Our good friends C&DK invited mom and me down to their “ranch” about 7 miles outside of Llano, Tx, over New Year’s. They have around 20 acres in “the hill country” down near Austin, and Fredericksburg, on which they have a cabin. They call it “The Crooked Star Ranch” because they had a star (Tx is the “Lone Star State,” after all) on the cabin door that kept getting knocked cattywompus* every time the door was closed.
The cabin was originally built as a 10′ x 15′ hunting lodge with a fireplace, a sleeping loft, a miniscule 3-piece bathroom, a very rudimentary kitchen, a veranda and a screened-in porch.
After they bought it, they replaced the porch screens with glass, added a bedroom and bath on the ground floor and bumped out the kitchen to make room for more prep area, shelving, and a full sized refrigerator. They also added 3 mini splits for heating and cooling. It’s rustic, I’ll grant you, and it’s out in the boonies, but it has hot and cold running water, a septic system, indoor plumbing, and she has a stackable washer and dryer, so we weren’t exactly roughing it.
The stairs to the sleeping loft (at right) are rather breakneck, and they did not want my 93-year-old mom going up and down them (nor did I), so they put her in their bedroom with its en-suite, and they slept in the loft. I was put on the former porch on the bed the couch folded out into. However, I had a waffle blanket, a quilt and the thick fleece blanket I had thrown in the back seat of the car (along with a baggie containing tea light candles, a cigarette lighter, chocolate, nuts and trail mix — part of my winter survival kit), and I was plenty warm.
They still had their Christmas decorations up. The stockings were hung on the gun-rack with care. (Actually, the guns and sword are “authentic reproductions” that belong to one of their neighbors who participates in historical reenactments.
The cabin was all lit up for Christmas, including Dixie, their dog (lower left corner of picture). (Dixie is a Boykin Spaniel, — the state dog of South Carolina — and is rather opinionated about how many treats she should be allowed to have. . . .)
This part of Texas is known as the “hill country” because it is just that — hilly, rocky, and wooded, with post oaks, live oaks and mesquite. It is mostly used for grazing land, primarily for cattle, but also sheep and goats. The land is dotted with limestone escarpments and outcrops which provide an abundant source of building material — the so-called “Austin stone.”
This part of Texas is about at the same latitude as southern Morocco or the northern border of India, and has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and generally mild winters. Average temperatures range from 84°F (29°C) in the summer to 46°F (7.8°C) during winter. Towns are few and far between in this area, and with all this open land, there is also wild life — a lot of deer, racoons, skunks, snakes (including rattlesnakes and copperheads), possums, foxes, coyotes, etc. Unfortunately, they also have feral hogs.
With this winter storm thing developing over the New Year holiday, mom and I were watching the weather so as to know what clothes to take. These were the predictions as of the day before we left.
Suffice it to say, my mom, bless her, does not have the appropriate clothes for this kind of situation or weather. Her wardrobe is “indoor-city,” i.e., geared to bridge clubs, luncheons, and church. Her idea of cold weather clothes was to bring her wool suit made from thin woolen broadcloth lined with satin, which she wore with a long sleeved cotton jersey sweater, a flannel lined nylon windbreaker, and knee-high nylon hose — and she couldn’t understand why she was so cold. I was wearing microfleece — three layers on my core, and two layers on my arms — sweatpants, and thick cotton socks, and I was fine, although I did resort to a lap robe on Monday.
We drove down on Friday, and made really good time — with my mom navigating and the excellent directions CK had given us, we didn’t miss a turnoff. The only time we had any trouble at all was when one of those bus-like RV motor homes nearly ran us off the road. I was going slightly under the speed limit (which is 75 mph/120 kph in Texas) I was in the passing lane right beside them when this yahoo in the motor home decided to pull into our lane and durn near side-swiped us. Fortunately, I was able to maintain control of the car and keep us going straight because the shoulder of the road (what there was of it) was steeply sloped and we could have easily had a roll-over accident. I don’t think mom realized how close we came to wiping out completely, which is just as well.
One other incident of note did happen on the way down; I finally thought of a good name for my silver 2015 Toyota Corolla. The car I had before it (for 27 years!), a 1987 Toyota Corolla, was affectionately known as “the Crayola.” I’ve decided to call this one “the Grayola.”
CK, who is a great cook, served us home-made chicken and dumplings, queso, tamales, prime rib and other such delicious goodies — in a kitchen with no stove, just a microwave, toaster oven and crock pots!
*cattywompus — if something is all cattywompus, it is discombobulated, askew, tangled up, disarranged, jumbled up. (If you’ve ever been around little kittens, you’ll have noticed that sometimes when they run, the hind end gets ahead of the front end, with predictable results.)