Recently, I was looking through my blog posts and ran across this one, a funny little post that celebrates and berates our one year anniversary in the Hill Country. We are coming up on our 12th year in the Hill Country. Enjoy!
Yesterday marked our one year anniversary living in the Texas hill country. We feasted on pizza and coleslaw. The same dinner we enjoyed in a empty house, devoid of personal belongings, just twelve months ago. This time, instead of take-out, we baked pizza in the outdoor oven and sat in our barstools beneath the palapa, cooled by two oscillating fans that Bruce installed.
Strings of chili pepper lights surrounded us, happy to add sparkle to the festivities. The kids finished up their pizza slices and played a game of washers and then moved on to bocce ball. The crushed granite area is the perfect material for bocce ball.
I sat in my chef’s apron with my feet up on the barstool next to me and realized that I was getting a cold. I took a swig from my wine glass. I had fermented it myself and stored it in the small room off the garage. The heat didn’t seem to affect its flavor. It was crisp, like the bite from an apple just taken out of the fridge drawer.
I reflected on how far we had come. It didn’t seem like a whole year had passed so quickly. Bruce assured me that we had done a lot in this past year, and he was right.
The kids had each gone into a new school, made friends and had another year of "learning" poured into their brains. My 12-year old had turned thirteen, the age of the teenager and had manifested into the beast. His speech became more difficult to understand; it seemed that actually moving his lips while speaking was too much of a burden --everything was slurred together in a monotonous tone that lacked the energy and clarity he had as a 10-year old. Mind-numbing music played on his iPod and he didn’t want to be around his mother unless she had food. I secretly yearned for the little boy that I sent off to kindergarten. He was so full of curiosity, awe and love, now it is hidden behind the façade of growing up and peer pressure.
Our daughter also made friends and we picked up a new member to our family, a Jack Russell terrier mix from the humane society, who dashed mercilessly around the house and yard leaving a path of destruction in her path. Nothing is more important to her than food and in this she held a common love with my son. We took her to dog training classes where she failed miserably. She could not focus with all of the other dogs surrounding her. She set to biting through her leash so she could be with her peeps and away from us. She learned nothing and we only learned that Vienna sausages are her favorite food. She began to put on weight as we tempted her to pay attention in class with wiener after wiener. She nipped at our hands to get every last drop of the juice.
Texas giveth and Texas taketh away... our Texas ranch house hit the seven year itch. The previous owners must have felt the foreboding and got out quickly.
We purchased the home because it was "free from flaw". In the past, we always bought fixer-uppers, but we were tired and knew we had to start a business to create an income. We didn’t want to worry about a house that needed repairs while we were building a business. We bought our dream house.
Within the first month, the septic pump sprung a hole and needed replacing. The aerobic septic system gets flushed with bleach tablets to sanitize the waste. The sludge is separated by gravity from the water and then a sprinkler system waters a section of our lawn in a “circle of life” sort of water show. This section of grass is persistently yellowed and puts off a chlorine odor. We only venture into this part of the yard when it needs to be mowed and then we make sure the shower, dishwasher and the clothes washer are not operating and looking for a place to drain.
When school got out, the summer really heated up. 100-degree temperatures were not uncommon and it did not take long to realize the air conditioning unit wasn’t functioning. The attic was above 150-degrees and the house did not cool down in the evenings because Texas does not cool down in the evenings. It took three days to get a repairman out to diagnose the problem. I pumped him full of bottled water and sent him outside to repair the unit. I joked that I wouldn’t allow him to leave until we had cold air rushing through our home again…he laughed, I laughed - but I wasn’t really joking.
I thought of those who didn’t have any air conditioning, living in Texas. I put it out of my mind. That was insanity. Everyone in the family was listless, without energy, quick to become inflamed over the slightest digression from another family member. The house hit 92-degrees the final evening before our god from the appliance store arrived and saved us from purgatory. How did Texans live here before the advent of conditioned air?
And then the final blow for the year, we lost water. The signs had been popping up along farm rounds, “Drought, please be sensitive to water needs.” I was concerned, but without any apparent action to be taken, I hoped for the best. And I guess we did get the best of the worst. It could have been much worse. As it was, our pump failed, but there was still water in the well. So, instead of $10,000 (the cost for drilling a new well), we only had to swallow $3,000. The water level was only 10 feet above the pump placement, so they lowered the new pump 80 feet further down into the darkness. They flushed the pump and the trucks pulled out. The thirst that had swelled up in my throat, when I first realized we were out of water, subsided. The sink and countertops, filled with dirty dishes, stood waiting for a good, hot bath. The piles of clothes lying limp in the laundry room, sighed with relief. Finally, our family could bathe again.
And then the silt came…with each flush of the toilet, the pump sent the finest of dirt into our pipes. The shower I had longed for coated me in chocolate powder and left my hair greasy. I washed the clothes and the dishes, because I didn’t know what else to do. I figured hot, silty water was better than germ-covered dishes when it came to eating. We bought bottled water. We stood mesmerized as we discovered that the pool had been abused the worst. The normally blue water stood lifeless, brown and murky. The bottom was no longer visible. The pool vacuum couldn’t possible keep up with the deluge of gunk being sucked into the pool.
The weekend passed in despair and frantic phone calls...the drilling company made another trip out and drew the pump up 20’ and flushed the system again. After several hours the water cleared and we were tenuously happy.
That night, the bathtub filled with murky water - my stomach turned …my daughter, standing naked, whined. We drained the water and tried again..and again. Finally the water in the pipes began to divulge the dirt and all of our pipes and systems ran clear again.
Bruce spent a few hours cleaning out the pool filter, swearing and sweating. We all went into the pool to christen it anew. We played volleyball over the small net and played silent Marco Polo and laughed and enjoyed our new home. What could go wrong?