Three caves and an earth-brick shelter with an enclosed courtyard as large as about 50 square meters was the home of Meiyan's family. The main caves had been dug into a cliff 7 meters deep 4 meters wide and near 4 meters high, while, the much smaller cave could just admit an adult but had been playing the most important role for the family's daily life --- there located was a water well.

All three cave-entrances faced south as most vernacular Chinese houses did, for avoiding cold snap from far beyond Mongolia and Siberia yet shunning direct sunrays. The facades of main cave entrances were archways made of crude rocks; thin wood doors just fit the archway shape. Each main cave had a fanlight style window -- one blurred glass and another was pasted with paper on the window frame.

Meiyan's parents and her younger brother shared the center cave. Inside this cave stood a ramshackle wardrobe in the middle; beside the window sleeping kang was set up, being heated by hot air underneath coming all the way from the kitchen stove in the neighboring cave. Further behind the wardrobe a wood chest came into view in vague light. Contained in the chest was precious wealth of the family --- corn, millet and wheat in separate boxes that, their lives relied on and labored for year after year. Meiyan and her granny shared a kang in another main cave where was the family's kitchen area too. The big stove was placed by window and their sleeping kang was set against wall of inner part. No wardrobe but piles of sundries were put on the floor. Floor, walls and ceiling in both main caves were earth surface and likewise on the courtyard ground. The earth-brick shelter in southwest corner of the courtyard was for the mule and two sheep. An eye-catching thing in the courtyard was the stone grinding-roller, not a mill run by electricity but labor of the mule. Unlike the obviousness of the grinding-roller, what were likely overlooked were several short stools groveling on the ground in the courtyard. However, as stools, they didn't often function as a seat but a stake for family member to squat upon when holding a sizable dish bowl and chopsticks in mealtime. That's why not a dinning table was in vision inside the caves.

When nothing was arranged for Meiyan to set to for a day --- well, it's rare occasion, Meiyan would pick a stool and sit on it with her back leaning against wall of cave, enjoying sunshine and daydream, accompanied with intermittent whinnies of the mule.


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