart, and Who's Sorry Now offered me hope of revenge if I was ever sporting that newly broken heart! She was beautiful and glamorous and sang dreamily about things a young girl wanted to experience, not the more grown up beer drinking songs of country music that my parents listened to. 

Where The Boys Are by Connie Francis

They lived in a wonderful old house like you see in small towns. The rooms all went round and round from one to the other. There were big trees in the yard and the yard sloped down on a slight hill. My sister Jackie (in photo) was 4 or 5 years old and she decided to climb into their car one day. We were in the backyard and looked up to see Jackie staring calmly out the driver's side window, both hands on the window, as the car rolled down the hill. She had put the gear shift in neutral and off she went! We yelled for Daddy and she was saved!

A year or two after the Gordys moved to Grayson we moved to Houston. They came to visit at least once but we rarely saw them after that. Mrs. Gordy passed away a few years after I graduated from high school. By then I was married with two small boys and a job in the big city. Responsibilities lay on my shoulders and the day-dreaming 12 year old child I had been was so far gone from me I barely remembered her. But every once in a while when it's a warm summer day with the breeze blowing on my skin, that young girl resurfaces and I'll find myself humming I Don't Hurt Anymore, an old Hank Snow song Connie Francis recorded on her country album. And I'll remember Mrs. Gordy and her wonderful old house and her kind heart and that you should always try and be brave even when you are scared.