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Friday, October 20, 2017

Minor repairs, our disappearing cow, elderberries, logs

I had to stop at Lowe’s on the way home to buy some toggle bolts so I could repair a gate support on the back of the chicken coop. I was not in a particular hurry since Mama was not going to be at the farm. She had to make the trip to Muenster for feed. With the goats being taken to be bred, Mama and I struggled to determine just how much feed to buy to carry us through the month; but we will be close enough that if we fall short, we can make another trip to overcome the shortfall. Back to the gate. As it seems the case with all the “minor” repairs on the farm, it turned out to be more involved than I had anticipated. I have the coop yard separated by a fence and gate in the center of the yard. It was the center gate that had worked loose from the mountings. In order to fix it, toggle bolts were the only option. The problem I ran into was that I did not have a drill bit large enough to get the “wing” of the toggle bolt through the siding. Keeping the Banty’s in their yard and the other chickens out of the Banty yard only added to the frustration of wallowing out the holes to enlarge then sufficiently to use the repair bolts. It was one of those moments that you could have made a video worthy of any competition. Why the chickens wanted to relocate is beyond me, but it added a lot of time to the project. I did finally complete the repair and the gate is in better shape than when it was originally installed. (No chickens were harmed in the repair of this gate.)

While I was working on the gate Mama made it back from the feed store and because the cows heard her voice, they started bawling. Honestly, I do not try to keep up with the livestock since Mama takes her responsibility to tend to them very seriously, so I was surprised to hear that she had not seen Daisy for several days. We have been off-again-on-again with Daisy since getting her back home. We managed to get all our herd to walk through the gap I use to move the cows from our land to the neighbor’s land but Daisy was pacing and bawling on our side of the fence so we let her back onto the neighbor’s property. Our thought was that she may have a calf in the pasture there. The next day she came back to the gap to be let in for Mama to feed her grain and cubes. After that, she seems to have crossed to the neighbor’s pasture on her own. At least, that is what we are thinking at the moment. We walked the fence line to see if there was an obvious place for her to get through but did not find one. Mama called our neighbor to let him know and he will look over his property this evening to see if Daisy is there. Hopefully she is there and Mama can rest at ease knowing that nothing bad has happened to her very large pet.  What we can do to keep her in our pasture remains to be seen. We may have to take her to the stock sale along with the other two cows we were planning to sell this weekend if she will not stay home.

Just before dark, I cut as many of the elderberry fronds as I could. I was able to fill a very large container before it got too dark for me to continue and I only harvested one side of the bushes. It took me over an hour to wash the berries and strip them into a large pot so we could transfer them into freezer bags for later use. We filled six one quart Ziploc bags with the berries. I will look tonight to see how much more I have to collect before the plants go dormant, but I am fairly confident it will be as much as I got last night – if not more.

While Mama and I are in the area this evening to drop off the goats I need to go by and look at the logs for the log home package we have on the property in Bowie. I plan to get them moved this winter. The question is where to put them. If the logs are in good enough shape after several years of exposure to the elements, I will try to sell them. If that does not work, we will regroup and see what possibilities they will provide to Mama and me.

God always brings good of everything we give to Him; we just have to offer it and listen closely.

Goat breeding, Greenland missionary

Mama and I made the needed contacts to get our female goats to a Billy at the goat farm in Bowie. Since he has Grand Champion Billy goats on his farm and does not mind letting us get them to breed our nannies, it is a good chance for us to get top of the line Myotonic offspring.  We are taking all four of the females even though Mama thinks Kia is too small to successfully produce twins or triplets. Even if Mama is right, Kia can be sold as a bred female for more money than if she is not bred. And if she does not sell we will get at least one little kid out of her – possibly twins. That will put our farm herd down to the two boys and their sister – Yukie; who will have to spend the next few weeks all by herself. We are going to advertise Yukie for sale and hopefully the two boys as well, but Mama is dragging her feet on that. Rick told Mama that he has 29 newborns at his place right now. I am not sure why we are on a spring delivery program while he is on a fall delivery program, but that is something Mama insisted upon. The plan is to load up the girls Friday night and run them out to Rick’s. They should be there for about two months or so. If all goes as planned, we will have kids in March of next year.

Last night at church we had a missionary family that is headed to Greenland present their work. It was kind of neat to talk to the dad and mom about Greenland. I recently finished a novel that centered around the country of Greenland. At the very least I was familiar that the largest island in the world is loosely governed by the Kingdom of Denmark. Though the island supports a small  population of 56,000 people living in about 74 cities – all on the coasts of the country – it is a large landmass; two thirds of which are above the arctic circle. There are no roads connecting many of the towns even on the same coasts so almost all commuting between the local communities is by boat. Planes are also used but the expense makes that a prohibitive means to commute for most of the population.

Everything other than meat must be shipped in and the meat they eat is mostly fish (halibut), seal and whales and occasional other game. There is no farmland, no industry, not exports other than some types of processed fish. It does not sound like a fun place to live – much less minister. The temperatures in the winter can reach -85° F (actual ambient temperature, not the wind chill adjusted temperature). You cannot help but be amazed by the call and the willingness to answer that call. They have five kids – four of which will be assuming the ministry with their parents. I was touched by the commitment. They are studying at BBTI right now so I hope Mama and I will get to visit with them more. I am fascinated by the idea of ministering to an Inuit culture.

I am still having problems adjusting to the medications I have been prescribed. On the upside, I am definitely improving – dizziness and all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The play, elderberries, Mama’s big win

The Christmas play will be upon us very quickly. With that thought in mind, practices have started for the play. Mama was selected to play a bit part in the play and as much as she boohooed about having to be in the play again, she enjoys doing it. She came home from practice excited about her role and the overall selection of those who have been given parts in the play. One of the parts is being acted out by Gracie Echeveria. Her dad is playing the part of a crochety old man who is being solicited by a young girl to buy some Christmas items for a church school fundraiser. The old man tells her not to listen to the nonsense about the Christmas story and the play progresses from there. Mama plays the part of the in-home nurse caring for the old man; talk about being typecast. It is a good play. It should be fun – as long as the choir can get their parts together for the musical portion of the play and cantata.

Mama and I are going to make a final harvest of the elderberries this week. The bushes are so loaded the that the branches are straining under the weight of the ripened berries. Once we cut the fronds from the plants I will cut the plants down so they can begin their winter sleep – hopefully to regrow next year. Mama and I were talking about the way the plants showed up on the new fence line this year. The placement of the plants could not have been better for maintaining the yard the way Mama likes to and it could not have been better for me to keep the plants watered and otherwise tended to through the dry, hot months of summer. The elderberries are the most successful fruit bearing plants on the farm – and I had very little to do with their placement or excessive growth. All I did was recognize the plants for want they were in their infant stages. That was all God. It has been and should continue to be a great benefit.

After Mama got home last night – about the time Victoria got home as well – she and Victoria logged into Facebook to watch an online “show” for LulaRoe. It has replaced the Beanie Babies hunt in our lives. Anyway, I did my best to talk them out of watching too long because the longer one of these displays is watched and the more you see others purchasing the items displayed, the more you feel the need to make a purchase also. Mama continued to watch long after Victoria had shut her link down. As the show progressed a game was played concerning pets owned and Mama entered the true number of all the animal charges she has on the farm which won the contest. In doing so, she won a “Randy” - whatever that is. (At first, I was jealous but I got over t pretty quickly.) Mama was ecstatic over her victory. I think she got up excited this morning riding on the emotion that the contest outcome generated. My fear is that she will be further drawn in to the online shows. So far, her resistance to using electronic devices has saved me hundreds of dollars.

Those days may be quickly coming to an end.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The follow up, follow through

I had a follow up visit with the doctor yesterday evening. It was somewhat helpful. In the interview/consultation I tried to outline that the colon problems I have experienced in the past do not seem to be directly related to diet but rather to stress. He was not overly receptive of the idea – as should be expected looking at this from a purely medical perspective; however, he was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. With that in mind, he prescribed several medications to help with the inflammation, the infection and the constant tightness in my back. Mama and I have used a certain muscle relaxer in the past but we cut he pills in half and only take them on the weekends because they cause excessive drowsiness. The one recommended by the physician is not supposed to cause the drowsiness that our normal prescription causes. If what I am feeling this morning is any indication of how I will be affected that supposition is proving untrue. About fifteen minutes after I took the medication -as recommended – this morning, I was having trouble standing upright. I did not struggle too much on the drive to work but now that I am sitting at my desk, the effects are a bit problematic.

The reason the muscle relaxer was prescribed is actually a good one. If I can relieve the constant tension in my back, there is a chance that the pain I am constantly trying to suppress will ease up. My back has always been an issue and it has always been very tight – which I considered a measure of the strength of my back. But, if muscles are constantly tense, there will eventually be harmful consequences. Perhaps the doctor is onto something with that line of reasoning. However, if the medication makes me this dizzy we will have to try another route to relieve the tension. If I can ever get myself to stop and do it, I believe tai chi will be a great benefit. Who knows, with the extended periods of dark in the evenings through the fall and winter, I might find the energy and time and dedication to explore the idea.

With the cooler nights we can already see the benefits of the new windows. The chef’s pantry has been the coldest room in the house. It is the furthest room on the HVAC system and sits right off the garage so there is no buffering the seepage of cold air into the room. With the new window in that room, it was actually much warmer than normal this morning. The outside temperature was 43° and it was practically warm in the room when I went into the room this morning. That is a good sign.

All the animals are starting to put on their winter coat – at least the cattle, goats and rabbits are. I do not know if the chickens do anything to prepare for the colder temperatures but the changes to the fur bearing animals is noticeable. I still need to get the well house built in order to protect the well in the barn lot but at the moment I do not have the funds necessary to get that done. It will have to be done soon, but I still have a few weeks before it is imperative.

I also need to put doors on the goat barn, repair windows in the chicken coop, put lights in the barn, till the garden, finish and insulate the shop, bed the trees and shrubs and make several little repairs to the sun room before winter begins in earnest. Mama wants the fireplace to be working this winter but I cannot see that happening. It will be a major project and we lack the funds to pull that one off.

Still, all in all, I always look forward to winter. This year is no exception.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Teaching and training, short weekend, new windows

Having endured three days of training – two as a participant and one as an instructor – I was relieved to be back in the office for a day or two. All of the days in training were good days which provided a lot of interaction with my coworkers as well as a chance to present a course that I actually enjoy teaching. Even though I got some scathing reviews of the course I presented, each person who had something bad to say made it clear that their ire was directed toward the presentation, not the presenter. Not what I or the company I work for want to hear, but none of the complaints are invalid. To end the work week, we retook a class in instructional design which had been totally reformatted. That is the kind of rework we need for the two other courses we are currently offering. I can see us going through a revamp of the material as well as giving serious consideration to renaming the courses to better reflect the content.

The weekend seemed short because there was little I actually got done. The workers showed up to install our new windows about 9:30 and we ran into one problem after another. The first problem came up when the first window had been removed. They had forgotten a necessary part for the installation of the double window in the living room. With the office over an hour away, the lead worker had to go back to the office to retrieve the part while the other two worker continued removing the old windows. I had to run to Lowe’s to buy some mortar in order to reattach the brick window sill that had fallen out when the double window had been removed. That rework took me over an hour but there was plenty of time to get it done and allow it to cure as we waited for parts to be retrieved from the office. Meanwhile, one of the two workers took over the majority of the demolition of the old windows to help ensure we did not lose too many more of the brick window ledges. In all, I had to repair three of the window ledges; which took an entire 80# bag of mortar by the time I was done. I was pleased with my work and for now, the ledges are in better shape than the several loose brick ledges they managed to work around. By the time the lead had returned, there were only three windows that needed to be demoed – including the picture window in the dining room.

The installers ran into another hiccup when they brought the windows into the living room and discovered they had picked up the wrong windows for the opening. They made it work but they will have to return at a future date to put the right windows in place. I was surprised at how quickly the new windows got installed once the demo was done and the metal trim packages – which had to be bent to form from flat aluminum stock - were installed. Still, it took the crew until almost 10 pm to complete the work. The windows are sealed with caulk on both the inside and the outside. They should be a tremendous upgrade to the single-paned, builder-grade windows that were removed. And as a bonus, we got the house thoroughly aired out in the process.

Mama is very excited to have windows she is able to clean. Windows that will easily open and close. I am relieved that I do not have to take the time to line every window with plastic this winter. It was good decision to put in the new windows; expensive, but well worth the cost of the upgrade.

Recovery, training

From Thursday last week until yesterday I was hurting too badly to get anything done. I do not want to take too much time on that subject but it did occupy a great deal of my focus throughout those long days. A visit to the doctor’s office on Sunday resulted in the prescribing of some strong antibiotics but the pain just would not go away. After almost collapsing in the kitchen Monday morning, I went back to the doctor. This time I was sent to the hospital for a CT scan. It is a diagnostic test that requires the ingesting of a very distasteful liquid as well as the injection via IV of a contrast agent. Getting the IV going proved to be a problem. I was stuck seven or eight times before it was decided to put in a PIC line – a catheter like IV the is inserted in the vein just below the arm pit. Having done that, I was walked across the hall for the CT scan but when they tried to flush the PIC line, it was plugged. Apparently, I have very good clotting times. Once the tech reamed out the opening, the contrast fluid was injected and the test was begun. The final diagnosis is that I have severe diverticulosis tending to diverticulitis. Painful conditions that are a lifelong struggle. There is no known treatment. Much like the back issue I am dealing with, the prognosis is long-term pain management.

I will only be in the office for a short while this morning, for the remainder of the today I will be at the Civic Center here in Decatur observing a colleague teach the class I normally teach. Since he is normally my backup, I have not gotten the chance to observe him present the class. It will probably be the best opportunity to do so. Besides, I do not feel good enough to do too awfully much and sitting at the desk is uncomfortable. In the back of the room I can order my day as needed. Following that, I have to present the training for another class on Thursday and sit through an additional class on Friday. Next week will be occupied with nothing but catching up to the last two weeks of not being in the office.

The temperatures are continuing to gradually fall – at least the nights are getting progressively cooler. With that comes the falling of the leaves. It is one of the two times of the year that having all these trees presents a challenge. Keeping the leaves out of the garage is an ongoing issue. Not one anyone but me seems to have a problem with since the garage door is often left open to the blowing wind. The leaves pile up in drifts along the fence in the back yard and smother some of my plants if I do not keep them under control. It is a small thing that we normally use Mama’s mower to help with. I rake the leaves into rows and she mows over them to turn them into mulch. It is a dusty, dirty process, but it has worked well in the past. This Fall however, her mower is not working properly. The other day she slammed her hand down on the blade engagement control and from that point on, the blades will not engage. We have yet to take it in for repairs – or to enlist Grandpa’s help.

James Dobson’s principle of “two sets forward, one step back” is definitely at work in our everyday lives.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Travel with Mama, brief time at home, hot chili peppers

I will be in the office for today only this week. The good news about that is that Mama gets to make the trip with me this week. We will be heading to Port Huron, MI tomorrow morning. I have two classes to teach to a company there. The classes will be on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Each class is about seven hours long, which gives me and Mama the evenings off to look around the town. Canada is just across a bridge from Port Huron so Mama and I may drive over the border to look there also. She has not decided yet. I am going to check this morning to see if the rental car policy we use will allow Mama to drive the car while I am in class. If not, she will have to explore on her own – on foot. She is excited about the trip although she is apprehensive about leaving her herds and flocks in the care of anyone else. Nate, Cori and the kids will be at the farm during our absence to help with the feeding, but Mama strongly prefers to do those chores herself. The entire routine happens a lot faster without the pigs in the mix. And hopefully soon, we will sell the boy goats, which will alleviate all the animals in that area – speeding up the feeding process even further.

I spent Saturday getting a couple repairs done. One of which was removing more of the insulation in the ceiling of the coop. A large rat had filled one area to the point that the piece was starting to collapse under the weight of the stored food piled on it. While I was pulling down one piece, I saw our rodent homesteader. Mama was freaking out so I sent her to the house to get my pistol. It was over ten minutes later that she returned with the firearm. The rat was long gone. I guess it was not as urgent a problem as I had imagined. When I asked what took her so long she told me that she was thirsty so she stopped to get a drink and when she headed out of the house she realized she had forgotten her egg basket and as soon as she got her egg basket she realized she needed to use the bathroom. But she hurried through all those distractions so she could get my pistol to me quickly. Oh, well. We will have to apply other means to trap and eliminate the pest.  It is almost a shame the rats cannot be eaten. They are quite large.

My training last week in Las Cruces went well enough. There were some technical issues and the hosting company kept calling their employees out of the class throughout the day, but overall it went smoothly. The area is brushy and mountainous; very sparse in vegetation. I tend to like mountains in all forms and the desert mountains were beautiful to me. There were storm clouds resting on top of the mountains both mornings I was there, adding to the beauty. I am sure it gets boring to those who live in the area, but for a short visit I found the vista worth taking time to enjoy.

On the advice of the man who operates our little dump in Chico, I shopped around for some of the peppers that the area is famous for. I took some shopping to find them but I eventually did. I bought a couple pounds of the hot peppers and a little over a pound of the very hot peppers (Arizona 88) to bring home and share with Harrold. He was thrilled. We have not used any yet but I was given a couple recipes by the locals and Mama and Victoria are ready to try them out. Just the three pounds of the dried peppers filled the suitcase I used to get all the books and related class items to the training session.

We will have peppers for some time to come.