Thursday, June 30, 2011

#44 - Ahhh - Home-Grown Goodness & Avoiding the Dungeon

Our farm land is presently growing a nice little garden. Having several acres is wonderful, especially when you love home-grown veggies. The soil on our acreage is naturally rich and nutritious. We are blessed to have land that is so raw and in its "original" state that it will grow just about anything.

Deputy Dave pulling plants from Livingston acreage.
You can see the wild Blackberry thorn vines growing everywhere.
Once we're living on our acreage full-time, we will likely have an enormous veggie garden. Currently, at our house in the city, we must carefully select preferred veggies for growing, due to limited space. Mostly, that means tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, various herbs, potatoes and more.

My niece having a great time finding her "treasures" which are
red tomatoes hidden here and there in the garden.
After you've grown your own vegetables, you find what I call a "taste-bud awakening." Home-grown veggies can spoil you and make grocery store veggies taste bland.

Here is a basketful of our first harvest this season. 

I believe this is last season's harvest, but we grow the same
things each year. Right now, we do not have any lettuce.
For example, after eating our home-grown potatoes, I've discovered that the grocery store variety lacks flavor. Before we grew our own potatoes in the backyard, I didn't know that I was missing out on such a delectable flavor. Grocery store potatoes had been good enough for me. However, after we harvested our initial batch of potatoes from the backyard, and after I prepared a few skillet sauteed potatoes that were sliced thinly, I found myself switching off the potato-auto-pilot and surging forward on the oh-my-potato-goodness over-drive.

Part of our herb garden...Rosemary and Sweet Basil.
The grocery store potato myth has ended. My potato complacency has been disrupted. A new world  full of potato deliciousness has begun. There's no doubt that eating a potato freshly dug from our garden gives full flavor and a new definition of taste to the word "Potato."

From this past week, one of my bell pepper plants. Bell peppers definitely
have to be a big part of our garden --- I just like the flavor they add when cooking.
Yesterday, I was visiting a new blog site,, and found something very interesting. One problem I've encountered my entire adult life is the love/hate issue with the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator.

It goes like this...I buy a bundle of celery and put it in the veggie-bin at the bottom of my refrigerator. A week goes by and I am focused on a busy life that is full of distractions. I started out with great cooking intentions for the celery; I had wanted to remember that the celery is lying in the bottom drawer of the fridge as it becomes less rigid because there is a loss of moisture, but life got in the way. The crisper bin goes into the recesses of my mind as I am going to family functions, doctor appointments, and as I am immersed in a world full of business paperwork for one reason or another, leaving me exhausted. So, the celery is more assured that it will sit unnoticed as it withers in the fridge's dungeon.

My jalapeno plant. We are DEFINITELY planting many more of these
next season. I have developed a growing fondness for jalapenos.
This blog writer has a wonderful solution that is workable for my household veggie storage. She buys her veggies...radishes, celery, carrots, etc., and immediately cuts them into chunks that, at a later date, can be further chopped, diced, or sliced as needed. Then, instead of shoving them into the dungeon of the refrigerator, also known as the "crisper", the Hip Home Blogger takes mason jars and puts the cut up veggies into their clear, visible glass-goodness for fridge storage. Magnificent!

If you add a tad bit of water, then you could be assured that the turgor pressure in the cells of the veggies remains hydrated, which results in firm, CRISPY veggies! Plus, the glass jars are an excellent barrier from any smells that may be absorbed through plastics. Instead of spending money on Ziploc baggies and contributing to plastic trash, the glass jar can simply be washed out and remain ready for the next batch of veggies. Do, I sound all ecologically focused? I mention reducing plastic and I feel as if I don't really have that Dodge Ram pickup truck in the driveway that guzzles gas, but I do. Anyway, I actually do despise having to pay money for the Ziploc baggies that constantly disappear much too quickly.

I was amazed by this simple. yet profound solution for my veggies. Everything that had once been hidden away in the crisper and that had been a pain to drag out for reviving and prepping for a meal is now displayed on a shelf in a glass jar...ready for easy use. Why had I never thought of this? Isn't it easy to see that jar of pickles or olives in the clear jar on the shelf in the fridge? Actually, I could use my old pickle jars or old glass mayonnaise jars after they are disinfected to store my veggies.

Photo from which is an incredible site full of
interesting ideas for storage, recipes, and interesting tidbits for the kitchen.
I forgot how much I love the utilitarian use and good looks of glass
storage --- no more dull, dingy plastic with scratches!
Thankfully, has provided me with a fresh perspective on an old problem that has been perpetuated by the crisper bin. From now on, I'll never look at my refrigerator the same way. That veggie bin will be used for more appropriate "dungeon" items that I can miss for a week or two without noticing. Yep, that will work out much better.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#43 - Missing my Roosters and Eager for Priceless Eggs

It's been a few days since we re-located our roosters from our backyard to another location. They had found their mature voice and had perfected its volume to full strength. The rooster definitely put a kink in our backyard chicken plan.

Big Rooster on his way to his new home in box with plenty of holes.
The new location is less than five minutes from our home.
Now, both roosters are in the box, ready to go.
But, it's been eerily quiet since the two boys have been gone. I remember the day we selected seven chicks; I was in baby chick heaven. They were so adorable and frail and all were a pale yellow, very similar to each other. However, we ended up with two different breeds and after a couple of weeks, we noticed that two of the chicks were remaining smaller than the others. Two ended up to be white with black specks.

I'd ALWAYS wanted chickens, but we had never lived somewhere that could make it possible. Finally, after reading some informative articles in "Hobby Farmer," we discovered that many people in the suburbs are raising chickens for the eggs. Suburb neighborhoods are fighting their neighborhood associations to allow small backyard flocks and several have changed their regulations to officially allow it. We're coming a long way! Having your own laying hens is a great way to exert a bit of control over your food supply, to teach children where eggs actually come from along with the responsibility of taking care of a farm animal, and to simply enjoy these awesome creatures.

This time, I'm working to lead the chickens closer to the area that's
more populated with chickens.
Come on roosters!
However, after Deputy Dave and I re-located our roosters, I was told that the girls would not lay eggs without a rooster. I had never been told this before. I believed chickens would lay eggs with or without a rooster, the only difference would be whether or not the eggs would be fertilized. It made me worry. It's almost time for the chickens to start laying eggs; it would be terrible if something happened that seized their egg-laying abilities before it even started.

Me and my big rear trying to coax the roosters further inward.
I hope my fellow bloggers out there will have details on this rooster and hen-laying matter.

Today, I woke up to see my five chickens happily waiting for their morning food. It's amazing to have chickens finally because for years and years I imagined what it would be like to raise chickens. I could picture myself suddenly comfortable around chickens, instead of petrified. A new side of me would finally be cultivated; a new Lana would emerge due to chickens being a part of my life.

Now, I'm living out the joyful thoughts I had once entertained only in the confines of my mind! In fact, all that I had imagined could only be described as insufficient when compared to the real-world joys of raising chickens.

My roosters - my boys - in a lovely new home. This time, we're on
the backside of the building. Deputy Dave found more chickens
in this area. They initially ran from us, but they are starting to
slowly creep closer toward me and the roosters.
So, when we brought home two roosters this past March, by mistake, I found myself at a loss because I'd never imagined having a rooster. This was out of my carefully imagined plan. As the seven chicks grew and grew, we began to notice that two of them were developing combs. I THINK they are called combs; I'm still learning. Anyway, at first, we were telling ourselves that perhaps this breed of chickens meant that the girls had combs. Is this even possible?

Regardless, it was soon apparent that we had two real, live roosters. This meant that I would learn a few unexpected lessons about roosters. My first lesson is that, if you purchase chicks from Tractor Supply, you just might get a rooster instead of a hen. Then, I learned that roosters are indeed aggressive. In the same day, a rooster will protect his chickens and attack them.

It's actually dark, but my rooster boys are finally socializing and not
running after us squawking.
A rooster seems to be a natural born expert at strutting his stuff. Big Rooster had endearing moments in our backyard when he reminded me of John Travolta in the movie "Saturday Night Fever." Confident strutting was Big Rooster's specialty. Well, our Big Rooster would strut and intimidate the small rooster right out of his mid-strut. Poor emasculated Speckles.

The roosters were awesome, but our location wasn't conducive to their need to be LOUD. One day, I hope to have a coop specifically for hens producing chicks and this means we will get to have a Big Daddy Rooster. But, this will have to wait until we're living on our farm land full-time.

Precious times. Chicks are a delight. Little did we know,
two of these are roosters.
Meanwhile, I miss the roosters, but am enjoying the peace of our small space in the city. Soon, we'll have eggs. I hope. At least I'll know where the eggs are coming from and they certainly aren't going to be from a commercialized, mass-production, stifling, money-minded chicken factory.

Our eggs will be from a home where the chickens are entertaining pets and are loved by the dogs with an occasional torture session of Howdy running circles around the coop nonstop, but our chickens are fed kitchen scraps, a bit of chicken feed, they get to free-range all throughout our backyard and in the veggie garden that provides delicious tomatoes, and our chickens are probably about as happy on the chicken-happy-scale as a chicken can get. All of this combined will make our eggs priceless.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#42 - My City-Daughter's Adventure

City life can be exciting. A few years ago, we sold our house with the "Houston" address and moved back to the town where I grew up. It's a heavily industrial town in the same county as Houston...Harris County. I don't relish the idea of living within window-shattering distance from an exploding refinery, but this is how life has gone for our family. My father worked in refineries and this was the bread and butter on our table while growing up...the Houston Petro-Chemical Industry is one I've been very acquainted with for most of my life. At night-time, my mother used to tell me that she thought the refineries and chemical plants reminded her of beautiful Christmas lighting, but it sure didn't smell like Christmas.

But, this is the Houston area. It has a heavy industrial side to it and we happen to live smack in that area. Lovely. I think this is part of the reason I am so very anxious to move to the country. I'm beyond the point of being ready. Life is not always glamorous when you live a Metropolitan kind of life.

However, no matter where we live, excitement seems to follow our family. Sometimes, I feel as if we are on a roller-coaster ride that never ends. And that's an inside joke for me and my husband - we met at Astroworld (a part of Six Flags) and this was an amusement park in Houston. I was twelve years old and rode my first roller coaster on the day I met this cute, lanky boy. From then onward, the roller-coaster ride has never ended. I am thankful.

A few years ago, we had extra excitement in our home located just outside of Houston...our daughter was selected in a Houston audition, to be on the show "America's Next Top Model." She was actually in her Freshman year as a Biology major at Texas A&M when they called to tell her that she was being flown to California to do the entire Tyra Banks thing, but I was horrified, petrified and extremely hesitant. Actually, I made her write an essay on important foundation ideals in her life, things that truly mattered, and I intended to use this piece of paper as therapy if she ever became Britany-Spears-Screwed-Up-Famous. I would have wallpapered her mansion with that essay, if it ever became necessary.

Before her departure into America's Next Top Model land, all of us in the family had to sign extensive contracts that nearly stated that we possibly sacrifice our lives if we told anyone where she was going. No one could know about her whereabouts because they film in advance of the show's airing. Top secret.

America's Next Top Model paid for everything and flew her out to California for the glitz and glamour of a famous person's life. True to form, she lost her privacy the moment she landed at the airport. Her escort allowed Heather to make a quick call to tell me she'd arrived safely and that her phone was being confiscated. Was Momma happy? NO she was not! I did NOT like one bit of this "Hollywood" scheme. But, we were trying to see the ordeal as an adventure. We were adventurous people. Our family liked adventures. I tried to not hyperventilate.

Still, every day, I pictured Hollywood perverts everywhere. Before she had left for California, my daughter and I had held extensive conversations about the lures and false promises that go with fame. Fortunately, my daughter had already had a valuable experience in modeling that taught her to stand her ground...this head honcho famous guy wanted her to cut her hair and she said, "No," while the other models from her agency were having their hair hacked off to please this guy.

My daughter knew she'd probably be turned away, but she didn't give in, "You're not touching my hair." She still got the modeling job and kept her hair. I was amazed at how many young women were letting the modeling job dictate their hair...inches and inches of beautiful hair because they wanted to model. I told my daughter to NEVER sell out. If it didn't feel right, WALK AWAY ---- FAST.

However, America's Next Top Model had procedures to protect their show from having surprises revealed. That was understandable. Controlling communications was necessary, as it is in most big business, not just on reality shows.

In Heather's hotel room, the production crew made sure she could not communicate with the outside world, except for an emergency. And, they took the journal she had stashed in her suitcase, the journal that she wrote in, every day. But, she found a solution to satisfy her need to write and to document her daily events, she used the tiny hotel pad in the side drawer with the pencil left for guests, and she wrote something at the end of every day and hid it.

Her suitcase was LOADED with food. Our daughter was not a malnourished model. That girl knew how to EAT and we sent so much food with her that I didn't worry about her having hunger pains for a long time. It's a good thing because they only gave the girls "good food" on Fridays. Since my daughter is a Texas girl, food is a real issue. Texas is serious about their food.

My first baby had an awesome experience and she was on Cycle 8, Episode 1 of America's Next Top Model. She was one of the initial top twenty girls on the show for the two hour episode and they did quite a lot of filming of her. When the show finally aired, I called all of our family members, gave them an important message to "...NOT MISS TONIGHT'S EPISODE OF AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL." They had no idea why I'd ask them to watch that show. But, the following day, we were inundated with people who were shocked that we kept this a secret for so long.

Heather ended up being extremely home-sick during filming of the show. She also became disillusioned with Hollywood after seeing someone approach Tyra Banks and a make-up person saying, "Don't touch her" as they rushed over to brush over the part of her arm that had been lightly touched. It was a wake up call. Our daughter came back home with renewed gusto for her Biology studies.

Today, she is a biologist in a research laboratory for people with fertility problems. She loves her job with a beautiful passion.

She loves utilizing her knowledge of science, testing and research to help people bring the baby they want so badly into their lives. I am so proud of her. Click on the link below to see a segment of the show with my daughter telling Tyra Banks what a REAL bootcamp instructor sounds like (the opening of the show was that the girls were in a "bootcamp").

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She'll always be "model" material to me. We might not be Hollywood people, but our lives are incredibly full of vibrancy, love, excitement and good Texas food. That's good enough for us!!

#41 - It's Quiet Around Here Today

Two roosters in the backyard is still not working out. A few weeks ago, we tried taking the roosters to a new home and it didn't work out. We had dropped them off at their new place, then we went to the ocean for a while to relax and on our way home we made our mistake...we decided to drive back by the roosters' new home to see how things were going. Well, they weren't going good. They would not join the flock. They were standing out in the open, quite a distance from the coop and were exposed to the various prey in the area.

I could not believe that our roosters were standing there in the dark. They were always inside their coop by this time every night. Worse, our two roosters had made their way back to the spot where we had let them out of their kennel and it was if they were waiting to go back home. We tried to take them over to the other chickens, but it didn't work, the little rooster only ran behind Deputy Dave crying with this most God-awful chicken squawking that I have never heard in my life.

In fact, Big Rooster strutted up to Deputy David and flew upward to perch on his shoulder. Yep, on his shoulder. So, we all headed back home.

However, once the roosters were comfortable in their backyard here in the city, they began to be more roosterly. Problems with loud crowing at all times of the day became worse as our roosters learned to perfect their calls. Their morning crowing wasn't as weak and feeble sounding any longer, nope, it sounded as if Big Rooster was using an invisible bull-horn, and his COCK-A-DOODLE-DO became a call to attention for our entire block of houses. Yes, he discovered the rooster within and learned to use his voice loud and clear. "I am Rooster, hear me Crow!"

So, we were back at square one...the loud roosters must go. I bought chickens because I wanted to enjoy fresh eggs. We bought 7 chickens, but after a few weeks we discovered that 2 roosters were in the group by mistake. But, I don't want those two mix-up birds to ruin the entire reason for getting chickens in the first place...for their eggs. The roosters are nothing but clanging alarms calling attention to us as backyard farmers in the city.

What are lessons learned during this ordeal? I would have to say that chickens are usually quiet and easy-going, but roosters are notoriously noisy, bossy and arrogant. A rooster is a rooster. However, for defense of my roosters, they have been entertaining and interesting to watch, and they are beautiful creatures. Yes, I found my roosters to be beautiful, but I love the color red! You find yourself watching the rooster and realize that he's watching you too. They have been amazing fun.

Here is an account of our first attempt to re-locate our roosters to a new home.
Here is Step #1...Catch the Roosters

Here is Step #2 - Let the Roosters Go at their New Home
Desperate...Deputy Dave decides to hand carry "Speckles" to the coop area, gently tossing him into the coop with the other birds.

Speckles runs behind Deputy Dave as he tries to come back to the truck. I had no idea that chickens "imprinted" this severely onto people. We've hand-raised them since they were chicks and we're daily involved with their care, so we are Parentals! Bottom line, this attempt to drop off the roosters was a FAIL.

I didn't get it on video, but Big Rooster was ready to go home too. He actually flew up onto Deputy Dave's shoulder to perch. So, into the kennel he went and we took both roosters back their old coop in our backyard.

However, the story doesn't end here. Yesterday, we gathered the guts to make another attempt to take the two roosters to a new home...the same place as before. It was no longer a choice, the roosters HAD to leave our backyard. Their combined crowing had become louder and louder; this was not what we intended to live with when we purchased chickens to raise for eggs. We did not expect to have two roosters in the bunch. But, we grew attached to them. As the roosters grew louder, I became anxious; I didn't want the roosters to ruin our entire chicken set-up. If a disgruntled neighbor showed up, then all the chickens would be in danger. The girls are so quiet and non-intrusive; they are wonderful to have around, and I don't want our chance to have "home-grown" eggs to be jeopardized. So, the roosters had to go...REALLY...this time we had to make it work.

Last evening, we took the roosters and a bag of feed to their new home. In their new yard, I stood with my roosters, leading them with the feed until they were closer and closer to all of their new chickie friends. It worked. By the time we left, my roosters were busy pecking away at the feed loaded with goodies and they had several new friends standing with them. This time, they didn't chase after us screaming like a rooster under attack. We drove off into the sunset. My husband and I celebrated by going to Dairy Queen for ice-cream.

This morning, it is quiet. It is a rooster-less day!

I just had a thought...what if I had a Stephen King moment and suddenly heard the roosters crowing at the top of their angry lungs, from our backyard?

Thank God that my creative imagination is far-fetched. It's still pleasantly quiet around here. And, if any of our neighbor's found the roosters to be on their last nerve, well, that nerve can relax. The roosters have flown the coop...with a little help.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#40 - Farmers - The Next Generation is NOW

My mother's grandmother raised chickens. My mom would talk about how they would be having chicken for dinner and her grandmother would go outside, catch a chicken, and "ring its neck." She said that my Nanny would twirl the chicken over her head, by the chicken's neck, until it broke. Lovely. Then, she'd put the chicken back down and it would run around with a broken neck flopped over until it finally gave out. Gross.

A picnic with my Nanny, my great-grandmother. The last Farm-Girl
of my family, until now. But, we're raising more Farm-girls, on purpose.
That was the way of a chicken dinner in my family over 50 years ago.

I guess my Nanny couldn't go to the local store and buy a chicken. She had always been rather poor, but still a beautiful woman. She simply didn't require much. I remember her as being the country woman who tried to live with us in the city. I think it was hard on her. When I was growing up, she stayed with us very often. I couldn't imagine her wringing a chicken's neck. But, she had been a chicken killer...many, many times.

When I was a child, I'd stare at my Nanny and could not imagine her as a
woman who could kill a chicken! How could she be a chicken killer?
My Nanny came from a time when people knew how to do these things. My mother saw these things, but she didn't have to do it herself. And now, my generation is here and I've only heard about such things and have never, ever seen it in person. However, I want this huge generational gap in farming abilities and necessities to come to an end. Does this mean I wish to wring a chicken's neck? No, it doesn't.

My niece, Shaye, in her Mermaid costume for Halloween.
Photo by Warren Harold.
Tonight, my little four year old niece is getting to stay the night. She loves to be outside with our backyard chickens. She was here the weekend we purchased them and she got to hold them and help set up their new home in my master bathroom tub.

Through the weeks, she's been here regularly and always makes time to feed them, to touch them and to enjoy being around them. Yes, she washes her hands frequently. She's not afraid of them. Her mother came over the other day (my sister) and she is terrified of the chickens. As we all stood in the backyard, if one chicken even came within 20 feet of her, she bolted back inside the house.

This past weekend, myself, my dad and my sister...laughing about how
she can't be near a chicken. I was also terrified, until I became a backyard farmer.
Meanwhile, my sister's daughter played in the backyard with several chickens at her feet as she sang and jumped around like a regular four year old. And I say to my sister who is hiding inside the house, behind the backdoor, "Hey Missy, your little daughter is out here and not afraid!" My sister replied, "But, SHE has grown up with the chickens, I haven't."

We all laughed hysterically. Yes, my niece has grown up with the chickens. For all of these long weeks, she's grown up with the chickens! Ha Ha! We bought them in March and she's been around from their chick stage to their full-grown feathered busy-body selves. I guess this proves that it does indeed make a difference for someone to be around these creatures from the start. You become accustomed to them and chickens are no longer so foreign and scary once you're around them frequently.

Shaye standing with the chickens as her mom is running
back inside the house. Being "raised" with chickens
does make a difference with our comfort level.
I looked at my niece and felt a surge of pride. We are breaking the generational gaps that have been in place for too long with farming. Shaye comes over and gets to help in our vegetable garden; she picks herbs and smells them with delight; she gets to help hand-feed the chickens; and she is learning about things that we, as children, only read about or heard in a relative's story about the "good old days." I'm so thankful that she can say that she knows about chickens, first-hand.

My dad enjoying Howdy and the chickens. He gets a kick
out of our backyard farm.
Very soon, we'll be getting our first eggs. I can't wait. Beyond my own excitement, I am thrilled that my niece will be exposed to where an egg actually comes from instead of the egg-carton version from the grocery store. Soon, she'll be able to head out to our backyard, check the coop and gather the eggs. Then, we will make a big production about using the eggs in a meal...a meal with the egg she found. I can't wait!

My daughters, a few years ago at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
These are times when they really got to be around farm animals.
Today, I decided to start talking with her about us making the move to the farm, full-time. I want her to be prepared for her aunt and uncle to sell their house, especially since she knows we have another "home" in the country. By the time we sell the house, she should be ready to accept the change in scenery during her visits with us.

The gap that had grown so wide between us and farming for several generations in my family is now narrowing. I want to make a difference in the children in our lives...our family, our friends...I want their children to know a farmer and to have a farm they can visit without having to pay a cover charge.

My oldest daughter, Heather, trying out her shooting skills.
Today, my niece's main concern was that the dogs not be left behind for the new family that will be moving into our house, and I assured her that the dogs would be going with us because they are part of the family. She was thrilled. I let her know that our new house will still have all of her favorite things, but that our yard will be a LOT bigger, and the chickens will have more room to run around pecking for bugs.

My oldest on a trip and getting to do one of her life-long favorite
activities, horse-back riding!
I'm so thankful that my husband and I have always been huge out of doors people; we've taken our daughters on untold trips to the country and they know all about camping, fishing and horse-back riding. But, a farmer's life is not something we understood. When I was raising my daughters, I had wanted them to live a "cultured" life dappled with experiences in the country. Well, I think they got much more than a "dappling" of exposure to country life, they pretty much were given a huge dose of it. I am thankful that we were always looking forward to our next trip out of the city.

Now that I'm wiser, I would have rather had it the other way in the country, but include a bit of the city, sporadically, here and there. At least I'm TRYING to make things right. It's never too late!

My youngest, Stefie, she's TRYING to put it all together.
God Bless Her! And no, she's not color blind, just couldn't wait
to put on these cowboy boots. This is the picture of Eagerness.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#39 - This Business Woman is Out to Pasture

Today, I was visiting a blog buddy at and her blog site is titled, "Life on a Southern Farm." She has an amazing post today of farm pictures that include one of her husband, FarmMan, as he stands on their rock bridge. It is absolutely gorgeous. Things like this get my heart pumping. I regularly stop by her place so I can see what Farm Man is up to next and to take a look at all the projects he's completed through the years. He is the epitome of a true Crafts-Man. My jaw is often dropping open after I see his latest project.

Deputy Dave on the lawn tractor with our niece.
Taking her for a spin in the city!
Ten years ago, my jaw was dropping open and my heart was beating faster over things totally opposite from country wow living. In fact, I was living it up after I landed another contract with a top law firm in Houston because I was the Owner and Director of a litigation support business. I was a successful, business-woman on a fast track in life. By city standards, I was "living the good life." But, there was a bump in my road and it forced me to take a drastic turn. Suddenly, my cushy perception of what is meaningful and worthwhile was severely and permanently altered. In a sense, I was "cured" of the city life as I battled for my own life.

My baby, Stefie and my other Baby, Christiana...playing around in my
home office, around 1996. Christiana was our foster daughter who we
had desperately wanted to adopt, but her Social Worker adopted her.
I still appreciate my birth city of Houston, Texas, but I no longer find it thrilling or satisfying. Shame on me! A city girl turning country? What is wrong with this picture? Most of my family and friends simply think I've been so traumatized by life's events that I am simply not the same person any longer. Guess what? They are 100% right.

Me and my family, outside our home on the outskirts of Houston. We had
lived with a Houston address for years, but we're still close enough and
in the same county as Houston at this new house. City living continues...
Oh, the city will always be interesting and there are unlimited new things to explore when in Houston, but the core of me changed. The city doesn't bait me any longer. It doesn't call to me. I respond to a different environment and I have for a long, long time.

Here I am with blond hair, having fun
with a friend and a client.
I did have country homes to vacation in, all throughout my childhood and teenagehood. I'm not talking about high-end country vacation homes, I'm referring to Texas back-woods country vacation homes...a single row trailer tucked among tall pines in a rural neighborhood with a poured concrete patio in the front for hanging out. These secondary homes were also affectionately called "Fish Camps" by my grand-father.

My husband helping his nephew catch his first fish at Matagorda Bay,
at my uncle and aunt's home. My nephew, Nathan, is being photographed
by his dad who is expertly catching this photo as his son makes his own catch.
I guess this is partly why we purchased our acreage; it's only a few short miles from the country homes I knew while growing up. I grew up going to our family's country place for many weekends and long summer visits over many years and there I would happily fish, ride a scooter, get to drive the car on the country back roads at 12 years of age and I could hardly be called back inside at the end of the day...I guess the country got into my blood and it could never be washed out by city immersion.

Here I am, Easter weekend around 1990 in my spiffy dress that cost a fortune.
Growing up, Easter was a huge deal that required top fashion.
That's my sister-in-law behind me and I think she's giving me that
look to show that she wasn't raised the same way. My husband's
sister is holding my baby girl.
In fact, the city girl in me has lacked gusto for high-rise buildings and big business for about ten years, ever since I took another personal detour in life. I experienced catastrophic health changes and that's when I dropped the stress of running a business like a hot ball. I chose life, and I longed for the peace and relaxation I felt when in the country. If my life was going to be in danger from my incurable health condition, then I wanted to forget the money and get to the country! I'd always loved country life, but after my husband and I purchased our acreage in the country about ten years ago, we had hit the point of no return.

Once we bought our land, we fell in love, permanently.
These days, I can't hardly focus on anything but moving to the farm full-time. Sometimes, I don't know how it will work out, but I don't let anything stop me. For ten long years we've been making our way to live on that land permanently. The day the dream becomes a reality is fast approaching. I know it won't be easy, but it's worth fighting for. This is one goal that my husband and I keep working toward. It had once upon a time been a long-term goal; now we getting so close to moving that the goal has become short-term.

Honey-suckle that is growing wild all over our acreage. Beautiful.
Retirement is approaching for Deputy Dave. He'll be able to leave the big city and it's crime and grime behind him. There is no doubt, there is a huge difference between Houston crime and our country city crime. Each place still has crime, but in Houston, it is prolific simply because of population density. We don't have this problem in the rural country. No sirree. But, for now, Deputy Dave drives into downtown Houston every day for work; seeing the city-scape is a beautiful thing, but I think he will probably feel ten pounds lighter once we move to the country because the tension slides away as he approaches his home in the forest.

Deputy Dave rolling on duty for Harris County.
I always pray for him to brought back home to us safely,
at the end of each day on duty.
He's a Deputy Sheriff and has been one for about 22 years.
He's heard it all, seen it all and he'll be really glad to retire.
In the country, he'll have days of farm enjoyment, not too much, but not too little. Certainly, he'll have many, many days filled with fishing. The thought of finally moving out there makes my heart pitter-patter even faster.

Great day fishing near the city house in 2008.

Nathan learning to fish  as his father takes the pictures. Warren is actually
a well-known, published photographer. We are blessed to have him around
to take our photo memories. This day was very special.

I am grateful for my beautiful days in the city. Indeed, for so many years, the city catered to my workaholic, money-making obsession, yet I still had ample time for my mommy-moments. It was a great life of city chaos, but I got burned out. In the city, I now feel claustrophobic. The business-woman in me is finished with sitting behind a desk; give me my chickens and I am one happy, fulfilled woman!

I look back and can't believe that my business focus had me shooting to the moon over each new client. Today, I have morphed into a woman who is full of joy simply after gazing into the glow of the moon itself.

And here are MOON Shoes! The girls loved having these to
bounce around on!
I get immeasurable happiness as I hand-feed my chickens. I love feeling the soil on my hands as I plant potato seeds or pull up weeds. It's an uncomplicated life. I don't miss the hectic life of never feeling that I've done enough at the end of a long day of work. I don't miss working with high-powered, narcissistic personalities. Give me an ordinary day on our land, a few hours sitting on a powerful lawn tractor while zoning out and I say...It's enough for me.

Mowing on our land, taking a break to check on the wild growing flowers.
Roughing it on our land is not even difficult for me. Leaving the luxurious life behind so I can be hot, sweaty, stinky and covered in dirt means I am doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. The business-woman in me is still there, somewhere I guess, but the Farm Gal in me is the ultimate boss and she's confidently leading the way. I like where we are headed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#38 - Old Whiskey Rain Barrels...I'm in Love

Houston, we HAVE rain! All morning, into the early part of the day, it's been raining here in the Houston area and this is great because we have been in a serious drought. Hearing the sound of rolling thunder and the pitter patter of rain has been awesome. Actually, the sound of rain is a bit drowned out by the many fans we have running in the house, but it is still incredible to see rain!
After experiencing a long drought, again, I am further convinced that having a few rain barrels strategically installed around the house would be beneficial. Once we move to our acreage, we will definitely utilize rain barrels, especially around the cabin for our landscaped plantings.

I love this old barn with the improvised rain barrel and the watering
can nearby for dipping to water where needed.
However, I don't want just any old rain barrel, I want the old-fashioned style that will go with our rustic wooded land. Any rain barrels that we get for our house in the city will be taken with us when we move to our farm. So, when we sell our home in the city, the rain barrels will definitely be listed as an "exclusion" to the sale of our home. But, I'm sure every potential buyer who comes through will love the idea and want the barrels to stay. Well, I'm fairly sure...

There are some rain barrels that are made of plastics, but they aren't my preferred choice. They look very utilitarian, but I'm wanting a rain barrel for practical purposes to harvest rainfall, yet my preference is an old-fashioned whiskey barrel configured to catch rain.

Plastic style, nice, but not exactly what I want.
I checked out a great site that have some awesome barrels and they will put one together the way you want...the prices are pretty amazing, so this business is surely going to stay around because people are more likely to be able to afford their prices more than other sites. They had some beautiful pictures of half barrels being used as a water feature.

From Kentucky Barrels - Beautiful.
Another aspect to having a rain barrel that adds interest is to use a rain chain which adds beautiful sounds and is another nice water element to add to your rain barrel setup.

A Houston Man writing on his blog at "The Accidental Gardner" posted
these pictures after writing about rain barrels he installed for his fiance.
Since we are finally getting rain as I type this post, I have been thinking more about drought protection. To help provide a water solution during a drought, you can use rain barrels. You simply set up a rain barrel beneath your gutters and use a downspout diverter to send roof water through a filtering screen into the barrel. When not in use, the barrel should be covered with a secure lid to provide protection from mosquito infestation and to protect children from a drowning hazard.

"The Accidental Gardner" blog and his beautiful pictures of his
old whiskey style rain barrels with rain chains.
A rain barrel can lower your water bill and reduce damage around your home due to storm water run-off. With a good overflow system in place, you can better control the moisture level around your house and foundation. In Texas, this is a good thing.

A 3/4" attached spigot near the bottom of the barrel allows for gravity fed water to sent through an attached standard water hose for free watering of your landscaped plantings. There's no need to use tap water for this kind of watering around the house, you can save the drinking water for cooking, bathing, washing laundry and dishes, and for drinking, but use the captured water in the rain barrel for your plants or to even help wash your lawn tools. Actually, plants grow better when watered with non-chlorinated water from your rain barrel.

More Kentucky Barrels water feature pictures from their website. I am definitely
buying our rain barrels from their company. Their website is full of information, a bit
jumbled, but it is also a sign of their determination and willingness to provide
as many details as they can for the customer. They know their business.
A rain barrel is a nice, money saving feature to have at your home. For us Southerners, it is really a bonus. I never have seen myself as an overly eco-friendly type of person, but somehow, owning a rain barrel will give me an artificial feeling of being eco-forward thinking. Yes, I harvest water from Mother Nature!

Additionally, I've never seen a rain barrel in person, other than a cheap spare bucket type of "rain barrel" placed beneath a spout.

But, today, as I watch all of this long-awaited rain falling from the sky to my thirsty gardens, I feel like celebrating. Then, I had a new feeling as I watched all of that valuable rain water become wasted run-off as it flowed toward the gutters in the street of my city home, I felt bummed. This wastefulness bothers me.

This will have to change; I am more eco-aware today than I was yesterday. Even though I've been researching rain barrels for several months, this drought has sent the message home. Rain barrels aren't just a cool feature to have at the house, they are useful, valuable and practical. I can only imagine all of the plants I could've watered on a hot day with today's storm run-off. Oh well. I am taking steps toward being bit less eco-enemy as I plan for our rain barrels.