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I’m standing on a ladder, sweat glistening on my arms, dripping off my brow. It’s not until later that I find that the mercury has made a record-breaking climb today—over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I can’t imagine what the temperature is at ceiling level, where I am. Who needs a sweat lodge? Even the wasps are thirsty.

I’m a sucker for some do-over projects and I’m deep into this one: I am converting a used, portable classroom into a home. (See my two former posts for pictures.) I’ve been at it for the past couple of weeks, having had the building moved here to my new property about a month ago. The drought we’re having in North Florida and the intense heat have made the work of washing down the walls, patching holes, sanding, and caulking—in preparation for painting—an extraordinary challenge. In that I don’t have electricity hooked up yet, there is no way to cool the building or even move the air a bit. And, I have no water.

So, each trip to the new home site includes filling up several bottles of water for the wash and rinse buckets, the bird bath, and a little to keep alive a few tomato plants a friend gave me. I bring plenty of liquids to drink and reserve one bottle to periodically dump on top of my head. It’s a primitive, but very effective, means of air conditioning!

What’s keeping me going, aside from this cooling technique, is my vision of the homestead I’m creating and the pleasure I am taking in the critters who are already at home here. Yep, the critters. I’ve fallen in love with this lizard that I met up with several weeks ago when I startled him or her (let’s call her a “her”) and she scuttled under a brush pile. I’ve never seen another like this one. In the past month, I almost always see her on a tree next to the birdbath. While I’ve been known to romanticize a few things in my life, I’m just going to stick my neck out here and say: I think she’s getting to know me. Like, we’ve got a little thing going, if you know what I mean. She’s been very cooperative when I’ve photographed her on a couple of occasions.

This is the first photograph I took of her. She is on a stepping stone that I had propped against “her” tree. When I got too close, she hopped onto the tree and I was astounded at how well she was camouflaged.

Besides scaly critters, there are furred and feathered ones as well. I recently saw a fox—well, it was the blurry impression of a fox—as it ran away when it saw my dog and me. I was walking Dobie, who nearly pulled my arm off with the leash as he tried to give chase. I’m enjoying the birds, among them a red cockaded woodpecker that perched on a tree just outside my new home as I stood inside (sweating). And, a month or so ago, I gasped in awe as I saw a bird the likes of which I’d never seen before. It was flying low in the sky and its wingspan looked to be over two feet. Its colors were striking: black tail and black-edged wings contrasting with a white body. More recently, when I had my camera, I saw it again. It was much higher in the sky, so I was only able to get this blurry shot.

My bird book tells me it is a swallow-tailed kite, which is a bird of prey and rarely seen. It was so beautiful, not just in its coloring and shape, but in the way it glided on the air currents. Truly, it must have been the inspiration for the first kite!

Meanwhile, inside the classroom-soon-to-be-home, I am standing on my ladder, filling in the holes and tears left when the dry erase board was taken down.

And, oh, boy, what a mess was left when the bulletin board was removed from the wall!

Fortunately, every wall is not so marred.

But, what you cannot see are the holes, the tiny, tiny holes left everywhere by staples. The teachers that used this classroom dearly loved staples! I have removed three or four hundred, but who’s counting?. Despite the challenges, the heat and the sweat, I am still standing, and, yes, still smiling. Can’t wait to show you these walls once they’ve had their do-over. And what other critters might I encounter and fall in love with? I’ll keep you posted.

How about you? Have you ever undertaken a project like this? What do you suggest I might use to cover over some of the flaws in the building that I can’t fix with patching and paint?

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