The things that matter

I had a really great time being in southern New Mexico over the weekend. I got to spend time with many of my old Ag College friends who still rely on the weather and the earth to make a good part of their living.

I got back to my rural roots. It was a fresh reminder.

While I whine and complain about all the rain we got this year in Northern California, I was reminded, plenty reminded, that water is still the heart of life in a town like Las Cruces.

Simple water. Yet not so simple.

As we drove out to my best friend’s house, which is well and gone north of Las Cruces, my old senses kicked in. I smelled the water before I saw it. We rounded a corner and could see that the main irrigation ditch was running high.

“Someone must have ordered water,” I said aloud to no one in particular.

“That looks like almond trees going in,” I pointed out to my husband.

“Whoa, that used to be a cotton field…looks like they put in chile,” I commented.

I greeted each pasture and expanse of farmland like an old friend.

“Chickens!” I exclaimed when we came to a traffic jam on the road (us and another car). The Good Man had asked, “um, why are we stopped?” and I had the better view around the car ahead.

There was a bantam rooster doing his strut on the warm asphalt of that rural New Mexico state road. We all waited for him to go by. He took his time.

Once at the party, The Good Man and I at one point talked with my best friend’s dad. He said that they were having trouble with a neighbor up the road diverting their water. They’d order and not enough would show up.

I’ve been reading a lot of Louis L’Amour stories lately. In those books, diverting someone’s water is a killing sort of offense.

I said to my dad-by-proxy, “you oughta weld that guy’s gate shut” and he laughed. Don’t think he hadn’t already considered it. (and by gate, I meant irrigation gate, not the entry to his driveway)

As the night wore on, it got to be about two o’clock in the morning. The evening dew, such that it was, was starting to settle. I said to my husband, “this is good hay cutting weather.” He asked why, and I said, “the dew makes the stalks wet and they bend instead of break.”

I used to date a guy in college who had to end our dates fairly early because he had to get home and cut hay. I learned to recognize that smell. It meant it was time for him to scoot on home. Time to work when the water is in the air….

The next day, out at my friend’s place, I learned the water in the irrigation ditch was running so high because it was a “free day” for the community. They got to water as needed.

I was wearing flip-flops and I tromped around the soggy yard helping my god-dog look for his favorite ball. The water made the air smell sweet. It also made the frogs come out and sing their sexy mating songs rather loudly.

We ate dinner outside with a chorus of humping frogs to accompany our meal.

All because of water.

Living in the city like I do, I take water for granted. I turn on the tap, and there it is. It falls from the sky and I curse the nuisance.

Yesterday, I was shopping at Nordstrom for a nice outfit to wear for a very important meeting today.

While I shopped in luxury, I looked down at my flip-flops. They still bore the dried mud from my friend’s home. I tossed back my head and laughed at the beautiful, grounding irony of it all.

May I never forget the land and the people who rely daily on the value of pure, simple water.

Rather out of focus photo of my cranky god-cat and the gate at my friend’s place.

The Right Way. The Wrong Way. And my way.

I was raised by rather practical parents. No sissy girls in their house, no. We were up on the roof painting kid of girls. We were change the oil in the car girls. Yes. Self-sufficient, and often creative when it came to fixing troublesome issues.

If you’re country folk, the term “bailing wire and duct tape” is familiar to you. The concept being, with those two items, you can fix anything…MacGyver style.

I’m pretty proud of my redneck ways. Or as my Hispanic friends would call it, rasquache.

I pondered this again this morning as I admired my entomological prevention handiwork.

See, The Good Man and I are convinced our (rental) residence is, essentially, built on an anthill. Not mean like fire ant or anything. No, the annoying little black ants that I talked about in this post. (The Good Man has become a LOT less Zen about them, btw)

Their main port of entry is the kitchen, and since we’re not eager to spread poison around the same place where we prepare food, we’ve been trying a variety of natural remedies (most discovered through research on the interwebs).

So far, the application of soapy water works best. Kills ’em on the spot. But doesn’t really do much to prevent them. For that we try an orange oil product made for ants. It works…for a bit. But they come back, laughing.

Most sites I read said, “you have to find where they are coming in and seal that off.”

Trouble is, we live in an almost seventy year old house placed precariously on a hill in earthquake country, so there are lots of gaps and cracks and crevices those little sonsabitches can exploit.

So in the heat of battle one day, frustrated and exasperated, I reverted to my “duct tape and bailing wire” days and got out the masking tape.

Everywhere it looked like they were coming in was slapped over with tape. TGM kind of laughed at me. He was like “oooookay”.

But you know what? It worked. It didn’t *look* good, but we were without ants for quite sometime. Oh sweet relief!

We left the tape up for a while, then took it back down.

As those ants are wont to do, they found a new port of call in a new area, and began streaming in again. We applied soapy water and orange oil and fought the battle.

While going hand to six-legged combat, TGM said, “I’m going to spray this down with orange oil and then you do your masking tape thing, ok?”

And I did.

And, for the past couple weeks…ant free.

We harbor no illusions that we’re free of them. I’m sure they are just tormenting the neighbor right now (it’s a duplex).

They’ll be back. And we’ll be waiting with a good squirt of orange oil and a fresh roll of masking tape.

TOP OF THE WORLD, MA!!!” (click if you don’t know the movie reference)

You are the sum of all your learning

Back in my college days, I lived for a couple years in a sorority house. There were twenty-eight girls, a house mom and a cook. All of that living with a bunch of strangers was quite a life lesson for a nineteen-year-old girl, I assure you.

Those twenty-eight girls came from a variety of different backgrounds, with different values and talents.

Much of what I know and much of who I am can be traced to those days.

Recently, I’ve had a real dearth of creativity. Like a desert in a drought. My creative mind is dusty. The Muse, she’s out to lunch. A two martini lunch.

I’m learning, with the help of my extraordinarily talented and creative cousin, not to worry so much when the creative well has run dry. Be confident, he tells me, and The Muse will find her way home.

I’ve also gotten suggestions that creating something, anything, can also kick loose that block, get the gravel out, and let the magic happen. (this the basic tenet of the good folks at NaNoWriMo)

And so, when I get all creatively clamped down like this, I often go back to something I learned back in those sorority days.

This great girl from Roswell and I made fast friends (we’d both had to endure the same crazy roommate in separate semesters. This sort of experience bonds people). She’d grown up showing pigs and living on a ranch and was a much more creative person than I was at the time.

Not to be all stereotypical, but those ranch woman can out cook, out craft and out wrassle any of their town raised counterparts.

Anyhoo, I don’t really remember the events that lead up to it, but this friend of mine, at my request, taught me how to do a counted cross-stitch kit. It was a simple pattern, but when I was done, I was so pleased. It was a nice distraction during those long days of studying.

Doing cross-stitch is not especially hard, but can be time consuming, and there are certain stitches for certain patterns.

My friend very patiently showed me how to sort the threads, how to tape the sides of the aida cloth to keep them from unraveling, how not to pull the stitches too tight, how to fix mistakes, how the back of the cloth should look as clean as the front. All of that.

And so, over the weekend, I had a coupon for Michaels, and yearning to create, I picked out a very simple kit. A “learn a craft” kit that I think is made for kids.

But that doesn’t matter.

Today, I very carefully applied tape to the aida cloth. I sorted the threads and counted to be sure they were there. I folded the cloth and marked the center lightly with a pencil, and I got out my highlighter to mark off my progress, all the way my friend taught me lo’ these almost twenty years ago.

Whenever I start a new cross-stitch, I always think of my friend. She is with me, guiding my progress the whole way. She is forever a part of me. That’s a happy feeling. That’s the family you make over the course of your life.

So here we go! Let the creation begin!

Oh, wait. Well. There is one change. One update that will take place this go ’round. A necessary adjustment, if you will.

Yeah. My lighted magnifying class. Sadly, I don’t have twenty-year-old eyes anymore. *cranky*

Oh. And getting to work on my cute frog cross-stitch isn’t the only bit of using my hands that I got up to today.

I also got busy on these:

Ooh, I feel The Muse on her way back already! Here Musey, Musey, Musey!! Want a cookie?

I doubt your bumper sticker, sir.

Last evening, while out running errands, I found myself at a stoplight behind a shiny new black Cadillac Escalade EXT (the one that’s sorta kinda a pickup, but not really).

It was a nice ride, tricked out with big fat shiny chrome custom wheels, all the expensive add ons, and a sticker on the back window that said “Cowboy Up.”

Oh really? Cowboy up? Is that your philosophy on life? Are you sure, Mr. Driving a Luxury Vehicle in the Suburbs, that you are, in fact, ready to cowboy up?

Are you prepared to lose a thumb as you throw a loop around the head of a recalcitrant steer, dally up around the saddle horn and whoops, get a digit caught in the turn?

Are you ready to try to throw a calf while you currently nurse a broken rib, courtesy of the back forty of the calf that came down the chute just before?

Are you all set to trim a budding horn from a young cow only to hit the artery, thus shooting blood straight into your eye with force and velocity? And are you further ready to then take a hot branding iron and sear that bloody mess, leaving the smell and taste of burning flesh and blood lingering in the air?

Are you man enough to sink your arm up to the shoulder inside the back of a birthing cow to assist that mama with a backwards facing baby, and when that same mama cow prolapses her uterus out onto the ground, are you ready to shove that bloody mess back inside and stitch her up? (if you don’t know what I mean, I suggest you do a search on Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, she even posted photos of this horrifying event)

And are you ready to be bitten, kicked and thrown off a horse all in one day? Are you ready the haul hay? Are you ready to pray for rain and curse the wind? Are you ready to turn your hands to hamburger from stringing barbwire? Are you ready to face birth and death and life and manure and blood and saliva and the unpredictability of the life of a cowboy?

Are ya?

Cause you know what? I betcha you aren’t, actually, ready to Cowboy Up.

I might know a thing or two about it, and even I’m not really ready to Cowboy Up.

Not even in the suburbs.