Tick Bite Gone Rogue

People have asked if I’m afraid of snakes. Arkansas is, after all, home to the copperhead, rattlesnake, and water moccasin. With a pond on one side of the land and a flood on the other, I’m sure the snakes out there are happy campers.

It’s been my experience, however, that snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them. I’m mindful of where I’m walking and where I go poking around. I don’t begrudge an angry snake—I don’t like anyone bursting in my house uninvited, so why should they?

Ticks are another matter. I am, indeed, afraid of ticks. Like snakes, they’re stealthy, but they’re out for blood whether or not they’ve been wronged.

Someone told me that ticks are bad this year. I don’t have a basis of comparison, but I know I’ve seen plenty. A bite I got on Wednesday is now about the size of a nickel and inflamed.  Granted, it’s in a sensitive place that gets a lot of movement…

Just to be safe, I went to my doctor. He’s a tall, elderly man who reminds me of Clint Eastwood. He looks to me like he’s seen a few things. I trust his opinion.

He told me to keep an eye on it and let him know if it gets worse. Though it’s unlikely that I’ll contract a tick-borne illness, I have to wait 10-14 days before I experience symptoms of a more serious condition.

The woods are not without threat, but then again neither is suburbia.

Water, Water Everywhere

driveway 5-13-15

Driveway 5-13-15 before

Driveway 5-13-15 after

Driveway 5-13-15 after

We finally made it back to the land today. Searcy has had crazy rain–6-8″ in the past seven days. A portion of the property is under water, but thankfully not where we intend to build the cabin.

Once we build the cabin and set up the rain barrel, we should be able to collect about 8,000 gallons of water a year [~250 sq. ft. of roof x .62 x 50″ annual rainfall = 7,936 gallons].

Cabin Site

Cabin Site

Next week, we’re going to brave the weather and camp on the land. We’ve cleared away all the small trees and brush; now we need a chainsaw. We’ve staked out the spot for the house and have to decide the path for the driveway. Once it’s cleared, we can have a load of gravel brought for the foundation.

Then it’ll be time to start building.

Why a Tiny Home?

Life is too short for housework. Living in a 2400 sq. ft. home with three step-children and three cats, I used to spend at least ten hours a week on housework alone. That was on top of the 40+ hour grind. While earning my M.A. in English and then working as a college instructor, I did a lot of work from home, frequently feeling the tension between a dirty kitchen and a stack of student essays.

I experienced seasonal depression. If the weather outside was nice and I was indoors all day except the length of time it took me to walk to my car, I felt an overwhelming despair. I didn’t recognize the cause for a long time.  But my family can verify: I was irritable and angry.

I reset myself every spring with a week in a tent on Petit Jean Mountain. In 2008, a two-week camping trip to the Southwest—meeting with Hopi and Navajo artists and storytellers—was healing and spiritually orienting.

Now I wonder, “Why immerse myself in nature only one week a year?” The decision to build a tiny house in the woods did not happen overnight, but now I see that I have been evolving toward this lifestyle for a decade. At first it was scary to revise my ideas of success and safety. Then I felt freedom.

Ten more hours a week will be much better spent tending a garden, sitting on the porch, or going fishing. Maybe the next ten years won’t fly by as fast as the last ten did.

Clearing Land by Hand: Before and After


Some gasoline had spilled in the wheelbarrow, so we drove the hour to Searcy with the windows down. It was 7:00 am and a refreshing 64 degrees.

If only we had been able to go straight to work! Chuck had to give a final exam, so we didn’t get to the land until 11:00, when it was 84 degrees and the sun was almost directly overhead.

Chirping followed wherever we worked, with one bird louder than the rest. It was as if the birds had designated a reporter to keep up with our whereabouts. I’m glad we waited to bring the weed eaters, preferring to see how far the hand tools could get us.

driveway before          driveway after

Based on the before and after pictures, I think they served us well. Granted, I took a three hour nap when I got home. We still have to fill in the ruts in the “driveway.” Luckily, there’s a pile of dirt around the bend.

house area before          house area after

The blue spot in the picture is the tarp we laid over our supplies. It’ll be a few days before we get out to the land again–grading takes precedence, not to mention there’s an 80% chance of rain this weekend. Plus, we have some planning to do and decisions to make.

Things I learned: don’t forget a ponytail holder and wear long sleeves (bugs bite, branches are sharp).

Tiny Cabin

My husband Chuck and I are building a tiny cabin this summer on seven acres with a pond just outside of Searcy, Arkansas. I’m looking forward to breathing fresh air and living more sustainably.

We have a little experience with carpentry, but this will be our first ground-up project. The “Thoreau cabin” will be 10′ x 16′ with a loft. We’re also adding a small front porch and a screened-in back porch. Though we still have some details to work out, we’re going off-grid, using solar power and rain water.

We purchased the plans from solarcabin–watch his 3-minute video for the “Thoreau cabin” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTT5kC4V54o

Tomorrow we begin clearing the chosen spot. The car is loaded with shovels, a wheelbarrow, weed eaters, bug spray. and a first aid kit. What we bought: tarp, rope, gloves, clippers, stakes, a straw hat.

May in Arkansas is lovely. The weather should be great, though there’s a 20% change of a “stray thunderstorm.” Even so, it’s all part of the adventure!