Oh, yes. I remember you

Was going to pass through Juneau, Alaska on my want to Kake, Alaska to visit family members. My Mom said I should go by and see the man who was her friend for many years. He had some tools that belonged to our ancestor wood carvers. I wanted to see the tools and speak to the man.

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He was an accomplished wood carver and appreciated Tlingit imagery in masks and totems. As I approached his door I remembered a day long ago when I was very young and he held up the carving he was working on. Then he opened the door.

I said, “Hi, I am Edna’s daughter.” because it had been decades since I last saw him and I was sure I needed to identify myself.

He smiled and said, “Oh, yes. I remember you. You ran screaming from my house when I showed you the Kooshdaka I was carving.” (Kooshdaka is a shape-changing spirit in our clan histories)

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I was certainly surprised . He was in his 80’s and very alert. We remembered many days long ago, friends and events we each remembered. I asked to see the carving tools from Kake carvers. I even hoped he would sell them to me and I could take them back to Kake. But he held them dear and would not part with them.

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While we talked he lead us to his back yard where he has snared several small birds. He continued our conversation as he carefully released a bird from the net, banded it’s leg and logged in a journal. I was amazed that he could keep up our conversations, remember so much  and do something so intricate.

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This is what old age can be like. Friends dropping in. Memories shared. And he is still contributing to the world of science that he loved while working. He was helping to map the migration of birds to that part of Alaska. I could only hope more elders would have such “golden years”.

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NOTE: Citizen Science Projects – National Geographic Society

Get ideas for how you can participate in citizen scienceprojects in which volunteers and scientists work together to answer real-world questions and gather data. Check out two of National Geographic’s preeminent citizen science projects: the Great Nature Project and FieldScope.

Posted in Aging, Alaska, Observations, Personal, Science | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

To My Friend, A Remarkable Woman

I don’t know if what your plans are in the long run. If you still want a city job maybe I am off base but here are some thoughts about making sustainable farming profitable.  You already are expert on developing a variety of income streams.
                                       
Bud and I began looking for information when we knew he wanted to move to the country. I had no experience but I wanted to help him realize his dream. We found a place called “Peaceable Kingdom” A school between Navasota and Brenham, by founder Elizabeth R. Winston. She grew herb, vegetables and flowers as well as chickens and hogs. She was affiliated somehow to a university and let students offer to build something at the Peaceable Kingdom they wanted to build but did not have land. They could design gardens or a cooling deep dip for hot summer days, one project helped her move an old barn on to her farm. We visited often and attended every workshop we could. Fredericksburg Herb Farm in the Hill Country was one of the many we investigated. While checking out these places we formulated our herb farm ideas.

When Bud and I had the Purple Gate Herb Farm, we were encouraged by our Caldwell Better Business Bureau to become non-profit. It was promoted to us as a financially beneficial move. I never checked into it, but it seems to me you could benefit from this idea if it would help you financially.

At the Purple Gate Herb Farm, we gave tours of our herb gardens, gave demonstrations of pottery firing and food preparation with herbs. People would come in large groups, sometimes in bus loads and spend the day. This gave us enough money to build our Herb Farm and develop ideas. image

It was fun finding faqs to share, like these:

Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah was wounded and became ill.
Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.2 Kings 20:7

For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.Isaiah 28:21

You could offer workshops for a modest fee and people would come to learn some of the things you already make available to us. Several workshops that teach what you have learned raising goats, hogs or any other creatures you help could help the young people all around here that are trying to start small farms. You already do workshops on cooking/canning. These can be expanded by asking speakers to present info. We had to pay an honorarium for some of them to come but most were glad to be asked and to help and spread the word about rural living.

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You could have a Farmer’s Market shop that allowed you to sell your products from the farm–soap, and jelly…..

I think you already do all of this in one way or another, I am amazed at all you know and do. These are just thoughts I have hoping you will consider some of them.  And I hope this letter will encourage others to make suggestions on sustainable farm income.

Posted in Personal, small business, Support Local Business, Sustainable living | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

She “Got our Goat”

We had a neighbor that raised show goats. One mother had three babies and rejected one of them. My neighbor brought the rejected baby goat to us and ask if we would raise it.

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We had a touring Herb Farm and did not want goats to feast on our carefully planted gardens.

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My neighbor said if the goat survived to be able to take care of itself, she would take it back. It was hard to resist the longing in my husband and daughter’s eyes. So our adventure with the cutest ever baby goat began.

Bud loved goats, he had a pet goat when he was young. He never missed a chance to show our kids, grandkids, and great-grand-kids goats close up. So all of us were open to helping this little creature.

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We put a towel on the floor next to a place we could feed her and she wouldn’t slip on the wood floor. When we sat with a bottle the little white goat would come running to stand on the towel with her tail going a mile a minute. We looked forward to our interactions with this marvelous ball of life as she grew and explored our house.

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Thanksgiving was near and we were planning to drive 340 miles to celebrate with my oldest daughter in the city. What to do with the baby goat?

I made a “pouch” like people in Mexico or India had to carry infants, so I could keep the goat from trouble and make sure she was warm.

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She loved being in the snug pouch and snuggled down for the trip. When we arrived at my oldest daughter’s house, the baby goat was a hit.

We were called the “Green Acres Relatives”  after a TV show.

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The whole time, baby goat had admirers and I didn’t see her for hours. She chased around the house with the dogs. Someone was always feeding and snuggling with her and she just took it all in. Once my son fell asleep holding her tightly on his chest.  Too soon we had to return home.

At home very soon we began to realize that the “Baby” was almost fully grown. Sadly we had to return her to our neighbor because we could not risk our herb  theme gardens.  We finally took her next door. For days, while working in the gardens we would hear goats bleating. Bud swore he knew our little goats voice.  I know he wished he could keep her.

One day our neighbor told us she sold our little goat. She said she was glad because the goat kept trying to get in her house and would break down fences and lead other goats out. Thinking about this, I bet we would never be asked to help raise another goat for our neighbors. But each of us have rich memories of that little bundle of love and joy who shared our lives and our Thanksgiving  with us and our family in the city.

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Turkey Surprise

 

My husband, Bud and I never thought we would suddenly become turkey farmers when we retired and we moved to the country in Texas.

One day when our grandson, Joshua was visiting, he ran into my kitchen and said, “Grandma, there are three large birds beside the chicken pen.” I said, “Large? maybe they are some of our neighbors roosters”. He said, “No, they are real big.” I went outside to see and to my surprise there were three beautiful turkeys beside the chicken coop.

 

I was thrilled, and just stood watching them for some time. They appeared to be interested in the chicken coop wire fence. Bud was in town and I know he would hate to miss this. Finally, I said, “Josh, Grandpa would love to see these birds, lets see if we can open the gate and encourage the turkeys to go into the chicken coop.”

The turkeys were not upset as we approached, they let us walk close to them without running away. Joshua opened the gate and the three turkeys just walked in. They immediately began pecking chicken food on the ground and drinking water.

When Bud came home, Joshua told him about the turkeys and the two of them rushed down to the chicken pen to see them. I was right, Bud was breathless when he came to tell me about the turkeys.

This began our experience with these beautiful birds. At first we opened the door to allow them to come out of the chicken coop but they showed no interest in leaving. It was wonderful to see them display and show off for each other and we enjoyed watching them while we tended the gardens. Our dog, Flora was always around with the flock and if males began fighting, she would break up the fight.

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Turkeys are very interesting birds. We never figured out some behaviors they exhibited. They seemed to make our chicken coop home and stayed near it even when they were free to roam our property. We put up a perch for them to sleep on and so it was for some time.  We heard that a women nearby had kept the turkeys for a time and then turned them out. We guessed that was why they wanted into the chicken coop-they were used to being fed.

Then the females began laying eggs. They were all over the place where we walked and worked. I called the county agent because I didn’t know how to make them lay in a nest. This person was alarmed. She said, “It is illegal for you to pick up those eggs. Do Not touch them.”

She would not hear that those eggs were in danger. I hung up feeling very undone. Her alarm was catching. I had no idea picking up turkey eggs on well used paths was illegal. Fortunately I had not given my name, maybe this woman would not report us to the turkey egg cops.

Bud decided to collect the eggs and incubate them. This was interesting because our dog Flora, began guarding the door to the bathroom where we set up the incubator. Later I learned Flora did not want the cat to go into the room.

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One day I asked Flora to let me by while she sat in the doorway but she would not budge which was unusual. She had the cat cornered and did not want her to get close to the incubator. As the time for the eggs to begin hatching got closer, you could hear the baby turkeys’ small peeps coming from the eggs. That was how I learned Flora knew to guard the eggs (sort of amazing). When the eggs hatched, she insisted on checking each one out by licking and smelling them. This dog had strong mother instincts.

The first group of incubated eggs hatched with Bud and Flora in attendance. As a result the young birds followed Bud every where. (He was their “Head Turk”). He loved the flock, and they loved him too.

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We decided to collect eggs and put them in a nest the next time they started appearing. We hoped one of the females would sit on them and that is what happened. Now our small Turkey flock had a lot more members.

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Now the turkeys were a family.

 

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In our experience at the Purple Gate Herb Farm where we raised turkeys, once they got it in their heads to attack a person, they were persistent.

One turkey decided my daughter was the enemy and would attack her whenever she went outside. The turkey only attacked her, ignoring other family members. We couldn’t figure out why, because she never hurt them. Finally, we decided it was pecking order. Bud was Head Turk, I was Mommy Turk, then Catherine and then the attacking Snow White, a big, white  male turkey. Turkeys are very hierarchical. Catherine was the one to beat.

That turkey seemed to lay in wait for Catherine to go toward her car each day. These attacks were serious. Once Catherine used a medium size cooler to protect her from attack. The bird left a large dent in the side of the cooler. I drove her car home one day and noticed Snow White running toward me. I thought he would attack but when he saw I was not Catherine, he stopped and walked away. A school teacher bought this turkey although we told her about the strange behavior.  We heard through the grapevine that she drove her pick up everywhere with the turkey in her front seat.

Our flock gave us many hours of enjoyment and made life more interesting while we worked on our gardens.  We toured our herb gardens for groups of people, many times bus loads came who loved the free roaming turkeys.

When we sold our property, we also sold the turkeys, so now the whole adventure is our memory of an amazing time.

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Snake Catcher

Seeing that snake catcher rod reminded me of an event in our family. This is not a story for the weak of heart with teens in the wilds of Texas. My young son was with this group of teens.

The kids were young teens and our family went to a Texas Archeology Field School one summer. An elderly man had been a missionary in China and he like telling stories to the teen boys. They hung around to hear his adventures.

One day he told them how he would catch snakes with a hollow bamboo rod and strong small rope put in side the bamboo pole in two direction. He told them to hold the two ends of the rope and only allow a loop at the end big enough for the snake you wanted to catch.

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Naturally the teens set out to build this snake grabbing pole. I was unaware of what they were up to. I was standing outside of our camp and glanced up. I saw the boys circling something on the ground. I stopped to watch.

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Suddenly all the boys jumped backwards and onto nearby large rocks. They began throwing smaller rocks to the ground. They killed the rattlesnake with the rocks because when they got the rope loop around the snakes head, the rope broke and infuriated the snake. I don’t think they knew it was a venomous snake. But they were careful handling it even when sure it was dead..

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The guys came to our camp with this dead snake wanting to know how to skin it. One boy heard you could eat it. A TV crew showed up by chance and my son began skinning the snake (he made a hat band of it like this)

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and then my son, Ken  cut the meat into chunks roasted it over an open fire. Everyone had a taste, the boys got on TV and my son got a hat band.

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Frustration With My Laptop

When we knew we were moving to the country, I decided I better learn all I could to keep our computers running. My husband only knew how to use a computer and was not interested in solving any problems on it.

Since Apple came out with the first computer for the home, I had learned how to program it. (It was great and I learned by taking code of existing programs apart-there were no instruction books yet).

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Since I had gotten a grant to program the early Apple PC’s and to link them to existing VCR’s for the education department at the museum I was working for, I felt I could handle minor problems of our computers.

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Apple kept trying to produce a competitor with the IBM PC model and kept changing the code finally settling on the Macintosh. A computer that you could not open or code the same way I had been doing with the Apple IIs and Apple IIIs.

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I had to switch to the IBM PC and try to learn how to code it. I was fairly comfortable with this development even though it focused all my extras time and I never got good at it.

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So here I was going to move to the back woods of Texas and I had no Idea if I could get our computers serviced.

For about 16-20 years I was able to trouble shoot both my computer and my husbands. But Microsoft keeps changing the programs so you cannot figure them out unless maybe you had lots and lots of time. Now I am at the mercy of computer repair gurus, the very thing I hoped to avoid. Right now for instance my sound has disappeared. None of the “Fixes” recommended works. Frustration.

Posted in Computer, Hard Lessons, Observations, Personal, Technolog | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

It Snowed in Smithville Texas in Dec 2017

I woke up to a real treat this morning. Snow. I rushed to wake Catherine (she was the only one of my kids here). “It snowed… snowed… Come see before it disappears” I yelled.

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I was pretty young and did not think deeply when I left Alaska to marry a Texan. I had a lot to learn. One thing that surprised me was it NEVER SNOWED.

We lived in East Texas for several years and one day while shopping for groceries, I heard yelling, “It’s Snowing!”.

There was a rush to the front of the store to see out the picture windows. I looked and could not see anything. Then a few wisps of snowflakes were visible for a few seconds. Everyone chattered about it, satisfied they had seen snow.

I shook my head remembering that I left Alaska right after a blizzard. The snow was piled up over my shoulders around our house. I barely made it to the airport.

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It was a few more years before snow came again. We had three kids. This time the snow was big flakes and stuck to the ground. I rushed around getting the kids into warm clothes. We had no need for winter boots since snow wasn’t probable, I got six plastic bread sacks and wrapped the kids feet in them to keep their feet dry. Then I herded them out to play in the wonderful stuff.

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For years following any threat of snow I watched for signs. Even if it came in the dark of night, I would round up sleepy kids out of bed and outfit them for snow. I could not resist. We made snow men and had snowball fights until we were exhausted then we went in for hot chocolate and a warm bed. My husband watched this peculiar behavior of mine with the comment, “Gees Mary, sometimes I wonder about you.” In later years he joined us to check out the icy creek and explore.

This behavior did not stop when the kids were sick with colds. I lined them up in front of the window in the living room so they could watch me build our snowman. I often wonder what these kids, born Texans, think about this now.

I know I have aged. It always surprises me in odd ways to find this out.

I did not go out in this snow this time. I was content to see it out of the windows and doorways. Catherine went exploring with Pepper, our dog and brought pictures back.

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Yes I have aged. Bud,  I still get a kick out of seeing the world transformed to a wonderland of white.

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Potential Disaster to our Aquaponics Building

 

We are again faced with a potential disaster. We have a small Aquaponics building that we have kept running after my husband who designed the system died. We felt we had learned enough to keep the system running.  We had harvested some vegetables and fish and began to think we had things working.

Today while showing an interested visitor who wanted to see how Aquaponics could work…we noticed our “thermal wall” of water filled 55 gallon drums WAS LEANING DANGEROUSLY TO ONE SIDE!!!

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Catherine had to go to work and we could not address the problem right then but both of us are really worried. If we can’t empty the water from the drums and reset them right away, they could pull over the whole house wall on that side. Catherine and I  hope to get started on our rescue of our Aquaponics building tomorrow morning. (I am not much help due to health issues but I offer support when I can.)

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I will give you an update as soon as we attempt to save our little building.

12/3/2017 Aquaponics 55 gallon drums shifted.

Posted on our blog: Darn, Darn Double Darn if it is not one thing it is another…always unexpected.

Lisa F offered to help and Will volunteered his son, Landon. (I hope Landon won’t be surprised!)

Thanks a lot for the offer to help you guys it is great to have friends..

When Bud, Catherine and I put the Aquaponics building together this was going to be a trial for a larger one later. We did not intend this to be permanent.

When Bud died Catherine and I decided to try to make this small building provide the two of us with veggies and fish. It seemed we were on the right track. We did not anticipate this problem.

The building is very small and full of STUFF. The space to work is very tight even for the two of us. Here is our plan for a solution.

1. We will siphon water from the top 55 gallon drums until we can remove them.

2. We will then siphon the lower drums.

3. We will try to stabilize the ground to prevent this shifting when we reinstall the drums.

This is a project that will take time if we can save the building now. Siphoning is slow work but safe. Stabilizing the base at ground level will require some study.

We begin siphoning this morning. I will keep you guys posted.

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Day 1

We started emptying the barrels with a siphon hose. One barrel took about 45 minutes (our hose was ½ inch dia) Since Catherine had to work we just put the siphon in the next barrel on top and let it run on its own.

Day 2

Almost removed top layer of barrels. The 3rd one gave us a mystery. We began siphoning and while we waited we began cleaning the grow beds. I checked the progress of the siphon periodically and became aware that the water had quit flowing in the hose. Catherine came over and decided that there must be a blockage in the 20 foot siphon hose. We tried to flush the hose to no avail. We even tried hooking up a water pump to clear the hose. Several tries of a variety of possible solutions and we were stymied! Catherine accidently leaned on the barrel and it moved. It was empty. We felt foolish as we removed it from the top layer. We laughed at the thought that we never considered that the reason no water flowed was that the barrel was empty.

Now we are siphoning the last top barrel.

Day 4

We examined the extent of the damage to the building. Several times in the past three years we almost gave up trying to keep things going. We always pulled back from the decision each time. Now…we had to decide.

It has been 3 years since Bud died. Catherine and I have decided that we cannot keep the Aquaponics building working. Without Bud it just keeps going under. This morning we decided to shut it down. I am crying because it meant so much and I really wanted us to make it work since it was Bud’s last project.

Posted in Aquaponics, loss, Observations, The constant is change | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Seniors and Youth-Something Old, Something New

When I was young the people around me were my Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Mother and Father and cousins of various ages. I never thought this was something that would change radically when I became an adult. I never gave it much thought to the way my life was becoming segregated away from my extended family.

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I married and moved from Alaska to Texas, my sister married and moved to the Eastern Coast of the United States and my brother raised his family on the Western Coast.

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Since my Texas family was young and I was busy with keeping house, providing schooling both for my kids and myself and later working a 9-5 job I had little time for contemplation.

Traveling was very expensive so I did not see my Parents, Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Brother or Sister for many years and even then not often. My brother, sister and I had entered the era of the “nuclear family”- described as a Mother, Father and children

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Individuals moving away from extended families was part of decades in which American society became stressed in new ways because of this physical and social isolation. Not having members of your extended family meant that you and you and your husband were responsible for all things that happen in any family. There were no Grandparents or other relatives to help when emergencies arose. You could not be guided by advice from your elders or other family members. You as parents were really on your own.

Many of the ills of American society are rooted in this isolation of families. Children became “latchkey” kids who spent time without adult supervision while adults rarely had time to spend communicating with them while trying to keep a household running.

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People who wrote the commercials were well aware of the children’s need for guidance and were ready to step in to provide commercials that told children how to be happy by buying more, bigger, brighter and expensive things. Kids left home seeking the brighter more alluring life seen on TV and in movies. Kids often found themselves really on their own.

Now I am over 70 years old. I look back on the paths of my life and see how breaking ties of families make individuals easy to manipulate by media and predatory people. I see kids trying to go to college with rising costs for housing and classes while old folks are becoming more and more lonely. I ask myself, how do we solve these problems?

As I have often done, I turned on my computer- and found some suggestions and answers.
Intergenerational programs around the United States try to break down many of the physical and social barriers between the generations, and provide activities for seniors and youth that offer opportunities for mutually beneficial learning.

Just Goggle “seniors and youth programs” and you will find many possible solutions.

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Texas is a big state and things are spread out. Emergency preparedness is required.

My daughter and I were on the way to an adjacent town about 30 miles away to shop.  I was just remembering how I handled three small kids years ago on long trips like this.  I noticed a woman with three kids in her car next to us.

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Thick vegetation  made the areas look dark and I certainly would not seek shade where snakes, scorpions, and other “wee beasties” sought the same shade. image

Texas is a big state and things are spread out. My kids constantly tell me that somewhere I am interested in is “Just down the road, not far”. I soon find my self in a car for 45 minutes to get to this “Not far place”. I realize the kids were raised in this large state of Texas and many things are relative to them that I consider excessive. My husband began to think of distances the same way as the kids.

I continued this train of thought about possible problems on the road as we speed on. Once a mother-always a mother so I always worried about flat tires or other emergency events while seeking these “Not far” destinations.  I.  usually had presentable clothes but decorative shoes only good for walking on flat, clean floors.image

 

I remember thinking…Boy, would that be horrible if I had to walk a ways for help in blazing sun or pouring down rain in the cold winter with my three small kids if these problems arose.

Once my husband and I had such a problem on a rural road with our camper truck that had a failed fuel line. We tried to think if we had seen any gas stations or buildings but often you just don’t pay attention. Fortunately the weather was mild, but the distance was quite far with nothing on the road to help us as we walked to find help. The kids started ok, but began to fall back soon. We all wondered why there were no cars passing us. Finally we saw a small market that sold a few food items and ran a gas station and repair shop. The kids were so happy and we all collapsed in the shade of the buildings drinking water that seemed so wonderful. The people that ran the establishment went and towed our vehicle to the shop.

Another time a flat tire caused my husband to have to change to the limp tire in 109 degree full sun. The highway was blistering hot.  Fortunately I had a bottle of water and could pour it on his head to cool him with evaporation and prevent heat stroke as he worked to change the tire. I decided to have my husband show me how to change the tire if I was on the road with the kids by myself.image

These events got me planning. From then on I had emergency equipment in a box in the trunk of each  our cars, my husband’s truck or our camper. I had walking shoes, light jackets, rain ponchos, a hat. I planned to carry a lot of water, especially in summer in Texas. I made sure the kids had good walking shoes.

When the family got older, I was teased about my emergency kits. When I went to work 30 miles from home, I continued to have the equipment and that gave me confidence that I would not be “stranded and helpless”.

I wondered if the woman with three small children in the car next to us had made such emergency plans? I hope so.

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