Tuesday, March 26, 2013

# 418 - Luna Moth Awesomeness

Sometimes, when I'm in the country on the acreage, I feel as if I should start a wild-life blog and perhaps fake an Australian accent so I can start a Saturday Night Live version of being an expert of creepy crawly, furry or slithering things I seem to cross paths with on a regular basis.

The truth is, I am a kid at heart. I see a bug and lose all fear, except if it is a bee, hornet or wasp, then I might run screaming while flinging my hat in the air around me.

I see paw prints in the dirt and want to get that Big-Foot impression.

The bones in the forest make me ponder the reason for the bones and to make sure they ARE not of the upright, two-legged variety and I then would like to do a "CSI Forest" segment.

Here I am...hiking thru the forest.

My kind of inquisitive personality needs to be in the woods to explore an ever-changing environment.

All I want to do is get close enough to get a focused picture and usually must take shot after shot for a few good ones to be used for my blog. I'm glad I keep my camera close by because I've taken pictures of some pretty unusual things that I never expected to see. Often, I have no idea what I'm photographing; I just know that it has captured my attention and I'm in African Safari mode, if you know what I mean.

Oh, I've read YOUR blogs too, and I already know that YOU KNOW what I mean.

So, last week we stayed a few days on our acreage in the country and we drove into town to take a look at a few of the businesses that build small cabins and sheds.

During one quick walking tour of a few sheds and small cabins, we stumbled across this beautiful moth-looking creature that was quite large and more colorful than the camera is expressing.

Upon posting the photos on my blog, a couple of readers let me know that it appeared to be a Luna Moth, so I began to do some further research and have been amazed. Thank you Rae!

Luna Moths are currently listed as an endangered species. OF COURSE IT IS...

Who would have thought that we'd see so many threatened and endangered creatures in one weekend?

My IPhone photo of a Luna Moth --- a beauty to behold.
It didn't move at all...motionless.

Apparently, the Luna Moth is a member of the giant silkworm moth family and are RARELY seen since they fly ONLY at night. They are nocturnal insects and can be seen flitting around outside lights at dark. Their nocturnal nature has also given them the nickname, "Moon Moth."

This species is not a harmful moth. They are mostly found throughout the eastern forests of North America and lower Canada.

I guess this past weekend of seeing a rattlesnake and this moth, among other creatures, found us enjoying life in nature with unusual sightings. I could have lived without the rattlesnake experience though.

These Luna Moths begin life as tiny eggs laid on the underside of leaves with about 200 sibling eggs. Hatching takes place within ten to twelve days as caterpillars leave their egg habitat. Of course, these little dark brown eggs are busted as predators find them and chow down on their egg-goodness before the Luna Moth can continue its life-time of transformations.

I won't disturb any leaves I find on our land that have these eggs
on the underside of tree leaves or that have cocoons.

The hatched caterpillars emerge as hungry little boogers. This is their "Luna Larvae" stage and they do not waste time...they begin eating, immediately. They eat and they is about eating persimmon leaves, walnut leaves, butternut, hickory and sycamore leaves, but they will include on their menu a diet from the leaves of oaks, maple, sweet gum and willow. These ravenous larvae get plump and make for attractive wiggly live bird bait.

Now that I know these caterpillars are in the area of the acreage, I will be on the lookout for all stages of this Luna Moth. I will keep an eye out for caterpillars who are dining out in their Sunday would seem they are outfitted quite beautifully with a yellowish-bright green body and a yellow stripe along their sides.
This photo shows the "Scoli" which are fine hairs.
The older the caterpillar stage, the darker the head becomes.

And they molt about five times in a four week time-frame because they continually eat so much and outgrow their skin, until they reach about 2 1/2 - 3 inches in length. They make their way crawling around as caterpillars for 3-6 weeks, depending on location...the farther North they live, the more chance this stage will last longer.

After all that munching and skin changing, the caterpillar will eventually be ready to "pupate." At this stage, they wrap themselves in leaves and spin themselves into a cozy silk cocoon, produced from their mouth. In their home of leaves and silk, they live dormant for up to three weeks. If they happen to have entered this stage just as winter settles in, they will then continue the cocoon stage until the following spring.

I found it very interesting that moths re-born from the cocoon are not able to fly right away, so they hang around to allow blood to circulate to their wings; blood inflates the veins of the wings and firms their wings. This step takes around 45 minutes or longer.

Deputy Dave's hand held up for perspective to
show the large size of this Luna Moth.

From the moment of flying away for their first night of exploration, their sole mission is to search for a mate. You could say this is their new obsession, especially since they have about one week left in life and they spend it as a stunning Luna Moth. All that time changing from egg to plump wiggler to an immobile cocoon phase is so they can one day become an object of beauty. In their moth phase, mating is their only obsession because the fatty days of being a munching caterpillar are long gone --- this flying stage means they have morphed into a beautiful creature that doesn't even have a mouth. During their cocoon stage, they lost their digestive system.

I guess in the moth world, there is a REAL price for beauty.

Come to think of it, I know a few women who might consider the loss of a digestive tract and the absence of a functioning feeder-mouth to be an excellent trade-off for unparalleled beauty.

Anyway, female Luna Moths release a chemical into the air that attracts males who speed to the scene because it is first come, first serve...with no time to waste. Following the moths mating in an episode of "Afternoon Delight," the female finds a few nice leafy undersides to deposit her eggs, then she dies shortly thereafter. I suppose laying approximately 200 eggs will do that to you.

Hence, with the freshly laid eggs, 4-6 on each leaf, starts the entire process again with the next generation.
Belly full of eggs in this Luna Moth.

Luna Moths are up to four inches in width and five inches tall with glorious coloring that can vary from yellow to green to blue, and I find it interesting that their coloration depends on their location. Their colors aid them in camouflaging themselves along the forest floor. The eye-markings on their wings help to prevent predators from targeting them.

The Luna Moth that we got to see so close up was during its day-time mode of being perfectly still, trying to blend in with the natural setting. However, this moth at the underside of the cabin porch roof didn't realize that it wasn't on a tree, but on a piece of wood in a people-zone.

I always need to have some sort of camera on me.
Even though the IPhone does not have great
quality for photos, it sure is nice to have a
cell phone and camera combo. The camera has
a super easy feature to make Facebook uploading
a matter of pressing a couple of selections and BAM
you are sharing on Facebook, sharing the photo
via text, email or other transfers!

Most moths are considered a pest, but it appears that Luna Moths do not harm their host trees because they are laid in eggs that are evenly spread out.

Between pesticides and street lights, there have been significant decreases in their population. Efforts to kill Gypsy Moths have caused Luna Moths to be caught up in the effort. And owls seem to love Luna Moths.

Their green coloring helps them to disguise themselves in the midst of leaves. The eye spots on their wings look scary to some of their enemies as their large wings flutter. Then, some would-be predators have learned that Luna Moths are not so tasty.

Picture of a Luna Moth, taken with my IPhone.
I'm sure if I would have followed the kid instinct in me and ran for a jar to capture my treasure, then we would have ended up with the possibility of hanging from the nearest tree for touching a wild creature that is endangered.

My mother would be proud, I'm finally learning to LOOK and to NOT TOUCH.

Monday, March 25, 2013

# 417 - Country Roads Ahead

Only one road around our acreage is paved. The rest look like this...

and this...

and this...

and part of one of the roads crosses over the lake to the swampy zones and the road is starting to cave in around the piping underneath. You can see the erosion in the road in the photo below that is taken  just as we passed over the part of the road that is deteriorating. While crossing this sinking area, I was holding my breath and praying we would not sink like a big rock.

Taking a trip around the block helped me to remember the reason for the term "rural" when describing the acreage.

One house had an angry, territorial Chihuahua on guard; that dog was a meanie.

Speaking of houses, they are spread a few acres apart in our "neighborhood and they look like this...

and this...
and a few other houses were built behind such HEAVILY wooded areas that you could hardly tell a house was tucked away. A couple of residences had barns so big that we thought they were the actual houses, then we saw the house peeking out from behind the barn.
A house or two was a series of one added addition after addition through the years, but they looked sturdy enough, even if they reminded me of quilts.
One thing I can say...everyone out here looks like they are thoroughly enjoying life. Maybe that's because the residents don't have to worry about a radical neighborhood association employing an obsessed critic to drive around with clipboard in hand so that threats can be mailed out.
Also, the people in this country area might not have city services available...except for electricity.
Then, there are those neighbors who look as if they would take trespassing deadly serious, so we stayed on the lovely dirt roads as we encircled the acreage through the connected neighborhood.
I am happy we were able to drive around this rural area of ours during good weather. Actually, it was a pretty hot day for March in Texas, in the mid-80's. The warm weather provided perfect temperatures to solidify the solid roads beneath our tires to allow us to explore. For those who live in rural areas, you already know what I'm talking about.
We've spent far more than our fair share of time getting stuck during the Fall/Winter months because the ground softens.
This kind of life is a lot different from cookie-cutter-land. Yes, my cookie-cutter house has served us well; it is scary to leave it. I love this house, but it's just too big and too close to chemical industries.
Regardless, this weekend will find me saying goodbye to my master bedroom furniture. If these buyers don't follow through with the purchase of our home, then I am NOT going to be happy about the lack of furniture that is valuable and adds comfort to our lives, especially since this is the first bedroom suit I ever owned for myself, and I was 40 years old when I bought it.
I need to sell the furniture now, at a time that works for the person needing the furniture. If I wait a few weeks, I might be stuck having to hire movers to load it into a moving truck and then would have to pay for storage and it would take up a good deal of space in storage. If I were "stuck" with this furniture, it'd be is beautiful and valuable, but I am hoping to pass it along to the next person to enjoy, and they are buying it for a great price. It is a good deal for both of us.
As for selling this house, we are still under contract and moving toward our close-date in April. It's a waiting game. It's a big game of Monopoly as we try to close the deal on our property.
Soon, I'll be driving down country roads and my neighbors will not be in sight. It will be weird.
But, I think weird matches my personality, so that is perfectly fine.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

# 416 - Pass the Bottle

When I was an elementary student, I had a WONDERFUL language arts teacher who had the most oddball way of forcing his students into WANTING to write.

Even the boys. The boys who mistakenly thought they couldn't or shouldn't write. He taught them that most incredible cooks, artists, writers, architects and so on...were boys who became men who could communicate through their talent.

With that fact tackled, this teacher encouraged writing by putting a pile of pictures onto a desk and instructing the classroom to pick a picture, then to write a story about it. No real grade, other than for him to know we were using our imagination with our inspiration dictated by one of the pictures he provided.

I recall pictures of a starry night, of an old truck, of a massive tree, a space ship, a tarantula and so on.

It worked.

A photo of an INCREDIBLE creature/insect/moth we came across
this past week while looking at mini-cabins in the country.

Within a few weeks into the year, as he'd lay out pictures, always with new ones in the mix, the students eventually got to the point of nearly killing each other to get first choice at the pile. It was ridiculous.

All we had to do was to record the reference number of the picture at the top of the paper with our name, then write. And the teacher would rave about our stories. I think this teaching genius created a classroom of students who would love to read and write, with enthusiasm.

I am mesmerized and don't want to move from
this spot of a beauty in the rough.

Later, he explained that our lives were like those pictures. He magically helped us to realize that our brains kept mental snapshots and provided an unlimited resource of stories attached to each image. Even more so, the images you think about will be the stories you turn your focus upon. He encourage us to face the uncomfortable shift from using the pictures on the desk as inspiration and he helped us practice closing our eyes to think about a life event, then to write about it. As he said, true life helped to create stories that would be even better than those pictures.

The shift was difficult, but we trusted him. It helped that he kept the pile of pictures nearby, just in case, since everyone needs extra inspiration here and there.

By the end of the year, our classroom was adept at not having to dig through the pictures in the pile because we would use the three minutes he gave us to close our eyes to think of a life-picture for our story. That class was the quietest class I've ever taken. We were serious about our stories and if you finished, you sat quietly and could draw or read each other's stories. Such a brilliant fourth grade teacher.

So, with blogging, I've seen a couple of people who write that they feel their material for writing is limited. And I say, take a picture, look at it and be inspired. If you don't know what to write about, select a photo and think about what it means to you.

Our life-material is truly unlimited.

I had Deputy Dave put up his hand to give
a estimation to the size of this moth.
But, his hand is rather huge;
I wish my hand would
have been up there, then you could see
how BIG this thing was!
It's all about perspective!

NO ONE lives a boring life, our imagination just gets bored.


Today, Deputy Dave and I went to Lowe's to check out some building material costs. We're trying to weigh the options for our moving dilemmas.

Since the country town we're moving to decided to build a Lowe's a few years ago, which shocked the crude out of us, we are sticking to that store for run-of-the-mill items.

Of course, we are looking to build this guest cabin with as few $$$ as possible. However, it becomes painfully evident as we are going down each aisle that raw construction from the ground up requires a lot of $$$.

It makes me really like my tent. But, I know that rainy days are not fun in the tent and my house in the suburbs is extra roomy and cushy, so I need to focus on building something in the middle for our country cabin. We've got to have housing that's in between tent and luxury.

And with my attention-deficit-disorder mindset, I am reminded of the woman who squatted on land a few blocks away from my parents' house in the hills of Austin. She had breast-cancer and no one to live with, but she refused to go anywhere because she valued her freedom and her beloved dogs. Actually, I think the land belonged to her brother, but I can't remember the details in that regard.

My mother, always the lover of the most unusual characters, would often stop by this woman's tent-zone to give a shout out and to give the woman fruit, bread and bottled water. Who would've thought that my mother would die from breast cancer just a few years later? It is most odd to me to recall this as I write, but there you go.

My brother-in-law took this shot of my mom, shortly
before she died. I treasure this photo; she truly did her
best to keep smiling, for the most part, up until the end.
Most fabulous woman I've ever known is smiling back right here.

I think about that wilderness-woman as my husband and I camp out on our acreage, and I can't imagine how she made it through all those years in such rough conditions in an area of Austin that was still rather secluded due to the large lots and heavy greenery. And, the woman worked. She put on a security uniform every day and worked for a business in the area, in spite of her overwhelming hurdles. My mother would remark about the woman's tenacity to go to the laundry-mat each week to prepare her uniforms. Again, I don't know how she did it.

I know of a three-year time period that the woman lived in that tent in the hills outside of Austin. Makes me stop to take a deep breath and to realize how blessed my family truly is to have each other. And I am blessed that my parents were not hell-raisers, that they believed in the motto, "Live and Let Live." They respected that woman and didn't feel the urge to do anything but help and protect her rights to live free, for as long as she could.

Unfortunately, as that neighborhood began to construct TRUE mansions, that woman's freedom began to shrink. Snooty-types wanted her OUTTA THERE!

The time came when my parents would move back to their house in the Greater Houston area. They had enjoyed three years of retirement. Sweet, sweet years of beauty, peacefulness and all the good things in life. Three years of irreplaceable memories.

My mom and dad.
Don't ask the reason for their goofy expressions.
You probably don't want to know.

My parents bought that Austin house when I was in my early 30's and it was a WONDERFUL place for our family to gather, frequently, for about a five-year time-frame. After my mother passed away, we never had another gathering at the Austin house.

Recently, my dad sold this second house about two months ago, then consoled himself of the loss by buying his Mustang.

That house had been amazing. They bought it from a doctor in Austin. It was a custom home that sat on a hilltop with about an acre of land, with a gorgeous view of the lake and surrounding Austin landscape.

A huge deck upstairs allowed us to gather under the stars at night. And below, there was a large covered carport on the ground floor that we'd hang out under.

I have one particular memory of my odd-ball family passing around different liquor bottles, the bottles my dad coveted and kept hidden from us for most of our lives. The bottles that had been packed and moved with my parents to the Austin house. The bottles I never DARED to touch because I knew that dad had mentally recorded the fluid level in his brain and would beat us to death if a drop went missing.

Just back in America from Scotland, around 1979.
My sister, Robin.
My brother, Bubba.

However, one night, my dad shocked us all. With all his grown children at the Austin house and with my mother who NEVER touched a drop of alcohol we all sat under the carport, visiting, then he brought out those dusty bottles. He began to pass them around while saying they might as well be enjoyed while there was time to enjoy them. We knew this was a huge moment for dad.

I remember all of us becoming serious, "Whose dying?" Ahhh, no one was dying, it was trying a wacky gesture for the family to lighten up and enjoy ourselves.

So, we accepted the forbidden stuff that had been kept in a kitchen cabinet for over twenty years, each passing around one bottle after the next in a sudden taste-testing scenario that produced hysterical laughter. As each of us took the next bottle in line, we'd take a swig and pretend to be a hard-liquor expert with flowery words to describe the taste...smacking our lips, doing the one-eyed expression with the jaw pulled downward, and horrible hacking from the throat burn that comes with ancient alcohol.

Turns out, to my own shock and to those around me, I'm a Jack Daniels kind of girl, and apparently, I can't even taste the hardness of tequila.

And just so you know, my three years in Germany found me NEVER drinking a full beer, but I did take a sip from every beer my husband ordered, in each region we visited, just so I could SAY that I'd drank beer from all over Germany. Only one beer taste good and it had a name of "Kohls" or something like that --- a dark brew. Oh, never mind, that's a department store here in America. I'll get with you later on the name of that beer, it did start with a "K."

Oh my near 45 years of life, I've been the one who never drank. I have lived the life of being the perpetual designated driver. I just don't like the taste of alcohol. Well, I guess I could deal with Jack Daniels or some kind of tequila, if we get too technical, but I do admit to liking a frozen pina-colada during a rare run to a casino in Louisiana, and perhaps I did like those jello shots that I tried for the first time in my 30's, but other than that, I might as well be living in a dry-Texas-county which bans the sale of alcohol cause I could live without it.

But, that night in Austin, about ten years ago, under that carport, as each of us passed around my dad's extremely valuable liquor bottles, I began to see that life doesn't have to be in black and white. None of us three kids in my family are drinkers, but that night we got to pretend we were and it was inappropriately funny. Even my virgin-strawberry-daiquiri drinking mother was laughing so hard that we had to give her a so-called "potty break."

And now, at midnight, I sit here with my cup of tea, re-filled numerous times throughout the day, and I still can't believe my dad brought out those bottles of alcohol on that night. Is my dad conventional? Absolutely not. Did he raise us to know right from wrong? Yes, he did. Did my parents makes mistakes in raising us? Hell yes! And I learned that I would make my own mistakes with my children, but I'd also never forget they are PEOPLE.

My beautiful daughters when
they were little stinker-roos.

I learned that I might have been critical of my parents for not raising me the way that I, in my infinite wisdom, believed was the "correct" way of raising a child, but eventual clarity proved that NO ONE has the "right" recipe for that job. And any area of your own parents' weakness that you conveniently brain-wash yourself into believing that you will NEVER repeat with your own children, well, you are so consumed by that angle that you don't even realize that you're making your own set of mistakes. It's a guarantee. It's called being HUMAN. Most of us have that day of reckoning --- the day we realize we're immune to that condition.

Granted, for some, it takes longer than others to come to that comprehension. A few others wander through life being kind of clueless about that little secret. As me, my sister and my brother had those moments, I believe it pained my parents to some minor degree, yet they found solace in laughing about us behind our backs. There's no doubt, my parents gloated as my kids and my brother's kids provided pay-back entertainment for all the times we caused trouble.

So, that night in Austin helped to confirm to each of us, in a weird non-recommended manner, that we are each imperfect, yet eager to connect. Thankfully, none of us kids had chips on our shoulders so big to create obstacles in connecting with our family and those good attitudes have blessed us with the creation of beautiful memories. As we passed bottle after bottle, it was a wonderful thing to laugh, nervously at first, at the actions we would have been skinned alive for doing in the years we were being raised.

It was as if we were being accepted as adults, but the truth is...we were probably undergoing some warped, psychological test for our parents to be assured none of us had a drinking problem.

Ha ha hardy ha ha.

Of course, I believe dad was saving the Crown Royal or Royal Crown, blue bag stuff, for himself. I don't think that stuff ever collected dust.

So, I guess my story is...well, I don't know what it is, but I sure had a fun time remembering that night with my disturbed, yet adorable family in Austin, Texas. That beautiful moth hanging out on the porch reminded me of the beautiful times my family hung out together under the carport, getting slightly hammered. The lead me to that memory, it's an easy link.

It's funny how a picture can be inspirational.

Friday, March 22, 2013

# 415 - Smiles Galore - Moving Countdown

28 Days

Changes can be hard. It's fun to think about making a change, but actually doing it is something else. Personally, I think it's good to be receptive to change because life can bog you down.

Sometimes, a change can breathe a bit of fresh air into your life. Making POSITIVE changes can put your life on a better track and can broaden your experiences.

However, a long time ago I moved far away from my family. At 18 years of age, in all my infinite wisdom, I followed my husband to his Air Base in Germany. For three long years we lived far, far, far away from our families, and this was during a time when there were NO Internet connections, no personal computers, no Windows, no cell phones and your most affordable, practical method of
communication was to put pen to paper, then wait in line at the post office.

Back then, the postal system was our most valued resource for being linked to those we cared about.

At least this time around, my move is within 1 1/2 hours from our current location and even if a week goes by without any of us being able to make the three-hour round-trip to see each other, I can keep on contacting them through other electronic means. With our IPhones, my Sissy and I have regular Face-Time talks that allow us to see each other on the screen while we talk. It's amazing.

Below, you will see my Sissy (Robin), myself, my dad and my brother (Bubba).

Photo take a couple of weeks ago, March 10, 2013
Right now, I have an added struggle with moving because on the day we signed the contract on our house, we discovered that my dad's recent day surgery to remove a "boil" out of his leg was biopsied and turned out to be an aggressive, ugly, rare cancer.
We lost our mother to cancer, so I am dreading the prospect of losing another parent to cancer, especially while my sister is still in her 30's.
It's especially difficult because my dad is so strong and full of energy. He has more physical ability than many men half his age. For example, every year he buys at least nine Houston Rodeo tickets - I suppose he's some kind of rodeo season ticket holder.
Last week, he went to the rodeo, daily, and even enjoyed seeing George Straight and Martina McBride --- dad didn't let the wound with staples in his leg stop him from having rodeo fun. However, I know he paid a price.
So, you can imagine I felt hugely conflicted that NOW of ALL TIMES we are in the process of moving farther from the area. Dad's oncologist needs to start aggressive chemotherapy as soon as my his leg heals from the second surgery he had this past Tuesday morning. They went back into his leg with the knowledge the tumor had been cancer; they needed to get a second look and try to remove more visible signs of cancer.
But, oncology cannot start chemo until his wound has completely healed. That means we are all holding our breath --- every day of healing is a day without the much needed chemo.
At the hospital this week, waiting for the staff
to find my dad!
After the 2nd surgery on his leg this past Tuesday, I went to his house to visit with him for a few hours and to just be with him. I like being with my dad - I'd like it better if he quit smoking and he's working on it, but I can't imagine a time when I might not have a direct connection with him. He just turned 67 years old, so he's still very young --- in my book --- and he just bought a Mustang last month, so I hope he still gets YEARS of use out of that fun car.
My dad last month on the day he brought his hot-rod
over for me to check out. I was SO EXCITED that he finally
bought himself this car. Now, I'm even more elated.
However, my dad gave me some wonderful advice this week, knowing I was in turmoil over selling our house and moving to the country during this time. He told me that he's seen people take off too far from their families and he feels sorry for them because the loss down the road for them will be deep and irreversible. Then, he sees people hang around the block to be with family and forgo their own life for too long. So, he is grateful that he is seeing us embrace a happy-medium change that will allow us to live a dream, yet still be close to our hometown and easily accessible to family and old friends. 
He told me he was glad to see it all taking place and that he thought our choice to live on the acreage shows that we are really following our hearts and he knows we will get more enjoyment out of life by living out there with all the freedoms that living in the country can bring. Then, he pulled up a photo of one of his good friends and showed his country house that was surrounded by boats, four-wheelers, and other fun country things. Dad said he wished he were out there too.
The beautiful swampy part of the lake at
the backside of our acreage.
I'm looking for alligators.
He might not know how precious his words have been to me because I was feeling a bit panicked over increased distance from my dad as he's about to be in a fierce battle against this cancer. No matter what, I'll do my best to be with him as much as possible. The next immediate task will be the surgery to insert the port into his chest for the chemo to be administered.
Even so, I have to stand back a little because he does have a girlfriend who is by his side and who wants to take him to his appointments and such, which has been difficult for me because I've been the child who has been able to be there for my dad for all appointments and for his last cancer battle that happened a year after my mom died. My dad lived at my house for one year during that battle. But, I guess the girlfriend has her place and her usefulness in his life is not to simply tag along with him to the rodeo.
My dad has done a great deal for his "friend," (he doesn't like the term girl-friend) so I suppose it is natural for her to want to show him that she can do something for him as well. She does care about him. I'm glad he has a companion through these hard times. 
However, us kids will be there for him --- we are family.
My oldest daughter, Heather, is expecting her
first child in September. She made the trip into
Houston a couple of weeks ago to be with her
Paw-Paw for his birthday celebration. We all
love this man.
So...the sell of the house is still scheduled, and I think we're kind of in "shock" phase of trying to reconcile the fact that it's really going to happen. I dread moving --- all the unpleasant details and organization that will be required to move efficiently. However, I have much to look forward to.
I'm okay, as long as I keep reminding myself of the tremendous adventure this move is going to be for us!
The hard fact of not having a house to move into is pushing us to make some difficult decisions regarding this move. We must have a place to live, but trying to decide which direction to put our money is tough.
We have decided to not get a POD for storage of our household items because Deputy Dave called to inquire about the process and was informed that it would cost $500. to have it hauled to our property, which they consider to be "rural."
So, during our last trip to the country, we went into town and found a newly constructed storage facility with climate-controlled units that we will probably select for our storage needs. Over the next couple of weeks, we will begin to taking some furnishings, garage items and boxes to the storage building so we can make a dent in the moving process.
One thing is for sure, these two furry babies of ours are ready to be in the country full-time. As we pack and load up to leave for the acreage, these two characters prove that dogs really do smile. They are so happy to race to the backseat, knowing exactly where we're going because the trailer is hooked to the truck...once that trailer comes out of the garage, the dogs become extremely goofy, they race around, bouncing about and are super happy about the upcoming road trip.
You can literally see their happiness in the photo below. It cracks me up every time I see it.
You guys ready to go to the country?
I am savoring the best that life has to offer. Savoring the beautiful moments and the smiles I am blessed to be given.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

# 414 - Rattlesnake - Moving Countdown


It was so nice to come home to a real bed on Monday night, exhausted. Over a long weekend, we stayed on our acreage. We love camping out, but sleeping in a tent has its hardships.

We stayed on our land this weekend through Monday to do some things in preparation to moving onto the land next month because our house in the city is being sold.

We're about to be homeless. Literally. We're trying to figure things out, but there are so many considerations...where to stay while we either find an RV or do a quick-build for a cabin that will eventually be a guest cabin or build a large workshop with an area zoned aside for living quarters.

It will be challenging and exhausting, at least for a few weeks.

Considering this cabin as our temporary housing
while main cabin is being constructed.
This would cost as much as a nice RV, yet
provide much more room during this phase.

However, for now, camping allows us to be directly on the property without having to come and go; we can be there on site and get a considerable amount of work accomplished. I cannot do the hard labor that Deputy Dave handles, but I can sit on the lawn tractor and mow acres of land with fierce determination. I can go into high brush areas with my head tucked to avoid being scraped by the low hanging tree branches and my mind chills out while the blades of grass and massive ant beds become mulch.

I was slow moving this weekend, feeling bad after battling a stomach virus on Friday that had me being close buddies with the toilet, so the weekend had me feeling drained. Even so, once I got on the lawn tractor, I had an awesome time mowing. It was obvious I wasn't feeling well because my mow-patterns that were spread across several acres were not very orderly. I mowed like a drunk landscaper. I'd wind in between this tree and that tree, then forget where I'd started. When you are mowing acres of land that has multiple clusters of trees, it can be a maze. So, I ended up weaving and ducking and dodging and crisscrossing.

And, in most areas, the grass looked more like prairie grass and took several mower passes to get it cut. I still made great headway.

However, Saturday, Deputy Dave took the lawn tractor into the back parts of the acreage that are more difficult to reach. We have an agreement, if I am off mowing somewhere on the land, he will stay close to the "home" site or camping site and vice-versa . So, he's off about three acres away in a heavily wooded area to mow the walking trails and after a while, I hear the POW, POW, POW's of a gun, which I knew was the 38 he had in the pocket of his overalls. Yes, we are packing fire power, mostly because of the worries of confronting wild boars and such.

I had been using my time at the campsite to do some peaceful thinking, reading, writing and was listing to Pavarotti. Classical music was playing as I began to hear gun-shots. I grabbed my IPhone to start videoing.

This video hit home for me that I live a life that most women don't...I guess I have more knowledge about weapons, ammunition, fire-power and such because by the time I began to video, I had already automatically counted four shots, which I immediately calculated to know that only one shot was left in the gun that holds five rounds. As I was thinking this aloud on the video log, POW, the 5th shot rang through the woods.

It didn't hit me as odd until later that day...Do all wives actually count shots of an unplanned shooting after remembering the kind of weapon that is being carried by their husband --- knowing how many shots have been fired, how many are left and exactly when it will be necessary to reload?

At that moment, I knew Deputy Dave would either be reloading or heading back to camp for more ammunition. I was fairly certain the shots were because of a snake.

I'm more of a machete kind of girl, but he's very comfortable with any kind of gun. We make a good team.

I continued to run the video-log and here he comes around the corner, yes it was a snake, but he left it where he shot it and retrieved it soon afterward.

On my second video-log, that I cannot show right now, Deputy Dave shows up with the snake he shot and we both realize, as I'm filming, that the snake is a rattlesnake. Of course, I have to reach out and shake the rattle, then I realize the snake is alive, even as it is being firmly grasped by Deputy Dave, his grip firm at the neck of the snake.

I cannot say much more than this because I'm discovering that some deadly snakes should be "allowed" to roam freely on your land, even on your pathways because they are "protected." These same snakes are on record as having the capacity to EASILY kill pets and children. Many adults who suffer a strike either die or lose a limb.

Live and learn.

In the country, we know snakes are all over the place, but the ones that are deadly venomous are not exactly a best buddy.

This particular snake is one of the most deadly in our parts of North America. It has some of the longest fangs on record, and I can attest to that fact upon personally seeing the long, curved fangs that ended with little needle sized protrusions that work like hypodermic needles to inject venom.

The fangs grow larger toward the jaw-line to allow the snake to really sink their teeth into their prey. These snakes can easily pierce thick clothing and most boots. 

The rattle on this snake that found his end on our life did have four buds/rattles which means the snake was four years rattle per year. Since this snake was coming out of a den near the area my brother recently camped with a boy-scout troop, I am thankful none of the kids accidentally stepped on this snake or came upon it without knowing how deadly a bite could be for their smaller stature.

This pit-viper had swollen cheeks indicative of a venomous snake. The rattle made an eerie sound. I am a Texas gal and it still had me doing the heeby-jeeby dance.

Most of all, I really didn't like the fact that these snakes can birth up to 20 live one-rattle slithering babies every year; rattlesnakes give birth to live young. And if you are a big snake lover who "raises" snakes in your controlled setting or fish-tank, more power to you. But, we don't have the luxury of being warm and fuzzy to a creature that could easily snuff out a child's life. Additional horror, it is also highly unpleasant to know that these snakes also have nocturnal activity.

They eat rodents, squirrels and rabbits along with some amphibians. But, these snakes are highly deadly to animals, pets and are either deadly or medically devastating to adults.

And the previous day to Deputy Dave shooting this snake, we'd been taking a nice leisurely walk to our lake, while wearing our flip flops through this snake's home-zone. Smart people, that's us. We don't live on the acreage as if we are in fear...we don't bundle up in layers of clothes and we don't wear steel-toed boots while walking around, we are comfortable out there while knowing there are predators of all sizes that might be around the corner. We've owned land in the country and have been raised with enough country-life to be comfortable in that setting.

However, for almost fifteen years, we've enjoyed being out there and have had years of living with nature, in peace. A few close run-ins with nature keeps us alert to the fact that this acreage is not an indoor arena, but we enjoy incredible freedom and comfort while in the country, but that means living more closely to creatures such as rattlesnakes.

Scary thought, especially since the coloring on these snakes perfectly enables them to be well camouflaged as they slither through the leaves on the ground. You can barely tell they are there, so my flip flops might give way to stomping shoes during our hikes.

Oh hell, I've been hiking there for nearly fifteen years. My flips flops aren't going anywhere but on my feet, but I might trade them in for the rubber galoshes a bit more often.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

# 412 - Scaling Back - Moving Countdown

34 Days

Part of moving to the country includes scaling back from a near 3,000 square foot house to...well...having no house. At least, not at first. The cabin on the acreage is going to be custom built, so that means a one story, three-bedroom home, eventually. We will probably start building within a month of moving, but we will first have to clear more land and prep the site for construction.

So, we don't want to have furniture sitting in storage that we really won't need in the country cabin.

Right now, we have four bedrooms, a separate study, a formal dining room, breakfast area, living room and huge game room. This is WAY TOO MUCH SPACE for the two of us. More space means more furniture which means more dusting.

Since we are 34 days from moving, I decided that this week should be dedicated to serious consideration toward what goes and what stays. Therefore, I've been taking inventory of each room. We must be discerning because we won't be able to use everything in the future cabin that we have in this house right now.

The three chairs here are going with us -- the one by the chair railing
is VERY OLD and has hand-stitching for the backing and seat that was
sewn by my great-grandmother Pearl. I love that chair.
The bench in the distance is a family antique and the other
rocker chair is one I wrote about recently on my blog ---
an old chair of Maplewood that is in
excellent condition and that I purchased from Good Will. I call it my
"reading-thinking" chair, which my youngest niece
LOVES and respects. I look forward to rocking my grandbabies
in this comfortable chair.

Thankfully, my oldest daughter, Heather, wants our downstairs leather group. She actually has rather new living room furniture, but they are re-doing most rooms in their house to prepare for the baby, due in September, and she knows I don't want this furniture to go to someone who won't appreciate it. This set also has built-in recliners that will actually be a slice of Heaven during those long nights with a baby and they can put their money toward more things needed for the baby. And, frankly, when people come into town, all the recliners will give extra sleep-over space, if needed. Heck, Heather has slept on this sofa quite a few times. I think she claimed it a while back.

One GREAT aspect about leather furniture is that it breathes, can be
easily cleaned/conditioned, holds up to pets and feels softer and softer
with time. This is my "cowboy" set. I love it and will miss it,
but it could not find a better home than to be with my daughter.
Since this furniture is not old and since it has been well
cared for by her mother, she knows she's doing me a favor by taking it. :-)

So, the living room downstairs will just have a coffee table, end tables, big flat-screen, lamps and my mother's cedar hope chest to take with us. We still have the boxes in the attic for our flat-screen televisions and those will come in handy for moving.

My son-in-law will also be taking my solid wood executive desk that I LOVE for his own office space --- makes me happy, happy. It's a beautiful piece of furniture with built-in file drawers, lots of storage and ample desk work space with solid wood goodness, but it will be much too large for me to have in our next residence. I'm blessing this desk and sending it with him to put to good business use.

That desk needs to be put toward some money-making's a power desk, a true executive desk. I re-finished it myself just a few years ago, so it means a lot to me. To be honest, I made a lot of money sitting behind that desk, so I hope the tradition continues. Can't find pictures, working on it.

So, that means, from my study, I will just have my upright grand piano to take. And I can't even think about leaving my piano behind; I still play regularly and have SERIOUS separation anxiety when I am unable to feel those keys beneath my fingers. It's hard to explain. I'm dreading moving the piano; it's extremely heavy, bulky and I will go ballistic if it gets a scratch on it --- I've taken VERY GOOD care of that piano for most of my life, so it's a part of me, especially since it helps me to filter emotions as my fingers connect to my brain, heart, and body with purging movements across the keys.

And an electronic piano (we have one) is like comparing a hot wheels Corvette to the real deal with the powerful pedal ready to respond to your VROOM urge. Just can't compare. I've never owned a Corvette, but I'm using my imagination. My upright grand piano is my real Corvette.


My beautiful master bedroom furniture is too large, but we have a sweet family friend who wants to buy it and is getting it for a steal because he does so much for his own family. That will leave our master bedroom empty, except for wall art.

The set has a matching tall chest of drawers, and a dresser with mirror.
This was the first bedroom suit I'd ever owned and I was forty years
old when I finally purchased it with money I'd earned.
It was a beautiful experience to get this bedroom suit, but we
don't want to move it and store it. Although, I'm glad I bought it.

I have three twin beds and am giving two away from upstairs.

The bed near the window is Stefie's ultra-plush "princess" bed that
feels like you are sleeping on a cloud. The other bed is a combination
of two new mattresses and a boxspring, so the bed near the
camera has two stacked twin mattresses. After Stefie finished her
first year in college and was finished with dorm life,
we suddenly got a 3rd twin bed back. The stacked beds on one
side match the height of Stefie's plush dorm twin set. Yah!

The refrigerator stays. I had put it as an exclusion, which meant it wasn't included with the sale of the house, but the buyers wanted it. So, I negotiated a five-day leaseback on our house for the buyers to be able to keep it. Deputy Dave was celebrating the freedom from having to move that bad boy.

The negotiated exchange of the fridge for a complimentary five-day leaseback means we close on the sale of our home, hopefully on April 19th, then we will get to stay in what will then be THEIR house for five more days, with no charge. Usually, it's at least $100. per day for the seller to lease "back" their own house after closing, if it can be negotiated. I'm thankful that it gives us five days after the closing to get moved out. Five important days.

My formal dining room table that seats six is a beauty, but I believe that's going to my dad's house. He's been super busy, so I haven't even asked him, but I'd like to give it to him.

If he doesn't want it, then I will figure it out. I have an awesome table in my breakfast room that I love --- it has a metal base, firm but comfortable pub-height chairs that each have metal legs, plus the table top flips to reveal an awesome POKER TABLE!

So, that table goes with us. It's a fun table and a beauty.

So, back to the formal dining room...that leaves my china cabinet from Germany, which is a keeper, of course. That china cabinet was the first piece of furniture that my husband and I purchased together in 1986, while living in Germany. We paid $75. for it and that was an extreme hardship at that time. A fighter-jet pilot from our Air Base and his wife met us at their house so we could look at it; we had just moved to the same quaint German village.

They sold it to us because they were preparing to go back stateside with a large family and they needed to sell some things to prepare for their next military move. I think they saw my eyes after I fell in love with this piece of furniture, and they probably would have given it to us, knowing we'd treasure it. I have a wonderful story behind that piece of furniture that I will tell in one of my follow up posts, it deserves more time.

Upstairs, in the game room, we will be keeping that leather group, even though it's made for tall people and leaves my legs dangling, but that makes the recliners in the set more comfortable. Since I have my rocking reading chair, I'm good.

Since our downstairs leather group is also a higher quality leather, I am glad to have this second leather set because I'm sure it will last a very long time. Plus, I LOVE the look of leather sofas and chairs as they get old and more wrinkled, but neither set that we own have had enough time to get to that stage. We're working on it. But, leather really does develop more character and comfort with time. I'm sold on leather; it costs more upfront, but is well worth the investment because it lasts so long.

In all, the leather group in the game room has a total of five recliners, so we all kick back when sitting on that set while watching a movie or while hanging out together. And the credenza that holds our television components and gaming system, that goes with us too.

Upstairs, my metal bed and German closet goes with us along with our second queen-sized guest bed with maplewood furniture that had belonged to my oldest daughter, once upon a time. It will be the guest bedroom suit when we move. I couldn't find a photo to put up for reference.

You can see the Maplewood armoire in this shot and the nightstand
to this set is being used in Stefie's pink room since she took her
nice bedroom suit with her to college.

My youngest daughter has already taken her bedroom suit, the other breakfast room suit and some other things. This is what is left-over in Stefie's room...just an extra queen bed (no headboard), a chair that is Stefie's -- given to her by her great-grandmother and the maple nightstand in the corner that you can't see, but that matches the armoire in the other room with the twin beds.

Since she's still a college student, she has to ration her furniture so it will fit in the small space available during this stage of her life.

The chair in the shot below...I LOVE that chair! It's another Good Will purchase. Six bucks.

One day, all our things will belong to someone else. Until then, the things we are keeping will be thoroughly enjoyed and the things we are giving away will be sent with love.

And moving day approaches.