Wednesday, October 22, 2014

# 531 - Outdoor Gym

One of my goals is to start taking walks more often, just for the sake of walking nonstop for cardio purposes and to allow my body to again exercise in a manner that is continual for an extended period of time.

We do a lot of physical work around the acreage, but it is in spurts, here and there. That kind of work can often do more harm than good, especially if you are out of shape, in general.

And, I am out of shape.

This is me, a few weeks ago, floating in a refreshing lake in Texas.
I am in the water since you don't see people lurking around. I was
being silly with my old Water Ballet moves. Yes, I did ALL THINGS
water related while growing up.

Actually, our family has always been very active, especially during the years of raising our daughters.

One of the hundreds of trips we made
to Galveston, Texas...just down the road
from where we lived while raising our
awesome children.

We were extremely outdoor-geared, always bike-riding, hiking, camping, swimming and doing anything that required moving, having fun and being under the blue skies.

The kids and Sgt. Dave on our acreage,
many years ago. Sgt. Dave looks scrawny
to me in this picture! Lol.

My grown daughters are in great shape and they have often been involved with very athletic competitive activities and they watch what they eat.

Both my daughters on Heather's wedding day (my oldest daughter).
Heather & Stefanie are precious to me. This was two years ago.
I am so glad they grew out of this stage...

At their great-grandmother's house...playing tea-party, with wigs.

My youngest daughter is taking her commitment to exercise and overall health to a new level. She is a tiny thing...not quite 5'2" and has a hard time hitting 100 lbs on the scale. Stefanie has also encountered serious bodily injury in her freshman year of college due to a car wreck...the impact was so severe that it caused her car to flip and the result was a broken back and a closed head injury from the brain being rattled.

So, when I see her conquering her battles and becoming physically stronger than ever, I am especially proud of her!

Muscles Galore!

She has motivated me, in spite of my own significant health hurdles, to get moving in a way that goes beyond using a weed-eater or planting flowers in the garden and even beyond re-laying stepping stones...I needed to start a program of sustained exercise for a significant amount of time, several days per week, just to get the body moving in longevity.

I had initially even considered checking out the two work-out facilities in our small Texas town.

Livingston's recent Homecoming Parade

But, my round-trip to go to the gym would be about 25 miles and I don't think that would help push me to the gym. Then, I am in my mid-40's and don't exactly relish the idea of working out with a potential audience since body parts tend to go in different directions these days. No thanks.

On our acreage, we have a long private road that I knew needed to become part of my walking path on a daily basis.

Due to the curves in our private road, I cannot get a picture of its full
length, but it is definitely longer than a football field.
It is in the middle of the woods, but I am completely capable of protecting myself and I also have three large dogs who LOVE to walk alongside me the entire time.

They are fantastic guard dogs as well.

I thought I'd throw in a picture of Liyla to show her serious side. Lol. I am not kidding, of all my dogs, this one is the dog that would do serious damage. She has had some guard dog training, and if I say the magic words, I would pity anyone having to contend with her. 

Being in nature is wonderful.

So, I have begun the process of taking daily walks, weather permitting, on our private road and I even incorporate part of the forest into the walk to make things more interesting.

Howdy is also an ultra-guard dog. He has NO HESITATION and will run straight up to the brother discovered this side of Howdy, until Howdy got within three feet and finally recognized him. Scary moment, but it made my brother so HAPPY to see that Howdy is such an intense, capable guard dog. Then, my brother changed his britches. :-)

I make five rounds, which is quite a distance. And I realized that I have an awesome "Outdoor Gym" that just needs to be used with a bit more purpose. Just walking outdoors to do some work on the land does not always equate the exercise we think it does. Yes, the strength training the acreage provides is awesome, but the endurance and benefits we derive from activity sustained at a steady pace cannot be overlooked.

Since I need to get this body into better shape, my Outdoor Gym is about to be my best-friend on a new level.

Monday, October 20, 2014

# 530 - Barn Improvements - Concrete Flooring!

The barn that we have had for about a year needed a concrete crust floor so badly.

Since we no longer live in the suburbs of Greater Houston, we no longer have a large garage to hold all of our tools and machinery. Anything we put inside the barn was subjected to the high humidity that came from the earth and the dirt...that came from the earth.

Needless to say, our tools our in the worst shape they have ever been in.

However, time is a commodity around here...between Sgt. Dave's long commute to and from work, five days per week with some double-shifts here and there, we aren't left with much time to do above-and-beyond chores. If we can keep up with the daily chores, that has been good enough for us.

But, we have to step things up a notch. Sgt. Dave has been taking a few days off over the past few weeks so that we can get on top of things.

One of the items he wanted to tackle was to put down that concrete crust in his barn. He pulled everything out of it and began laying a concrete floor upon the dirt he'd leveled. It is a much thicker and more sturdy concrete floor than I imagined would be in place.

Of course, Sgt. Dave grew up working construction for his dad's company in the Greater Houston area, doing commercial construction, so he does have some great skills. He was able, by hand, to level the ground, get the concrete poured and then leveled with a board.

He went through bags and bags of concrete.

This was the first section he tackled. The cement floor set up perfectly.

It will be so much nicer to step into the barn and not have to worry about mud puddles or worry about setting something down straight upon the dirt floor. From now on, the concrete will protect our tools and machinery from moisture, rust, and dirt.

Today, Sgt. Dave finished the entire floor of the it a nice concrete base that will make being in there a delight.

The barn from a distance looks okay, but within the next couple of months, we will be painting it a barn-red color with white trim. I believe it will look fantastic.

Sgt. Dave is a hard working man.

I see him in the back! There he is, working to set up a new burn site for our trash.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

# 529 - Small Town Historic Appreciation

Living in a small country town makes trips into town so much more pleasant than it does when we lived in Greater Houston.

Small town streets downtown are often far from congested and ample parking is readily available.


I love old towns sprinkled throughout the landscape of the South, especially those that have worked to maintain their historical value. Livingston now has a historical committee that strives to keep the "old" alive and viable to today's society.

Greater Houston has bits and parts of the city that is dedicated to historical preservation, but the majority of the city is committed toward building the next structure bigger and better than the last. Property values in downtown Houston are so pricey that profits can only be increase by building upward. Sadly, that leaves many historical buildings vacant and floundering to the point of being condemned, which seems to be an actual business plan for many of downtown Houston's historic building owners.

They leave the building abandoned, even though it is in desperate need of renovations, and it falls into a rapid state of increased disrepair, until it is an eyesore and a hazard. It is sad to see some of these old buildings die a slow death instead of being restored to former glory.

In the big city, there is not much "glory" that comes with old age.

However, most of us learn through life's most valuable lessons that "newer" is not necessarily "better."

Age provides an increasing level of character to a building that new construction simply cannot capture.

I hope our little Texas town never sees the day where it wants to attract millions of people...I prefer our small town attract a dozen or so at one time and that it maintains low enough over-head that it will permit growth in spite of a slower pace. That's good enough for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

# 528 - Snakes Eating our Eggs & Say Your Prayers!

Needing to catch up with my posts.

One day, about three weeks ago, Sgt. Dave was in the barn and noticed a MacDaddy Rat Snake curled up in the barn.

A humorous turn of events would soon follow.

After he finds the snake, he comes inside to tell me about it so that I can go check it out. The truth is, I did not feel comfortable with the snake in the barn. I either wanted to dispose of it with a bullet or catch it, then release it at some point further from the home-site.

Yes, I got all the lectures about how these snakes are great for rodent control and so forth, but the chicken coop was about 300 feet away from the barn, and I told Sgt. Dave that I did not feel comfortable with the thought of that snake making it to the coop.

Sgt. Dave got testy with me. "The snake is staying," he said.

"Hey, but I have to go to the coop during the day by myself, if I KNOW a huge rat snake is lurking in the area, I don't want to take a chance for it to be in the zone where I must go every day," I tried to reason with him.

What does he tell me?

"You are being dramatic. That snake is far enough away to not be a problem, don't be ridiculous," he tells me.

Well, THAT was rude!

At this point, I must tell you that, initially, I felt as if my head were filling with red anger, so I decided to go inside and calm down with actual prayers for God to give me peace over the freakin snake issue.

So, I went inside and did exactly that...I prayed. As I sat there in the zone, laying the words the husband said about me being "dramatic" over the huge snake nearby at God's feet, I got this clear message that I can only describe as being divine that said, "Don't worry, you need to laugh because the drama is about to be his, not yours...he will be the one to confront the snake, relax."

I don't like the eggs being scavenged by slick bellied creatures.

Honestly, this is one of the times when I received an immediate, clear message to reassure me that everything would be okay, but with specific details. Yes, details.

After a while, I went back outside, feeling rather happy, in a warped if God and I were sharing this private, massive joke in a good humored kind of manner.

Sgt. Dave walked over and said, "We can go catch that snake that's in the barn."

With peace, I responded, "No, it's okay." I was smiling and Sgt. Dave is looking confused. So, I just shared the truth, "I said my prayers about it and have been reassured by the Almighty that things will be just fine because I will be protected, the worries I had about coming against a snake at the coop will not be for ME to worry about, it is going to be YOUR problem, so I don't have to be dramatic about it."

Big eye roll from Sgt. Dave, as if he highly doubted that I had literally prayed and received this message.

I had a complete sense of calm and faith enveloping me, but I was ready for what was about to happen, after all, I had been given a preview.

The weird story continues...

And guess what happened? Within 30 minutes of this conversation, Sgt. Dave was checking for eggs in the coop and in one of the nests, a nice-sized rat snake over FIVE FEET in length came slithering up from the hay.

And guess who suddenly got dramatic?

Can you imagine how I felt privy to the scene BEFORE it happened and that since I had flat out TOLD him what was going to happen, it was even more hysterical!

I think the ordeal creeped Sgt. Dave out, a lot. I think that being in the country, in more solitude, has put me in better touch to listen, but I also LOVE God's sense of humor.

Sgt. Dave suddenly had NO HESITATION about running for the .22 rifle with the scope, to take position outside of the coop with the bullet ready to fly through the coop itself to shoot the snake.

It was creepy.

Two big rat snakes within 30 minutes of each other in the residential area was not pleasant.


I reminded him that the entire moment of divinity over this snake issue was not with malice, it was with good humor for a good lesson. My concern had been valid, especially since the coop is now enclosed in a fenced-in area that makes it a lot more difficult to run for an escape at the sight of a snake.

And the chickens got to enjoy some revenge.

Show and tell goes further to demonstrate these snakes can get quite a few eggs in their belly.

I don't know if I will ever have a moment like this again, but lately, it seems that the Lord is truly hearing me and creating some consequences and events on my behalf that is uncanny. God is cool like that, He really is. I can vouch that it is better to be a friend of God, to be the one laughing WITH Him than being the one taught a lesson that can only be laughed about at a later time.

:-) I will keep saying my prayers.

# 527 - Finalizing Floorplan Details & Striving for Balance

Sgt. Dave finally moved the old fire-pit out of view. Thank God!

Living in the country means that each aspect of daily life must be considered because each decision impacts the view and appearance of the acreage.

After a summer of good rain and lots of mowing, the St. Augustine grass is growing nicely on part of the acreage.

Howdy and Gracie are two peas in a pod. They play several times a day, chasing each other around trees, cars, and other obstacles. They bring me a lot of laughter. Gracie has learned to play ball, her own way. She catches the ball and runs with it, making Howdy run after her. It's quite entertaining.

Liyla loves to sit in the sun and let her bones get some warmth; she's our old girl and is always smiling.

One of the goals that Sgt. Dave has been tackling lately is to burn the dead trees to the ground so that they don't fall on anyone and cause potential harm and/or death. We call these dead, towering trees, "Widow Makers." Now, he's taken down about three massive trees.

I also have something else that is new/old Trooper. This Trooper had once belonged to my sister, but now it is mine. In our family, we seem to keep our old vehicles in the family. This Trooper has been an amazing vehicle. She's an oldie, but a goodie. And...she looks good out here too.

The good news with the construction process is that we are finally making progress with our floorplan. All the details can be overwhelming, but the house, I believe, is going to be amazing.

We are having to get every single thing in order for the construction process because our builder, once he begins, will go fairly fast. His crew is one of those that works like crazy from sun-up to sun-down on each project to get the shell of the house finished very quickly. Once that is finished, we can begin pulling it all together, to make this place our new home.

Once we get the house built, I will finally be able to get all of our belongings out of storage that had been packed after we sold our last house.

I am trying to be patient for just a little while longer. Meanwhile, I also enjoy my chickens. I believe we are down to 19 chickens. They mostly stay safe in their chicken run, but they do free-range three days out of the week, minimum. However, it is usually at the cost of one of the chickens disappearing, I believe because of a hawk.

And, there are always reasons to go to Houston, but each time I go, it is confirmed to be a wise decision that we moved from the big city. The congestion of people and traffic, the bad smells and the lack of personal involvement that you enjoy in the country keeps me glad about going back home to the country. But, the city is beautiful, from a distance.

Life has some great balance, but I could strive for more. Thank goodness we have the big city with its Sushi bars to balance life in the country. Sushi always puts things into perspective with helping me enjoy visiting the city.

Sushi in the country...not so sure I'm comfortable with that idea, not just yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

# 526 - The RV-Life Blues

This outdoor kitchen is nicely done. We might have the carport area built with the backwall used as the backside to the outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen would be looking out to the main part of the backyard. Since the main structure is already there, this might be the best and least expensive option for us to fit in the outdoor kitchen into our budget.

Imagine this outdoor kitchen at the backside of the carport, accessible out the back door, close to the side that has the home's main kitchen.
Rustic outdoor space.
Lately, it seems we are always exhausted. Life has been extremely taxing. However, I know that the coming months are not going to be any easier.
Tomorrow, I have a list of phone calls to make to get back on top of the construction plan. We are still trying to work out final details with the floorplan and have been traveling a bit out of town, then we caught a terrible cold that had indiscriminately made its way around the family like a germ atom bomb, and now I am simply drained.
RV living is not good for me. I have determined this because I always had space to walk around in our house, rooms to clean, and it was never-ending. However, the main part was that I had room to stretch my legs. In an RV, you have minimal room and walking the floor means you might send vibrations to the other person sharing the RV and the sounds in the main part of RV are atrocious because the main air-conditioning is attached to the ceiling in that room and it is LOUD and intrusive. The A/C is vented through to the rest of the RV, but the main living room is not so enjoyable right now.
In the photo below, the RV with the deck is ours. The fifth wheel belongs to my oldest daughter and her husband, Heather and Henry. They just took it off the acreage a couple of weeks ago, so that means our guest quarters has rolled away!
The RV with the deck is ours.
As Henry was pulling their fifth wheel down our private road, Sgt. Dave was guiding them because the growth in our forest over this past summer has been phenomenal.
Henry did a great job getting the fifth wheel off the land and onto the road for their home near Fort Worth, Texas, which is about four hours away from us. The following week, we would be traveling to see them for our grand-daughter's first birthday.
We have two entrances/exits to our acreage. The other side has the
massive commercial-grade culvert. This side does not have one. But,
Henry has a big truck that handled the hauling, perfectly.
As for our own RV, it's good for me to get so sick of the RV that the construction process will become more delightful. I feel as if I am running a marathon, but getting nowhere. Life can be like that, especially when the process is daunting.
Truthfully, part of the fear about digging in and starting the actual build process is that I will make a decision that really cannot be changed because it won't be affordable to make the change or it won't be structurally feasible. I am trying to build us a house that we have never seen, yet it is very close to what we have seen in person and is rather simple, even so, it is 100% custom. It is similar to the house we shared previously, but also a lot different, as far as siding, color, roof color and such is concerned.
My fear with getting started is that my time to back-track and change my mind will no longer be an option.
I remind myself that we are never stuck with anything in life, yet it is something that I can see is a struggle for my personality. It's been a learning lesson for me to discover more about myself during this process.
From House Beautiful on-line. I love some white in a kitchen. I love this
color, but my last house had green cabinetry and not everyone loved them.
One thing is for sure, once we are back in a house, I will be incredibly thankful to have SPACE.
This past year of being in a cubby hole, in a's been nice, in a way, especially to allow us time to live on our land, to simply "be" and to figure things out regarding the seasons with drainage on the acreage and such. However, I well surpassed my expiration date for RV living.
We better get back on track because my steam seems to let out a lot faster these days. As for my whining, here are some things on my mind about being tired of RV life...I need space to stretch out; I want my bookshelves to be full of my books; I want my piano to play during melancholy moments; I want a guest room ready at all times for my kids and grand-grandbaby to enjoy; I want a bathtub; I want a full kitchen with a real refrigerator/freezer that is FROST-FREE; and I want a real sofa to stretch out upon.
All of these things are luxuries, I know. And the world has such major issues that weigh upon me like a lead-weight, but in my tiny corner of this existence, these are my current feelings about RV life.
Perhaps this coming week will be a positive move toward finishing the floorplan changes, so we can keep moving forward until the day comes when we can call a permanent structure "home" instead of this box with a hitch. Ha Ha. Yes, I have the RV blues.