Saturday, March 7, 2009

God Bless Texas

Today's report brought to you by Buc-ee's, a Texas restaurant with the best advertising EVER.

See, we drove from New Orleans to San Antonio today. This took us nine hours and the scenery was . . . unimpressive. Cows, scrub, horrid sprawl around Houston, houses with peeling paint, more cows, some of those cool big ranches with the brand on the gates, and wait! Are those MORE cows?

I'm sure you get the idea.

But then, after we got through the wretched mess that is Houston (I'm sorry if this is your place of residence and you're a big Houston booster, but I was unimpressed, to say the least), I started seeing these billboards. Every ten miles or so, there would be a billboard for a restaurant named Buc-ee's (pronounced, I must assume, like "Bucky's"), the mascot for which was a cartoon beaver wearing a baseball hat. The signs had brief messages on them. They were all different, and many were really, really funny.

A sampling (keep in mind all of these little slogans were next to a picture of a beaver):

1) My overbite is sexy.

2) OMG! It's a beaver! LOL!

3) Care for a beaver nugget?

There were many more, but my brain is not functioning with its normal quickness (WHAT? I AM TOTALLY QUICK) so I can't remember them. Just trust me when I tell you, those billboards were the highlight of today's long-ass, noisy, bouncy trip. Then we actually passed Buc-ee's, and their sign advertised 15 kinds of jerky. But, and I really can't believe this now, we didn't stop.

I think I might regret that for the rest of my life.

P.S. Today was my dad's 61st birthday. Can you imagine a better way to celebrate than sitting on your ass in a U-Haul for nine hours? Yeah, me neither.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Big Easy Reports--FOOOOOD

You all know that one of the best things about New Orleans is the food, right? Which is why I am befuddled by the 20 cars I saw lined up in the Taco Bell drive-thru at lunchtime today. I felt like running down the line of cars screaming, "You're in New Orleans, you morons! Step away from the chalupas and go get a po'boy!" But I didn't, because that would have been weird. And also possibly have led to my arrest by the N.O.P.D.

No, I did not berate the misguided souls at Taco Bell (SERIOUSLY--Taco Bell in NEW ORLEANS?), but I sure as hell did not eat MY lunch there. After dinner at a disappointing and far too expensive chain restaurant last night, I was on the lookout for a good place for a po'boy today. Also after a morning spent packing and moving things to the truck. I was hungry. And I didn't want another disappointing meal. My time here is limited, and I am loathe to waste one meal of it on crap.

So, driving back to the hotel to drop off the moving truck, I spied a very small, unassuming place in a crappy strip-mall named The Cajun Cafe or something. And I thought to myself, "If A. were with me, that's where he'd say we should eat." You should know that A. has a talent for finding really good, cheap local food when we travel. One of his secrets is to see where cops are eating. Another is to only go to restaurants with a crappy exterior, figuring they'll be more worried about their food than their decorations. The Cajun Cafe seemed to fit the requirements. And THEN, when we got to the hotel, my dad asked the van driver where he would recommend we go for a po'boy in the area. And what did he say?

Did you guess The Cajun Cafe? Dingdingding! You got it in one! It had five tables, some truly terrible and yet awesome murals, and though there were no cops, there WERE mail carriers eating their lunch. The food, as I predicted (BECAUSE I RULE), was fantastic. I got a muffaletta (look it up, kids), my dad got blackened chicken. It was perfect New Orleans food, two blocks from our hotel and less than $10 apiece.

There were other activities today--a fruitless search for sandals because my feet are burnin' UP, and a stop at Whole Foods, which I had never been in and which shocked me by its prices and lack of common food like Triscuits--but lunch was the highlight.

Yes, I come to New Orleans and all I can talk about is my lunch. What can I say? Mardi Gras is over, so there are no beads to flash for, and I'm hangin' with the 'rents, so this is as good as it gets.

The Big Easy Reports

Hello, duckies! Did you miss me yesterday? I missed you, too. Trust me, I would much rather have been hanging out with you instead of walking barefoot through airport security and sharing a hermetically sealed flying capsule with 136 other people and their bodily emissions. Ew.

BUT! Let us not dwell on the horrors of air travel! No, let us now dwell on the fact that I am now sitting in a hotel room in New Orleans, where it is warm. And green. And I saw flowers yesterday. Like, growing right in the ground. In March. It's like a miracle. And the warmth will only continue. It's supposed to be 80 degrees today here.

Bright and early tomorrow morning, we'll set off on Dad and Kristin's Excellent Adventure. The Excellent Adventure being, of course, driving from New Orleans to Tucson. Which of course basically means driving across the entire state of Texas. Wheee!

I don't really have any fun stories to share yet, since all I did yesterday was wake up far too early, and then sit in planes, airports, and cars all day. Oh! Except it occurred to me during my three-hour layover in Chicago that I was actually warm enough, for the first time in MONTHS, to eat ice cream. So I did. In the Chicago airport. And it was glorious.

Yes, I am a wild jet-setter, indeed.

More updates to come as I have the time and can sweet-talk my dad into the use of his laptop.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dog Crazy

Today's post was supposed to have a photo of my newly planted eggplant and hot pepper seeds. But when I went to get the bag of starter mix out of the barn, I found the 30-pound bag of soil had frozen rock solid. FUN! I had to haul the (REALLY DAMN HEAVY) boulder of soil into the dining room to thaw out. So! I had to postpone the planting to today instead, and today's post will be about dogs.

You know you're excited.

At the moment, we are the owners of nine dogs. Of course, six of them are squalling, flopping puppies.

(I would post a photo of the puppies here, but all the photos I take look like this, because they don't do anything yet other than nurse and sleep in a pile. Neither activity results in very interesting photos.)

I love dogs more than your average person, but nine dogs? That's just too many dogs. Three is about my limit. So while it will be hard to see all the puppies go, we are not going to be keeping any of them. That means I'm not going to get attached to them. So I can appreciate their cuteness, but while I'm gone for the next two weeks, THESE are the faces I'm really going to miss:

Especially that goober in the middle there.

You can go ahead and mock my Dog Crazy all you want (DON'T THINK I CAN'T HEAR YOUR MOCKERY), but yes, I miss my dogs when I'm away. Those three are my companions. I spend more time with them than I do with people. By choice, I might add.

I suggested to A. that maybe he could smuggle Mia onto the plane with him, but he nixed that idea. He seemed to think that a 55-pound collie might be too obvious to sneak by security or something. Silly man.

So I will be dogless for two whole weeks. There will be an empty, gaping, dog-sized hole in my life for those two weeks. A hole I may just manage to fill with gin and tonics, sunshine, and warmth. And frequent use of my dad's whirlpool bathtub.

I'll suffer, but I'll endure. Even without my dogs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Forecast

Currently at Blackrock: 11 degrees and snowing outside, 30 degrees and icy in the north bedroom

Saturday's Forecast

Blackrock: 40 degrees with a 40% chance of rain
New Orleans: 79 degrees and sunny
Tucson: 74 degrees and sunny

It's definitely time to get the hell out of Dodge.

Monday, March 2, 2009

An Announcement . . .Then Puppies

I'm not sure if I've mentioned yet that my mom is from New Orleans. Do you maybe recall a passing reference to that once or twice? Or, like, a dozen times. Whatever. And my grandmother, Duchess, still lives in New Orleans. But only for five more days. She's moving to Tucson to be nearer to my family. My mom is going to fly to Tucson with her, and my dad is going to drive the truck with all her stuff from New Orleans to Tucson. However, my dad did not particularly want to drive a U-Haul for three days cross-country by himself. Now who does he know who has no job, a strong back, and a week's free time to help him move furniture and drive? Hmmm, whowhowhowho . . . Oh, right. Me.

So, Going Country is going on a road trip! Wheee! I will be flying to New Orleans on Thursday to meet up with my parents. And because I am going to be in New Orleans with my parents (and my grandmother), I will not be getting sloppy drunk in the French Quarter, which is the traditional past time for tourists in New Orleans. No, instead I'll be hanging with the old folks (hi, Dad!) and moving furniture. Do I know how to have a good time or WHAT? My dad and I will split town on Saturday morning and drive for the next three days, arriving in Tucson on Monday. Then we'll move Duchess into her new place, I'll spend a few days having some Forced Family Fun with my parents, my sister, my brother, and my niece, and THEN . . . A. arrives! YAY! This just gets better and better.

Yes, due to some kind of alignment of the stars or divine intervention or something, A. managed to take an entire week off of work. So he'll be joining me in Tucson. We'll make my parents' house our homebase and from there take a bunch of little trips all over Arizona.

So, in sum, I will be leaving Blackrock for two whole weeks. I KNOW. And there are puppies here! And I'm planting seeds this week! And the lambs are coming soon! And I'm just LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND. Luckily, the MiL will be here to take care of everything.

Lest you worry about not having your daily dose of Kristin's Wild and Krazy Antics, I would like to reassure you that my dad has promised to bring his laptop, so wherever I can get online, I'll send an update into the ether. It may not be every day, especially during the whole furniture-moving and driving-cross-country stage, but be not afraid, duckies--I won't be abandoning you entirely for the whole two weeks. Perish the thought. AND, if the MiL can figure out the digital camera and how to e-mail me photos, I'll even post pictures of the puppies as they morph from guinea pigs into unbelievably cute balls o' fluff.

Now that we've got that news out of the way, and speaking of puppies . . .

That's just a tiny pile of ADORABLE, right there.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Saturday Fun: In Which Mr. Relentless Triumphs

We have an irritating water supply situation. I don't talk about it much because . . . well, because it's irritating and kind of a downer. Even though it's a lot better than it used to be. We now have the fancy filtering system in the house so we can drink the water from the tap, but the problem of getting the water to put into those fancy filters continues.

Our water is collected outside in the old barn cisterns. They will re-fill themselves to a certain extent when the ground is wet. But when they don't re-fill, we have to pump water in. We used to have water delivered to us, by a guy with a huge water tank on his truck. Not only can this get pricey, but we were at the mercy of the guy's delivery schedule, which is not so good when you're pretty much out of water and afraid to take a shower lest you run the cistern dry. So A. installed a pump down at the lake. It's a gas-powered pump that sucks water from a hose running about a hundred feet into the lake. The pump then pushes the water about 300 feet uphill to the cisterns by the house. This pump works really well, and has meant that we haven't had to rely on the water delivery guy for a couple of years now.


This winter, with all the storms and wind and ice on the lake, the hose in the lake that sucks the water out pulled loose from the cinder blocks anchoring it and floated to the surface. So we had to pull it out of the water. This would not normally be a problem, as the cisterns generally re-fill by themselves in the winter and we don't usually have to pump until about May. But for some reason, maybe because it's been so cold this winter, so the water underground is all still frozen, the cistern is not re-filling. And we were running out of water. All last week, I was rationing water, not showering, not doing laundry, waiting for the weekend when A. said he would get the hose back in the lake somehow and pump water. That's what we did yesterday. ALL DAY yesterday. It was epic, y'all. And I will now tell you about it.

First of all, please take into account the fact that the temperature yesterday never got above 20 degrees. So when we went down to the beach at about 9:30 in the morning, it was well below freezing. And we were working with water, of course. I'm sure you can imagine some of the misery that ensued. Frozen parts. Frozen tools. Frozen fingers. Not fun. A. had to wade into the lake to place the hose. Thankfully, he has insulated chest waders for fishing, but he still had to reach into the water with his hands to set everything up. It was cold, is what I'm saying. Cold and wet and miserable the entire day. Which is how long it took to get water into the cisterns. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First problem: Getting the hose into the (FREEZING COLD) lake. We shortened the hose considerably, because it was actually deeper than it needed to be before, and just ran it out about ten feet into the lake, so it wasn't right on the shore. Then we had to prime the pump, which means getting (FREEZING COLD) water into it so it will create the pressure it needs to pump. But the bolt on the top of the pump that's supposed to come off so you can pour water in to prime it was rusted and frozen shut. So then we were trying to take off the output hose, to pour (FREEZING COLD) water in that way, and while we were yanking on that, the plastic connector on the input hose snapped. No fixing that. So then, A. jerry-rigged a connector with a piece of old radiator hose. This required a couple of trips up to the house to get tools and things.

Okay, so then we slopped (FREEZING COLD) water all over trying to pour it into the pump and input hose for priming. But when the water went into the hose, we heard a hissing sound. There was a split in the hose where ice had collected and expanded. So, more cutting of hose and finding pieces without ice in them that we could piece together so it would be long enough to run to the lake. More slopping of (FREEZING COLD) water to prime the pump, again. It is now two hours later. The pump was running, water was coming out of the lake, but it wasn't getting up to the house. A. figured that there must have been an ice block in the output hose at some place where it dipped down a little. The output hose, as I have mentioned, is about 300 feet long. Trying to find the ice block would be almost impossible.

But A. had another plan. He brought the pump up to the house to pump water out of an old ground well that had been drilled years ago and abandoned because the water was sulfurous. For some reason, it wasn't sulfurous anymore. So he dropped the input hose down the well and pumped. The well pumped dry in about two minutes. It was at this point that I suggested we could maybe just get a delivery of water. A. about exploded. He said he would sooner bring water up from the lake in buckets than call the delivery guy. I think it had become a personal challenge at this point. This was also the point at which he christened himself Mr. Relentless. I couldn't see what other options we had, but he formed a plan while we ate lunch and proceeded to carry his plan out in the afternoon.

He built a pond.

Woodchuck engineering

Yup, just like that. There's a very small stream that runs on the edge of our property. Very small, like five inches across. He built a dam with rocks and logs, then shoveled out the area in front of it, adding the cleared mud to the dam. It sounds simple and easy, but it wouldn't have been for anyone but him. He was moving massive rocks, cutting up logs with his chainsaw, and shoveling heavy mud for at least three hours. I helped a little with the rocks, but he did it almost all by himself. And the whole time, I'm thinking this is never going to work.

After six years of marriage, I should know better than to doubt A.

A. let the mud in the pond settle a little, and at about 5 p.m., eight hours after starting this whole thing, he pumped water from the pond into the cistern. The flow of water from the little stream didn't quite keep up with the pump on its lowest running speed, but the extra water in the pond allowed the pump to keep drawing for a good 45 minutes. Long enough to pump the water we'll need for the week, I think. I hope, anyway, because it's going to be cold this week and that pond will be frozen, so there will be no more pumping for awhile.

But still, there was pumping yesterday, and water today. All thanks to my amazing husband, Mr. Relentless.