Posted by: morrowsl | July 12, 2021

Herd Immunity

We drove an hour northeast from our home of 40-plus years to look at a house well away from the bustle and crush of the city. In our early years of marriage, we’d vowed to someday have a place with some land and no close neighbors living in our pockets.
Now, a month into our search, we were getting pretty discouraged. It was beginning to look like we’d waited too long and all the good spots were already taken. Like arriving at the campgrounds too late on a Friday night to get a site close to the water. You end up settling between the RVs and the Yurt, right smack between the old people and a pack of howling kids.

No, thank you.

Two hours later, we agreed to make an offer for the asking price, lest some other interested party buy it out from under us. Aside from hitting most of the items on our must-have list, as we were standing in the kitchen about to leave, three deer had moseyed across the backyard and stopped to watch us watching them.
I drove home dreaming of sitting on the porch, watching the deer.

Fast forward almost five years. We moved in three months after we first saw the house. I have spent many hours watching the deer. The feeders, already established when we got here, are situated where they are visible from inside the house. The deer have a path through the woods that circles our property. We don’t hunt them or allow anyone else to hunt them from our property.
We don’t try to coax them close for hand-feeding.
I do talk to them if I’m out and don’t realize they are too until I’ve startled them.

“It’s ok, mama. I’m just gonna pop over to the coop a minute.”

Last year, we were getting hit by feral hogs pretty much daily. They are rude, destructive assholes, tearing up every inch of St Augustine in our front yard. We would repair it and clean up the mess. They’d come back the next night. Mike would sit out with his gun and watch the front yard. They’d hit the back. He’d move from corner to corner. They’d stay down by the woods, digging where he could see them, but far enough to be out of range.
Finally, he’d had enough and called a fence man to complete our perimeter fence in hopes of ending the siege.

My biggest worry was for the deer. It wasn’t to be a high fence, but even low fences can cause problems if a deer is scared. And what about the fawns?

Almost immediately, Director Neighbor Girl reported seeing deer jumping the fence between us. Still, I watched in anticipation as the mamas got heavier and rounder this spring. Would they use our woods for their birthing center? Would the fawns be able to move from property to property? Had we effectively ridden ourselves of hogs at the expense of the deer we enjoyed so much?

As spring has found its way into summer, we have been seeing does with little ones tagging behind. They cross the front or back yards, feeding as they go along, or stopping at the feeders for corn. Sometimes, the fawns curl up in the shade of a tree as mom ambles along searching for fallen acorns. We put up a new feeder that holds pellets in hopes of providing better nutrition and encouraging them to stay close by and avoid being shot by the neighbors.

Last evening, coming up from the coop, I spied a small group of deer down by the big bowl and stopped to watch. Mike was coming back from taking the garbage container to the road and the deer had stopped to see what the noise was as the Wheel Horse made the turn. I could see a doe and what looked like a fawn, but in the decreasing light with the tall grass for cover, they were almost undetectable. Then the doe took off across the field. Behind her I counted three little spotted shadows, all of a size and sprinting to catch her. And with that, I can stop worrying.

We have achieved herd immunity at Remote.

Posted by: morrowsl | July 7, 2021

Feather Canyons Everywhere

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

So Joni Mitchell taught me to visualize the stories in clouds. On windy days the stories come fast and change characters in a moment. On hot summer days there aren’t many stories at all. On dark rainy days, the stories are forlorn and sad, or sleeping curled up in a wad under a warm blanket.

We had a really wet spring that seemed to want to stretch well into summer. Which I usually don’t mind at all, living as I do in a place where summer is the equivalent of hell for most of three to four months. But we were trying to convert our in-ground garden to a raised bed garden. The entirety of the subsurface ground is clay and therefore prone to hold water. The in-ground garden didn’t need to be watered much at all in spring. On the flip side, the nut grass grew like pandemic hair, shooting up overnight and matting every available surface. Hours and hours have been spent bent over and pulling up trails of grass sprigs daisy-chained by roots and nuts.

I’ve had all of that I want, thank you.

Mike pre-assembled our raised bed boxes in his shop, then we hauled them up the hill and connected the panels, then he hammered t-posts into the clay (yeah, it’s exactly as hard as you can imagine it to be, even when wet) and bolted them to the panels. A chore, even on an overcast and cool day. Impossible on a day when the skies are pouring.

The payoff, however, is in the story-clouds that herald the coming storms.

I spend way too much time in my car, now that we live so “remote” from civilization. Then again, I get to make up stories as I drive.

Posted by: morrowsl | June 2, 2021

Before They’re Gone

Every year since moving to Remote, I’ve promised myself to go out in the spring and take photos of wildflowers. There are literally fields of them all around us and each spring brings a new flush of color to the roadside. Oh, I’ve stopped and taken pictures with the phone from time to time. But I’ve only been out with the camera once or twice with a lot of space in between.
Not to mention, we seem to be in a weather pattern recently that brings rain, day and night. We are waterlogged. Everything is soupy. Doing outside chores means tromping through mud and puddles. The last thing I want is more of that.

A handful of days ago, the rain stopped for an afternoon. That was all I needed. All around us, there is beauty. It was time to catch some of it. This particular spot is between us and town. I pass it, twice, each time I run errands.

This old tractor sits along the FM waiting on the mechanic’s return.

Back home, I realized I hadn’t spent a lot of time taking photos around the house lately either. Flowers are blooming. The does are bringing their babies when they come to feed. Our veggies are setting flowers and fruit.

So…

It’s been easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, the garden, the laundry, the chickens. With all the rain, being out is uncomfortable and I move quickly to avoid being soaked. I’ve been doing only what needs to be done.

And running the risk of missing it all.

Posted by: morrowsl | June 1, 2021

Super Moon

To my astonishment we actually got a break in the weather just in time to view the Super Moon. I trotted my camera up to the top of the driveway and fired off a couple of shots. I was/am not all that enamored to be taking yet another image of a big moon with nothing else in the shot. And I have not mastered the technique of making both the moon and anything else in the image come out clear and clean.

I should say, I haven’t tried.

Since I replaced my camera, I have spent probably half as much time using it as I did its predecessor. The days here in Remote seem to be incredibly short! And too, I don’t leave the camera sitting out like I did before I replaced it because having the cats push it off the shelf and destroy it isn’t an option. Been there, done that.

However, I couldn’t let a Super Moon go by without getting at least one shot.

Even then, I didn’t download the images right away. I kept saying, if it ever stopped raining, I’d get out and snag a few images of the wildflowers before the grass overtook them. I did finally get an opportunity for that as well. Then I took a few of the deer. And the garden, flowerbeds, chickens.
Eventually I remembered to take the camera upstairs with me and plugged it in to download images.

And got quite a pleasant surprise when that big ol’ Super Moon popped onto the monitor screen.

May 25, 2021 Super Moon with airplane

Posted by: morrowsl | April 30, 2021

All This Rain…

It’s springtime in Texas. But forget what you knew about weather and patterns and such, because we’ve caused so much climate damage already, the weather doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing anymore.

Or, so I thought.

This week has been “moist,” as my favorite weatherman likes to say. Walking down to check on the chickens yesterday, I encountered ground wet enough to grow rice. So “moist” is an understatement, to say the least. As anticipated, the entry to the chicken run was flooded. I stepped into the pool and water covered the lower half of my boot. When I pulled the door closed, a wave washed over the rock and the water, with nowhere else to go, pooled on that side of the doorway as well.
Coop Daddy and our son-in-law spent an afternoon a few weeks ago covering sections of the run with metal roofing in hopes of adding shade and protection from precipitation. But windblown rain is gonna soak the ground. Thankfully, their efforts were more successful in keeping the gravity feeders dry. There were even a couple of birds having a nice dust bath in the damp-but-not-soaking dirt. My plan, if it is dry today, is to let the girls out this evening for a nice hour or two of worm and bug hunting. And probably some dust bathing in the sugar sand by the barn.

The soil here is mostly sand, with a hefty clay base beneath. This assures that, no matter how much rain we get at a time, the ground will be dry enough to drive on in a day or two, once the weather moves on. But it also means that an inch of rain will turn the sand to the consistency of snot, making it precarious to walk on. Four years of driving trucks and tractors and mowers and carts along the track from the garden to the barn has made a road of sorts that turns to absolute treachery in a hard rain.
Walking down to the barn to fill the chicken feeders, I took careful mincing steps to avoid slipping and busting my ass in the mud.

Head down, tippy-toeing, feeders clanging. I was recalling the summer two of my nephews graduated from high school.

In Texas, May graduations are tricky to plan. Most years, the heat is coming on by mid to late May. We’re still in active tornado season. And it can rain in buckets for days. To avoid problems, most schools use local venues to hold ceremonies indoors. But there are some ISDs that are too big, or too poor, to make renting an auditorium feasible. So the festivities move to the football field and the crowds take up both Home and Away to watch their kids walk.
This was the case for one nephew. His school was small, but bigger than the gym or auditorium would handle.

It rained in waves the day of his graduation and I knew I would never make the hour drive from work in time. The idea of arriving late and then trying to find my family huddled under umbrellas and rain gear seemed stupid. I sent him some spending money and an apology later.

The following week, my attendance at the second nephew’s graduation from a small private school seemed a bit more likely. It would be indoors so, once inside, we’d be dry. If I was late, at least I’d be recognizable and finding my family would be nothing more than searching the crowd for the waving arms.

By the time I could leave work, it was absolutely pouring rain. At the time, I worked in the Dallas Design Center, which is situated just southwest of downtown Dallas and due south of the Medical District. The area is wrapped in interstate highways looping and snaking from all directions. Traffic, on a good day, is bumper-to-bumper with cars, semis, and busses, all trying to go all the directions at the same time. The roads in the area haven’t been updated enough to handle the amount of traffic they carry, in spite of never ending construction. The semi trucks crack the pavement and open crater-sized potholes. The summer sun warps the asphalt into ridges and valleys.
I knew I’d be late. The rain would determine just how late.

Stepping off the curb to walk to my car, my shoe was submerged.

I stuck my shoes under the heater vent on the passenger floorboard to dry and plotted my escape. For years I suffered from anxiety anytime I drove on an interstate. Thankfully, I grew up in a small town south of Dallas where the roads that made up our main streets were the same roads that had carted people into and out of downtown years before. I knew I could avoid the interstate by using any of a number of southbound side streets. All of them crossed the Trinity River and, once beyond that landmark water, the traffic would thin out enough for me to make up lost time. The traffic lights would regulate the flow on both sides of the river.
I chose my route and pulled out into the mass.

Half an hour later, roughly the same amount of time usually required to make the entire trip south, I was still locked in traffic north of the Trinity. This was not going at all as planned. The water, still pouring down in a torrent, had overtaken the gutters and manhole covers were lifting up into the streets. My poor little car’s engine sputtered and coughed, drowning in the flood. I inched along with a few hundred other commuters, windshield wipers beating a useless rhythm on the glass. Visibility was less than half a car length at times. I was actually thankful to be stopped more than I was moving, because I had no idea of where the road really was. I was blindly following the lights in front of me.

I did, finally, make it to Josh’s graduation. He was a “C” and his name came up about the time my butt hit my seat.

I asked my sister what year he graduated so I could double-check the rainfall totals. I was a bit surprised to see how crazy the weather was fourteen years ago.

For the year 2007, in the Texas/Oklahoma region:

Two days tied for the high temperature that year, 101 on August 8th and 20th.
The low for the year was 4, on February 15th.
There were only three days the temps exceeded 100, which is pretty remarkable.
We had 21.4 inches of snow, which is also remarkable. That’s 3.5 inches above normal.
The total rainfall was 22.5 inches. May had the highest monthly total with 5.4 inches (2.90 inches above normal). It is the 7th wettest spring on record, dating back to 1892.

When I look at those numbers, it doesn’t feel so much like the weather is crazier now than it was then. There were extreme temperature changes several times from one day to the next. The tornado activity was significant, with rare outbreaks in both February and October. All told, it feels like we’ve been dealing with extremes for a long time.

But I know the storms are stronger now. The tornados are wider and on the ground longer. The rain comes all at once when it falls. The heat keeps climbing and the cold is getting deeper. Summer seems to hang on well into fall and spring sometimes lasts well into summer.

I wonder if it’s anything to do with putting Christmas decorations on sale in August?

Posted by: morrowsl | March 26, 2021

One Person’s Trash

My oldest daughter and I spent a cold and rainy day cleaning out her old apartment at the end of her lease. When we’d finished, we hauled a couple of bags of trash to the big dumpster at a corner of the complex. Sitting just beyond the door of the dumpster was this adorable little wood cabinet, seemingly too perfect to just be tossed. Further inspection revealed it to be a sewing cabinet.

With very little discussion, we loaded it into her car and it became mine.

Not that I need a sewing cabinet. Or an old sewing machine that will require a complete overhaul before it can even be plugged in. But I am my mother’s daughter and that woman never thought twice about hauling someone else’s trash home to turn to treasure. I helped Mom load many a roadside find into her car. This isn’t the first time Sheli has done the same with me. I know a man who actually repairs and sells such finds. He has quite a lucrative business.

Dumpster find sewing cabinet.

It’s worth noting that the combined weight of the cabinet and sewing machine was likely equal to a small car.

Mike helped me remove the sewing machine from the cabinet, otherwise it would all still be sitting on the apron of his shop. This required severing the power cord. At the back of the machine, the power cord was the old school cloth-covered kind that I recall seeing on an electric iron my mother had. The cord ran from the back of the sewing machine into one side of a small metal box mounted to the inside of the front panel of the cabinet.
Coming out the other side of the metal box, the other end of the cord was actually a section of old-school extension cord like we had in the early 1950s. Two lengths of plastic-covered cord twisted together with a plug on the end. This was obviously a replacement.

Neither end appeared safe for use.

Once the machine was free of the cabinet, I brought both pieces inside the house and cleaned them. I carried the machine upstairs, but couldn’t manage the cabinet alone. We got busy, so it sat at the end of the stairs until my son-in-law carried it up for me.

The machine is operated by a knee-lever that stores inside the Canadian-made cabinet. While cleaning the cabinet, I discovered a small drawer that held an accessories box filled with an amazing assortment of feet, most of which I have absolutely no idea how to use.

Found in the cabinet drawer. I had to download the manual to determine what all of these do.

I found a user’s manual online and downloaded it. From that I learned what the different feet were used for, and what all the levers and knobs were called and used for. It’s a pretty basic machine, well-built and beautiful in its way.

Once everything was cleaned up and moved into place, Mike helped me set the machine back in the cabinet and screw it down.

For now, I’ll use the cabinet top for additional surface space. At some point, I would love to have the machine rewired so that I can use it. But that’s a future goal. For now, I just love the look of this old girl in my cave.

Owner’s manual.

Posted by: morrowsl | March 2, 2021

Hibernation

It’s almost amusing to think of “winter” in N. Texas as anything even remotely resembling winter. We typically get a little ice and maybe a dusting of snow, then the sun comes out and it all melts and we go right back to our normal ridiculously warm weather.
When I considered how I wanted to chronicle the weather and experiences that came between February 13th and 21st, I almost didn’t write about it at all. Compared to so many others, family included, our week was relatively mild and uneventful.

But, the news media tends to cover only those stories meant to elicit intense emotional reactions. Fear, horror, anger, sympathy, empathy, sadness, grief, shock. Sometimes joy, bliss, excitement, love, gratitude. The numbers game is tied to the feels for sure.

So much the last few years has been focused on the negative. And, it is hard to write anything about that week without including the negatives. Still, I have always believed that every experience, good and bad, is meant to bring knowledge. Stick your head in the sand, sit at home on the sofa, keep to yourself enough, and you will wake up dead someday without having ever lived at all.

No thank you.

And so, here is how I’m looking back on Snowzilla 2021.

Friday, February 12, 2021:
A month ago, when our oldest daughter, Sheli, set up her move from a rented apartment to a rented house, the determining factors were money and time. There was no possible way to know that freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and power failure would ever enter into the equation. She had a plan and we all knew what our parts would be. But nothing ever really goes to plan.

The nasty weather that was supposed to hit the day before the movers were coming got stalled out somewhere and was rescheduled for two days after the move. Still, moving day dawned cold and windy and none of us was really looking forward to being out in it. We got a good start and managed to have most everything moved by 5pm. She would have a long weekend to unpack and sort and place and settle.

Saturday, February 13, 2021:
My mother’s 96th birthday. I woke up in gratitude, as I usually do when Lou comes to mind, that she didn’t have to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. I am convinced that, with her monthly lab and oncology appointments, she would have gotten sick and died alone. I have had that same thought every time I hear or read about someone losing an older family member or friend.

Because of the dire weather predictions, we knew we needed to get a few things done before the snow flew. I opened another bale of straw for the girls to scatter around the coop floor and wrapped the outside north-facing wall in a double-folded tarp. That, along with the tarps that wrap the outside walls of the run, would offer the best wind break I could manage.

I’ve written a lot about supplemental heat and why I don’t use it. This week in particular would prove me out. A power loss means a loss of supplemental heat. If your birds have come to depend on that for warmth, instead of being acclimated to the weather, they have no means to make the correction in body heat and they will suffer. It could possibly kill them. I let the chickens heat the coop.

Mike brought a load of firewood up to the back porch and I filled the seed feeders and put out suet. Then we went to town to stock up on propane, diesel, feed, and some last minute groceries. The line for propane was about twenty minutes long. The grocery was showing signs of a run – no milk, no bread, but LOTS of toilet paper!

The snow started in late afternoon. I went to bed thinking maybe The Delkus was wrong.

The Delkus is never wrong.

Waiting in line for propane. This was the last place locally to have a supply.

Sunday, February 14, 2021:
Happy Valentine’s Day! I’d told Mike at the grocery the day before that he could stop eyeballing flowers. I wanted candy! We both got something we like.

The outside air temperature, according to our inside/outside thermometer was 16 degrees Fahrenheit. We still had power, so it was 70 inside. We hadn’t built a fire for the same reason. No need to heat a warm house. We had, however, started dripping all the cold water faucets in the house as well as the apartment.
Mike had the dragon going in the shop to keep the apartment pipes warm. We’d started the propane heater in the greenhouse and plugged in the heat lamp in the pump house.

I made a breakfast casserole thinking it would be an easy way to feed us both. And cookies. Because, cookies are always good. And because, after about eighteen months of being without a cookstove, we finally decided on one and it had been delivered the week before. And it has a huge oven that cooks really evenly and its door shuts completely and nothing comes out burned!

Sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast casserole. SO pretty!

The snow had slowed, then stopped, by mid-morning. In the early afternoon it started again and was coming down heavy. Mike made a last minute decision to go in to top off the propane and diesel. He was back before full dark. We checked the outbuildings, tucked the chickens in for the night, and settled in to watch tv.

Monday, February 15, 2021:
The power surges started Sunday evening but we still had power when we went to bed. At 2:30 I got a text from Sheli that she was without power. So were we. Ours came back on an hour later, then went off again and was out the rest of the night. It did come back on for a short bit around 7:30. That was the start of the rolling blackouts, but we had no way to know that as we got absolutely no notice that what had been a “might happen” situation had become a reality. Sheli’s power never came back.

The outside temperature at 9:30 a.m. was 19F. Indoor temps, after not having power much of the night, had fallen to 58F.

When I’d dressed for the move on Friday, I put on a pair of pajama pants under my jeans. I did the same now, adding a pair of sweatpants over the jeans, two pairs of socks, two shirts under a flannel shirt and quilted jacket. Two toboggans, a lovely cowl my friend Jenn made for me last year, gloves, and my trusty boots Sister gave me when we first moved to Remote. I was set.

We did our rounds, checking propane tank levels and thermometers. The greenhouse was forty but there were already signs of plants freezing. Nothing to do but hope for the best. The shop was chilly so Mike started a fire in the wood stove. The dragon runs on electricity, so it would only be coming on if the power returned.

The chickens were grouped around the coop door, refusing to step on the snow. I brought an armload of straw up from the barn and scattered a pathway to the feeder. They still wouldn’t come out, so I broke a cardinal rule and moved the feeder into the coop. Normally, I wouldn’t do anything to entice rodents into the space where the girls sleep. Rats will chew on chicken’s tail feathers while they sleep. But I needed them to eat. Their water was frozen, so I hauled water from the house in a five-gallon bucket. This would have to be repeated several times daily until the thaw.

Our cell signal, already weak, now disappeared entirely. Any text we sent out sat in the queue, unsent. We weren’t getting texts either. And then, with a sound like a slot machine hitting a jackpot, our phones would both start clanging with text alerts. We’d read them, compare notes, write replies that would, once again, sit unsent. This was our communications for the week, except those times that we were in town.
During one of the mass information text sessions, I learned from Mustang Sally Neighbor Girl, who is married to Detective Neighbor Boy and now lives in the house sold by Director Neighbor Girl and Captain Neighbor Boy (who are building down by the lake) that our power was coming on every couple of hours for fifteen minutes. I hadn’t noticed a pattern, but became hyper aware of it once informed. I began to plan my actions around the short periods we would have power.

Darkness descended and I opted for bed. We hadn’t built a very big fire and the room wasn’t getting any warmer. But we had good blankets and two cats on the bed. And I usually just nap in front of the tv most nights anyway.
Mike came to bed a bit later, unable to get warm. He was shivering and I had a moment of sheer panic that I might not be able to help him get warm. Eventually, our body heat, combined with the heat from the cats, warmed him up enough to sleep.

Based on our limited information, we knew Sheli was still without power, our son’s family was experiencing rolling blackouts, our youngest daughter and Sister still had power.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021:
My nephew’s birthday. I wouldn’t even realize this for a couple of days. My calendar was non-existent now.

Outside, we’d hit ZERO degrees. Inside the house it was forty-three. I tried to light a fire, but I totally suck at them.

Once Mike was up and had a good fire going, we discussed how best to commence. Captain Neighbor Boy had indicated he would be going to town for propane so we’d find out if there had been a resupply. In the meantime, we needed to move more firewood closer to the house at some point in the day.

I had started heating water in several vintage metal coffee pots on the wood stove. Having hot water for sponge bathing and washing dishes went a long way toward keeping me sane. I also made our bed every morning, as much to get the covers straightened out as anything. And I swept the floors. Those things kept me warm, but also kept my mind on the importance of being busy.

Heating water old school.

We spent time playing Chickenfoot or cards. Normally, we’re both so competitive we end up pissed off at each other. But we both knew we needed to keep busy.
Each time the power would cycle on, there would be a little “click” of the thermostat before the ceiling fans or fridge motors would come on. I learned to listen for that click and act immediately to make the most use of the short time we’d have power. The coffee pot was filled and ready every morning. Mike had pulled our “Mr. Sock” heat packs out of the drawer and those stayed in the microwave when not in use. Mr. Sock became Mike’s constant companion. I tucked it under a blanket around his shoulders.

Bundled up against the cold and whipping me at Rummy.

Tuesday, the sun returned after being hidden by clouds all day Monday. This probably did as much to improve our spirits as anything. The cats lounged in sunlit patches on the rugs. I warmed my feet in those same spots or turned my back to the light coming through the windows.
The little birds came in huge flocks to eat from the seed feeders and fight over the suet. I was able to charge my camera battery enough to start using it and spent quite a lot of time marveling at the number and variety of wild birds we have at Remote.

Sheli’s power came back on around midnight Tuesday. Initially, she was unaware, but eventually she did get the information that she needed to be boiling water.

Our power did not come back. Neither did our cell service. Luckily, we are on a well. As long as the pressure was good, we would have drinking water.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021:
The temperature outside came back up to 20 degrees, much to my delight! We were out of firewood near the house, so that was the main objective for the morning. My plan was to just pull my garden wagon down the hill to the wood racks and haul up a couple of loads. It would take me some time, but it would be good exercise, and I’d be warm. I was on my second load when Mike took the little Wheel Horse down to get a bag of corn for the deer feeder. The incline from the barn back to the house was almost too much for the Wheel Horse, so it was decided that the blue tractor was needed. Several cranks on the key revealed a dying battery. So, door number three was using one of the two little Ranger trucks we knock about this place in. Over the hill came “Walker Red.” We emptied one rack of wood into the truck bed and Mike took off over the little hill to find a good spot for turning around. Remote is mostly trees, especially in the back of the property, so navigating is difficult without snow and ice on the ground.
I wondered, as I watched the tail lights disappear over the hill, how long I should wait before following the tire tracks. There are a couple of (sort of) paths leading from the house to the lake and back. But the one he was forced to take was little more than a deer track that hasn’t been driven in several months. I opted to keep an ear cocked in that general direction and finished up my chores. I was just coming up from the chicken run when I heard him, slipping and sliding along the path we generally walk to the lake. When he passed by, he looked like a teenage kid out for a joy ride in the snow in Dad’s old truck! I just had to laugh.

Now we had an ample supply of wood just outside the back door. It can’t stay there, of course, since snakes like to hang out in the woodpile and the hot tub is mere steps from where we’d made our stack. Come warm weather, I’ll be relocating it right back down the hill.

We needed to make another propane run. Captain Neighbor Boy had spent two and a half hours in line on Tuesday. I was worried there wouldn’t be any to be had. Luckily, the supply truck was on site when we got there.

Waiting in line for fuel, I checked and sent messages, but I also read our local news. It was horribly depressing to read about the people who, desperate to heat their homes, had been asphyxiated in their attempts. One child froze to death in his sleep after coming in from playing in the snow and going to bed in his unheated home. An elderly man died, sitting in his car, trying to retrieve an oxygen tank.
Our power was cycling on for about half an hour now, but still only every couple of hours. Even so, we had a good stove and plenty of wood. We might lose everything in the greenhouse, but the pipes in the apartment would not burst again (as they did in 2016 when we first moved here) and we were making it work. News from the family and neighbors was encouraging. We were all making it work.

We came home to a warm fire and were able to heat our dinner in the microwave. We went to bed grateful.

Thursday, February 18, 2021:
Woke to blessed heat! Based on the clock on the cook stove, the power came on about midnight and stayed on. I started the coffee and spent some time sipping and savoring the warmth.

Outside, the new snow had covered all our dirty tracks from the days of trudging around the property. And revealed the presence of a few “visitors” in the night. It could have been a domestic cat, we have seen a couple of different ones around lately. But it could just as easily be a bobcat, since we know they live out here. There was a trail leading from near the shop, around the chicken run, and up the hill toward the feeder. That makes me think bobcat as well, since a domestic cat would likely hang around where there’s a source of heat, like the shop.

A perfect imprint.

Mike took a long-awaited long shower. I spent time drinking coffee and watching birds. Our cell service was still really spotty.
Around mid-morning a text came from Sister that her husband had had a seizure around 6pm the night before and then her pipes had burst. They had had power all along, so no idea what caused the pipes to give when they did, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. They’d turned the water off and were figuring it out. A friend in S. Texas had burst pipes and a huge hole in her kitchen ceiling.
On the news, the governor and lieutenant governor were pointing fingers and vowing to “get to the bottom of this.”
One senator decided that a family vacation was in order, even as his constituents were freezing to death, literally.
The negative, it seems, continues even if the ability to hear about it is removed.

By Sunday, the sun was shining and the air was warm. The snow was gone and I was knee-deep in dirty laundry.

Outside, the chickens seemed to say, “WHAT freeze?”

Posted by: morrowsl | January 24, 2021

Please Fence Me In

The first indication that something might be amiss was coming “home” to our new house in the country to find a good bit of the front yard plowed up. The ground literally ripped open and the grass tossed this way and that. Huge gullies and furrows, wading pool-sized holes, divots and pocks and pockets dotting the lawn.

We stood in the driveway, shaking our heads, disbelief giving way to reality, but without explanation.

What the hell just happened?

We found out later, thanks to my sister’s quick Google search, that we’d been “hit” by feral hogs.

Amazingly, I kept no photos from that first discovery. Suffice to say it doesn’t matter; every event results in the same destruction. The most recent photos look much the same as I recall seeing the first time. Sometimes it is just a spot or two. Other times it is huge swaths of upturned earth. Always, it sinks the heart and brings an anger normally reserved for two-legged boars.

For a while, there was a guy staked out in the trees on the property, high-powered rifle in hand. He managed to shoot a couple of bobcats, but his luck with hogs was less than impressive. For a longer while, we stopped filling the deer feeders, but that only served to bring them closer to the house again.
I walked out one morning to find a half dozen still working on the front yard. I shrieked. They snorted. We all ran. One evening last fall, I stood at one of the kitchen windows and watched a group of three gleefully digging a trough alongside our back walkway. Mike was inching his way around the porch, rifle in hand, but must have made just enough noise to alert them. My language at the time sent both cats running for cover.

Mike bought a lawn roller to pull behind the Wheelhorse for flattening the tilled up spots. He seeded the lawn and rolled it, the sprinklers watered in the seed. And the hogs came back every single time, once or twice it seemed they almost followed directly behind him. We would go to bed with a nice, flat lawn and wake to a plowed field.

Until, finally, we had enough.

Recently, we’ve hired a company to construct a perimeter fence. While we are fully aware that hogs can take down fences, we also understand that we serve as a sort of “vacation” area for the hogs that pass through here. They are not permanent residents and spend the bulk of their time elsewhere. The hope is that, when next they decide that Remote dining sounds good for supper, they’ll encounter the fence and just move on down the road to some of the open spaces available in the area.
While keeping the hogs out was the main goal, allowing the deer in was equally important. We left it to the “fence guy” to make the determination which fence would give us both.

The solar panel and call box are yet to be installed. But the fence and gates are up. And Captain Neighbor Boy assures us he has witnessed the deer leaping over it. Of course, we aren’t likely to have any babies on the property until they are tall enough to clear a four foot fence. Or unless the mamas make use of our woods as a maternity ward. We have feeders, we do fill them, and we don’t allow hunting for deer on our property.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

Posted by: morrowsl | December 25, 2020

The Unforgettable Christmas

It is Christmas morning, 2020. On any other Christmas morning, I might write of joy and laughter and children squeeing in delight at what Santa has left for them. But, it is Christmas morning, 2020. And I honestly have no idea how many families are waking up to joy and laughter and squees. Or, sadly, are not.

Here at Remote, aside from the wild birds calling from the trees that the feeders are empty, it is serenely quiet. Oh! How many years did I long for such quiet on a Christmas morning? I even wrote a small piece about waking up on Christmas morning on the farm and the absolute peace I knew I could find there. And yet, I am here. And I have my quiet. And it is, incredibly, such a mixed bag. I’m not sure if that is due to the lack of people awake and shaking around here (one) or the actual remoteness of location (about 11 miles from town) or the fact that it is Christmas Day and we are in the middle of chaos from pandemic and politics and really all anyone wants this morning is to not have to deal with the same thing we’ve all been dealing with since March.

When I decorated this year, it was with my usual love of the season and the remembrances of all the familiar bits and pieces. But it was also hope. Hope that the season would usher in kindness and love and compassion and show the door to cruelty and hate and inhumanity. Mostly, I was hoping those close to me would have a chance to relax and just soak in the goodness of life in spite of the wreck this year has made of it. I don’t know if that happened. I hope so. I am getting texts and pictures of their attempts. I want to believe they are true.

So, here I am, house decorated, ovens warming, birds calling. Gifts are wrapped and tucked under our little tree. Others were delivered last weekend. It will be a beautiful day outside. Chilly, but covered in warm sunshine as is the usual for late December in North Texas. There are still chores to be done, animals to feed. Our dinner will be midday and small. Last evening, it was just Mike and I for the first time ever. When we married, I brought children with me. We added another. And later on, they added their own. Last evening was a totally new experience for us. We wrapped last gifts, did chores, snacked on turkey straight from the smoker, drifted off in front of the tv. Much as I always imagined it would be if ever it was just us on Christmas Eve.

I have no idea what’s coming. We never saw this, last Christmas when we were all together and doing more or less the same things we’d been doing all along. I think it’s a good thing we really can’t see into the future. Even better not to spend too much time in the past. Time marches on they say. Blink and it will all be gone. So my plan is to just live in today. Oh, I’ll browse those seed catalogs and dream of spring and warmer mornings. But for now, because I know there are people whose lives have been devastated and for whom this day is filled with pain and anger and loss and exhaustion, I will just do what this day tells me to do and pray for peace to come to all of us with the passing of absolutely the worst year in my lifetime.

Happy Christmas.

Posted by: morrowsl | December 21, 2020

COVID Christmas and Eggs for Everyone

So, for quite some time now, I’ve been sharing my surplus eggs with friends and family. When the girls are at full production, we can’t possibly eat all the eggs they lay. And, while eggs are cheap enough at the market, they aren’t nearly as fresh. This fall, however, even The Crazy Eight have stopped laying and we’re only getting a couple of eggs at a time.

Add to that the COVID-19 pandemic that isn’t going away anytime soon. We’ve already had a really close call ourselves. Families we know have been affected. People we know have died. Just when it looked like we might finally be coming out the other side, selfish people have jeopardized any chance we might have had to finally be shut of this virus by the end of 2020.
Thankfully science, unlike politicians, stayed the course and vaccines are now available. And, while it will take the rest of this year and most of the next one, we may actually be able to hug our loved ones again next Christmas.
I had toyed with the idea of having a tree outside and trying to get us all together. But the risks are just too great. This Christmas, we will gather virtually. And we will probably be more appreciative of the time we get to spend with each other when that time is finally ours once more.

With all of this in mind, I ventured out in November and shopped for Christmas fabric. I would have made my purchases online, and did for most of my solid colors, but sometimes it’s really hard to actually tell what a fabric looks like from the website’s images. I managed to find about a dozen designs I really liked and bought in small batches. Then I set about making COVID masks for Christmas giving.

Late last week, Captain Neighbor Boy, Director Neighbor Girl, and The Little Blond Neighbor Girls packed up and decamped for their annual winter trip. That left us in charge of bunnies and chickens. When I went down on the first day I realized that their chickens, seventeen very friendly and sweet beauties (and one rooster I hadn’t met yet) are in full production. They literally had cartons of eggs stacked up.
I sent a message to my egg delivery list to see if anyone had a need and relieved the neighbors of a few dozen.

Yesterday, van filled to the doors, I set out to make a huge circle around the DFW metro mess making deliveries. Roughly eight hours, a tank of gas, and 200 miles. I came home tired. And really happy.

Recently, my oldest grandson and I had a discussion about Santa. He, like most budding teenagers, is quick to share his beliefs, or non-beliefs, about Christmas and Santa and flying reindeer. I, like most older people who have now come full circle on this very commercialized holiday, refrained from explaining that the date has more to do with Paganism than Christianity. I tend to be a little cynical about the whole birth of Christ as well, since nobody knows exactly when that event took place (Nobody Knows). But I did at least try to instill in him the idea that Christmas is more to do with how it makes you feel in your heart. I do believe there is magic in the holiday if it brings families together and offers time for reflection. And, this year especially, Christmas needs to be about healing and forgiveness and love and trust. We’ve been pretty short on all of that lately.

Merry Christmas to those of you who visit here. I hope there is some magic waiting for you this year.

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