Wednesday, December 10, 2014

# 537 - RV Life Considerations

It looks as if we might be starting construction by the end of January. This past week, Sgt. Dave signed paperwork for the lender to truly get things underway. It will take 5-6 weeks, due to holidays, for us to close on the house.

We are hoping and praying that all goes well. So far, it seems we qualified for much more house than we need or want to finance, so we are going to take the middle road and do a tad more than we might need, yet still far below the amount the bank WISHES we would use.

There is always so much to do and I have been not feeling so great...will need surgery soon...that will be an issue, but I don't plan on letting it hold me back. I might be confined to bed rest for a couple of weeks, but that won't stop me from taking care of things I can tackle from bed.

Anyway, I wish the house would have been finished before I have the surgery, but this might work out perfect since I should be healed by the time I need to start painting, staining and polyurethaning! It is best for me to feel great so that I can be mobile and have fun making our dreams come true.

So, I thought I would make a list of all the things I will NOT miss with this year-plus of RV living! I will NOT MISS:

1) The small frost-filled refrigerator/freezer that is NOT conducive to living approximately 25 miles round-trip to the nearest grocery store.

2) The lack of a bathtub to soak sore muscles and aching bones or to ward off the Texas chill.

3) The three-burner stove-top dependent upon propane and without much room to use normal sized pots and pans. Why have three burners when you can hardly place the pots next to one another?

4) Not having a "bed-side" that I can WALK UP TO and actually SIT on the side of my bed without kissing the wall. Not having a "bed-side" that gives plenty of room for a side table to hold a lamp, books, my drink and such.

5) Not having privacy. I love my husband, but the closing of an RV pocket door still does not offer much privacy. When our kids come visit, we have the "courtesy" television noise that must be running as we take turns in the rest-room.

6) Not having a full-sized oven. I have not used a regular-sized lasagna pan or cookie sheet in over a year. Everything is mini-sized and this means that even making a batch of cookies will take numerous extra baking rounds instead of it being easier with large cookie sheets.

7) The air-conditioning in our RV has one main, powerful unit located in the ceiling of the living room area, yet the cool air goes to each room and area through ducted vents. However, the living room area has enormous air-conditioning racket that interferes with simple things, such as watching a movie.

8) I miss having all the extra counter space for food prep and cabinetry storage space for food and dishes, even though our RV has much more room than most RV's.

9) The closet space in our RV is much better than usual, but it still can't compare to a walk-in closet and my side of the closet is the most inaccessible. I think that each time I try to get something out of my closet, I take on the vocabulary of a sailor. It will also be wonderful to again have full-sized bed-side zones.

10) I hate carpet. It's a personal thing for me. There are areas of the RV that have carpet and it is simply stupid to have carpeting in an RV for people with our lifestyle, but it is difficult to find an RV without some carpeting. After the house is built, we will likely pull up all the carpet in this RV to either replace it for selling the RV or put down more linoleum "tiles." No matter...I can't stand carpeting for all the dirt, dog hair and grime it matter how much you vacuum, it's like throwing down a sweater and walking on it. Doesn't make sense to me. If I need a carpeted area...I will use a rug. Once we move out of the RV, I will be FREE from carpet!

11) BREAKER BOX keeps tripping because the electrical loads for RV's are not adequate for full-time living. I would LOVE to run the blow-dryer and the microwave at the same time. Because it creates so much trouble, I have literally gone over one year with rarely doing my hair beyond the "let it dry naturally curly" phase. One day, I will again have my bathroom zone with my blow dryer, my curling iron and my make-up ready for easy daily use. For now, I LOOK 100% country.

12) Oh how I miss having my washing machine and dryer inside the house instead of having to walk a good distance to an outdoor shed that may or may not have snakes or other critters inside. I won't miss having to carry baskets of clothes or walking with hung clothes as I try to dodge free-ranging chickens. Lately, Sgt. Dave has taken on the bulk of laundry-duty so keep me from carrying heavy loads or from doing too much as I await my surgery. Yet, this has been a LONG year of frustrating laundry duty. During the hot months, I step into the shed and the 130 degree temperature inside creates immediate sweating and the cold months or rainy weather make doing laundry extra unpleasant. I realize how spoiled we are in our organized lives that keep us from having to be outside for extended periods of time to wash our laundry.

13) I actually miss the activity that a full household requires and the space that a house offers with the cleaning chores being easier to handle because of the space. I have learned that the more crammed you are, the more difficult it is to maneuver around things. It is also confirmed that I am rather claustrophobic and there are times when I feel very thankful that I have all this acreage to explore and to enjoy. Since we still have an active life and a good-sized family, the extra-small space is not always practical, except for this limited time.

Stefanie, our youngest daughter visiting.

14) It doesn't feel right to have to wash my "house" like a vehicle. Well, it is a vehicle, so it does have tires and it CAN go through an RV sized car wash, as soon as it is not being used as a full-time residence.

15) I can't wait to have guest bedrooms!

My niece Shaye staying for a visit.

16) Soon, I will have an art room. Living in an RV means you must be creative with utilizing space for doing any kind of project.

Teaching my oldest daughter, Heather, to sew with the machine
we gave to her for a birthday present.

I do like these aspects of our RV for this phase of our lives:

1) Love the foot pedal toilet method of flushing --- hands free and brilliant!

2) The cocoon feeling that comes with being tucked into a comfortable space that is designed nicely.

3) I love the freedom that came with living in an RV so that we were not forced to rush into building our permanent residence on the acreage until we had been living on the land for a year and able to witness the changing seasons and the impact upon the land with heavy rains, etc. --- this is one positive aspect of living in an RV that carries great weight. I have indeed enjoyed this phase of our construction process.

4) I love that an RV can be as TEMPORARY AS YOU WANT IT TO BE!

Regardless, I still think that a manageable RV is fantastic for traveling and to be free from hotel rooms, especially if you enjoy being outdoors. However, I am very excited about finishing the process to get closed so that construction begins...then, the real fun begins!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

# 536 - Country House - Dream Home Confirmation!

One of the houses that we considered for our own country home was personally toured a couple months ago, and the moment we drove up, we knew this house was right for us.

The house has the potential look I have dreamed about, and the floorplan had been just right with a bit of customization.

The major thing I knew that I wanted changed from the house I toured would be the exterior siding. The one we toured has a "log-cabin" rustic finish, but I want ours to have hardy-cement siding painted white and the front windows to be white divided light-framed and spaced just right so that they can be accented with black shutters.

But, I had such unsettled feelings about how this particular house would look with white siding and black shutters. Was I making a big, ugly mistake?

Then, by chance, I came across an almost IDENTICAL floorplan on one of Martha Stewart's Pinterest boards! The front porch is even the same with the extra large side porch, which we have already drawn to have door instead of a window that leads from the Master bedroom.

My jaw dropped open. I even liked the roof color on this house.

It was as if a MASSIVE sign crossed my path, confirming my mental picture for this house to be exactly as I thought it would be...PERFECT for us!

I had been apprehensive that this house design would not look right with my exterior preference, but this house proves it will be just fine!

Our house plans have an extra dormer and it does not have the chimney in the center. In those regards, I prefer our house plan more than the other.

In fact, we are thinking of not building a standard fireplace, but putting in a vented wood burning stove as a back-up to heat the house. After all, our acreage has PLENTY of firewood available to fuel the wood-burning stove. The only problem I'd have to figure out is the placement of the stove and the design that would include a decorative wrought iron surround to keep little arms and hands away from the hot metal.

Since our main heating for the house will be electric, I would also like to have an "off the grid" option for heating the house, but my oldest daughter thinks I should build a regular fireplace. However, wood-burning fireplaces do let more smoke through the house, even if built properly.

Regardless, I am feeling extra wonderful about this house. Things are coming together, as they should. It's been a long road to build a custom home on our acreage in the country, but worth it.

# 535 - Incubator Chicks Hatching!

This past week, we have been shocked to find that our first attempt at using the incubator has been a success! We actually had hatchlings this week!

The first chick to start pecking through an egg brought me tremendous excitement. WHAT? It's really working?!

This egg is the first to have a chick start to hatch. Sadly, this chick
was obviously hatching prematurely, and this chick died after the first
24 hours following hatching.
Of course, we had a couple of eggs that didn't make it. We had to candle the eggs, which is really easy to do, then take out the eggs that did not contain a growing chick.

But, we missed this one, and it soon began to be a potential mess, so I removed it quickly.

After a while, I could see that the first egg that had begun to hatch was having problems. Soon, the chick behind it began to hatch.

To my surprise, the second hatching chick would be the first to fully hatch. The concern for the first chick that was trying to hatch became more intense. The chick was peeping loudly from the first egg that was not making progress, as hour after hour passed.

I also knew we needed to remove the egg holders, so we did it quickly because I was scared it would hurt the chicks.

The process of hatching seems to go like this, in my experience...I first heard peeping, which scared me as I looked around the room carefully and then it dawned on me that the sound was actually coming from the incubator, even though the shell had not yet been cracked. The chicks peck an initial hole, then they make a "zipper" line, and if all goes well, the chick pushes the top of the shell upward with a burst of mighty strength and then they are BORN!

The chick works to hatch itself, then falls asleep, then suddenly perks
up and wiggles around, then falls back asleep. It is precious.

However, this in an exhausting process for the chick, it will peck for a while, then sleep, then peck, then sleep, and it can take a few hours. Then again, there are other chicks, as our third chick, who pecked the initial hole and was fully hatched with ten minutes.

Since we had no idea these eggs would be hatching, Sgt. Dave and I had no choice other than to work very quickly together to get the egg-rotator out of the incubator. I carefully cradled the chick so that it would not be pulled any direction that would affect hatching, he took out the rotator and I carefully laid the hatching chick back on the grate for it to finish its hard job of being born.

I must say, it was an unexpected, yet amazing experience to hold a hatching chick, but not one I want to do again. It was completely nerve-wracking, but I didn't want the chick to be caught in between the rotator trays. Back in the incubator, after another hour or so, it hatched face down and fell back asleep as we cracked up.

Sweet baby.

This chick would be the first to hatch and is now strong and healthy!

This is how an egg shell looks after a chick hatches from it...the top of the shell that is white is the air bubble area where the chick's head had been and is the zone for it to start pecking the zipper.

The other 2/3rds of the egg shell had a membrane that had blood vessels, kind of like a placenta. This membrane holds the chick's blood circulatory system until the final stage of hatching as the chick develops its own vessel system and the blood can be absorbed into its own body. This is fascinating to me. There is also a yolk sac at the bottom of the chick's body that is absorbed before hatching and that provides nutrients so the chick can recover from hatching over the next 24-48 hours...this egg yolk goes into the body of the chick and the abdominal hole is closed. If this process is not complete before hatching, you will likely have a chick that won't survive. You can see the "umbilical cord."

God's plan with nature is so incredible! I'm glad we had an incubator to help it along.

The little black feathered chick was the first to crack the shell and to zip, yet it was still in the shell nearly 24 hours later, with its peeping becoming more faded and weak. I researched the matter and found that chicks can literally get stuck in their shell. I checked the egg and found the area that the chick zipped was as hard as glue...the chick and the shell felt as if glue had dried everything in place. The solution was to slowly and gently rub warm water on the area and to even use Neosporin to keep the area moist and hydrated because the water will still eventually evaporate. I had Neosporin and helped the chick out a bit so it could move again.

Even with the assistance it needed; the fact that the chick needed ANY assistance was a really bad sign. After the chick came out, the yolk sac was still attached and to make a long, horrific process short, I will say that the egg sac suddenly filled to enormous proportions and I knew that the internal parts of the chick had prolapsed...the intestines were soon visible.

It broke my heart. The chick lived about 24 hours. It was a very difficult Farm Life Lesson.

All I could do was make the chick as comfortable as possible and to keep it protected from the healthy chick pecking, especially because we had a third chick making a rapid hatch.

As the third chick hatched, the strong, dried out, found-its-legs chick was in a pecking mode, so I put the newly hatched chick into the bowl with the chick that was struggling. This seemed to work out. Soon, the newly hatched chick could join the other strong chick.

The good thing is that out of the first three chicks we have ever hatched with the incubator, two are thriving.

I am very grateful these two chicks have each other as cuddle-buddies.

This Farm Life Lessons chick loves those two little fuzzy chicks!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

# 534 - Gates - Automatic Options

Getting ready to build the house is super EXCITING!

We are also preparing to do some fencing along with our home construction for several reasons. We have a couple of entrances to our acreage, so we need gates to keep out anyone who might think our private road looks interesting.
Image detail for -Garden Driveway Gate Picture - Ranch Driveway Gates
Online Photo Idea - I like this gate.
We also want our main gate that leads to the house to have an electronic gate opener. I prefer for the gate to have remote controls that will automatically open the gates and to buy extra remotes to give to our daughters. So, we are researching electronic gate contraptions along with pricing.

Years ago, I sold a farm and ranch property that had a solar panel on the gate that provided entrance onto the acreage. My client told me that the entire set-up had cost him nearly $2,000. but it had been a huge mistake. He said the gate having an ability to auto-open is MOST critical on foul weathered days...during storms, rain and mucky weather, but the solar panel would not allow the gate to be reliable on the worst weathered days, which kind of defeated the entire point of having a gate that could be opened remotely and electronically.

Also, the solar system was rather fragile. So, that is not going to be a solid option for us, especially since our area is heavily forested and bad weather can make forested debris a true concern.
Automatic gate opener on driveway gate. Love this
Another gate that is similar to what we are looking at, but in a maroon color.
We looked around at Tractor Supply, but could not find any system for sale. I believe it might be best to go through a manufacturer of gate openers, directly. But, I am not certain.

Of course, we want a hardy, durable, adequate powered electronic gate opener so that it will work nicely and efficiently for as long as possible.

Since we do not want trespassers, nor do we even want uninvited guests showing up without calling in advance (yes, I am old-fashioned in that regard), we will need to get our gates installed. I am also considering a device to allow monitoring of the gate with a speaker. It might be best to buy an entire system...I will soon find out. Even if the system has a keypad at the entry, that would be okay as well.

Any advice about what to watch out for with entrance gates, what to avoid, what works...I am always very eager to hear what you have to say!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

# 533 - A Proud Parent

This past week was one of the BEST that I have had in a long while!

I traveled to spend four days and three nights with my youngest daughter, Stefie, as she was being initiated into the Honor Society for her graduate degree!

Am I proud of her?


Stefanie signing the pledge into her Honor Society.
The university did a beautiful job with this ceremony and brunch with the Mayor of San Marcos as the guest speaker was inspirational.

We had a fabulous time together. The ceremony was on Sunday, then on Monday she had to work, do coursework and attend class...about ten hours of responsibilities. I watched a few Harry Potter movies and had a beautiful time! Plus, I got to sweep and pick up some clothes and towels she had left on the floor, but she didn't leave me much to do as a "mom" since her place looked GREAT.

Stefie is a lot of fun to be around. Yes, we have a gal who is in her mid 20's, a graduate student nearing graduation, but she still looks 14, so the evil eye helps keep the child menus at the restaurant from being laid on our table.

Stefie, this week, on our way out to Red Lobster.

The two of us went to Red Lobster for dinner to celebrate and we ordered our usual platter to share, with an extra side of crab legs and lobster stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer. We brought a LOT of food home from our meal that we would re-heat and gobble down later. We are good at gobbling.

Being a parent is a beautiful thing, especially when your children are responsible and do their best to do the right thing in life. I love my children, and I appreciate them trying their best to be productive members of society. My daughters are definitely good-hearted people I am blessed to know!

I am grateful that God gave me a part to play in the raising of this beautiful young woman. And I appreciate Sgt. Dave for being a good sport with having his work schedule interfere with any travel plans and for staying home to take care of the dogs and chickens so I could truly enjoy a few days away!

We are blessed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

# 532 - Ebola, ISIS, Rioting Idiots...Prepping Reconsideration

Prepping was a way of life for many people for a long time.

My great-grandmother was the first "prepper" I had ever met. She
understood old-fashioned preservation techniques, she canned
regularly and raised chickens for her own food.

Actually, this is nothing new since many of us grew up with family members who "prepped" for the year with canned home-grown vegetables and fruit jams as well as those who hunted for sustenance.

These days, prepping has become a conscious effort to use the "preparation" for future needs that might result from something gone wrong in society.

We have all seen the ideas for prepping stem from concern about solar flares, satellite destruction, economic collapse and so on. However, I developed an URGE to begin some minor prepping after living through Hurricane Ike destroying our house and our neighborhood, encountering looters in our own neighborhood, and being in a mandatory evacuation zone that resulted in police barricades blockading the entrances/exits to our neighborhood for an extended period of time.

Several of us "hunkered down" for numerous reasons. We were a family that choose to stay behind. If we hadn't made that decision, we would have certainly lost EVERYTHING in our house to the continual rains that came through the roof that had been blown away between the hurricane and a twister. Then, had we not been there, the people looting houses in the neighborhoods would probably have hit our house as well.

Yes, we took a chance, but after living along the Gulf Coast region our entire lives, we were not accustomed to be runners...and the one year we did abide by Houston's idea to flee, we were stuck in devastating road conditions for nearly 13 hours that caused more loss of life than the storm itself caused. Never again.

In dire circumstances, independent judgment calls must be made. We learned, the hard way, that the government might be well-meaning, but they are not always right. With a high level of preparation and determination, a person or family can make their choices and live by them.

During the storm that Houston saw complete government failure during evacuation, we saw lawlessness in droves...we literally lived through life and death situations while being trapped on the road. Of course, me and my two daughters were EACH carrying guns, such as a Glock, we were ready to confront any criminal element that wanted to rob us, especially since we were towing a 30 foot RV that looked enticing to people who did NOT prepare for disaster along the road.

Houston's standstill roads during evacuations gone wrong.

People were traveling with pets and the Texas heat made untold numbers of people's vehicles overheat, so people were finding their pets dying. The only solution at this time, for many people, was to leave their pet's body along the roadside. My girls and I witnessed a man being hit on the head with a crowbar and with his skull cracked, with blood running down his face, he walked in circles in a parking lot, not knowing who he was or what had happened...we could not get one officer to come help because they would have faced insurmountable odds with stranded, furious, unprepared, desperate people. This is when you are thankful that you know a little about "prepping."


During the time we are stranded, my daughters were not even allowed to hold a water bottle above the truck window line. The RV door remained locked and we made trips to the RV trailing the truck only during a dire emergency, with a gun in hand. One thing is for sure, we did not want to become a rolling "outhouse" for all those around us who felt entitled to use our RV for their personal use. Sorry, but that is not an option.

Truly, during moments like these, you MUST think of you and your family. I could have embraced a generous spirit and began to hand out water bottles, but I also understood that I had two teenage daughters who would need clean water over the next few days...which the water ran out fast. After a trip that normally would take two hours ended up taking over ten hours because of the panic and ill-planned city evacuation, I would be extremely thankful that my "prepping" instincts helped me protect my daughters. We had enough water left for us to not become dehydrated. definitely runs out faster than anyone can imagine.

As for today's preparations...I am thankful, our land has a Spring-Fed lake that could be a source of water for us, in an emergency.

Over the past year I have taken my prepping efforts up a notch. Of course, we have a flock of chickens that provide plenty of eggs that could be used to provide nutrition, but I have also begun to store extra amounts of rice, tuna fish, pasta, matches, seeds, packets of Ramon noodles for the carbs and sodium, popcorn, dry beans and so on. I even purchased buckets with lids from Walmart, and I really don't know how to protect the dry food other than to keep it in a cool, dry environment, and I lined the bucket with a black, thick trash bag to make sure no extra light would get inside the bucket.

And now that the news is picking up momentum with revealing the issues our society is now facing, such as domestic terrorism from foreigners and from people living in America who feel their discontent gives them a right to destroy communities...I feel it is important to be prepared to "hunker down" in a different way.

After being in a situation that was so dangerous, for many days with my girls, it became apparent that the local authorities would not be able to respond to most emergencies due to the calls being far higher in numbers than can be confronted. We need to be able to fend for ourselves.

If we were not able to go into town to get groceries because of local unrest, we need to be accountable for our own residential and personal protection, meaning we need to be well-armed, well-trained and with ample ammo at our disposal, as well as prepping with extra food on hand to last several weeks, at a minimum.

Then, we have illness and potential bio-hazards, such as Ebola that could become a serious concern for our communities. Just as Hurricane Ike prevented the trucking industry from coming into our communities for the replenishing of desperately needed fuel, groceries and such...the community basically just shut down.

Everything closed...there was no business to be had, especially since there was not electricity to run the fuel pumps and registers and lights. Everything shut down, and it took weeks to restock and to resupply. If you needed gas, too bad. If you needed water, too bad. If you needed batteries, too bad. If you were hungry...oh well...nothing within a two-hour radius is open to help you!

With Ebola, there will be additional problems for any community that is stricken with a major outbreak because no one will be eager to rush into the area to truck in goods. Also, if a major outbreak occurs in a community, we will see a lack of people wanting to go to work, so this will also contribute to areas being forced to shut down. Growing your own food would really be a great way to be self-sufficient.

And the police cannot protect a community from certain hazards; the government cannot protect a community from certain dangers; personal responsibility must be embraced. Police and government services are a great "back-up," but I know that we are often our own first line of defense for many different situations.

Regardless, I appreciate and have high regard for those who put themselves on the line for our safety and for our rescue from those who are self-serving on a criminal level.

Looters without a Cause - Ferguson

If we were to suddenly be in an area where such a virus began to spread, rapidly, we would need to be ready to either leave the area for an extended period of time, or since we live on acreage, we would need to be ready to "hunker down" on our property and to not leave for however long it takes to have confidence that our community is in the all-clear. For a virus such as Ebola, we can all see how this could present a problem due to the extended incubation period of 21-days for those who are exposed to the virus.

This also means that people with chronic medical conditions truly need to have extra medications on hand and to have a First-Aid kit that is extensive.

Since things are becoming iffy with our federal government lacking guts and since this administration lacks an aggressive proactive stance necessary to protect the citizens of our nation, we need to be prepared for the worst and expect the best.

I do feel better, overall, that we are living out of the city and deep in the forest. I suppose that we would have to watch for looters desperate for provisions, just as we had to do when our neighborhood was hit by the hurricane.

Ferguson-Fit-Throwers, any excuse to steal something and feel justified!

Since we do have surveillance on the land and we have set up certain protections, we are better off than most, but I think that we all should be alert and prepared rather than afraid and unprepared.

Having a plan is better than being taken off guard. Does anyone else have a plan to protect themselves and their family from a community issue that could require individual pro-activity?