Tiny Living Quarters are Not New



Tiny houses are becoming a popular reaction against “Mac-Mansions”.


My husband converted a small school bus that was originally from a small Texas town into an “RV”. The converted bus became part of our family for over two decades and we all loved it.

It was our “tiny house” with stove, refrigerator, convertible table/bed, toilet, hammock and storage for all our gear. My husband was a genius in space planning. Our family of five survived living in this small home, sometimes for months while taking trips to Alaska and all over Texas. We drove to visit relatives in both the east and west coast of the US. We handled the restricted living area by exploring the world outside every chance we got.  I suspect living in a tiny house, we would spend most of our days out in the world exploring our environment only staying indoors for storms or eating and sleeping.


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You Can Die of a Broken Heart

My Mother died exactly one day less than a year from the day my Dad died. I was 14 years old. My brother, 18 years old, said to me the day before that morning, “We need to be home with Mom tomorrow. Come straight home from school and plan to stay at home the whole night. Tomorrow will be one year since Dad died”.

Around 3 in the afternoon, the school Principal, Mr. Rose came in and whispered to the teacher. She walked with him to my desk. I was writing a report on heart disease because Mom’s Doctor said she had the problem. I was trying to find out what that meant.

My teacher said, “You need to go with Mr. Rose”. I was puzzled, and gathered my books as it was near the end of the school day. Mr. Rose waited patiently and led me out of the room. I wondered if I had done something wrong.

In the Principals office, I saw my older brother with his back to the door, gazing out the window. Mr. Rose left. I stood undecided what I should do as I couldn’t imagine why my brother was there. My brother, turned toward me and bent to pick up a piece of paper he dropped. When he stood up, he was crying!

He choked out, “Mom died today.”

I did not think this was unexpected somehow. After Dad died, Mom had asked me to sleep with her as she did not want to sleep alone. I heard her several times say under here breath so I would not hear, “ take me. Let me die.”

Now I stood, numb and unable respond. My brother was weeping and I just stood there.

For the rest of the time including the funeral, I did not cry because I felt stunned.

Many people thought if two people were married for a long time and one died, the other would follow within year. Whenever I thought of it, I tried to accept this common wisdom I had often heard as a child growing up. I never understood but accepted this as truth as it happened that way with my parents. I was stunned for decades.

Over 50 years later, I am still trying to understand many things. I have had a lot of time alone and had time to think deeply about things in my past. I  now know why my Mom died as she did. My husband died and I had to try to cope. Memories of Mom’s last year kept popping up in my head.

After over 50 years of marriage, my husband died. I was sure my time was up also the same way as my Mother, so I sat and waited for my year to end.  I did not die in the following year and I have had lots of time to think.

I see my Mom clearly for the first time. She was meek and shy. Dad was full of life and loved to laugh. He was her joy. He died and my brother was leaving home to join the military. I was going to leave in very short years also. I can picture her staring at the walls, alone.

No TV back then, she was not a member of any church or organization, she could not work due to health problems, she did not read for pleasure and she had moved from her home to another town to be close to her siblings.

Now I understand why she willed her own death. She was alone without her husband and kids who were leaving to have lives of their own.

At last I can  grieve, deeply with understanding for my Mother who died, lonely and of a broken heart.

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What is a “Den” and “Parlor”?

I have wondered about a curious practice I experienced since I have lived in rural Texas. Often, actually always when we visit neighbors we are met in the yard and the visit entirely is conducted there, outside the house.


This was never done when I was younger and when I first come to Texas. I vaguely felt this practice of not inviting us into the house was a kind of slight.


Looking back in time I realized things began changing about 1960. Before that houses usually had a “Den” and a “Parlor” in the layout plans . Anyone remember these terms?

The Den was where people lived and sprawled out with clutter and the mess of active lives. The Den was often at the back of the house or off to the side.


The Parlor was usually at the front of the house and was forbidden to the household occupants. My neighbor had fine furniture in her parlor. It had “tasteful” ornaments and pictures all around. Children were threatened with punishment if they dared to sit in this room.


Since the parlor was kept orderly, people were invited in to visit. They would be seated and offered refreshment.

Today Dens and Parlors don’t seem to exist. We live in the front “Living Room” and create the clutter and mess of our active lives. If we expect someone we stash the clutter and straighten up the mess so the place is “fit for company”. However, if someone appears unexpectedly-we certainly do not want them to see the actual way we live daily-so we hurry to the door and come out to greet visitors.

Meeting us outside is not meant to be any comment on our suitability to be invited inside?

Do you think I am right about this? Please let me know what you think.

Posted in History, Observations, Personal, The constant is change | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

I Never Want To Go Back

My doctor recommended some exercise therapy after I told her I saw a local exercise place that had aqua therapy. That appealed to me as I loved swimming. I learned to swim when my kids took lessons at the Red Cross local city pool classes. image

My three kids and I were hooked and went to the local pool a lot for several summers. We even had season tickets. We loved the sunny days and often stayed from when they opened to closing.


Soon the kids, one by one, began fleeing our nest. When all three were out of our home, I got busy with other things and rarely went to the pool.

Years later (decades) after I retired, I began having health problems and one solution was to put me on oxygen therapy. I hated the look of the plastic tubes in my nose, but it was unavoidable.


I became aware of the way people, adults avoided looking at me when we went shopping. Kids on the other hand would stare trying to see why I looked different. Often they would smile or even wave. Eventually I got used to the apparatus.

Feeling sorry for myself one day and said, “Oh, I miss swimming, I guess I will not ever be able to do that again.”  (a bid for sympathy).


My youngest daughter tried to make me laugh and suggested I take up scuba diving.  The image seemed preposterous. We shared a laugh.

No sympathy there!

So back to my Doctor’s recommended exercise therapy. She agreed it was a great idea and arranged for me to go to the local exercise place. My daughter and I went to check it out. No swimming pool. I don’t know how I ever thought I could use one anyway. (one could always hope that I would find a way.) Oh well.

The pool they had was a small water hole with a treadmill in it, You would get wet waist deep. I was assigned a young woman to show us around and I was told she would be my therapist. There were not many people there and they did not look happy.


The therapist whizzed us through the facility (she was FULL of energy).

and assigned me a prepared sheet with two exercises on it…  Homework.

We left and I was so relieved. “I never want to go back there, the rooms were dark, the water feature was disappointing and worst of all the therapist was full of brisk energy.  I doubted if she had any idea how to help a 75 year old out of shape woman. I did not think the prepared homework took into account my current rundown condition.

So I will just do a few things like tai chi and yoga  with the help of the internet at home and on my own.  At my natural speed.

Slow, quiet, deliberate movements. Ahhhh.


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Saving Sauces

Catherine and I buy sauces and once open,



they may be used in only small amounts, so we leave the jars of opened sauce in the refrigerator. Often we do not need the same sauce again for a long time. Then, when we open the jars in the refrigerator…

we find…



Here is our solution. We found some great ice trays with silicon flexible bottoms making removing ice easy. They make some that are all silicon but they are floppy and do not hold their shape well.


     DSCN3069We filled one of the trays with salsa and another with basil  pesto.

After they froze we removed the cubes into containers and put them in the freezer for later use. Now when we want just a little salsa or basil pesto we can get what we need.


Posted in Basil, Cooking Notes, How-to | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hiding in Plain Site

I have a Doctor’s appointment with a Rheumatologist, a specialist to have my conditions looked at. I have a bunch of issues that I collected in my 75 years. Most I just ignore and try to get on the best I can.

Yipes. I hate going to doctors and especially specialists. You know they will find something terrible wrong with you. They will recommend an awful regime to regulate my daily life or insist on my taking pills.

I think I will go in disguise, my appointment is on October 31, Halloween.

021-BanditShucks, that probably won’t work…

This is is better!



I plan to tell this Doctor what is wrong with me.

Cat in the Hat-aging

Wish me luck.

(after my appointment)

OK, I went to the Doctor appointment in my Troll disguise. The receptionist didn’t see the odd presence as I stood at her window. My daughter said, “She is a Troll for Halloween”.

The receptionist said, “Oh, I didn’t notice.” She just asked me to identify myself.

I went and sat to wait to see the Dr. The woman who took my weight, lead me to a waiting room and began checking my blood pressure did not say anything about my disguise. I said, “Say, does this look normal to you?” She laughed and said, “We see all kinds.”

Later the Dr. told me she saw me come in and was curious about her new patient so she paused, “I thought you were either eccentric or it was Halloween…” she said, smiling.

As I left the office, we passed some young people and my daughter felt it necessary to explain my odd get-up. She said, “She is a Troll for Halloween!”, One young person said, “I love Trolls.”

So my adventure into Halloween disguising at age 75 was over.

Posted in Aging, Defeat terror, Personal | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

WARNING ! Extra fees and frustration. AT&T

WARNING ! Extra fees and frustration.
There is a reason not to get Internet, TV and Cell Phone on the same provider.

We live in the country and had our Cell Phone and Internet on different providers.

We do not pick up our mail every day as our mail box is about 2-3 city blocks from our house. We usually pick up our mail on the way to town once a week. I was sick and did not pick up our mail for 10 days. We sorted the mail and somehow missed the AT&T bill. We did not know we didn”t pay for that month.

The next bill also sat in the mail box for a few extra days past a week due to health problems. Now we were way overdue on both last month and this month so we were billed for the two months. Again there was a delay getting the payment to the post office (we mail checks at the post office not in our mail box next to the highway). With checks for current bills in hand to take to the post office, we stop to see what was in the mailbox next to the highway.

AT&T sent a notice that we were going to be suspended! Yipes. We went immediately to the AT&T office downtown. My daughter, Catherine explained the delays in payment so the billing office would know we were sending in the payment, she was told just mail it in so we did. The next thing we knew we were suspended and to reconnect would cost $40.

I am an elder, I am on oxygen therapy, and I live in a rural area. When my daughter goes to work, I will be unable to call for help if I have an emergency. We were glad we still had Internet and tried to contact someone at AT&T to explain that we were mailing payment for two months. The attempt was frustrating as I was sent from one recorded message to another and never reached a person. I asked my daughter, Catherine to go by the AT&T office downtown on her way to work and try to get this cleared up.

I know some people would say we could pay online, but some companies charge up to $5.00 for each payment to pay online. That is why we still pay with checks.

We are very glad our cell phone and internet connection are on different services so we are not completely cut off from any communication with the outside world if there is a problem with one service.

Posted in Personal, The Purple Gate Herb Farm | 1 Comment

Weather or Not–what to do about the weather

A few years ago we lived where tornados visited frequently. We decided to have a storm shelter built.


The plan was to stock it with survival foods and other necessities so all we had to do was run and sit the storm out. Nice try.

Here were the problems. We lived in a very humid area, this included the ground below the surface. Concrete wicks water so the interior of the shelter always felt moist. The food we put in the shelter was suppose to be “rotated” with groceries so it did not get stale. The fact was we often forgot to rotate the food for extended periods of time as we were so busy. When we thought to rotate-we found the food was spoiled, often mold covered.

The plan was changed. We would run to the shelter with each of us grabbing food to take with us. We were never tested this plan so I don’t know how this would work. We sold the property and moved on.

Next we moved to a place where forest fires and floods were the problem. We lived in a very wooded property. The forest fires were a serious threat. They did not give us any option except to evacuate and hope we would have a home when it was over. This happened twice and threatened us a couple of other times.


Next: We were told that a hurricane was headed for Texas and was going to impact us with floods and high winds. We live on high ground so we did not worry about the flood but the high winds worried us. The winds could bring down trees surrounding our home.

Also we were told that  maybe we would be without electricity or access to any roads out of our area and this could last for 4-5 days. Again we decided to stock food. We went shopping for “famine food”. (this is what we called our camping supplies in years past).

We went up and down the grocery aisles. It had been years since I stocked up on camping foods. I picked up some canned foods and dried dinner mixes. We went home feeling safe. When the storm began we opened some of the canned meats and could not believe these were considered edible. We fed most of them to the dog.

Some of our famine food combined with food we had on hand carried us through the 4-5 day emergency, but without the canned meat and vegetables that were laced with salt and preservatives that we fed to the dog.

Now I am rethinking our Famine Food plan. For meat and eggs we will each grab two  chickens. We will then have the perfect solution.


Live chickens do not need refrigeration. They feed themselves, they don’t take up a lot of room. If they are provided with a little food, they will stay close to us.


Chickens provide a lot of options for food. Chickens lay nutritious eggs for breakfasts, egg salad sandwiches, omelets, etc.….

When they stop laying, although probably tough old birds, we can have stew and chili. Next emergency, I’ll let you know if this plan works.

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We have become officially retro!

Catherine Mills

· August 21, 2016 ·

Yes, we here at the Purple Gate Herb Farm are about back to nature, sustainable agriculture, alternative building, solar, rainwater collection, and now we have officially entered the previous century.

We quit satellite TV a while back, due to having to pay outrageously for the 3 channels we watched, and the endlessly repeating, echoing news and Law & Order shows. We have been trying to use the internet to fill the void, but there is no equivalent to such things as local weather on TV. We looked into Netflix but we are not into that level of entertainment. Plus it costs, which is another reason we quit satellite TV. Mom has been casting about for alternatives.

She finally hit on an oldie but goody — broadcast television. You buy an antenna once and get free TV thereafter. Granted you get maybe 3 PBS channels and 4 KVUE channels but they often are playing different content, so that’s OK, we don’t watch a lot of TV anyway. But sometimes there is no substitute for sitting back, suppressing disbelief and vegetating in front of the tube.

We live in hilly terrain surrounded by lots of trees (The Lost Pines), and we are 45 miles from large metropolitan areas where broadcast TV works best. We checked it out, and found out that your best bet is to get an antenna that is amplified (to help with hills and trees) and rated for a little above the distance stated on the box. We were told that Leaf antennas and Clear TV antennas are best. We jumped in with one foot, and bought a small antenna from Walmart. Long and short, it didn’t work so we returned it.

We went and asked around a bit more, and bought a digital amplified Leaf antenna rated for 60 miles for the one time cost of $60. We get clear reception and several channels. Of course we set it up just prior to a rainstorm so it pixelated somewhat and blanked other times, and the several channels are repeats. Last but not least, one of the first shows we watched on this new free service was, you guessed it, a Law and Order marathon. At least we don’t have to pay satellite TV prices to watch it.

(from MOM) Catherine is right, we have gone “back to the future” in every way and we are joined by many others who grow food, conserve energy and recycle in sustainable living. All these things were a way of life before the “just throw it away and buy more” culture took over. Imagine . . . here is How-to do what we forgot and didn’t know was still available. The air contains TV programming that we could capture just like we did with a “rabbit ear” antenna over 50 years ago! We get local weather on 3 local channels, and the 4 PBS channels sometimes have programs like NOVA, Nature and other worthwhile documentaries. All free after we paid for the antenna! (we had an old TV already)

Posted in Bastrop County Texas, Central Texas, History repeating, How-to, Observations | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Suggestions For My Extreme Hair Cut

I have always relied on sympathy from my nearest and dearest relatives. When I donates a 12 inch pony tail to “Wigs for Kids”, I never thought what I would be left with hair cut to 1nch all over my head. When I realized what the beauty shop lady was doing, it was too late. I said, “you are giving me a man/boy haircut!”. She answered, “No, just comb this toward you face and it will be a “Girl-cut”. I stared in disbelief in the mirror as she finished the cutting. I called my daughter and told her of my shock in near tears.



My daughter said, “It will grow out”. That did not seem supportive enough to me.

I said, “what should I do in the meantime?” She said you could hide in a lot of ways. She even sent me a package in the mail with possibilities






I studied my hair, it would be a while before it was even this long. So I could do something like this.



I examined the “Care Package” my sympatric daughter sent to me. So…I tried these.


I ended by experiments with these suggestions my  daughter sent me.:


Thanks, Ginger, your help is appreciated.




















Posted in Hard Lessons, Observations, Personal, Something new...to me, The constant is change | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment