August down South

I usually reserve my hatred and disgust for summer until the end of August…  The feelings came early this year.  Actually, this year they seemed to rear their ugly heads in July as we down in the South were pounded with heat.  The feelings dissipated for a week or two as rain brought in some relief, but now that August has taken hold, the heat of hell on earth has returned to Texas.

Things that were green and flourishing from the torrential downpours from earlier this year are fading to orange and brown.  Looking at the trees you might mistake the season for fall with the wide array of colors christening the plant life. One step outside, though, and  an attack by the warm air that’s hard to breathe let’s you know that it is indeed still summer.

The grass is crispy and all the critters that are normally in hiding are easily found.  There have been too many snakes around the homestead.  (I might have to see if the neighbors trick of mothballs really keeps them at bay.)  The babe filled a bit of water in his little pool yesterday and all the bugs seemed to swoop in for a drink.  Everyone is thirsty in this swelter.

The 10-day weather forecast teases with its prediction or rain.  Perhaps I should lay out an alter to Zeus and the gods of the sky and weather that they may bless us with the rain that is presumed by the weather people.

In the mean time, while the Sun sings high in the sky and scorches us all down below, I’ve been having fantasies of getting into a new line of work.  One that permits summers off so that I can pack up my family and go play outdoors in temperatures that are more forgiving.  Montana, Wyoming, Washington, the Dakota’s, they are all looking quite inviting right now.

 

 

Animals of the Homestead-Rocky

Rocky is one of the cats that came with our house when we moved in 6 years ago.  I’ll never forget the morning we met him.  Sadie was going nuts in the backyard when I let her out for her morning potty.  She was barking and bouncing around back and forth in front of the fence at something.  I didn’t have my glasses on so I squinted through the morning haze.  Is that a raccoon?  Is that some sort of little wild cat?  I put my glasses on and looked again.  That is one huge cat….

Having done Rescue, it is instinctual for me to start feeding the strays to try to coax them into letting me get near enough to capture them to make sure they are spayed or neutered. (I might have even been that crazy neighbor who borrowed your unaltered male cat for a few days to make sure he wasn’t spreading the love around the neighborhood). So I set out on my mission to befriend this huge cat.  I started putting food out for him and backing away and watching him eat to let him get used to me and slowly working my way closer and closer until I could Pet him.

It really didn’t take to long to win the big guy over.  His heart is through his stomach.  We named him Rocky because we had several instances of him boxing the dog, rolling the dog down the stairs and trying to attack a dog that came over for a playdate with Sadie.  Rocky is a fighter. We call him our guard kitty because if we leave the property and leave the gate open he sits but the gate guarding, waiting for us to return.  If a stray dog happens by Sadie will bounce and park hoping for a new friend and Rocky will pouf up and growl at them, daring them to come in our yard.

Rocky is also a big baby.  He loves to be loved on and sneaks in the house when it’s cold or wet.  He adores my husband and follows him around like a puppy. Whenever we are outside Rocky appears to hang out with us.  He loves to be talked to and scratched.

One of his talents is hunting.  Between him and the other outside kitties we have had all sorts of critters left around the yard…frogs, mice, rats, birds a snake… he is definitely in touch with his primal side and for weighing just shy of 20lbs he is surprisingly fast and agile.

I will always refer to him as the cat that came with the house, but if we ever move he is definitely coming with us.

Getting Back on Track Part 2

Okay.  So, sometimes getting back on track isn’t nearly as easy as we think it’s going to be.  We started getting somewhat back into a routine only to decide we are going to put down new floors in our little 1950’s house. (Yes, I already know we are crazy).  There is a little 10 x 7 sitting area off our living room that we knew we were going to have to bring it up to level before we actually laid down the floors.  It dropped down about an inch from the rest of the house.  Over the weekend we tore up the carpet, and pulled up the plywood only to find that the subfloor was trashed.  It was kind of expected, but nevertheless was kind of a huge bummer too.  We (and you know by “we” I mean mostly my husband with me helping where and when I can although I do want to give him credit for the majority of the work.) had to rip out the subfloor, reinforce the walls, add new supports for the floor and lay down a new subfloor.  Now we are ready to lay the new floor, which will be our Easter Weekend Project.  In the mean time the furniture is haphazardly moved to random parts of the house and we have to figure out how to squeeze it into the other rooms of the house so we can actually lay down these new floors.  Luckily the babysitter is coming tonight so maybe we can accomplish some of this before Friday.

329

On other fronts, I did manage to clean out my son’s closet.  I rearranged some things, finding them a new home with other like things (i.e. all the craft and art stuff that was hiding in the closet is now housed with all the other art and craft stuff so it’s all in one place).  I made a small pile for good will and  I made a huge pile for the burn pile and another pile for the trash. Lucky for us the weather was perfect for a fire so all of that that ended up in the burn pile is gone, along with all the yard trimmings from the tree my husband trimmed.

I managed to make it out for an outing with some like minded women (accomplishing a monthly goal for myself) and somehow persuaded myself to volunteer myself to help start up a group chapter in our are of town.  It is scary and exciting.  It also seems fitting that this fell into my lap since most of the quotes I had chosen for March’s quote of the day had to do with courage.  I definitely had to pull from the courage pool for this new venture.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

 

Wild Life Lessons from a Reluctant Homesteader

I was raised in the suburbs where there was relatively little wildlife.  Our house backed up to the bayou so we did see some critters growing up.  Raccoons raiding the cat food bowl and snakes and turtles could be found on exploration of the bayou, an assortment of birds and squirrels, nothing too unusual.  When my husband and I purchased our little half acre of land that backed up to the woods I wasn’t quite prepared for all the wildlife encounters that we would have.

Lesson 1: Sadie vs the Skunk

Within a few months of bringing home a dog, we discovered our area harbored skunks. Our poor dog fell victim to an encounter one dark morning around 6am.  I learned that day that you should always keep Blue Dawn Dish Soap, Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide on hand if you live in the country.  After we layered the mixture on the dog by the evening she smelled tolerable enough to be let back in the house. I will say once you smell skunk up close and personal, skunk never smells the same ever again.

tumblr_inline_nmhsskkZym1tp23vi_250

Lesson 2: There will be Bugs

Since living on our homestead, I have to say I’ve learned a lot more about bugs than I ever wanted to know.  I never encountered such a large array of bugs as I have living on our little piece of country, near the city.  Centipedes, millipedes, beetles, stink bugs, velvet ants, carpenter ants, fire ants, grasshoppers, crickets, cicada’s, flies, praying mantis, worms, silverfish, grubs, mosquitos, ladybugs, bees, spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and a host of other bugs I can’t identify.  I’ve come to terms that for the most part the bugs are harmless.  I let them do their thing and as long as they don’t come in the house or touch me we live a relatively harmonious relationship.  If they do happen to venture inside or decide to land on me they will find they have put their little bug lives in peril.

IMG_1499

Lesson 3: Rapacious Reptiles

Bugs attract a host of other animals that’s diet consists of bugs, especially reptiles.  We’ve seen tons of lizards: Gecko’s, anoles, skinks (these are the ones that look like snakes because they have long bodies and tiny legs), I even spotted a huge salamander.  We see a variety of toads and frogs, including little green tree frogs and leopard frogs.  We’ve also seen a few of my least favorite of the reptiles. . . snakes.  We’ve had visits from one water mocassin and one copperhead and we also have a recurring visitor, a sizeable garter snake.  This one still freaks me out as he likes to make regular appearances, but I remind myself that he is one of the good guys and I stop thinking about making a run for the shovel when he surprises me, the poisonous variety are not as lucky.

Lesson 4: Rodents

When you live near untamed trees you are going to see the usual array of residence that make their homes there.  We have lots of squirrels scampering about and we have pesky moles burrowing holes through the yard.  There are also mice and rats that lurk in the woods nearby.  Luckily we don’t have a mouse or rat problem as the outside cats are avid hunters.  I have yet to see a live mouse or rat that wasn’t specifically brought into the yard by one of the cats and the poor little critters don’t usually last long once they are in the yard.  I’ve also learned from these rodents the appeal of squeaky toys to dogs, as when she discovers that cats have a new “toy” she also wants in on the playtime.

11391708_10205695530240438_5236542587821846584_n

 

Lesson 5: Do we have Bats or Birds?

The first year we moved into our house I kept hearing a squeaky sounding critter flying around outside.  I was convinced we had bats, and while we might have bats drifting about I have never encountered one.  Upon further inspection of the squeaky noise I figured out it was coming from Wood Ducks. These ducks nest in trees near water sources (we have a creek just down the road) and make it a habit of flying through our area on a regular basis.  Ducks in trees and balancing on power lines was a new experience for me, but I find myself looking for them whenever I hear the squeaky cries they make. Other birds I’ve seen and heard are cardinals, blue jay’s, doves, pigeons, crows, chimney swifts, woodpeckers, robins, warblers, vultures, hawks, owls, my favorite the hummingbirds, and a host of others that I am unsure of the genus.

Lesson 6: Bunnies, Opossums and Raccoons, Oh My!

While I’ve never seen Raccoons on our property, when we first moved in I frequently saw some huge ones in the neighbors backyard.  I wonder if our outside cats and crazy dog discourage the raccoons from taking up residence or if the family moved on to a different place of residence.  And while we don’t have a resident Opossum that I know about, we have had them make an appearance now and again.  They like to go after that cat food if there happen to be any remnants left in the bowls on the front porch and they take a lot of convincing (usually in the form of a broom) to get off the porch and go away.  My favorite resident who makes frequent appearances are the bunnies.  We must have some tasty grass because they are often make their dusk and dawn appearances despite the presence of the dog (who often fails to notice them until they are on the other side of the fence).

 

I’m sure there are many other untamed creatures we have yet to meet that reside nearby. (I’ve seen deer, armadillo’s and even a coyote while driving a few miles away from the house).  I try to not bother these critters too much as we have moved into their territory as much as they have moved into ours and for the most part I have learned that we can live in harmony amongst each other.  All the little lessons the wildlife teach me just reinforce the reason we moved to our little piece of property.  What better wonderland for a child than to be able to explore a backyard billowing with wildlife.

The Power of Positive Thinking

In January, the neighbors in the house next door moved out and the owner of the home put the house up for rent.   I cannot tell you what a scary concept it is imaging what type of neighbors might move in.  In the few years we have lived in our home we have had some good neighbors and some downright aweful neighbors, so when you let your imagination start to run wild about what type of people you might end up having move in next to you, well, it’s enough to keep you up at night.

51-L0vo8clL._SX300_

I decided that I was going to use the power of positive thinking and intentions to help get us some good new neighbors and I imagined what my ideal neighbors might be.  I decided it would be nice to have a younger couple familiar in country living and if they had a child around my son’s age that would be a great bonus.

The new neighbors moved in this weekend and after I met them I am convinced I wished them there.

When I saw the moving van I couldn’t help but be curious and with a beautiful sun shining day and a little boy who loves being outdoors I was hoping we would catch a glimpse of who these new people were.  Our dogs helped speed up introductions as they were both very curious about who the new creature on the other side of the fence was and I quickly learned the first names of everyone in the new house. The new neighbors are a young couple with a little girl just about six months younger than my son, with two dogs that seem well behaved and well cared for.  They are from South Carolina or, at least, she is from South Carolina.

After meeting the neighbors, I am convinced that the power of positive thinking played a hand in picking our new neighbors.  I plan on letting them get settled in and then I’ll bring them a housewarming basket in gratitude to the universe for sending us what seem to be some good folks.

 

The Fire that wouldn’t die

We have a lot of wood piled up on our property from our attempts at taming the trees.  My husband lit a fire this afternoon to get rid of a woodpile that was pushing against the fence and causing it to sag.  He put the fire out before he came inside for dinner but the heavy winds stirred it back to life and before I gathered my hunters in for the night I had to extinguish it once again.  I stood and watched the flames dance for a bit taking in the warmth and the sounds of the night before I turned the water on. The embers kept reigniting even after a good dousing so I kept at it until it smoked no more.  I smell like a campfire and I love it.  I love our property.  Not everyone gets to experience the country admidst a huge city on a daily basis and I am thankful and grateful we are blessed to live where we do.image

I Live with a Serial Killer (or two)

When you live on a 1/2 acre lot that is plentiful in plant life and that backs up to undisturbed wooded lots you cannot be faint of heart.  With all this glorious nature come critters.

We have critters of our own that roam among the splendor.  We have Sadie the Catahoula mix.  We obtained her from a park ranger who had found her abandoned in one of her parks.  After we had her a month I understood why someone might abandoned her.  She is a lively and energetic dog who needs lots of exercise and because of her we have made the dog park one of our favorite places.  Sadie loves her home.  She protects us, all of us, her herd and alerts us to things that are out of place.  She always keeps a watchful eye when she’s not playing.

We have Rocky, the cat that came with the house.  A massive creature that has the heart of a lion.  He is our guard cat. Whenever our gate is open and we are away he makes it his duty to hang out and guard the gate.  He is unafraid of large dogs and before they decided they could tolerate each other he would torture our poor dog.  I clearly remember one incident not long after we had brought Sadie home where Rocky pounced on her and rolled her down the porch steps because in his eyes she was an uninvited guest invading his turf.  In reality, though, he is a large baby of a cat who just wants to come in the house and sleep on big fluffy pillows (he especially likes to displace Sadie from her dog bed).

We have Smudge, a rescue from Texas Litter Control.  My friend Deana who works there knew he was the cat for me and prodded me to come meet him.  I feel in love and brought him home.  I intended for him to be an inside cat, but when he learned there were other cats outside, he was most insistent that he must be let outside to play with them.  Over time he grew to stay outside more than inside.  He is one of the most cat-like cats I have ever owned.  He climbs, chases, hides.  He is fearless and above all, he is a hunter.

The other evening as I called him to come in for bed, he just sat in the yard staring at me. He had been cleaning himself before I called for him, a grooming like that after a meal and I suspected that he may have brought me a present that he wanted me to come acknowledge before he would join us inside.  I went out into the yard to collect him.  It was dark and my eyeglasses were in the house, but even in the dim I could tell there was a dead rodent nearby.  I complimented Smudge on his prowess and brought him inside.

In the morning we got a better look at the kill, it was probably the biggest rats Smudge has ever brought home.   Life with a serial killer can be unpleasant.  What he views as gifts, I find as unpleasant pieces I have to clean up before the child lays eyes upon them.  I can no longer keep track of how many gifts we have been brought by our outside hunters, squirrels, cardinals, a mole, mice, rats, unidentifiable birds, maybe even a snake.

As much as it grosses me out to find the remains of such gifts I understand it is part of the circle of life.  It is part of life on a small homestead.  It is getting to experience nature up close and personal, even if it is not the most pleasant part of nature.  It reminds you of how nature works and when you love nature you do not get to choose to love just the beautiful parts.  You must love and appreciate all nature.