Free Range Babies

03 May 2018

I've been reading through my archives and it's been such a trip. I'm so glad to have this record, and so in the spirit of my last post I sit down dutifully to hammer out the recent weeks - and blank. Nothing. Nada.

What do we spend our time doing? What do I spend my time doing?

I walk around and close doors that children leave open - I do that a lot.

I walk around and look for the children that left the doors open - because I lose them a lot. We live on fifty acres and there are so many places to get lost: are they at the treehouse? are they at Jacob's cabin? Are they at the burn pile? The other burn pile? Are they at the fishing shack, the goat garden, or the bamboo forest?

I would save myself a lot of time and anxiety if I could just keep track of them in the first place, but they disappear so quickly. And then I call to see if they're with Jacob.

That conversation might go like this:
ME: Do you have the kids?
JACOB: No, but they're fine.
ME: They can't be far because nobody has on shoes, Lucy June is in an oversized princess dress, and Roman is naked and carrying the cat.

Then I walk to my mom's to see if they're sneaking Lara bars from the pantry. Nope. Maybe they're in the shop playing restaurant and littering the concrete floor with lettuce? Nope. Turns out they rode their plastic toys to the mailbox and are returning empty handed because they already got the mail last time I lost them.

I'm grateful for all the wilderness at our fingertips, but a yard with a fence has its merits.
And tomorrow. We'll do it all again.

Old School Update

22 April 2018

Back in the good old days of blogging - before the advent of instagram swipe ups and curated streams and all the gizmos that have spiced up social media - I used to actually post.

I would just start typing my little online journal and scroll through my iPhone photos and try to be funny, and I would never think about reach, in fact I had no idea that was a thing.

And it was fun.

And reading those old posts is fun.

So here is my effort to get back into the friendly, rambling kind of blogging.

We've been working on the garden. We've planted onions, bush beans, carrots, beets, and tomatoes. About six carrots have come up, the bush beans and onions are spotty, the tomatoes look like this:
So basically, I'm just a black-thumbed sucker for punishment.

Jacob's vineyard is filling in, it is happening so quickly and is so fun to watch. We have a small peach tree with all kinds of baby fruit, a giant rosebush that is flourishing, probably because I haven't touched it, and an apricot tree with two whole apricots!!!
We got a tiny bit of rain yesterday that won't put a dent in our perpetual drought conditions. We always need rain and you can hear all the ranchers talking about it around town. Everybody's so thankful for the rain. How 'bout this rain? Sure needed the rain.

>><<

Our washing machine stopped spinning a couple weeks ago and I had to cart our laundry next door to my mom's - and I've never been so on top of laundry. Why is it that certain things get more doable when they're more difficult? Is this just a personality trait? It is completely true for me.

Our washing machine was old and a little too tricky for us to fix, so we debated buying a new fancypants washing machine. In the end we remembered my grandmother's old washing machine which has been sitting on the back driveway for the past eight months. (Between trenching projects, broken kid bikes, and appliances on the patio, our place is a stunner!) My grandmother's machine - which is older than me - still works like a charm, or it did as soon as we replaced the washer dogs in the agitator. #hopelessDIYers

Now every time I do laundry, the past and the present kiss, and I hear my grandmother's voice: DON'T OVERLOAD IT.

She was ornery.

Gosh, I miss her.

>><<
KIDS
Jakeboy is as industrious as ever, always doing, making, directing, wakes up at the crack of dawn and is asleep within seconds of his goodnight kiss. All in, all the time. He and his dad have been working on a "fishing shack" down by the creek and he's very into making desserts - which his siblings all love because he rarely strays from three primary ingredients: powdered sugar, cocoa, nutella.

Lucy June - true to her babyhood - just wants to be with people. She's sensitive to everyone around her and because of this she's become brilliant at hiding. She will hide and I literally can't find her -  especially because I have to act like I'm not looking. She is so quiet and knows just where to disappear. I don't think she's fully aware of her superpower.

Romie is all delight. He's obsessed with skunks - which he pronounces "dunks." (Of course if you mimic him and say "dunk" he looks at you like you're some kind of idiot.) He's very tactile and will grab your bicep and smash his face against your skin. He hates to be left behind and always waits for stragglers. The other day he thanked me for folding and putting his clothes away - exuberantly, jumping up and down.

>><<

Awhile back I jumped on the Beautycounter train and loved it so much I recently became a consultant. I NEVER thought I would do any kind of network marketing, but here I am selling Beautycounter and racking my brain about whether I've ever gone on any public rants about direct sales. :-/

I put a basket of fun products together, and I've been dropping it off at friends' houses giving them a big shpiel about how I want them to spa it up and not feel obligated to buy things. I mean this so wholeheartedly. I'm the kind of person who if I didn't buy anything in the basket, I would duck and cover whenever I saw that person in the grocery store. And in my town, you always see people in the grocery store.

But honestly...as nervous as I am about it, the process has been really delightful. I reach out to people because I think they might like the products, and then all of a sudden I'm texting someone and joking about launching mascara at them at the farmer's market and feeling...connected and excited to share products I really really like.

>><<

We've been working through some gross illness stuff - bad colds and coughs and impetigo. Delightful that. Now I'm wondering whether the impetigo was some kind of weird karma since it hit within days of me signing up to be a skincare consultant.

Do other people think thoughts like this?

>><<

Jacob is currently building a cabin on our property that we will rent out as a bed and breakfast. It's coming along well, if slowly, and we're in design decision mode.

Traditionally we just argue over every design decision and then end up disliking our compromise, but this time Jacob had a different idea for a compromise: I make all the design choices for this cabin. If we build a second cabin, he will make all the design decisions, so far...it's been an ok idea.

Our budget for this project is a little higher than normal, and because we want it to be nice for guests,  it's proving to be more fun than our previous projects which needed to be cheap/durable for renters. I want it to feel fresh, modern, minimal, but also rural and quaint, maybe some southwestern vibes. I've really nailed this down.

So far the design process has looked like me clicking back and forth between Wayfair and West Elm and Chairish and then I'll see how beautiful it is outside and abandon it all to go pull thistles.

>><<

And last but not least - did you see that Madewell is 30% sale styles right now?? Which means these jeans are a steal. Of course Texas temps are skyrocketing soon so I'll be sitting tight and waiting for these shorts to go on sale.

Oh and one last last thing. The prickly pear is blooming.

Overdue Update on the Country Life

31 January 2018

Hello! I'll skip all the apologies for never blogging anymore and dive right into what life looked like here over the past few months.

Lucy June turned four in October and we gave her a kitten. We got the kitten from a shelter which was very strange for me. When I was growing up, cats or dogs would show up and we would beg our parents to let us keep them. Those animals would have lots of progeny that we would beg other parents to let their kids keep. But we got our kitten from a shelter because stray-ville seems less populated than it was in the 90s. Her tag said her name was "Tamale" - which is an awesome kitten name - so we kept it and call her Molly.
I am not a cat person. But I'm more of a cat person than I am a snake person, so the choice to bring a kitty into the clan was an easy one. Turns out, I love her. She purrs and purrs and does cute kitten-y things. Jacob was firm that she would be an outside cat, but then she started hurling herself against our bedroom at night and now we let her in sometimes.

The other day we found a mouse in the bottom of our trash can and so we put Molly in with the mouse and waited for her predatorial instincts to kick into gear. Nada. Twenty minutes later someone knocked over the trashcan and a terrified mouse scurried out, followed by an indifferent Molly.

At least she chases the chickens off the back porch.
And in chicken news: In December, I made the brilliant choice to raise three dozen meat chickens - our winters are mild enough that I figured it was as good a month as any. Then we had a string of some of the worst cold fronts since I was a kid. Keeping them alive was more challenging then I thought it would be, but they all survived. They're eight weeks old today and we plan to slaughter this weekend. So...come on over.
In September, Jacob built the kids a treehouse in a glorious old pecan that sits low in a water run-off into the creek. He didn't put a single hole in the tree which I find mostly admirable and slightly terrifying.

I sent the kids up there to color almost everyday before the weather got cold. It usually started well and ended with them dropping colored pencils through the gaps in the floorboards.
In November, the kids were playing in the treehouse - with a couple friends - and claimed they'd seen a coral snake. I didn't believe their story, but I grabbed a stick and started poking under the bush where they said it was. Jacob came out after me with a shovel and really started scraping at the leaf cover and...the kids weren't lying. It was remarkable how well that brightly colored snake had obscured itself. We looked at it for a long time after Jacob chopped it to bits. The first venomous snake I've ever seen out here.
So now we're going back to the cat shelter to pick out an Enchilada and maybe a Fajita - because no thank you.

In the early fall we were taking lots of evening walks around the property - Jacob cut a trail for us so it was manageable for the kids despite all the cactus and nettle and fire ants (#texasforever?) We'd pick wildflowers and look for tracks and listen for the squeaks of whistling ducks overhead. It was the best.
During one evening walk, the boys were down in the creek bottom when I heard some yelling and then up from the creek chugged this enormous pig. We're talking 400 pounds of black wild boar. It was exhilarating and terrifying and I pulled our two littlest towards me as the pig charged in and out of thickets in a wide ring around us and then out of sight.

We never had wild pigs here growing up - they can really overrun the place so nobody's happy about it - but my was it something to witness. The ground shook.

The pig story is already the stuff of legend. Romie mentioned it daily for weeks afterwards: The wild pig will not eat him. The wild pig can't come in our house because the wild pig don't has hands.
Jacob is trellising the vineyard this week and I will be doing some prep for our garden. My garden plan this year is to overcommit and MAYBE we'll get something more then okra.

So there you have it. And if you've hung in there for this entire post, then you should know about these Quick Reference Nature Guides (affiliate link) they routinely sell at grocery stores around here. A friend tipped me off and we love them. They're laminated and very sturdy, so the kids read them at breakfast and take them outside with us on walks. We have the bird, flower, butterfly, snakes, and track/scat guides. As soon as I see it at the grocery checkout I'll be nabbing the Central Texas Trees.

So that's my update. I'll try to check in sooner than later. You'll be wanting pictures of the chicken butchering.

Mom's Morning Out

18 September 2017

As of two weeks ago our chickens are laying eggs - or at least three of them are laying eggs? maybe more?

After I spent two months checking the nesting boxes twice a day and underneath the tractor and the parked trailer and behind the crepe myrtles on one side of the house and the nandena on the other side of the house to no avail, Jacob found the first egg. Which he of course left there for a baby to find, because it just so happened to be our baby's birthday.

The freshly minted two year old came in mighty proud of himself and his "burday ugg. iss my burday ugg, mom!" and we promptly cracked it into his cupcake batter.

Worn out on his big day:
So the baby isn't so much of a baby anymore. He's two and he's in mother's day out two mornings a week along with his big sister and the big man's in Kindergarten,

Look at this coolio.
I feel like - in the course of a week - I graduated to a whole new phase of parenting - like I have one leg firmly out of the trenches. I don't know what to do with myself truly. I get to make annoying administrative phone calls in the calm of a morning instead of in stolen moments while locked in the bathroom hoping it doesn't sound too echoey on the other end. I don't have to overthink every single errand that needs to be run. I get to stop in at a coffee shop, stand patiently in line, and nestle in with my laptop...and blog!

So far I've loved it. I love the hectic mornings of making the lunches and watching people toddle into school with their backpacks. I've loved how they run to me when I pick them up. I love the alternate mornings of being home with just the little ones who are still content to simply dig in the garden and splash the watering can around. I've loved having a schedule that I have to work around, and times when I have to be out the door, and a reason to get out of my proverbial or literal yoga pants.
We'll see how long the high lasts. I've struggled with a weird narrative that I don't "deserve" to get breaks like this - even if I'm spending my "breaks" catching up on our business accounting, freelancing little jobs, or doing otherwise "worky" type things. I've become so accustomed to always feeling frazzled and behind on things and listening to my broken record of the "poor poor overworked overtired little mama." Now I drop little kids off and then get back into the empty van with sunglasses on and skinny jeans and ankle boots and I don't even know myself.

Having a schedule and seeing the week in chunks of time has really helped me find space. A few hours of personal space. Space in my week for laundry or for meal-planning or for reading a chapter book to the six year old during the opportune nap.

And more space in my heart for the same old shenanigans.
With that I must go. I'm at my town's beautiful old library which typically smells of equal parts  musty books and children's story hour, but someone has put on some potent and vaguely peach-scented lotion which is my cue.

Happy day and happy week to you!

:)

Before and After: A Remodel Story

14 September 2017

Before:
The house was listed as a "charming cottage" and it had been all but abandoned for two years. 

After:
Before:
Thankfully by the time we moved in the previous owners had removed all the stuff. The last fixer upper we bought was full of personal property that we had to deal with and it was such a time suck. You know that it's pretty much trash, but you don't want to accidentally throw away something super valuable. 

After:
Before:
We punched out this wall to widen the entry from the living room to the kitchen/dining room. 

After:
Walking into the kitchen and turning right we have the nook:
Kitchen Before:
Kitchen After:
Dining before:
Dining After:
Kids room before:
After:
Old Master bedroom before:
We punched out that back wall to end up with this:

We took the third bedroom - which was too small to actually count as a bedroom - and expanded it into this:

And added a master bath:

Before:
Above is the side yard after we'd done a considerable amount of work on it. It had a deck that was rotted through and a "sauna" which had trees growing out of it. We got into so much poison ivy on the weekend of this picture.

After:
So there you have the buttoned up version of what was a very grueling process.  

We'd planned on selling the house, but after the hurricane we decided to rent it out to some flood victims, which I'm really happy to be able to do. 

Even though the house survived Harvey with no damage, it was hit by looters who stole the appliances -and my banjo and Jacob's guitar - in the hurricane's aftermath. Looking at all these photos is bringing some sweetness back to the recent frustration of being robbed. I hope you've enjoyed them!

Chickens, Books, Clothes

20 July 2017

1)
First off: we have chickens. Buff Orpingtons. They all look exactly the same, which will probably be a comfort when they start dying.

2)
Jacob built me a cadillac of a coop that cost approximately three times more than we'd planned to spend. By the end we were both shaking our head at the ridiculousness of it, but I took comfort in the old economic wisdom: You can only have two out of the three: fast, quality, inexpensive.
So fast and quality it was, and now we have a coop. We just have to paint it. We're not sure if we should go really playful with the paint color or not. I'm inclined to paint it white, but we've painted a lot of things white in the last three years and maybe we should paint this...pink? Or barn red? Do a mural?

3)
We got the chickens from a breeder out near Luckenbach.

She had on thick rubber boots and the grisly edge of someone who lives alone in the hills with two donkeys and a bunch of poultry. She gave us the up down in our t-shirts and sandals and nordic offspring, but we were eager and we had cash, so she took us over to the chickens. In my memory she had a limp. But this is probably just a romantic exaggeration.

She had the jankiest of coop/pen operations - and made us feel like even bigger yuppies with our board and batten beauty smelling of sawdust back home.

She hadn't wanted to box the chickens up for us in the morning since we couldn't come and get them till the afternoon, so we got to put the "fun" in "free range" as Jacob Sr and Jake Jr chased down a dozen hens in 100+ degrees.

The breeder complimented Jacob on his chicken wrangling and we left with a dozen chickens which turned into a baker's dozen by the time we got home because it is very hard to count identical chickens.

4)
I've been wanting to homestead for so long, I cannot tell you how happy this all makes me. We have a bumper crop of okra, three hopeful watermelons, thirteen hens, and a rooster sired by "El Guapo" that the children quickly dubbed Mr. Guapito.

Dreams do come true.

5)
The kids are still acclimating to farm life. They visit the chickens in the morning. Then they ask to watch TV.


- 6 -
My book count is going up with the temperature, so here are some of the notables in case you need some recs. Sleeping Giants - futuristic science fiction - a fun, quick read. It was written as a series of interviews which I ended up liking more than I expected. I finally read A Man Called Ove which fell pretty flat for me even though I quite like curmudgeons and aspire to be one someday. I did enjoy Morton's The Secret Keeper - which was very engaging even if some of the plot points felt farfetched. Ann Patchett's State of Wonder was delightful. I thought it ended too abruptly, but I found it mesmerizing in a very Bel Canto way.

- 7 -
I bought some new clothes recently. This is blogworthy because even though I don't blog much, I shop even less. 90% of my wardrobe is a rotation of three tank tops and one pair of shorts (these),
because I'm lazy and stingy and indecisive. So consider this a cry for help.

I bought something called a "ruffle top" from Madewell. (It has since sold out, but it was like this one, just a little less...ruffly.) It was so cute online, but when I got it, my long torso struck again and my belly button waved the white flag.

I'm not anti-trend (hello homesteading!) but I also crashed when I tried the cold shoulder. I bought this top after Anna inspired me with her capsule wardrobe.

And...no matter how I tugged or shifted, I couldn't get it to sit right, so back it went.

In the end, this swing top from LOFT made the cut. It's about as bold as vanilla, but I love it. Also these huaraches which were the closest I could find to a pair I had when I was six and have thought about every summer since.

I still have some gift cards to get through, so maybe you'll get to hear even MORE about my shopping failures soon.

Have a super chill weekend!
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