Orchid creek rises in heavy spring rains and we can get trapped at home or prevented from returning home! The tender creeks are transformed into rushing, raging rivers. Sometimes these rivers move boulders through the country roads we drive on to get home. Until the county graders and dozers restore the road, we are limited to foot travel. Tomorrow night is our monthly quilt guild meeting in Springdale about 43 miles from Cedar Hill. It has rained for three days. Our garden paths are now flowing with water even though we built the garden following the natural contours of our mountain. We know from this sign that it will likely be days before the creeks are passable in a vehicle. And the road may well be washed out where the creek overflowed and ran along the road heading for the White River. It is still raining. So far we have our phone landline. If the line survives the flooding intact, when the county road grader reshapes the road, the phone line is often cut. No other road connects us to the outside world. Living with rough country roads has the advantage of keeping out strangers, sightseers, and would be burglars!
Many times city people romanticize the idea of living in the country. Many times people who live in the country encourage this silly idea. Living in the rural mountains of northwest Arkansas is full of delights and overflowing with challenges. Water is an ongoing issue for us here at Cedar Hill. We haul all our drinking water using five gallon BPA-free plastic containers. For the gardens, we collect water from our metal roof in large galvanized stock tanks. By August, those tanks are low and we may be hauling water to keep the garden alive. As we age, Jeanne and I are considering options to modify this arrangement, but no solution seems easy or perfect.
Maneuvering our roads can be a challenge as you can see in the photo. Kas is our carpenter friend working with us to install our beadboard ceiling. She was hauling a flatbed trailer loaded with supplies for our ceiling project. Home Depot, where we purchased the insulation and beadboard will not deliver to us because their semi-trucks cannot handle the narrow country road! As Kas approached a steep part of our road, her truck lost power and the power brakes. Both truck and trailer started sliding backward and lodged in this postion.
Kas managed to get out safely and walked to the house to
get our help. I was in Fayetteville going to guild. Jeanne and she eventually found our local tow operator who maneuvered his vehicle past hers on this narrow road to carefully move her truck and trailer. He has been doing this work for forty years and is quite skilled–he has been here at least ten times over the last twenty-four years so he knows our place. Jeanne said he reported that his vehicle was about a hand’s width from
her vehicle as he went up on the steep bank to pass to the front. Jeanne was
awed by what she witnessed. As you can see from the picture it was a life-
threatening situation that ended well! No one was hurt and no vehicle or
cargo was damaged.
Jeanne, Kas and I started the ceiling using a five foot tall scaffolding to make it easier, but the scaffolding is almost eight feet long and five feet wide. Across the top are six boards each eleven foot long. Obviously it takes up lots of space. We started on Jeanne’s side. The scaffolding sits like an elephant until we finish the project. We will slowly move it from section to section. We have completed one sixth of the ceiling and now project it could take months of living in turmoil. After our crew boss, Kas, leaves each day we try to carve out some liveable/workable space until the next workday. You can see Jeanne at her desk located under the scaffolding in the first photo. In the second picture I focused on the part of the ceiling we’ve completed.
Keeping our feline and canine companions safe from local predators continues to be difficult. Five years ago, out rat terrier Taylor was snatched while Jeanne was walking with her and the other terrier on the top of Mahaffey’s Knob not far from home. Since then we have imposed a curfew on our two small dogs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m., unless they’re locked in the main garden with us. Additionally we got two bigger dogs to help patrol the area. We learned that the peak time for predation of pets by wild critters is March and April when the wild animals have their own offspring to hunt for.
Last Tuesday, March 13. we came home from errands in Fayetteville about 4:00 and saw vultures on a small carcass near the parking area for our house. Striper, our big orange tabby cat, was dead. Apparently killed by a coyote the night before. With tears in our eyes, we gathered our shovels and buried him. We marked his grave with large rocks we hauled from nearby. About six weeks ago, Summer our small seal point tabby cat, disappeared after living happily with us for nine years. What comforts me is knowing they both had a good life here enjoying their freedom to be cats in the outdoors. Our remaining cat Scout is now out only in the daytime, but this will be hard to enforce when the days get warmer. We grieve for both cats and their place in our family group. Both got along with all four dogs. Scout misses his sleeping companions, so we’ve located a kitten who will soon become part of our homestead family. Keeping the cats safe without locking them inside all the time will be on ongoing learning experience.
Trouble and trauma are only part of the fabric of our lives. We live with our disappointments large and small. Romanticizing other people’s lives does no one any good. Pat Carr writes in Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, “Our world has become increasingly fragile because of separations and misunderstandings, and right now it needs our shared wisdom. We must learn to understand and sympathize before it is too late. Now is the time for our stories to be honest and authentic.” I want my words to be authentic whenever I write here. I do my best to not romanticize. I do not want to only write about “upbeat” subjects because I do not believe it serves our best interest in understanding our own lives or the lives of others.
Living on the land here in the midst of an oak/hickory forest with a reliable roof over my head pleases me every day. I love the quiet and I love the light that streams in our windows with views of the forest around us. Yet, I know there are dangers around us—from brown recluse spiders to timber rattlesnakes. Every environment has its pleasures and dangers. I am comfortable in mine, but realize that comfort can be destroyed in an instant. I like to focus on the words of poet Emily Dickenson written in 1861:
“’Hope’” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all…”
It is extremely unlikely that I will be able to visit my quilting friends at our quilt guild tomorrow night because we will still be flooded in by the creeks. If not, perhaps I will be able to finish the hand quilting on the doll quilt I’ve made from vintage bowtie blocks. That would be fun!