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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father’s Day, repeat leak, big week

I took the day off Father’s Day. I did not particularly want to but my back convinced me that sitting still or laying down was the course of the day. I missed both church services. I hated that part but I could not function because my back was spasming so badly that I was having trouble dealing with the pain. I ended up taking a muscle relaxer and laying on the couch. I do not know if I moved from 10 am through 4 pm. I did not feel much better for it but the pain and spasms eased up. Sunday night I stayed on the couch even though my shoulders were hurting from sleeping so much there. It is not as comfortable as our bed but having something to press my back against helps with the pain. Monday, I had to call in sick because I was still hurting too badly to function at work.

The electric was off to the house when I did finally struggle to get up Monday morning. As Mama was calling the electric company some service trucks rolled past our property as they headed up to the property past us. It did not help to call the company because all their lines were busy – guess something big was going on. Mama and I ended up having a nice breakfast about 10am when the electricity came back on. After feeding the animals Mama took off for Muenster to pick up feed. I stayed still at the house; or, at least, I tried to.

We have had a recurring leak under the a/c unit. At first it was due to a line plug on the drain line coming from the unit. A trap in the line would plug and cause an overflow onto the floor. Lately the leaks have come from a plugged line going to the septic system. Saturday, I thought I had it beat, but yesterday it began again in earnest. I tried several things to clear the line but I was not able to get it done – partially because I could not fit myself into the bends I needed to get into to work on it. I did find out that the a/c produces about a ½ gallon of condensate per hour because it overflowed the gallon container I had set under the unit to catch the condensate. We called Bro Daniel to see if he could help and he and James came over just as I was getting home from my chiropractic appointment.

They bought a snake with them but were not able to get any further into the line than I had been able to and I did not look forward to the possibility of getting up every two hours to empty the container I had catching the condensate. Since James had suggested a hose run from the line to the yard I rigged one up to run through the house, through the garage and into the yard. It was the best way to get the water out of the house without leaving a critical door open – like the front door. When I checked it this morning it seemed to have worked well enough to keep most of the water out of the house. Not all of it, but a good bit of it. And we got to keep the air conditioner running. I have a call into Lee to see if he can come and look at it for us. I fear it may be a big repair in the works.

This is a big week for the company I work for. We have a conference this week at the Texas Motor Speedway. I will not be home until after 9 pm today and tomorrow so there will be little I can do – as if I could have done much anyway. Mama will meet me at the speedway this evening for a reception the company is hosting for the more than 200 guests attending the conference. She and Red Shaw’s wife, Joanne are planning on hanging out together somewhere along the edge of the crowd. There is a second reception tomorrow night but I am not sure if I will attend. I would rather go to church – especially since I missed Sunday. The only difficult part for me during the conference is the eight-hour training I will be doing on Thursday.

Standing that long is very difficult for me with my current back issues.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mama’s tough life, backup, first time catch

Soon after I got home yesterday evening, I called Mama to see what she and Victoria and Brittany were into. Victoria picked up the phone to answer. She told me Mama was just getting out of the pool so she had to dry off a little before she could talk. When she did come pick up the phone I apologized for having given her such a tough life; traveling, sitting poolside, shopping, etc. She gave me her, “Yeah, right”, return comments before she launched off into her “newfound” project of finding out just how much it would cost to put in a pool at the farm. Every summer this becomes a topic of discussion. I have to admit that I like the idea of owning a pool, having it ready for me to cool off every summer evening.

I just do not like the idea of maintaining it. For the few hours a month spent enjoying it, there are countless hours keeping it clean, chemically balanced and secured from non-invited animal guests – toads, mice and rats, the occasional opossum, etc. Then there is the money associated with the constant upkeep whether you do it yourself or pay someone else to do it. So, we will work through the numbers and talk about it until the weather is too cool to actually enjoy it. Buying me another year without it. It was blistering hot last night…but a shower worked just as well to cool me down. That water was free of chemicals.

Mama and Victoria will be headed home this afternoon. I know the animals will be very happy to see her again. Especially the inside dogs. I have fed them, but not the way Mama does. She takes time to pour additional things over their food and mix it in with the dog food before she sets it out for them to eat. I figure they are dogs. They can eat dog food – so, that’s what I put out for them. So far, they have not eaten more than a few bites of the food I have given them without the treats. I guess it would take a full week or so for them to be hungry enough to eat the food plain. Tonight, their patience and stubbornness will be rewarded; especially if I tell Mama that that same food has been in their since she put it out Wednesday morning.

Grandma and Grandpa have been coming over late morning or early afternoon to let the dogs out because Mama and Victoria were worried that the additional two hours of my schedule to let them out before I left for work and then again when I get home was too much for them to bear. I do not see it but they were sufficiently concerned to call in backup. I don’t mind. I think Grandma enjoys getting Grandpa out for the trip. He does not range very far afield these days. Grandma will drive out two tanks of gas a week just running about. If it were up to Grandpa, a tank of gas would last a month, but they get by and they seem to enjoy what they have. What more can you ask?

This morning as I went into the well house to get feed for the goats I saw that the trap I leave at that door was closed. I did not immediately see anything in the trap which is not unusual because a rat will crowd under the closed door of the trap to hide. For that reason, I normally have to lift the trap to see what is inside. This morning was a first. Inside the trap was an enormous toad. I took the time to let him out before I scooped the feed I needed for the goats but later had to get the toad back out of the well house. He had gone back in while I was tending to the goats and rabbits in the goat barn. I guess that little tunnel the rats created in the door jamb was just too attractive to him.

It is on my schedule to repair the jamb but it is not a priority, especially when catching critters – even cold-blooded ones -  in the trap is so much fun.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In the baby front, back at the farm

Mama and Victoria made it safely to Brittany’s. Today or tomorrow they plan to celebrate Brittany’s birthday – which is coming up very soon. On the baby front, Brittany’s doctor told her that they would probably take the twins in four weeks. That will put her somewhere around the 32-week mark. For some reason, the delivery gets more complicated if it is delayed further. I will defer to the doctors on the one but that puts us going to meet the newborns sometime the week of the 17th of July. That will be a new experience for me and Mama. We had three babies born to our children a couple years ago – but they came one at a time. This will be the first twin birth in our family; although we have been dealing with twins (other parents children) since our children were small. Pray for Brittany but especially pray for Andrew. This may be somewhat “old-hat” for Brittany, but it is a completely new frontier for him. It will take him months to adjust.

Meanwhile, back at the farm. I had to get up at 5:30 this morning and do the morning feeding of the menagerie. It is not much earlier than I normally rise but it was a totally different arrangement to the morning. It took me about thirty minutes to get everything done – at least hurriedly - which took away the time I usually spend in Bible reading. I will do that this evening.  Last night I took some extra time to make sure waterers were full. Mama and I have started putting away the feed in the coop every night to try and discourage the rats from taking up occupancy. I am not sure that is working but it is something we can do to make things more difficult for them. So, I put out all the feeder this morning, opened up the coop doors to the yard and made sure there was still plenty of water available. I put out fresh feed for the pigs, goat and rabbits. Then I had to take care of the inside animals. Dressing for work, making my coffee and packing a snack for lunch were squeezed into the remaining few minutes this morning.

Mama is down to three Bantys now. Last night I found one dead in the nesting box of the little coop where they normally roost. We have been wondering why the three remaining birds have not wanted to roost in their normal spot. She seems to have died of natural causes. Mama assumes she was egg bound. It would have been preventable if we had caught it sooner. Alas, we did not. I see some purchases of young Bantam hens in our future. We really like the eggs. Bantams lay a smaller egg but the yolk is about the same size as a normal egg. Since the yolk is where the flavor, that makes them especially flavorful. I will start on a new Banty house very soon and we will use the little house we now have them in for some bunnies.

The piglets are growing quickly. Three of them already belong to Brittany Wycoff. They are not going to be pets. If we end up with any grown pigs from the lot, they will not be pets either. They will be sausage. But for now, they are quite safe. Molly, our older pot belly pig is adapting to her new home in the pig sty but she is not thrilled about it. I am not sure what we are going to do longer term but I plan on taking down the sty and replacing it with something more permanent. The pallets were good in a pinch but they have a short life expectancy – especially against a rooting, full grown, full size pig.

We will still have a pig sty but I will construct something a little less biodegradable.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Packing, small repairs, second time

I spent a portion of the evening helping Mama pack items in Victoria’s car as they prepare to go to visit Brittany later today. Mama has a doctor’s appointment this morning so they will not be leaving until after that but they have everything else accumulated in one area in the kitchen so they can finish packing quickly once Mama is back. The original plan was for them to leave tomorrow and come back Saturday but Victoria has to work Saturday so they moved everything up by a day. Mama is anxious for her animals. Since I will still be leaving very early in the morning each morning she is gone, she knows that I will not take the time to do everything she normally does because I will not only be short on time I will be short on interest. I intend to make up for the hurried mornings by taking my time in the evenings, but that way of working does not equate with Mama’s methods. I am confident not a single animal will die because of my lack of ministrations to them.

I took time to dig up a waterline leak at the yard hydrant in the garden. I hoped it was nothing more than a loose clamp but there is always the possibility that some other damage could have been done by a burrowing, gnawing creature. It did turn out to be a loose fitting so I tightened all the fittings in the exposed area of the leak. It is at a tee where the line tee’s off to the hydrant so I am not overly surprised that it needed some extra attention. I am curious as to why it started leaking now but I can live with an easy repair. In the future, I think I will fence it off so the cows cannot trample it as they round that corner.

Mama and Victoria advertised the boy goats yesterday evening so I hope we will start getting calls on them soon. Kobe is far too interested in the little ones and will challenge them every time she is in the yard. I think it is a call to play but even that is dangerous for the little goats because they can be killed by too much running in even a friendly game of tag.  It worries Mama. The little piglets are also a focus for Kobe. Since they are able to get out of the enclosure (with their small size it is very difficult to keep them in an enclosure) Kobe sees them running around the larger enclosure of the animal buildings and desperately want to check them out. I do not feel that that would be a good encounter. They too, are susceptible to heat stroke – and Kira already tried to kill their mama. It is hard to tamper instincts that may be driving the interest Kobe and Kira have in our farm animals and past experience shows that we need to interfere with those instincts rather than trust the dogs to ignore them.

Mama called me right after I got to the office this morning to tell me that I had another raccoon in the trap. I am a little surprised. I had set the trap the day before yesterday and had caught nothing that night. I did not even check to see that the bait was still viable in the trap last night but I guess it was. I will need to take the time to make an extra trip to the house to dispatch the coon as soon as I am able. I do not want to take the chance that it can somehow escape from the trap. If it does, I will not get a second change to trap it.  I am not surprised that there is more than one raccoon in the area, but I admit to hoping that that was the case. It remains to be seen just how many more there are.

Where there are two there will be many more so this will be an ongoing challenge.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rearranging, repairs

Victoria and Mama – but mostly Victoria – did some rearranging in the living room yesterday. It was not much but it did displace the two Windsor chairs I had sitting against one wall. She moved the antique book case out of her room into the living room. Now I have a matched set in the room. Mama put one of the displaced chairs in the spare bedroom. The other is still waiting a seemlier setting. The table set in the corner of the living room has been forced further into the corner but it got to stay. Mama and I really need to get started on the building project of the additional living room I have planned. Although, there is not much chance of that happening soon. All in all, it was nothing too drastic but Mama dislikes changes that are not of her choosing.

Along those same lines, I moved several items out of the garage and cleared a very large space in the center. I made a conditional promise to Mama that I would have the garage ready to park a car in by winter. I do not know if I can get the shop completely done by the end of the year but that is my overarching goal. Today Mama is calling a friend to get an estimate on pouring a slab for that project. Since we did not get the blacktop laid in the carport/shop, we are going to get it done in concrete. Putting up the walls will be a quick and easy job since the roof and supports are already in place. It is only a matter of timing and cash. The space is still largely empty. All the items we had under the carport were moved to get it ready for asphalt, but since the paving company ran short of material, the asphalt is laid only to the very edge of the carport. The items pulled out are still where we put them. None of those items are of any real importance so sitting out will not hurt them greatly. It just leaves me with another cleanup project.

I made a couple quick repairs to Mama’s mower as soon as I got home yesterday so she could mow the yards. She has been anxious to get that done. The rains have been timed so that she had been held up for several days. Also, I had removed the air filter so I could match it up at the dealer and she had been waiting on me to get that replaced before she ran the mower. An additional issue with the mower is that one of the soft front tires on the mower is in bad shape. As I filled it, it leaked out as much air as I was able to pump in so I got a can of Fix-a-Flat and filled the tire with that so Mama could go ahead and mow. It will have to be replaced soon. I still have to change the oil and oil filter and put in the new spark plugs and gas filter to get the seasonal tune up done. I should be able to get that done while Mama and Vitoria are visiting Andrew and Brittany Thursday through Saturday. That is something I do not enjoy doing but it needs to get done and that mower is too important to us to let it go too much longer.

I did not catch anything last night though I set out the traps again. Mama was equally glad and worried. Glad that no more predators were captured. Worried that they still might be out there waiting to kill her brood. That is a well justified fear. Even the Banty chickens will not roost in their little house right now. The same night the coon ate the first chicken a little chick that Mama had in a special cage housed in the Banty enclosure disappeared; no blood, no feathers, cage locked and secure. They know what happened but they are being tight-beaked about it. My guess is that it was a snake, a large snake, but there is no real evidence of that. I just know Mama is feeling very frustrated about the losses she has suffered lately.

Life in the country, I suppose.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Victoria is home, the ballet, chicken thief

Mama and I had to be at the airport at 7 a.m. Saturday morning to pick up Victoria. That seemed early but when you think about Nate or Cori getting her to the airport for the flight, it was not so bad. While we were on the way, Victoria called to tell us the plane had landed – it was 6:40 a.m. We were still twenty minutes out so we advised her to go to baggage claim and we would see if we could time it to pick her up as she was getting her bags. That is almost how it worked out. I had to sit in a NO PARKING - ALL VEHICLES WILL BE TOWED AWAY AT THE OWNERS EXPENSE zone right behind a police car for about fifteen minutes. Mama did not have an issue with that. She rarely does. But it did work out that the carrousel started spitting out the bags pretty quickly after we got there so we were on our way home by 7:10. Other than stopping at both Chick-fil-A and Buc-ee’s it was a quick trip. Victoria went straight to bed after a few minutes playing with Kobe and Kira.

I spent the morning picking up and cleaning various parts of the farm and buildings. I needed space in the garden shed for the cages we just bought to be stored and I needed to get some things out of the garage so we could clear that space. But I was hurting too badly to tackle too much. I did tear off the tarp I have had closing off the west side of the goat barn so the rabbits housed there could have more light and more air circulation but that just means that I will have to get the barn doors built soon. I need to get it done before winter anyway. I still have not decided what type of doors I want but am leaning more toward rolling doors since I have everything I need for one side. Building the supports for the tracks will be the challenge.

Saturday night we had a ballet to go to. Yilin and Cheyenne were in a ballet production of the Wizard of Oz. Cheyenne was a chick on the farm and Yilin was a snowflake. I know it had to be difficult for the young ones because the ballet was over two hours long. Cheyenne was in the first scene when Dorothy was on the farm and then in the last scene when Dorothy awoke – back on the farm. Yilin was in the scene where Dorothy and her entourage had to be wakened from the sleep induced by the evil witch’s poppy flowers. Other than that, there was a lot of waiting. It was very cute and a bit expensive. Cheyenne’s daddy, Alex, paid $18 each for the three tickets he bought for me, Mama and Victoria. Sunday morning when we picked up the girls for church, I called Cheyenne our little dancing chick. She kept telling Mama, “Papa Tim called me a dancing chick.” By the time we got them home after church, they were exhausted. The only problem was they had a second performance Sunday afternoon. Alex thanked us for taking the time to come and get the girls and take them to church. We assured him it was a pleasure.

Friday night and Saturday night, we lost a chicken each night to some predator. The ones killed were the last of the hens that roosted under the coop. Each night only a portion of the bird was eaten but it left a gruesome mess for us to clean up. I lit fires each morning to burn the carcasses. I was not sure if it would work but I set out a livetrap baited with a bone from the port we had cooked in the crock pot and an ear of dried corn. Grandma and Grandpa were sure it was an opossum. I was thinking it was a coon but you can never be sure so I set bait that I thought would work for either animal.

I got up and dressed this morning and went out to check the trap before first light. As I opened the gate to the chicken yard, I could see that the trap had been triggered and the door was shut but I could not tell what was in it until I got close enough the shine the light on it. It was a very large raccoon. I am not sure how the trap managed to enclose it. It could barely turn around in the confines of the tarp – which was the largest trap I have. I went back to the house and got the rifle, a large trash bag and my gloves. Once I dispatched it, I opened the trap and pulled it onto the ground. It was a long as the trap. I bagged it and headed for the garage so I could put it in the bed of the truck. The only problem with that was that Mama and Victoria had stretched a rug over the bed of the truck so it could uncurl. Fortunately, Mama was opening the garage door as I came through. I asked her to heft the trash bag that the coon was it and she was amazed at how much it weighed. She happily helped me move the rug so I could take the coon carcass elsewhere.

Hopefully, that is the only one, but just to make sure I will reset the trap tonight.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lunch with Brittany and Andrew, a good buy, more animals

Brittany and Andrew came back through Decatur after they picked up the car in Dallas. I was thinking that they would pack in the morning and leave from Dallas to go home, but they left their things and Lucy at the house intending to get all that packed after they got the car. That gave them more time to pack and two vehicles to pack their thing into. As it happened, they came back through right about lunchtime. Since they wanted Mexican, Mama suggested Casa Torres. So, all of us met there. The restaurant is always busy for lunch and yesterday was no exception, but since the restaurant has put in a second parking lot we were all able to get parking places. We were all driving separate vehicles, so I thought that was a good deal to be able to find parking for all of them. Mama had to stand in a spot so Andrew, who was the last to arrive, could park there; but he got a spot. Andrew clearly did not feel well so the entire trip was a challenge for him. I can only imagine that the drive home was even more challenging. They finally made it home a little after 8 pm. Other than Lucy, I cannot imagine they will be up early this morning.

Mama set up a meeting with a gentleman selling some rabbit cages yesterday evening. We followed his interesting directions – just before the cull de sac at the black mailbox with no numbers on it – but we did find the house. He lives in Alvord so it was only a fifteen-minute drive. We drove the truck because we did not know for sure what the man was selling and it was a good thing we did. The drive was not safe for anything but a truck. It reminded me of a West Virginia mountain road. There were four or five barking dogs at the house so Mama was disinclined to exit the truck. None of them looked too mean so I got out and met the seller.

He had a slew of cages, feeders and nesting boxes lined up. When I asked what he was asking for the larger cages, he said he wanted $50 for the entire lot. I coaxed Mama out of the truck to show her the offering and she agreed to make the purchase. In all, we got one very large single square cage, one very large rectangular double cage, one large double cage, four medium sized double cages and three small single rabbit cages that are more like transport cages. They were all used but in fair condition. Along with that we got four nesting boxes, three are made of metal, five waterers and eight feeders. Mama is using the transport cages this morning to get the rabbits from Ling.

For the visit with Ling, we went out in the late evening to catch the rooster and three hens to take to Ling and his family. We used the large square cage to house the chickens in the bed of the truck overnight. Since there was a high probability of rain last night I backed the truck up under the carport. Mama will take the chickens to Ling this morning and pick up another young male and two young females rabbits. Ling has too many and is quickly running out of room to house them. Mama is a little mortified by the fact that those he does have are in cages which are sitting on the ground with a tarp over them…mostly covered. To Ling and his family, they are meat, not pets. Mama has an entirely different concept of raising animals – even if they are for meat.

With the cages we picked up last night we will have enough cages to house the rabbits. What we will not have is a good place to put those cages. I will spend the weekend trying to decide where to put our rabbits temporarily in a manner that satisfies Mama’s expectations. Eventually I will have to build either a covered stand for the cages or a set of hutches for our little colony.

At some point, I will have the time to get started on the well house and the shop…but not yet.