“This Wheel’s On Fire…

rollin’ down the roooooaaad! Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall exploooode!”

(apologies if you never watched Ab Fab…you’re scratching your head right now) And in case you’ve forgotten the song:

And that, friends, pretty much sums up our latest family vacation.

Yes, my dears, we have survived yet another vacation. Perhaps this is why we waited two years this time? While I will work on links to former vacations to share with you at the end, let’s review this year’s 2017 voyage, shall we?

Let’s begin with the “pre-flight” checklist! As a person who has never, and I repeat never has an uneventful vacation, you would assume that I would be prepared for anything. Typically, I am! If you have ever gone on a trip with me, you will know that I try to keep my emergency arsenal fully stocked.

Scene: A vacation, somewhere in the U.S.:

Friend: Do you have an umbrella? I didn’t think about rain.

Me: Yes, I brought four.

Friend: My button came off! Do you have a sewing kit?

Me: Yes, it’s in my bag.

Friend: I think I’m having a serious reaction to this bug bite!

Me: I have bentonite clay, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, lavender essential oil, or an Epi-Pen. Which would you like?

Friend: Oh my gosh, my car won’t start! What am I going to do?

Me: I have a disposable Honda in my purse.

So you see, I am usually pretty well prepared for what comes our way. And as the resident weather nut, you would also assume that I would have packed everything for inclement weather on this trip. I checked the forecast on Saturday and Sunday, and it showed that, by some miracle of God, it would be sunny skies and in the 70s. As I was packing the motorhome, I literally put my hand on my scanner/weather radio and thought, “I should bring this.” But I didn’t bring it, because, it was supposed to be sunny! Warm! Perfect weather! And I also walked right past my mud boots…twice. No, I won’t need those if it’s sunny! No, siree, no boots for me!

Monday: The trip to Arkansas was uneventful, other than a wrong turn in Washington (Arkansas…not the state or D.C., although you can’t rule that out with us). The weather was perfect! We set up camp and ate a hot dog feast, topped off with S’mores. Yay!

Then I decided to check the forecast again.

What was this? Severe weather in two days? Well, of course it was. We can’t go anywhere without a tornado warning. And my scanner and mud boots sat at home in Maydellish, mocking me, saying, “We tooooolllld you so! We knew it! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” I may or may not have said something ugly at that moment.

That night, Jason and Zoe had colds and coughed, sneezed, and hacked their way through the evening. Fortunately, they had mostly resolved by:

Tuesday: Rather uneventful day; no diamonds were found and we were able to walk the nature trail a time or two. Legs were killing me…I am no spring chicken anymore.

Wednesday: We woke up to this:


And so we did this:


I colored a lot and did some bible study. I kept thinking about Psalm 46:10, which begins with “Be still, and know that I am God…”. I am so often NOT still. So with the combination of the torrential downpour, deadly lightning, and being stuck in a 8′ x 34′ box, I was still! All day! And got to reflect on the Bible, which was nice. The rain finally let up about six o’clock in the evening, with no severe weather (WOOHOO),  and we were able to walk around the park before it got too dark.

Thursday (departure day):

We went back to the diamond mine for a last look, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t bring home anything that was worth more than ten cents. But the searching was still fun and I got some nice garden rocks.

We broke camp at 4pm, and headed back into Murfreesboro. As we stopped at the gas station, a horrible burning smell filled the entire motorhome. Jason quickly determined it was a stuck brake caliper, which could result in many outcomes: An exploding tire, failed bearings, or (the best one) a fire. Fires and motorhomes don’t go very well together, in case you were wondering. We managed to make it to a local auto store just before they closed. The man was kind enough to lend us a couple of “c-clamps” and told us to just mail them back. Can you believe it? I called the park to make sure there were vacancies available and sure enough, there were several. Like a scene from Groundhog Day, we went back the the park and plugged in while Jason started working on the RV.

If you have never been to Murfreesboro, let me explain that it is a precious little town, but very little to it. And very little around it. For many miles. And if you are looking for a rental car, well buddy, you are straight up outta luck. Weighing the options, it would be best if Jason could fix the brakes enough to get us home. And so:


I got to be the faithful mechanic ‘nurse’; holding the light, fetching tools, pumping the brakes and turning the steering wheel. After about two hours of sweating, greasy stains, and possibly a curse word or ten, he had resolved the issue enough for us to limp home! Hurray!!!

By this time, it’s a little after seven and starting to grow darker. I put on some truckin’ tunes (Jerry Reed, Dan Seals, a song about Bertha the Truck Drivin’ Queen, etc.) and we rolled along.  As we passed under the final overpass into Texas, I lost it. Through tears, I broke out into “Texas, Our Texas” with my hand over my heart, and somewhere in the distance an eagle cried in unison. No one was prouder at that moment to be a native Texan and back on her native soil.

Truly, this is the loveliest sight:


There is such a stark difference between Arkansas and Texas. From the moment you cross into Texas, there are stores! There are restaurants! And, praise the dear sweet Lord, there is a Chick-Fil-A! A chicken sandwich with pickles, waffle fries, and lemonade never looked so good! I may have blubbered just a tad as I placed my order.

Everything was going so well…and then we got hit with the “Texarkana curse”, which is what happens almost every time we try to leave Texarkana. We missed a turn. We were so elated at having found the road to 59 south (HOME!!!) that we didn’t pay attention and missed what is essentially a tiny side street exit. Ten minutes later, Jason screamed, “Welcome to Arkansas?!?!!!!”

Oh, Arkansas, with your confusing roads! You have stumped us yet again!

I had failed at my navigator role! I had to lead us, with a limping vehicle, mind you, through the back streets of Texarkana late at night. Through the old industrial districts, with their liquor stores and their barred windows of all places! Would Texarkana never end? At a critical turn, the brand new Keurig decided to jump off of the counter and hit the floor with the most God-awful crash you have ever heard in your life. You could smell the stress! Finally, I got us BACK to 369 and to 59 south. We got home a little before 2am and I have that home never looked so beautiful…ever.

And that, friends, is how the 2017 family vacay went down. As Jason said, “Anyone could just take a “regular” vacation.” And I agree. We will make this thing happen despite tornadoes, flaming tires, or illnesses! Hear! Hear!






Year 8 revisited

October 18, 2016 marks our eighth year of living on the farm. I can hardly believe it. I can hardly believe that I’ve been writing this blog for seven years now. I often wonder if anyone reads it anymore; of course I don’t do it for fame or fortune, but I do hope it gets a little bit of foot traffic!

So, every year, I try to write about things that we’ve learned over the previous twelve months. Usually, I find that it’s the same thing: Keep good fences. Plant what you eat. Live simply. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. 2016 wasn’t much different, and I’m not sure what I will have to add other than telling you that we are seriously cutting down on debt this year. I know I’ve said it in the past, but we really have gotten much more focused in becoming debt-free. One thing that I have fallen in love with is the so-called “No Spend” months. These are months that I choose (almost always a five week month for us since we are paid weekly) and they consist of no-frill spending and only about $100 on groceries. It takes pre-planning and dedication, but at the end of these months, we have found that we are saving an entire paycheck plus some. This extra goes to our debts. Maybe one day I’ll write more about it, but in the meantime, you can get some ideas here. It truly is quite simple, but again, especially in the food department, it does require pre-planning, and meal planning is a lifesaver here.

So, let’s recap the last twelve months with some pictures! Every year, we try to make it to Arkansas. If you have never been, there is a reason it’s known as the Natural State. It is absolutely gorgeous. Miles and miles of countryside to see. Caves, hot springs, mountains, rivers, lakes…Arkansas has it all. We usually go in spring or fall for the best weather, but be forewarned, these seasons also can be very volatile. Tornadoes and flash flooding are not rare occurrences here, so if you do go, be sure to check the weather forecast!

Once place we went last October was Blanchard Springs. The springs themselves are beautiful, but it is also home to the Blanchard Springs caves. I had never been to a cave before. The beauty of it literally brought tears to our eyes!




The river that runs through it all…absolutely breathtaking:


But meanwhile, back on the farm: We caught a hawk! Okay, not true, he caught HIMSELF in our fence while trying to get a chicken. I found him wedged between the chicken wire and the 4 x 4 fencing. Honestly, I thought he was dead. After some very careful manipulation with gloves and a towel, we extracted the little jerk from the fence (he is responsible for all hawk-related chicken deaths over the past year) and we found that he had injured a wing. So, off to the rehabber he went. Although not much larger than a pigeon, this Sharp-shinned hawk ate up about 15 of our birds. They overwinter here. In fact, we’ve already had a hawk attack by one again this fall, so I’m assuming his mate or offspring made it back.


In November, we had the most adorable baby chicks born. Like, EVER. The especially ‘poofy’ one is “Yin”. And yes, we also had a “Yang”. We still have both, although sadly, their beautiful brother died the following spring.


Every year, we go to the Homestead Heritage Fair in Waco. This is an absolute MUST if you haven’t been. I really can’t say enough good things about it! Due to torrential rain, they opened it for another weekend. Typically, it’s the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving. We brought home these baby Ameraucana chicks to add to our flock. I am happy to say that we have all but one a year later. They lay beautiful blue eggs.


February 2016: Because every chicken needs a bonnet:


And Fran needs a bonnet, too:


March: It was a banner year for frogs and toads. We had so many pollywogs at the pond, it was black along the edges. Unfortunately, we also had an equal number of bullfrogs born here. I have no clue what will happen to the other frogs now that we have about 900 million huge bullfrogs.


March also means baby bunnies. Here comes Peter Cottontail!


The lazy flock of Silkies:


I told you the bullfrogs are huge!


Spring also brings out the snakes. This is a copperhead that we relocated. Yes, they are venomous.


This summer brought the most insane number of Indian Blanket flowers I’ve ever seen. These all came up on their own without being reseeded:



And naturally, flowers bring butterflies. We have SO MANY this year!


Summer also brings mulberries! Delicious!


Summer also brings us…TOMATOES!

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Because we had two ‘rainy’ years, the crepe myrtles and all things that flower were absolutely stunning this year! I have never seen them bloom like this before.


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The front yard in June:

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To catch a snake:


And toads. Toads everywhere!!!


Beautiful summer skies of July. We had some very dry months (including this October…ugh), and then some crazy wet ones! That’s East Texas for ya.



Creating a ‘classics’ shelf in my mini-library, complete with a Brussels Griffon look-a-like a la Hobby Lobby:


Ribbon snakes on the farm!


Life is good for this eleven year old Mastiff:


And this eight year old Brussels Griffon:


Well folks, that about wraps up the last year! I’ll post again about the major yard renovation, but it’s time for me to refresh my (very cold) coffee. I hope you enjoyed the farm visit with us!

Stay golden…