Friday, May 8, 2009


Luckily, Little Helper Dude showed up at a decent hour on Wed., and got to spreading that gravel, which he had to haul, one bobcat bucket at a time, way from the other end of the driveway. Hmmm, if they couldn't get the dump truck back to the pad area, how on earth are they going to get the tank back there? One of the pipe guys showed up at about the same time, so I was back to feeling hopeful.

A couple of hours later, Pad Guy comes by to check on things. He tells me that one load of gravel just wasn't going to cut it, but he should be back with another by 12:30 or so. "If Tank Guy shows up before then, you should just tell him," he began, but I interrupted, saying "Woah. Hold on! I'm fixing to leave for a very important meeting, so here's Tank Guys phone number. You guys work it out." Aren't you proud of the way I handled that? Me too!

So, I head off to that "important meeting" (more on that later) and when I get back, I see my huge tank sitting on a huge trailer being pulled by a huge truck with a crane, and it's parked just off the highway, down near the entrance to our neighborhood. Pad Guy has indeed spread another layer of gravel, which unfortunately, has brought the level way up above the new retaining wall. Great. And now, the fun begins. (I later discovered that when Pad Guy saw what was about to happen, he told his guys "Hurry and pack up. We're clearin' out. I don't want to be here if this turns into a disaster!")

The fellow I call Tank Guy is not Richard, the owner. We haven't seen hide nor hair of him since he gave us his bid and said "Sure, that spot you've picked out is perfect. No problem!" No, the real Tank Guy is Joe, and in my humble opinion, he's a god, a miracle worker, a Rock Star! Let me tell you why.

First of all, Joe was somehow able to transfer this huge tank from the huge trailer, over to a tiny one that was hooked up to his pick up truck. He then managed to bump it across two low water crossings, and make the two sharp turns into and up our driveway, without losing it. Towards the end of the lower driveway fork he paused, made the Hail Mary sign of the cross on his chest, then gunned his truck for all it was worth, in order to make it up a last steep incline and around a hairpin curve, tires spinning all the way. The truck made it all the way around, but the trailer did not, so they then used the crane to tilt, nudge and jockey it around the stone flower bed on one side, and an oak tree on the other (why they didn't lift the whole tank up with the crane and swing it into place, I really don't know. I'm sure there was a reason.) Once it was directly behind the truck again, it took at least an hour to back it between said oak tree and a cinderblock wall, onto the pad. I don't know how they did it, I really can't describe it, and I could hardly bear to watch it. Just believe me when I tell you, the man is an artist, and I'm so glad it's over and done with. Had the tank got away from him at any point, it would have gone careening down the hill, bounced over some trees, gone over a cliff, and landed in the bottom of the creek.

Of course, there's still the "Eliminator" tank to be placed, filters and pumps to be hooked up, etc. And, oh yeah, Helper Dude called last night to say he'd be happy to bring that retaining wall level up to the top of the pad if I wanted, for another $400. Guess that's about it, except maybe to pray for some more rain, to fill this ugly sucker up! Yeah, I know, it's not exactly the beautiful stone cistern with galvanized roof that I always dreamed of. In the end, practicality won out. But I figure, the longer this drought lasts, and the more wells that go dry, the prettier it's going to look to me!

P.S. I apologize for the fact that most of these final stage photos were taken through a window screen, but if you've ever seen a horror film on the big screen, and then again on a tiny TV screen, you will understand why I eventually felt the need to put this buffer between me and what was going on outside.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Monday went better than expected. Pipe guys showed up and worked diligently all day long. One of Pad Guy's little helper dudes became my hero when he volunteered to build the retaining wall on his own time (and on my dime, of course), using stone from here on the property. He's also going to come back after the tank is set to pour the cement curb around its base.

Helper Dude and his buddies spent a grueling three or four hours dragging stone and stacking it, and I don't begrudge a single cent of what I agreed to pay him - especially since he must split it with his buddies, and pay for cement, etc. What I'm having to pay Pad Guy, on the other hand, is a major thorn in my side. But at least we're going to have something to set the tank on when it arrives!

* * *
Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and I was feeling pretty chipper. All we needed was a little more pipe work, a layer of crushed stone, and we were good to go! A few hours later, when not a soul had shown up, I wasn't quite so chipper. To combat mounting agitation, I decided to go work out, then stopped at Mima's for a taco. Guess who I ran into there? Pad Guy and his helpers! Of course, they assured me, they were on their way to my house right now. So I ate lunch, ran a couple of errands, then headed home. When I got there, I saw that a little pile of gravel had shown up, but there were no workers to be seen, anywhere. So, here it is, Wednesday morning. The tank is due to be delivered today, and I have half a pad and incomplete pipe work. Should be interesting!

Tune in tomorrow, same time, same station...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Sunday: Well, seems I got all in a bundle for nothing on Friday morning, seeing as how Pad Guy never even showed up the whole freaking day. Nope, he waited until Saturday to show up, just as I was supposed to be leaving to go somewhere. He spent one whole hour doing some leveling with his bobcat, then started packing up to go! I went down to see what was what, and he starts telling me "I'm done except for bringing back that load of base that goes over this. Of course, you're going to need to build a retaining wall there, and put a curb around this, and blah, blah, blah..." "Woah, wait a minute! My husband said you would be doing all that. Wasn't that part of the deal?" "Oh no," he replied. "We might have talked about how he needed a retaining wall, but I never promised to install it. I just don't have the time or manpower for that right now. We're swamped!"

So, we're just a couple days out from having this big ol' tank delivered, and I've got half a pad that's going to wash right out from under it without a retaining wall. What am I supposed to do now? Well, he was kind enough to point out to me that I've got plenty of stone lying around on my property, and I could just gather up a ton of those 50 lb. rocks scattered over these four acres, and build a dry stack wall, back fill it with dirt, no problem. Me, by myself, in rattle snake/scorpion utopia, by Wednesday. Riiight...

When I called, semi-hysterical, to report the latest development, John calmly replies "Welcome to the world of project management!" Well, I've got two words for him - I quit! I'm afraid I just don't have what it takes to deal with lying weasels on a regular basis. And yes, I know we should have had all this in writing up front, but let me remind you, we're not in the big city anymore. First of all, you'd be hard put to come up with three different contractors of any one service here, if you wanted to put something out for bid. Second, if you were to wait until they all gave you formal bids in writing? Well, you could be waiting 'til the cows come home!

Later I remembered that John was having another nuclear stress test on Monday, which of course, always comes with the possibility of learning that he might need more heart surgery. That kind of put all this other crap back into perspective, and I decided to just let it go. One way or another, it would all work out. Still, it will be interesting to see what develops on Monday - who will show up for work, if anyone. Who's going to try and help me out, and who's going to piss me off. Stay tuned to find out!


It's all coming back to me now - what it was like to deal with a bunch of different contractors on a building project. I can't believe I ever forgot. I guess it's like childbirth - an "if the memories didn't soften over time, no one would ever have a second child" kind of thing. Perhaps I should have gone back through my journals, to refresh my memory regarding our remodeling, driveway-paving, and roof-blowing-away experiences. But no, my mind was a clean slate again, ready to take everyone at their word. Silly me. We weren't fifteen minutes into this project, before I was on the phone, crying to John.

* * *

Sunday: I need my hubby! This water catchment business is stressing me out. First there was having to watch a month's worth of good rain slip by us, because the tank wasn't ready yet. Then there was Pad Guy, who agreed to build a landing pad of sorts, to place the tank on. He said he should finish up his current job towards the end of April, then come do our pad, which would only take a day. Wouldn't you know, he called and left a message on our house phone while I was in Houston, and since I didn't respond immediately, he went on to start another job. I can't believe he didn't have our cell phone numbers! We always give people our cell phone numbers!

Saturday: So of course, Tank Guy called the very next day to say the tank is ready to be delivered, when do we want it? We call Pad Guy in a panic, and he says don't worry, he'll work us in on Thursday or Friday of this week, so we call Tank Guy and tell him he can deliver it any time the following week. Fine, he says. I'll send my pipe guys out the early part of next week to do their thing, and we'll deliver the tank on Wednesday. Perfect! Right?

Only, of course, Pad Guy can't make it on Thursday, and shoves us back to Friday, which is OK, until Tank Guy calls me early that morning and says pipe guys are free, so I'm going to send them on over and let them get started. I warned him that Pad Guy was coming too, but he said no problem, so I say fine, and head off to the shower. By the time I'm finished, pipe guys are here, and they've got the entire downstairs driveway - the one which Pad Guy must come down to get to the pad area - filled with a huge truck, a trailer, a bunch of pipe, and some sort of trenching tractor. Well, crap.

to be continued...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Eleanor Roosevelt said "You must do that thing you think you cannot do." I wonder what that would be, for me, right now. Her quote is along the same lines as the one I kept on my refrigerator door for years: Do something every day that scares you!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to that one. For one thing, it gave me the courage to go back to school and study horticulture, and then to accept that part-time job with the landscape architect - to learn all the stuff they just weren't teaching us in class - which then gave me the courage to start doing landscape designs for friends and family, which then lead to some paying clients (talk about scary)! It also gave me the courage to apply for that job as visual merchandiser at the native plant nursery, just because it was calling my name, even though I had no official training or experience in that field.

It gave us the nudge we needed to go ahead and buy this house, even though it was a real stretch, and not just keep putting it off until it was too late, and we ended up stuck in the 'burbs forever. And, it finally gave me the courage to quit the safety and routine of my life and job in Houston, to move ahead to a life in the Hill Country, and to delve further into my passion for writing. Since then, it has kept me from becoming a hermit, safe in my own little world, and has pushed me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis: tackling the blogosphere; submitting articles to newspapers and magazines, and dealing with the inevitable rejections; attending a conference for memoir writers; volunteering for the board of The Bountiful Sprout; networking with established writers and editors, and even asking for help when I needed it (such a hard thing for me!); taking my blinders off regarding sustainability, and learning to be a better friend and person....well, this list could go on forever!

But these are many small things, and Eleanor said "that thing", which implies that one big thing. What would that one thing, that I think I cannot do, be? Hmm, well... it would probably be having someone ask me what I do, then looking them straight in the eye, while replying "I'm a writer, and an advocate for sustainability." That is the thing I think I cannot do, at least, not yet. Because once I started doing that, I could no longer do either thing half-heartedly. I'd really have to walk the walk, and talk the talk, now wouldn't I?

Monday, May 4, 2009


Here's a quick message from my favorite singer/songwriter, who wrote my favorite song, Hill Country Hippie! Cast your vote, and give this song the place in history that it deserves:

Hi yall,]
Well, one of the most entertaining parts of being an entertainer is when I find one of my songs gets out somewhere that I didn't know about. Right now, it seems I'm in the top 5 of a song contest, and I would love your help in seeing how far we can take it.
Please go to and on the opening page you will see the May song voting contest. Click there, scroll down to Hugh fadal Band, and vote for Hill Country Hippie, unless you want to vote otherwise, that's fine too.
We would sincerely appreciate it, it's only for bragging rights, but what the hey.
Thanks so much and have a wonderful day. Oh yeah, you can vote once a day if your into that sort of thing. We'd really appreciate it!

See you soon,
Hugh Fadal

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.


JOANNA JENKINS! Congratulations Joanna! If you will please send your mailing address to becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net, I will pop this into the mail to you.

Joanna is receiving a book that is very dear to my heart - Under The Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. It is the one that brought it all together for me. As you know, I've spent my life reading books about people who are "living the good life", but it wasn't until this one that I fully understood that common thread that runs through all of them: that thing that keeps our lives balanced and interesting, instead of dull and monotonous; that thing that speaks of the sense of place, the sense of taste, and thus, the taste of place; that thing I call seasonality!

"Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave." -- Frances Mayes

If you have only seen the movie, then you know nothing about this book, for the only thing they hold in common is location. And if you have read this only once, years ago when it first came out, read it again. Then head to the farmers' market, pick up a few things. Come home and cook up some slow food, and while you do that, think about where you have ended up, why you are there, and the things that your soul craves. Happy reading, and eating!

Though her book includes many fabulous recipes, this one comes from her datebook that my niece gave me, after finding out how much I loved the book:

MINESTRONE - "Even better the next day, when you can turn this minestrone into a ribollito by adding hunks of country bread as you reheat it."

1/3 c. olive oil
3 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
Handful of Italian parsley
Handful of fresh thyme
1 bunch red or green chard, chopped
8 c. chicken stock
1 c. white or red wine
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
3 T. tomato paste
1 c. oven roasted tomatoes
Heel of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 potatoes, peeled, cubed and steamed
1 c. cooked cannellini beans
salt and pepper

In a large stockpot, saute' the first five ingredients for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and chard and mix. Then add the stock, wine, and the tomatoes, tomato paste, and oven-roasted tomatoes and bring to a boil. Throw in the heel of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then reduce the heat to low so the soup barely bubbles for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes and beans. Serves 12.

P. S. Many thanks to, for the above image of the real Bramasole.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

ALEJANDRO ROCKS! (and going, going...)

One of the best things about being at UT in the early 70's was the local music scene: going to concerts at Armadillo World Headquarters, where everyone sat on the floor (or stood up and danced, depending on how good the music was) and the security guards walked around with loaded water pistols to discourage people from lighting up doobies; going to the Split Rail and the Broken Spoke to hear people like Willie, Jerry Jeff, and Ray Wylie, up close and personal; sitting an arm's length away from Jimmy Buffet and his imaginary back up band, The Coral Reefers, as they unveiled his brand new song "Why Don't We Get Drunk And (bleep)."

We're just beginning to rediscover live music, since moving back to the Hill Country. I never could get into the massive arena stampede type concerts, but the ones we've been to here, in intimate settings, have been amazing! If you have spent any time at all here, and even if you haven't, one name you have probably heard over and over lately is Alejandro Escavedo (Sister Lost Soul?). He played here in Wimberley at Susanna's Kitchen about a year ago, and when I heard they had to move out of the fellowship hall, where we usually enjoy the music at tables, drinking coffee and eating Wimberley Pie Co.'s wares, and into the main sanctuary, to handle the crowds, I knew we had missed something special. Later in the year, he did a fundraising concert for our local Montessori school, and we missed that too, but we heard the buzz for weeks afterwards.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were at that great party at Fischer Hall, we sat down with a new friend I had just met through TBS, Joy Standefer. She introduced us to her husband Brian, who looked like a rock star, and their two daughters. Sure enough, it turns out Brian has his own recording studio. Then he added, very meekly, "I don't know if you've heard of him, but I also play with a guy named Alejandro Escavedo." What really caught me by surprise was later hearing him tell someone that he spent many years playing in a large metropolitan orchestra. Huh? Rock Star? In an orchestra?

So, last night I'm flipping channels, and who is being featured on Austin City Limits? You guessed it, Alejandro! And there on stage is Brian Standefer, totally rocking out on...the cello! In fact, there were two cellos, and a violin (fiddle?), and the music was so awesome! I tell you what, when they play Susanna's Kitchen again, later this month, you can bet your sweet bippy I won't be missing it this time!

Don't forget, time is running out! You have until sleepy time tonight to leave a comment, and be entered in the drawing for a MAJOR AWARD!)

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.