Friday, December 27, 2013

# 488 - Brighter Days are Ahead!

There has been some nasty weather around here lately. Rains. Freezing Temperatures. High winds. Thunderstorms. Terrifying lightening.

The storms that blew over Texas during the past couple of weeks have caught up with the acreage. In fact, having a creek and county drainage means I get to stand outside, with concern, as water levels continue to rise.

I also get to watch my plants go through the wringer. One day, I'll have my gardens back in place and won't have to worry about the potted plants being in a shed, out of the shed, or left out in the freezing weather as I can't handle the pots due to an injured right hand.

One thing is for sure...I'm a Texas gal; I don't like these 30-50 degree days, and I REALLY don't like nights that dip into the 20's.

As for the heavy rains, like most places, the acreage has areas that can become quite menacing as the waters get rough, similar to rapids. The water flow eventually dumps into a deep area that is over my head. Scary!

At least it flows off the acreage, but I don't want to see a doggie or other farm animal wash away, so we keep our distance during hard rains.

This past Sunday, I got stuck outside in about 50 degrees, no jacket, wearing flip flops, no car keys, no purse, no phone, and the private road to the residence was a big mud pie. Essentially, I was in a forest, alone.

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The prospect of having to make my way through sinking mud in very cold temperatures for a couple of forested acres was not a good one. I would have ended up at a road that has very little traffic and the nearest open store was still another five miles away.

Seriously, it made me reconsider the decision I made to move out here. Life in the country means you need a solid system of trust so that you can be safe and reasonably protected from such situations and with dependable people living nearby upon whom you can call in a bad situation. I really felt rather abandoned and that's a RARE feeling for me to experience.

It's nice to have a private lifestyle, but not nice to have even ONE SECOND of being in a bad position in the midst of rural acreage.

Anyway, it made me even more thankful for my blessings and glad that God often has a plan for our lives that is bigger and better than we can imagine.

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One thing that I've been grateful for during this Christmas season is that I am a free person. Our freedom is something to treasure. Even if we're not living in the most desirable conditions, one way or another, we can still take comfort in knowing we are free.

For me, 2014 will be a year that is different from any other year of my entire adult life. To tell the truth, this was a rough Christmas, but I am already looking forward to next Christmas...knowing it will be one of the best I've ever experienced because I am free, open-minded to change and new directions with God is my ONE TRUE ROCK.

My hope is that you had a beautiful Christmas, and if things are rough for you...I pray that you take it minute by minute while knowing brighter, beautiful days will be ahead. The storms will not last forever.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

# 487 - Marking off Perimeter for Guest Cabin and Enjoying Visitors

This past week has been wonderful. Stefie and Brice, came to visit us in the country and they stayed several days. They've been working so hard at Texas State and are glad to be on Winter Break. Stefie made it through her first semester for her Master's Program and this coming semester is Brice's last semester, then he gets his Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. He just went through the ring ceremony to get his Texas State ring...we are very proud of him.

Brice and his dad, "Mr. Jay."
Such a wonderful day to share with your son!

Perhaps a trip to the country was a good down-time trip for them. It was great getting to spend such high quality time with both of them. We were a tad cramped in our RV, but we made it work.

The four of us spent one afternoon laying out, measuring and marking the site for the guest cabin which will be a small two-bedroom cabin that will be the next phase of living on our acreage. This cabin will be about 600 square feet, giving us plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy ourselves.

It was exciting to see this first step in the construction process take place. In the future, Stefie will bring her own kids for a visit, and they'll stay in this cabin. She will be able to tell her kids that she helped Pappy and Nana lay out the groundwork for the cabin they are enjoying.
We used bright pink Contractor's spray to mark the cabin's perimeter. Next, I will mark off the rooms, mark the position of the doors and windows, etc., so we can get a feel for the layout.
The next thing that Stefie and I did together was plant two long rows of Sweet Yellow Onion seeds. It was the first time for Stefie to plant such things, even though she grew up with edible gardens. I was glad we were able to do work in the garden together.
Meanwhile, Gracie and Howdy are becoming much more acquainted. Gracie is a sweet dog. She has already learned to sit for her treats. She feels much better and has a lot of spunk!

Gracie knows how to gain Howdy's affection --- with a mix of sugar and spice!
And for my long time readers and for those catching up, the photo below is of a Yorkie who is ALSO a rescue dog that found her way to our last home. She was in BAD shape. At the time, my youngest daughter, Stefanie, had been asking for a Yorkie. Then, one day, my husband was in the driveway detailing his truck and this little gal covered in filth and coated with oil on her white coat came out of nowhere to launch herself INSIDE the truck with Sgt. Dave. After the initial shock subsided, he scooped her up, saw she was in bad shape, and our family banded together to help her heal.
Belle needed SERIOUS love and attention to get past her extremely aggressive behavior and lack of trust. Her flea problem went beyond a couple of rogue scavengers...she was COVERED in scores of fleas, and had become weak and sick due to anemia. We took care of her - giving her a bath within thirty minutes of her claiming our family as her own. I remember her patience while being terrified, shaking so violently. Yet, she sweetly let us bathe her while we baby-talked to her and hand-picked hundreds of fleas off her underweight body. She seemed to know we were trying to help her.
I admit that Belle tried my patience beyond expression because she constantly wanted to attack our old gal, Liyla; however, Stefie played tag-team at a crucial time by taking Belle into her own home.  Brice and Stefie continued the process of rehabilitating this sweetheart. Now, she is a different dog. We love her; she is part of the family.
Our family is definitely a dog-loving bunch of people.

Brice is Stefie's boyfriend. He's been around for a long time, and I adore him. A mom is very blessed to love her daughter's boyfriends.
My oldest daughter, Heather, married an incredible man who I respect and adore.
My oldest daughter, Heather, and her
first baby, Coraline...on September 1st.
Henry is my son-in-law and as I told my
daughter, "Once you marry Henry, he
becomes family...the kind we fight
and die for...that means I will also might
take HIS side on issues."
Henry is a gem --- I can sit and watch him holding my grand-baby, his first child, and I know he has a heart of pure gold.
Then, I get to enjoy Brice. One thing is for sure, Brice knows I enjoy a good movie, so every time we get to spend time together, he tries to pick out a movie that I would not normally pick out on my own. EVERY TIME he picks a winner. If you don't know Tom Hardy, then I mourn for you --- Brice introduced me to the actor Tom Hardy, and my husband must accept that a part of my heart belongs to Tom.
Watch the Wutherford Heights that Tom Hardy is in --- stick with it --- it's incredible.
I need a piece of chocolate! Onward!
Brice has a mini-Aussie named "THOR!" Thor is awesome.
And Brice is brave enough to play hard-ball with Howdy. This kind of playing cannot be done by someone who is afraid of being hurt in the process. Howdy is obsessive and very serious with his games; his amazing athleticism makes him a powerful buddy.
Playing like this requires Brice be fast, strong, and ready for those powerful jaws to clamp down so HARD that you can hear them click from twenty feet away. I'm not kidding.

Then, we have Liyla...our old girl. Of course, Liyla is another dog we rescued about ten years ago. She is the best dog I've ever had, and I can't imagine life without her. She's sweet as can be, but she becomes a vicious bundle of power to protect her loved ones beyond anything I've ever seen. Every time my dad comes to the acreage, she sees him from a distance and goes into a low predatory run to CHARGE at the perceived threat while growling and barking.
Liyla playing with Gracie
Thankfully, she still recognizes my dad as she gets about 15 feet from him, which completely changes her demeanor. My dad LOVES that this dog has such strong protective instincts and that she runs TO the battle without fear. Liyla has always been this way. And she LOVES Stefie.
Stefie and Liyla share a very special bond.
Liyla always seeks Stefie's affections and wants to be close to Stefie. This dog actually SMILES when she sees Stefie. There is a beautiful relationship between this daughter of mine and one of her dogs. Actually, in our family, we all love each other's dogs... as if they are a big part of the family.

So, this past week we enjoyed some great days on the acreage, especially with the dogs.
Sgt. Dave eagerly looks forward to the day when he can add more
farm and ranch equipment to his collection. A small tractor with
several attachments, such as a post-hole digger might be next.
Brice had fun being able to walk out the front door with a .22 rifle and go hunting in the family's own yard. Of course, he'd go off into the woods in search of game and would have fun being in guy-land.
Maybe that is the unofficial name of our acreage, "Guy-land."
In the below shot, you can see Brice whittling wood into a "Stabbing Walking Stick." He's using a machete. Yep, this is guy-land.
Later, Brice would be poking this whittled stick into the fire as he consumed nearly a dozen roasted marshmallows. Guy-Land.
It was in the 30's --- SO COLD, but we still had a ball!
Moving to the country has increased our freedoms and our level of peace. Additionally, there are always projects to be done and this is good for people with personalities like my own and like my husband's. If we aren't busy, there is likely to be trouble. Plus, we do share a love for the country and for nature...this is the place we were meant to be all along. 
And country life brings lots of laughs. In fact, in the picture below, Howdy expresses his own love for country life.
My favorite shot of the week!
 Sometimes, it's too good to be true!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

# 486 - Mange = "No-Fun" Farm-Life Lesson

Yesterday was one of those days where you rush to one obligation, then rush to the next, and so on x20, throughout the entire day. The stinky part was that some of our appointments were in the Houston area, so that added another three hour round trip to our already hectic travels.

By the way, as we get closer to home, this is our beautiful view. Coming home feels more like going on vacation!

The new puppy that found it's way to our property last week has now been to her first trip to the vet. We arrived to find our veterinarian in the back with a herd of cattle, tagging ears and doing multiple things which caused one young bull to put up such a fight and issue mean snorts and loud noises that I ran back inside.
Gracie did not mind waiting. And yes, Sgt. Dave is a DIE-HARD Texans fan.
Living in the country is a much different lifestyle than city life. I do mourn the loss of some city life luxuries, but that's for another post on another day. For now, we're staying on track with the puppy visit to the vet.

The vet was amused when I asked, "Do you know what kind of breed might this puppy be?"
The vet looked at me and said, "Dog."
Actually, the staff thought the puppy looked to be part Aussie/Collie and she must be part Labrador because she has webbed feet. Gracie got two shots and she didn't even make a sound or move an inch.
However, imagine my horror after a skin test came back positive for MANGE! Mites!
Okay, let me respond "appropriately." Oh my, this poor, poor baby. Her scratching has been terrible and painful; she is my only concern. Well, now I am feeling a tad like Obama must feel as my nose grows longer by the moment.
So, I learned there are two different kinds of mange seen more frequently in the country: Red Mange and Sarcoptic Mange. She has Sarcoptic, which is high contagious and transmits to people, but then it is called, "SCABIES."
Oh joy.
Immediately, while standing in front of the vet and his staff, I began to feel a severe case of itching. I began pulling up my sleeves for the vet to inspect my arms, and I pointed to red bumps for the Doc to inspect. Yes, he knows I am from the city.
He had the dry humor to say, "Don't scratch and it should resolve itself within ten days because the dog is going to be cured and that means YOU'LL be cured."
Of course, I'm picturing these microscopic critters. I am totally freaking out and can now feel the  bugs crawling under my skin. Later, I would give myself a napalm shower with NO cold water added, thinking it will "help."
The vet then gave us a history about the old saying, "Seven Year Itch." He said it came from a time when people slept with their dogs, and very often, the dogs had Sarcoptic Mange, which gave people Scabies, so the people would have horrible itching. The dogs lived, on average, for seven years. After approximately seven years, the dog died and the itching stopped. So, they were finished with their "Seven Year Itch."
He told me to be thankful that any itching would not take place for seven years, continually.
Then, he said, "Welcome to the country."
My best-friend from Houston, a nursing student, told me that we can't see each other this month because "Scabies is awful, and you can't be picking up mangy dogs in the country."
I didn't want to catch the mange or get scabies --- I promise! Now, I officially have COOTIES!
This little puppy has cost us a LOT of money. Now, we are also having to treat our other two dogs and the medication was $100. which is called "Advantage Multi for Dogs" and it treats heartworms, fleas, hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm," but supposedly treats the mites that cause Sarcoptic Mange as well. There are multiple treatments in one box, so it will last us quite a while. I think I will start checking out some of these meds at the feed store because they'll be at a reduced price.  
I've had to refrain from giving myself a dose of the dog's medicine.
As for the feed store, that was one of our trips food, chicken crumble and scratch.
I love going to the feed store. It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna find!
And lastly, my old gal, Liyla was feeling a bit sad about the puppy getting attention. Liyla NEVER tries to sit in my lap, but I often sit on the ground with her and she'll lay her head in my lap. However, since we found the puppy, she actually came over to me and CRAWLED into my lap.
I had to arrange the ottoman next to us so she would fit across me. I had forgotten how BIG she really is...she's such a sweetheart that I never think of her as a "big" dog.
My old girl Liyla was feeling a bit dejected because of the puppy, so she did a rare thing...crawled into my lap. Such a sweet dog. I love her, but had forgotten how big she is! Regardless, I would never turn her BIG baby!
However, today, the puppy got into BIG TROUBLE because she tried to use the ottoman as a chew toy. She would not "drop it" so I gave her a LIGHT pop on the snout to FORCE her to release the ottoman, and you would have thought I was the most evil human being on the earth because she actually got her feelings hurt. Yep, she's part Aussie.
Usually, my big girl Lilya won't let the puppy get too close to her, but after puppy got into trouble, she RAN straight to Liyla as she whined, and Liyla let the puppy lay on her, as if she knew what it was like to be in trouble at that age.
By the afternoon, Liyla had transformed from this week of "no contact" rules to this...
And Howdy has gone from a week of being like this...
to this today...
Good Grief!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

# 485 - Long Overdue Country-Life Update

This are going slow out here in the country. We've now been here almost seven months. Things have often been exhausting, yet so peaceful and beautiful.

Living on raw acreage is challenging. A couple of weeks ago, we suddenly didn't have water and it turned out that a neighbor hit the line with his tractor. Such is the life of a country dweller.

For the past couple of months, the weather has been ultra-yucky, which translates to bad conditions that prevent you from doing much outdoors. The private road leading to our residence has parts that are so muddy and bad that we simply avoid driving, unless necessary. We've put in road stabilizing material, but these things take time. Unless you put in concrete, you've got to keep at it so you can deal with the low areas or water-logged zones that need elevation changes.

This past week we had some excitement. Our Australian Shepherd, Howdy, went outdoors with my husband and he immediately raced for the thick part of the woods. Sgt. Dave was yelling commands for Howdy to obey, which he normally turns on a dime to obey, but he kept going. Sgt. Dave normally carries a gun at all times, but he didn't have one, so he ran back and grabbed one, then went after Howdy.

Using his machete to reach Howdy, Sgt. Dave finally made it deep into the woods to find Howdy's reason for bolting. I knew something bad had happened...Sgt. Dave told me to stay inside because he knows I have a tendency to be too curious.

A while later, he comes walking in and saying, "This is a drawback to living in the country, look at what we've got..."


These two had been in the woods for a while on their own. The day before I had heard yelps, but could not figure out where the sounds came from as the forest can makes sounds echo and boomerang.

Oh goodness.

Thankfully, we found the black and white puppy, a male, a good home of some old friends of ours.

Howdy is not keen to have his lips chewed on by tiny teeth.
He's the Big Boy on this acreage and things go HIS way.

So, he's living in the Greater Houston area with a wonderful family. But, the little white/brindle gal seems to be adopted by our own family.

She is so sweet, she won't give up. She's gives Howdy kisses.

I think I lost the battle with finding her another home after Sgt. Dave began calling her "Grace," which I morphed into "Gracie-Baby."

I was NOT expecting to be raising another puppy, another dog...but this is how it goes.

After laying down the law, Howdy
becomes a big buddy.

We don't have fencing in place, so that's an issue, but she seems to be smart enough to stick close to her new home-base. It appears she doesn't want to be lost in the woods again, one time is enough for her.

Other than that, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my oldest daughter's house in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area as Sgt. Dave had to stay home due to work and work and work.

Me at Heather's house for Thanksgiving.
My son-in-law did a fabulous job with the turkey that had been "harvested" from the farm approximately 48 hours prior to Thanksgiving. I do believe it was the freshest and most delicious turkey I've ever eaten, definitely the biggest I've ever seen --- about 25 pounds.

Of course, being with both of my grown daughters, son-in-law and grand-baby brought me tremendous joy.

Photo taken by my brother-in-law, Warren.
I sure love my Grand-Baby!

It was made even better by my sister and her family joining us!

Photo taken by Warren.

Aunt Stefie loves her baby Coraline!

Aunt Stefie with Coraline. Photo taken by Warren.
The day after Thanksgiving, we all had a ball visiting downtown Fort Worth and my son-in-law took the entire family out for Italian food at Taverna --- delicious beyond expression.

My TALL oldest daughter, Heather, then me, my sister, Robin, my
youngest daughter, Stefanie and my precious youngest niece, Shaye.
I love these gals - I am a blessed woman.
Photo by Warren.
I stayed five days at Heather and Henry's house and that gave me ample time to get up close and cozy with my sweet first grand-baby. I brought Sgt. Dave some Thanksgiving food leftovers for him to gobble down and my road trip was peaceful.

Life is full of beauty, in spite of the sprinkling of heartache, which we all contend with on some level. I am thankful because my dad's long year of chemo and radiation has come to an end. We are praying he gets good results in the coming months after battling this aggressive cancer. My husband's nephew was murdered on Father's Day and his confessed killer has been indicted by a Grand Jury, so we are always emotionally drained as we contend with the upcoming trial and with knowing a killer can throw enough money at the system and remain on the loose...but his day is coming. I try to not get bogged down by the slow pace of things here in the country, and I COUNT MY BLESSINGS!

The guest cabin construction will begin by February 1st, so I am hanging in there and glad that I planned for a year out here before construction began because the weather is definitely our boss.

This cold weather hurts my body --- I am a pure Southern gal and cold weather is not so awesome, but it's a time to prepare for Spring chaos.

I'm preparing.