Sunday, June 30, 2013

# 454 - Future Country Workshop Needs Work

Years ago, Sgt. Dave began a foundation for a structure and it has sat on this land for so long, waiting to be finished.

We live here in the country now, so this structure is getting attention.

All of the growth through the boards, the debris that had been left in the middle of the had become a site of wreckage.

However, this area became my mother-in-law's mission to tackle.

Day by day she worked on this area and pulled away the junk for the trash pile, then she cleaned out the de-composing parts of nature and also tried to clear out as many of the stubborn roots as she could pull out. And she even confronted one snake in the process.

Now, it's looking pretty darn good and getting ready for more wood to be added so that a framed wall with a roof might be put into place. Then, Sgt. Dave can bring his workshop tools to the land and these tools will provide him with the ability to get things accomplished. I can hear the table saw right now!

And, we specifically put these two structures close together so we could benefit from their proximity, keeping us from having to walk across the land to do this or that. Also, if Sgt. Dave wanted to put in a small bathroom area with toilet and shower, the septic is close by, so this would be possible.

For you to gauge the size of the structures, the metal shed is 10x14. I'm not sure the size of the unfinished workshop, but it will be roomy enough to get us started. Sgt. Dave has never had his own workshop, just for his woodworking, so this will be nice.

And now I understand the reason so many people with acreage have multiple buildings.

These two structures have become part of our backyard. Over the next couple of months, I guess we will see what else pops up. I think a faux outhouse will be another structure high on the list to complete because it will hold the daily garden tools and free the utility shed from having such things tracked and inside. All the shovels, the hoe, the rakes and the tiller can be put inside the outhouse, saving valuable space in the utility shed for other items.

And here is an faux outhouse we have recently seen here in Livingston. It's a great piece of inspiration.

Day by day, things are changing around here. It's a monumental task we've taken on, especially on our tight budget, but we are making headway. Each week, I am amazed at how much more progress we're making.

Since this past week has been the hottest June on record here in our part of Texas, we have definitely been slowed down because of the oppressive heat. I saw that Death Valley reached temperatures of 124 degrees this past week. I think that is an area of our country I'd prefer to live under-ground.

Let's just say that our RV knows the meaning of "Siesta-time." Let's hope we can get through July and August! The past few days have hovered around 100 degrees with a "feels like" 104 temperature. However, we have a weather forecast or next week that will be in low 90's and our night's will be right at 70's. That will be NICE. Perhaps we will be able to move about without the pours of our skin becoming a faucet.

And I am definitely living in the country...this is what it is all about.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

# 453 - The Country - My Kitchen Change

Come along for the tour!

Over the next year, we will be working toward preparing the land to build a country cabin...a cabin or cottage will be our next home. In the meantime, we are living in our temporary home, an RV that's 33 feet long, with two slide-outs.

Going from a very large home to an RV has been quite a transition. I had wondered how I would feel about leaving my large kitchen in the house we just sold...that island kitchen was very spacious.

However, our RV is cozy. In fact, I love my RV kitchen, which is located on the front end of the RV.

There's room to move around, ample drawer and deep cabinetry. There's also space available over the upper cabinets and that's where we keep the foil, lunch-kits, lap trays, and such.

 The makers of this RV used ingenuity when they made the kitchen to extend over the trailer/tongue area to give loads of cabinetry and counter-space that is not usually found in a 33-foot RV.

This part of the countertop actually has an overhang that allows for two bar stools to be pushed underneath. I use the area underneath for a three-tier shoe holder. No shoes to be worn inside! Well, except by guests.

My little kitchen is enjoyable. Everything is carefully designed to be within an arm's reach. And that skillet I am using below is a massive sized skillet, I believe 17 inches across, but it is one of my favorites.

Isn't this entire adventure ridiculously funny? Can you believe we made a massive leap from city living in the Greater Houston area that has over 2,400 people per square mile to the country in an area that has, on average, 43 people per square mile?

We are nuts! We're making huge sacrifices, but we know it will be worth it. In fact, tonight I stood outside listening to the frogs, crickets and spied some lightening bugs at the edge of the forest, and I CAN FEEL the many reasons we're going through all this hardship.

If you love nature and you love having some space around you, then you understand. If you like the sound of birds chirping when you walk outside instead of the sound of traffic, then you understand. If you like to look out your window and see greenery as your landscape instead of man-made structures, vehicles and concrete, then you understand. If you'd like to see more of our society make a return to traditional practices, such as growing and raising table food, then you understand what we are trying to do out here in the country.

The way I look at it, at least we are providing ONE home on our side of the family that has beautiful acreage with a spring-fed creek and lake to play in and we have woods to explore...there's room to roam and space to enjoy. And we can actually see the stars at night.

Our land continues to go back, as far as those trees in
the distance and beyond. Howdy stands there, he
wants to go back there, but it's not always safe.
That's rattlesnake and Cottonmouth zone.

Such beauty is still available. Treasure it...I am sure you understand what we are trying to do out here in the country and you know the reason I am so darn happy with my little kitchen.

Friday, June 28, 2013

# 452 - Country Life - The Peaceful Pace

FIRST OF ALL...I do NOT have links embedded. Do not click on any links. This seems to be a BlogSpot issue, so don't click on any links in this post.


Starting life on rural acreage in the country is a constant challenge, but it can be rather interesting. For example, the other day, this "what-the-heck" was driving down the road next to us.

I sure do love Texas.


As for moving to the country, the most immediate and important hurdles have been with our utilities. Throughout this year, we will be building a house, but for now, we must go through all the boring motions necessary to get us started with the basics.

For electricity, we started out on generator, but we had a pole installed with a meter and breaker box, then a connection was finally made by the local electrical co-op to our private pole.

For water, we have multiple water hoses connected across acres of land, from one corner of our acreage we have water from the local co-op and it is stranded by water-hoses to the RV. We've had a couple of "blow-outs" of a few water hoses, mostly the ones brought from the house we just moved from. We've definitely learned how important it is to respect high quality water hoses for such projects.

Sgt. Dave also put on a quadruple splitter to allow us to attach multiple water hoses at a junction point. The main LONG hose connection leads to back of RV, then the splitter is used so that we have another hose ready to fill the chicken's or dog's water bowls, to water plants and such, then we have another hose that is attached to the washing machine that is now located in the newly constructed shed.

Water hoses connected and running through forest to RV.

Running pipe to the RV from the main water line is not exactly an option at this point because of the terrain. We are considering the option of finishing the well that was already started on the residential side of our property. Since we are going to be looking into a well, we need all the advice we can get, it is WELCOMED. Give us our good and bad experiences, the do's and the do-not's.

As for septic, we began with a hole in the ground, but now Sgt. Dave has run PVC piping to our septic. I can tell you that going from city plumbing to a hole in the ground was an adventure in itself. To cut down on the aroma, we utilized jugs of bleach. After a septic dump, Sgt. Dave would pour some bleach into the hole and it definitely helped. However, the first time of pouring bleach into the poo-hole resulted in this major chemical bubbling/gas cloud reaction that brought about a lot of laughs as we were shocked. This moment gave us a lesson that bleach and poo porridge can be scientific.

And today we were to have an installation appointment for a phone (land-line) to be installed and to give us DSL Internet! For now, I have often hijacked Lowe's service, which is free to guests and since Lowe's is our second home, I often use it when buying supplies.

At the RV, I have been using my IPhone's "Personal Hotspot" wireless connection, which is quite expensive and limited in data usage. As soon as I exceed my data usage limits, I am charged $10 for every gig of overage. The Personal Hotspot only comes with 5 GB of usage and that goes very fast.

So, I THOUGHT I'd have a home phone and DSL today, but the crew arrived this morning, for the SECOND time, and they realized the line they need to run is more complicated than anticipated. They began burying a lot of line today.

And we're going to have to make a map of some sort to indicate all of the new utility lines we're dealing with lately.

Soon, I'll be able to get back to blogging more regularly.

Oh yes, we burn our trash. Which, I've been told will be a HUGE pain in the rear when the heat sets in and there are burn bans enforced.

We have been through a lot already since we've been out here, but it does feel great to be able to stretch our physical bodies and our minds on this acreage. There is definitely something that comes from nature that is healing to our spirits.

Living in an RV isn't easy, but it isn't so bad, either. It's cozy. I keep reminding myself that not having to clean the near 3,000 square feet of house is really nice! However, I am already yearning for cooler weather.

And a friend and I were communicating today; she lives out here as well. Her family left the same area we just moved from --- in Greater Houston --- and she said they would never go back. She said they love the "slower" pace of the country.

I have decided that instead of calling the country a place that goes at a "slower" pace that I will give my description, which is that it goes by a "peaceful pace."

Of all the utility connections that we've arranged, there has not been one line to stand in to do business. In the Houston area, it is chaos. People don't hardly look up from their keyboard; you walk in and take a number. Here, in the country, you walk in and there are five workers sitting at their desk and you are the only one needing help.

Since we are living here full-time, we finally have the opportunity to make it our mission to try as many of the local restaurants as possible. Each time we get a chance to dine out, we purposefully search for a place we've not yet tried. We will give each restaurant two chances.

We've already ruled out the "nicest" restaurant in town because the main course items are not that tasty, but the prices rival those of Houston's nicer dining establishments with most platters starting at around $17.00 per plate. So, we were disappointed, twice. It's sad when the food is so "off" that you don't even want to take home ample left-overs.

So, we were pleased to find a little Italian hole in the wall.

This week, we tried Joe's Italian Grill, and I was not sure would be good, but it was pretty decent for a small-town in Texas. I was surprised.

By the way, Italian food is my favorite food to cook, so this one is a toughie for restaurants to compete with because home-made Italian can't be beat. Joe's Italian Grill came close...the prices make it worth enjoying.

To start, the salad was tasty and the bread was great.

We then shared a platter that had fettuccine alfredo, lasagna and chicken parmisiana, which was my favorite and will be ordered again.

They are open seven days per week, until 9pm each night and on Saturday until 10pm. A bonus is their daily lunch special is $6.95. Not bad...not bad at all.

Next week, we'll try another new restaurant. There aren't many to try, so we're taking our time.

As for making headway on the acreage, it feels great to see our storage shed in place. Since it will partially serve as the laundry room, I had to make an effort to reduce the amount of dirt being tracked inside. Our acreage has great soil, but the top-coating is mostly sand and this can be maddening. You know about sand.

Years ago, we laid out several pallets of St. Augustine grass, which is starting to spread out further and further now that we are living here and keeping the lawn mowed to reduce blackberry vines. It can't spread fast enough for me.

We know that a little deck in front of the RV would be helpful; it would give us stomping ground to better shake off the dirt and to reduce the amount of sand/dirt that is tracked in the RV by us and the dogs. Using what I have available, I laid some old bricks at the RV and storage building entrance.

These are very old bricks from my mom's house
that were dug up and left in a pile for years.
My grandfather was a plumber; I think these are
sewer bricks.

Every effort is part of the LONG, tedious process of moving to the country.

My father-in-law taking a well-deserved break.

No matter where you live, we all know that this world can give us combined yukiness along with beauty, but I do love living in the re-charges my soul.

Monday, June 24, 2013

# 451 - Life Goes On...

My husband's nephew was murdered this past week and we buried him this past weekend, on Saturday.

In the shot below, I am walking with my oldest daughter, Heather, to honor her cousin's burial. Heather is pregnant with her first child and this is too much grief for her to endure during a pregnancy; I am concerned. She is MY baby.

And in the photo below, I am standing with Stefie as they bury her "twin." The level of Stefie's devastation is almost unparalleled. Her and Chris shared a unique bond from growing up as babies who were drawn to each other to adults who still gravitated toward each other at every event. They were extremely close and bonded.

Brice is there as is David's other nephew who is standing close to the camera with his girlfriend. Such family sadness.

We know that we must keep moving forward with our lives. Life moves on.
Chris, we will miss you and always love you.
I must say that one major difference from having a death in the family by sickness or accident (which we have had both) is that murder means this situation is going to be re-played, publicly, by trial. We will be facing a trial and all the horrible details that comes with a courtroom replaying everything that happened.

Even worse, it turns out that a young woman was assaulted by Chris's murderer back in February and she has charges against him, but her case had not yet gone to trial. However, he was out on bond when he killed Chris, so things are about to get more dicey for that killer. The young woman the killer had attacked showed up at Chris's funeral, and she is one very traumatized young lady who sat there staring at Chris's coffin, knowing it might have been her in that coffin.

We are hoping the charges of assault and murder can be combined to give the killer a longer sentence. He won't be eligible for the death penalty because he didn't commit two crimes together, such as rape and murder...or robbery and murder...but we will do all we can to make sure he sits his little butt in prison for the majority of his pathetic life.

This was not self-defense. He first stabbed Chris as he was sitting down. Chris could not even believe it himself. My point is...Chris did not instigate this attack in a physically threatening manner. He was simply the victim of a person who had out of control rage.

If Sgt. Dave has anything to say about it...and he does...that creep won't be living a "free" life for very long. This Uncle is on a mission. He is advocating for his murdered nephew every single day.

Since our family is standing together and will be making our presence known in numbers...we will be closely involved with taking the killer down. We will do all we can to increase his chances of getting the maximum penalty. So, I am doing my best to re-focus our efforts on this land so we can eventually begin building our home, but it is tough. I'm sure you understand.

This past week, my mother and father-in-law camped nearby and we worked on the land. Sgt. Dave and his dad built the metal shed with a great plywood floor and the inside already has additional 2x4's installed.

My father-in-law added another pole that is attached to the shed and ran electrical line from the main pole to our shed because we have the washing machine and dryer ready to go into the shed so I can stay away from the horrible Washateria!

Each stage of them building the shed was interesting, from laying out the wood, to prepping the ground, to getting the floor laid so the shed could be assembled. All of us had our own responsibilities, but theirs was the most labor intensive. Now I have a nice little shed! The spot next to the metal shed will be a good sized wood work shop for Sgt. Dave.

Watching father and son build that shed was wonderful. I love my father-in-law, he has a great sense of humor.

We all had a beautiful week together, until we heard about my husband's nephew. Even then, we continued to busy our bodies with working because stopping meant crying and we did cry, a lot. My poor in-laws stayed busy until they could drop, as if they could not stop and face the horror of what had happened. I began to be very concerned about them.

But, the beauty of the land seemed to give us comfort. During water and rest breaks, we would listen to the birds sing and the breeze would blow through the was peaceful.

My mother-in-law and I would take a seat at the edge of the trees and the view would be breath-taking, reminding me of the reason we have gone through all this trouble to move to the country.

Even though the worst has happened, we are glad our personal commitment remains more determined than ever to enjoy our life on this acreage in the woods.

Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed out here because there is so much that needs to be done and Sgt. Dave has a long commute that prevents him from being here to get it done.

But, when conditions permit it, there is always time for a burning project and to stand mesmerized by its captivating flames, soaring ashes and puffs of smoke.

However, on his days off, he is going nonstop to finish some project. And there are a LOT of projects.

I am especially ADD at this moment, so bear with me. I struggle to focus in a linear manner, but it's not really happening...Is it?

Sgt. Dave also ran PVC piping from the RV septic to our septic tank. No more holes in the ground! And he's constantly clearing thick underbrush and mowing different sections of land.

And for my blog buddies who have understood my frustration with going to a is the finished project this week --- the shed and the washer and dryer have been put inside it, as of TONIGHT! Tomorrow they will be connected and we'll have a new washroom/storage shed combo!

I had resorted to doing hand-washing the essentials instead of going to a Washateria...

Just so you know, in the midst of the devastation of our nephew being murdered, we found time to finally grab a bite to eat and to share some laughs with our daughters and my husband's cousin, Joshua, who flew in from Oregon for the funeral --- the family who so loved the one who is gone was able to be together and find reasons to be joyful.

This is the reason life holds promise; human nature knows how to survive.

And my husband is already contacting the District Attorney's office to do all he can to make sure nothing slips through the cracks with his nephew's murder.

The country life cannot insulate us from such horrors, but it makes being home more peaceful. And in Chris's honor, we will be starting an "Artist's Garden" that will hopefully have a life-time of artistic garden items created by local artists so that we can remember the art Chris brought into our lives.

And Chris's mother gave us this piece that Chris had recently entire cabin in the woods will be built with this piece of art in mind. His mom told me that she knows I am also an art lover and "artist" with my own creations, so she wanted this piece to go to someone who appreciates art and who loves Chris, forever.

We are blessed.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

# 450 - Nephew Murdered

I knew post # 450 was coming up and I was hoping to have exciting news about the steps we are taking since we moved to the country a little over a month ago.

However, I don't have much joy to report right now because even though we moved from the big city, violence still found a way into our lives because our nephew has been murdered. He'd just moved out of the Houston area as well, into another large city in Texas, but things did not go well for him.

My husband's nephew, who just turned 23 years old this month, was murdered on Father's Day --- June 16th. This is Sgt. Dave's oldest brother's child...his brother's only biological child. The nephew who I read books to when he was a child, until he'd fall asleep. He tried so hard to stay awake to hear the pile of books he'd selected. Every night he'd fall asleep soundly before I could read two books.

I'd play the piano for him --- well, at first I didn't know he was listening, then he would appear from the corner of the room where he'd been standing motionless, listening, and he'd say, "Play it again! Again! Again!" This child LOVED classical music! My heart be still!

But, this past weekend, we woke up to a beautiful day this past Sunday...Father's Day. We had not a clue that our world was about to become a spiral of devastation. That morning, my husband and I spent the day with my mother and father-in-law. We started the morning visiting a local art festival, then we had lunch together and played cards. The four of us spent the day together because it was also my mother-in-law's birthday. She even made us a delicious lunch at their RV which has been parked at the Indian Reservation.

My husband's oldest brother phoned while the four of us were playing cards and said he'd not yet heard from his son that day, which was unusual. It was getting to be later in the day. Since he now lived about four hours outside of Houston, there was no way to run by his apartment and check on him. We had a beautiful day, yet none of us had any idea that he'd been murdered hours earlier by a companion.

At that point, unknown to us, the local Sheriff's Dept. and Medical Examiner was doing their part to identify his body, which would take another 24 hours --- the family would get the call the next day that it was believed that he had been murdered, but identification was taking some time. Torturous time.

Sgt. Dave and his nephew --- happy days.

As my husband said during that time, "I'm holding onto straws that it's not him." However, the news came that it was indeed our nephew. He'd been killed by someone he knew and trusted. Youthful ignorance and folly gave way to a person with violent tendencies who grabbed a nearby knife and stabbed our nephew multiple times.

My husband's nephew tried to run away, but it would be too late. He died about an hour after being taken to the hospital.

And I am angry that someone took his life.

As you can imagine, our family is devastated. We will be putting him to rest this weekend. My daughters are devastated that their cousin has been murdered.

My husband is in deep mourning for his nephew and for his oldest brother.

Stefie and her cousin at a family reunion, years ago.
I always referred to them as "The Twins" because during an
outing, when they were babies, someone asked me if they were twins.
It stuck.
I am so sad for my in-laws as they have never lost a grand-child and we were hoping they never would. They mourn their loss and that of their son's.

Everyone is experiencing their own way of grieving while trying to provide support for each other. Most people understand that the grieving process is as unique as the individual, so there are no right or wrong ways of dealing with it.

Since our nephew was an extremely talented artist, we are so sad to know the art productions from his creative mind and hand have come to a stop.

And I find it incredibly ironic that we four went to an art festival on the morning he was murdered. I somehow find that weirdly comforting.

Monday, June 17, 2013

# 449 - Dream Home Tour, by Accident

Since moving to the country a month ago, I've come across some houses that catch my eye, but there's this one house in particular that makes my heart go pitter-patter.

Every time we pass by the house, I tell my husband, "That's my house, a dream home! We have to stop and take pictures!"

So, this past Friday, on our 27th Wedding Anniversary, my husband finds a spot to pull off so I can jump out in front of my dream home and take some quick snaps shots as he pulls the car down the road alongside the house for a turn-around.

Man...I was so happy to just get a few photos!

This house is an older Southern style home and the colors make it pop beneath the wooded grounds.

And, to shorten the story, the home-owners happened to be sitting under a few tall oaks in the backyard and as we were getting ready to leave, I decided to walk up to their back fence to ask about their paint colors. The woman kind of looked us up and down as I was telling her that I LOVED her house and confessed to hanging around the frontage to get a few shots.

She opened her back gate and said, "You two come on in and I'll take you on a tour."

Heart - Be - Still!

And so we spent about two hours with our new friends in our small town as we got a tour of EVERYTHING.

And it turns out that Shirley is an artist. She takes me on a tour of her studio in the house. This room has plenty of natural light and she pulled out a few canvases and drawings to show me her latest projects from photos she'd taken when on vacation in Florida. She's about to go to Alaska and will be taking more photos upon which to base her artwork.

Then, she shows me a wall of books. She's not only an artist, she's a published author of many books that provide instructions for painting some of her favorite things.

And there in her studio, I see a wall of books --- books that I've seen many times at stores such as Hobby Lobby, and I ask if I can buy a couple of them on the spot.

I buy the books. Of course, book is on how to draw roosters/chickens.

Then, we take more tours of her gardens and grounds to have a fascinating look at artwork Shirley's son produces out of old shovel heads, hoes, horseshoes, etc., Below is a bird made from an old shovel. Her gardens are a LOT of fun!

But, the house had me falling in love --- built in 1934, it is a beauty. I loved the red doors and red shutters with the white trim and picket fence.

Over the years, the house had gone through numerous additions, but the nine foot ceilings and open rooms with pocket doors and wide wood trim brought character into this house that you don't see in newer homes.

She has two homes on the property, but the house with the metal patchwork roof had been the garage --- many years ago, it had a one car garage with a small section set aside for living quarters, probably for a servant or grounds-keeper. It is now converted into a beautiful cottage.

And Shirley showed me her "Outhouse" that was never really an outhouse, but is a garden tool shed. The old license plates serve a double function, they add personality to the structure and cover the holes in the wood chewed out by squirrels.

And here we have another piece of shovel art --- a strange shovel critter with horse-shoe legs.

The walking path around the house is made up of all different kinds of stones and patio steps that she found or purchased through the years. Somehow, it all comes together to look WONDERFUL and welcoming.

Shirley let me know that a couple of people have stopped and told her to name her price for her place because they insisted on buying it. But, her home is not for sale. She loves it there and adores it.

And I get back to our own little home, which is now an RV as we prepare the land for our future home to live in until we are old, gray and full of happy wrinkles --- happy-smile-wrinkles.
I felt inspired.
Taking her books outside, I set them down on a chair and kept shooing the chickens away because they were interfering with me trying to get a good shot of the books. Finally, I realized that the chickens could not have posed any better, so I clicked and laughed at the coincidence. My chickens are looking at me looking at a book about how to draw chickens.
And since my field of study in the field of Humanities had been Visual Arts and Design, I realized that we "art-types" are often drawn to each other. I don't know how it happens, but creative people are built with some kind of mysterious magnetic that pulls us together. Perhaps since I wore my new hat during my outing that day to Shirley's house, she knew I was an artist by looking at me.
I had a wonderful day --- who would've thought a tour of a stranger's house would turn out to be such a beautiful experience? And I also got to look at her daughter's newly published children's book, a hardback book in a retro-style that made me crack-up.

And our anniversary lunch earlier that day had been enjoyable, but the local restaurant is off our list for future visits. There isn't much to choose from around here, so it is hard to mark one off, but usually for good reason. At least we had a great lunch that led to our outing at the Dream House!
Being married for 27 years is not an easy task, but we've come to the point to where we are in a great place --- in all areas. It's definitely a "feel-good" time of being happy and content and thrilled about our new direction.

Shirley, and her friend, BJ who is a World War I AND a World War II veteran have invited us to come back or to meet them for margaritas at a nearby Cantina where the locals love to go! I am not much for drinking, but I do like chips and salsa, so I will probably hang out with them.

I better start sketching some chickens so Shirley can get a few laughs of her own.

My dream home led us to make new friends. Bravery and graciousness combined to make for a beautiful 27th anniversary adventure.