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Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun


Yesterday we took advantage of two dry days in a row to go out to our land and get some work done. When I say “we”, I mean we paid some teenagers to help Adam. My main job was to buy drinks and sandwiches, pass the bug spray,  and repeatedly remind everyone not to injure themselves. (This is a habit I get from my mother, who still tells me not to cut myself every time I enter her kitchen.)

When we arrived, we found that nearly a solid month of rain had accelerated the grass growth exponentially, and grass was already chest-deep. So, Adam started by weed-whacking the driveway.

DSCN5732 DSCN5733

Our young friends, Nathanael and Philip, went to work schlepping the debris out of the hole. This hole used to be a house, but prior owners had burned it down. So for more than a decade, It has been a pit full of broken bricks and ash. It is my ambition to tun this former basement into a swimming pool. (The realtor who sold it to us found that hysterically optimistic. I remain undeterred.)


They scooped up dozens and dozens of buckets of debris, and moved larger rocks by hand. Adam cut small trees with a chainsaw.


It doesn’t look like much, but they made huge progress! However, we may have to wait for September to finish this particular project. It got Hot!

After lunch, Adam had the guys help him remove the eyesore of a lean-to that had been leaning for a couple years after Adam discovered that he couldn’t get it apart by himself. The creator of the thing used at least 4 nails everywhere one would do. They discussed demolition options…


…and then took turns whamming the thing with a sledgehammer and a pickaxe. DSCN5743 DSCN5751

They smashed it into bits, ripped it apart forcibly, and generally enjoyed themselves. I reminded them not to do anything that would require tetanus shots, and they all informed me they were up to date.


At last! The ugly thing is gone! Now I (meaning Adam) can put a solar shower there.

We were all worn out. Even me, although that seems unfair even to myself. We’ll definitely have these guys back to help us. We have a lifetime supply of things to get done! And a job done is so satisfying.


Winter Work


It has been wet this winter, and we have been renting a house in town. So not much work has gotten done. But on the warm, dry days, we get out with the chainsaw and cut trees! Adam cut down 6 cedars- which will become the walls, and one oak- which will be used as round lumber, yesterday. The real trick to cutting down trees at our place is getting them to fall on the ground. There are so many trees that even when they are cut “down”,they tend to stay in a mostly-upright position. Then Adam does this:DSCN5702After he moves the tree, he can cut it up. DSCN5703 DSCN5709After he cuts the cedars into sections, I carry them to the stack to dry. My other important job is to keep this little guy from trying to fight the chainsaw. He’s learning. Technically, Helo is Debbi’s puppy, but he does love to romp with Buster, so we bring him along.DSCN5713 DSCN5715He thinks he is helping. DSCN5716Buster is actually helpful in that he stays away from things that make loud noises. DSCN5722True love. Also, I think I got too much sun, which is kind of pleasant, seeing as it is still March. Before we know it, we are going to be too hot, but at least it won’t be snowing!

On Water


This morning when I got up, the dogs were thirsty. I realized that we had run out of water late last night. This last week of August has been the hottest of the year, unsurprisingly. We have all been drinking more water, the dogs over a gallon a day. I know exactly how much they are drinking, because my water is in gallon jugs.

After 18 months of living in a trailer, I think I can say that running water is the most under-appreciated of all modern conveniences. The ability to twist on a faucet whenever one is thirsty, dirty, or just hot is in my eyes a miracle! Having to go outside to get water is tricky enough, but in the winter toting water from town is both a pain and a necessity. If a heavy snow falls, we don’t want to be caught without. Although, in a pinch you can use boiled snow.

But this morning as I blearily wandered outside and flipped the breaker for the well, I was filled with gratitude. How many other women went out to fetch water for their families this morning? How many millions walked miles to water sources that are questionable at best? How many hot miles did they trudge home, laden with a few gallons to see them through the day?

My morning was blessedly cool after a hot day yesterday. The rising sun brought the smell of warming grass. An eagle called high over head. Not 100 yards from my door, cold, clear, safe, limestone-filtered Missouri water gushed from the ground. Before I even thought about my coffee, I had filled six gallons- enough for all day. I switched off the well pump and filled up the dog dish.

God is so good to us.

April Showers


Adam has been digging out the well so we can attach new water lines and have running water. This is a very exciting prospect, as we have been bringing water in jugs for over a year now. And of course, as soon as he got the hole deep enough and started making it wider, it rained.
Oh did it rain! An abundance of rain! I A glorious spring rain, gushing down off and on all day. It was the kind of April day that really makes you feel it’s springtime. The tulips and daffodills are up, everything is green, and everyone (but the cat) is content.
When it rains here, we have what is called a wet weather creek. Yesterday it was 2 feet deep, and running fast. Today it is down to about 6 inches. Because of the clay-and-rocks soil composition, water makes its way quickly downhill to the creek bed, running both over and under ground. In some places you can get your ankles wet standing in the grass.

Of course, the hole filled with water. It only rained about 2 inches, I think, but the well is dug in a very good spot. Water is never far down it. And the hole filled from underneath all day. This afternoon, it was full up- 3 feet deep and still rising as the pile of dirt and clay around it slowly dried in the sun.
So, I thought  I would bail out the hole. I got a bucket and flung water as far as I could, so it wouldn’t just seep back in. After a few minutes, I slipped. Now, I had rolled up my work jeans  and gone barefoot, but before I knew it, my ankles, hands and fundament were all smeared with wet red clay.
I love squishing my bare feet in clay. Don’t you?
So then I decided that it was an excellent time to make test balls of clay and clay-soil mix to see how hard it dries, and whether it cracks, and what color it turns out. This is an important part of building a house with cob. Honest.
A little while later, having bailed much of the water out of the hole, and made various balls of dirt, and feeling a little like my 10-year-old self,  I slogged over to the creek to rinse off. Creek water in April is cold. I can only imagine how crisp the well water will be when it gushes out of the spigot. Won’t be long now!

Winter Peace


I wrote this in March, and just now got a chance to post it. So, a bit out of date, but it let’s you know what we’re up to.

So here we are, settled into our little trailer. This morning it was cold, but not freezing. Freezing mornings are an invigorating (read: character-building) part of living in a place with no insulation in the floor. At bedtime, I always make sure my slippers are in easy reach. I wrap up and get the fire and the coffee started. Then I sit in my blankie and read while I wait for it to warm up. It warms up pretty quickly- the main part of the house is only 8’x12′.

Most mornings I whip up fried eggs or oatmeal, but it was Saturday, so I made pancakes. Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, even on a tiny propane stove. I have four burners, but they seem redundant, since I can only fit pans on two at a time. After pancakes and coffee, over which we discussed the Bible and Physics, Adam and I put on our boots and ear warmers and head outside. We tromped up the hill to the spot we’ve been cutting trees. (This has become the dogs’ new favorite word, “tromping”. It’s gotten so we have to be careful saying it- they jump all over the place in their excitement, and there isn’t much room to jump inside the trailer.)


We’re planning on using roundwood for the frame of the house, so there are a lot of trees to be cut. And we have a lot of trees to choose from. Cutting enough 4″ oaks for all the rafters and floor joists will barely make a dent in our woods. They’ve not been tended in many years, and the oaks have flourished, growing straight and tall. Which is exactly what is needed for housebuilding. I use the pullsaw to fell the trees, and Adam lops off all the branches once they’re down. And he also carries them up the hill to the place we’ve piled them to dry. We’ll cut the big trees needed for pillars with the chainsaw, but we’re proud that we’ve cut so many by hand. It gives a sense of peaceful accomplishment. After a couple of hours, a freezing rain started to fall. We packed up our things, stacked the last tree, and headed back down the hill. On the way,we picked up flint pieces to be used eventually in tiling the shower. If we pick up a few every day, we’ll have more than we need when the time comes.

Adam singing the theme from"Rocky" while stacking trees.

Adam singing the theme from”Rocky” while stacking trees.

Back inside the house, it’s lovely and warm, and over lunch Adam plays games and I read a book. The rain turns to sleet, then to snow, and I watch from my comfy chair. I have a pot of beans on the stove- the woodstove- and later I’ll make ham and beans. When the sun goes down we’ll eat our beans, watch a movie, and get ready for another peaceful night.

Sausage and Apples


I saw the first leaves falling this morning as I sat in my easy chair. Looking up the hill the bright golden flurry was like glitter against the green of everything else. I haven’t seen any more, but it’s  a clear sign that fall is around the corner.

The heat of the day makes me think it is way around the corner, but the nights already are quite cool. School is well under way.  Another sign of approaching autumn is that those of my friends who do things like hang autumn wreaths have done so.  I love the fall, but I am pretty sure that, even when I have a house, I’m not going to decorate for it. Unless you count bringing in random blooming weeds.

We moved here last year just in time for all the trees to have dropped their leaves and start looking depressing. So I’m looking forward to a little autumn color. But mostly, I’m looking forward to fall cooking. It’s the best time of year to cook, in my opinion, because there’s still plenty of fresh produce, but it’s not too hot to turn on the oven.

I got an early start on fall cooking last night because we discovered the orchard across the road, while still offering peaches and tomatoes, has the first fall apples! We got a “small” bag of the RubyJon type and last night I made one of my favorites- sausage and apples. The apples were delightfully tart and crisp, which is just what you want for this homey dish. Usually I pair it with cornbread or pancakes, but since it isn’t quite fall yet, we just had sliced tomatoes on the side.

Sausage and Apples
Patty and fry up country sausage in a cast iron skillet. You can use another kind, but it tastes better in cast iron. While it is frying, slice up an apple per person. When the sausage is browned to your liking- which is just brown for Adam, and not-quite-burnt for me- remove it and set aside. Put the apples in the sausage grease. If they are really tart, add a spoonful of brown sugar. But only if they’re really tart. If for some strange reason you have used crazy low-fat or turkey sausage, you might need a dab of butter. Fry the apples over high heat, stirring occasionally until they are soft and golden, but stop before they start falling apart. Pile the apples on the sausage and enjoy right away.

I have seedlings!


The first of the peppers are up! Appropriately, it’s the Ozark Giant bell pepper.


Several other peppers are up, but they’re too small to photograph.  Next up, Tomatoes! I got 8 varieties of peppers, and 7 of tomatoes. In fact, I ordered over $100 of seeds from Baker Creek Seed Company, and I am so excited to grow delicious veggies! Now all I need is a garden to put them in. If only it would stop raining for a minute!

Spring has Sprung


With deepest apologies to my many Kansas friends, Spring is here! It’s raining buckets today, and it’s supposed to freeze again for a couple nights, but spring is definitely here.

Witness, Daffodils in the field:


I have oodles of them, which is a happy surprise in the grass for a change.


I brought a bunch in, and another bunch to Debbi’s house, and they smell divine. So, wherever you are, and whatever the weather, enjoy this:


And also this:


(With a hot drink if you have to!)

Pop Quiz


Name this item we discovered in the grass this week:


Adam thought maybe it was some kind of alien/cylon milker. But it’s not. Can you guess it?



Right on, Girls! It’s hot rollers! Or, at least, it used to be hot rollers before someone set it on fire.

Poky Things


I have spent much of the winter keeping a mental record of things that are poky here. There’s a lot of ’em. First are the natural offenders. Blackberry brambles are quite poky, but they’re enormous and visible from a distance, so I can avoid them.
We also have “witaba trees” (name that movie!). We call them that for two reasons: First because it is winter, so we have no idea what kind of tree they are. Second, because they have a shocking amount of thorns, which increase in size according to the size of branch they are on. The big branches have 3 inch thorns, but it’s the little ones that reach out to trap you. They cling to clothes, hair and skin in a remarkably poky way that has me yelling for Adam to untangle me. You’d think I could avoid a tree, but there is a lot of brush here, and some of them are very small trees.
Perhaps it’s my own carelessness that gets me trapped by thorn trees, but the rosbushes are conciously trying to get me. I’m sure in June I’m going to be all “there are roses everywhere! How lovely!” But right now there are leafless wild rose stems everywhere, and I can’t walk thru the grass without them grabbing my jeans and shoes and sleve cuffs. I’m getting poked and tripped.  They don’t grow as bushes until they’re really quite large, but are just single strands of viny rose mixed in with all the other knee-deep vegetation. I’ve gotten so unless I’m bleeding, I just rip myself free and move on.
The other thing that lies hidden in the deep grass is barbed wire. This place has clearly been occupied for a long time, but no one has ever removed old fencing, they’ve just put up more fencing in new places. Back at our “dump” there are rolls of the stuff, but it is also strewn all over the property and grown over. If we live here for 30 years, which I hope to at the least, we will still be finding it by tripping over it.
Last, but certainly not least is the glass. It’s everywhere. A house burned down, and all its windows are now curly, blackened, wickedly sharp shards that lie mostly in heaps. This kind of makes sense, but it seems that daily I find broken glass while rambling through the woods. I planted out garlic, using some topsoil to fill the pot,and had to pause to pick bits of glass out of it. Then a bit got stuck down in the finger of my glove. Later I discovered daffodills around the old house and was clearing the grass away when I felt a sudden pain in my knee and saw that i was bleeding through my jeans. The old front window was in a blackened heap- once again hidden by the grass. But that’s not the worst of it. Adam accidentally broke the little window in our door, slicing his hand badly and requiring 24 stitches! It was Quite Horrid.  Shards were everywhere. The next day I carried a bucket around and picked up more than 5 gallons of broken glass. And that’s just around the old house. Image

Now that it’s warming up, I’m so tempted to go around barefoot, But I’m pretty sure it’s not safe yet. Or at least that my feet aren’t toughened up enough yet.