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Friday, December 15, 2017

Feeding problems, practice, materials

When I got home, Mama was doing her evening feeding. All seemed well until she went over to feed the calves. While she was over in the barn lot Daisy decided to come for a visit and bring a few friends with her. She alone might not have been a problem, but when some of the cows started jumping the fence to get to the feed she was setting out for the calves, we started to see an issue. With all that going on, Mama was in the barn putting out more cubes to make sure the claves did not get beat out of all the feed while competing with the bigger cows. I fussed at her to stop because the ten or so cows and bulls on the other side of the fence were looking for a way to get to the feed they knew was being poured out. All in all, only a few came over, but we had no time to get them back onto Wayne’s property before we needed to leave. They might actually be content to stay since we have a fresh bale of hay set out and plenty of water close by. I do not want it as a long-term solution, but I have to repair the fence before I get the strays back to their owner. All this excitement and still Daisy came without her calf. I am not sure what Mama will find this morning. We could have several extras or we could have an empty barn lot if the calves decided to go next door for a visit. I’m just glad the cows did not smell the alfalfa we got down from the loft to feed the goats. We might have had a stampede.

The hour I got to spend with Erin Echevarria going over the cantata music was a great help to both of us. Mama was there with us as we played and sang through the songs that had been giving both of us problems. About 45 minutes into the practice Mama called on me to stop before I lost my voice completely. For some reason I have been struggling with my voice. For about five weeks or so – as we have been practicing the cantata in choir practice before the evening service – I have had to have Bro. Zach lead the music for the evening service. My voice has been too worn out by the time choir practice was over. Everyone has been very gracious, but it is troubling to me personally. Mama went on to get involved in play practice after Erin and I had gone over as much music as we had time for.

I went to Wendy’s for Mama – who was not hungry when we were at home but was suddenly faint with hunger when we were at the church. I got extra fries for the Echevarria kids knowing Mama would not be able to eat in front of them without feeding them also. While the actors practiced their lines, I went to Lowes. Since I did not have much money to spend last night I shopped for insulation for the well house. Trying to interpret the information on the packaging and cross reference that with what I knew I needed took more time than I had thought it would. I did finally settle on a planned purchase; maybe early next week. In looking for insulation I would like to put in the shop, I was thoroughly disappointed with what was available – at least price-wise. I will have to spend a lot more time and prayer to come to a workable solution to address that issue.

I did pick up some cans of foam to do some preliminary sealing of the floor and ceiling in the well house and a couple cover plates for junction boxes I put in while relocating the breaker box. Nothing that cost much, besides, I will not have time to do much this weekend anyway.

By the time I write this blog Monday morning the cantata will be over. Pray for us. We need it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Practice, Christmas doors, ongoing cleanup

Between play and cantata practices there will not be much work done at the farm this week. Mama has play practice tonight after she spends a couple hours working on arranging Grandma’s kitchen cabinets. I did not know she was conscripted to work in Bowie until play practice, so I asked Erin Echeveria if she could work with me on the final song of the cantata before play practice. She agreed, so we will nail down the final parts of the song that have alluded us to this point prior to her having to facilitate play practice. I need the help because we are performing the cantata on Sunday night. We are ready in all the other songs – at least presentably decent in our ability to get through them with some proficiency. I will have a better feel for our performance readiness when we go through the three-hour dress rehearsal Saturday afternoon. When the cantata is done, I will feel like I can relax and begin to enjoy the Christmas season. Mama had been patiently waiting on that.

Yesterday we had a team building event at work. Decorating doors in the office was the objective. There were three categories; most festive, most creative and most original. I am always amazed by the creativity in this office. My team spent a good deal of time getting our door ready – as did all the other teams. We did not win any of the categories, but we felt pretty good about what we had created. I did not include pictures of all the doors – there were twelve in all. However, I picked the three that impressed me the most. All this was done in ninety minutes so many of the teams did some pre-work to facilitate the assembly, but each door had to be ready for the judging within that timeframe. Judging was done by cards assigned to each of us by name. We were not allowed to vote for our door. After that we had lunch catered to the office, followed by the Secret Santa reveal.

With tonight full, I am hoping Mama and I will have a couple hours of daylight Friday evening to mulch the leaves that have piled up around us. It is far more than we can get done in one evening, but I am anxious to clean up the yard and limit the leaves that I am constantly having to blow out of the garage. It is not a big deal, but it is funny how little things can needle you and occupy your focus when they are really of no consequence. I try not to let my frustration spill over into any conversations or interactions, but Mama would have to tell me whether or not I am succeeding in that. Eventually we will get everything cleaned up – but not this week.

Last night at church, Bro Daniel let us know what our grades were for the very difficult test we took a couple weeks ago. I was, again, pleasantly surprised. I made a 101, Victoria made a 96. Mama does not want her score widely known but was the lowest score she has ever made in FBI. She will still make a solid B in the course, but it will break her straight A streak. She is still happy to have completed the courses and will very happily accept her degree. I expect we will do well on the final test – well enough to graduate.

We should hear those grades before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tis the season, cold

Mama went for a massage after work last night. Her appointment for the massage had been rescheduled several times but yesterday she was finally able to work out the timing. In getting the massage, she had to travel to a shopping area in Ft Worth. That inspired her to compile a Christmas wish list. We briefly talked about the list at lunch on Tuesday, but I was not tuned into the details. I was more interested in getting the best guess of the projected cost. When she told me that figure, I was okay with the price – thinking we would do this over the next two weeks; since I get paid later this week. That was not necessarily Mama’s plan. When she told me that the debit card on our primary account had been declined, I knew I had underestimated her zeal to finish her Christmas shopping early. By the time she got home we had less than $60 in each of the two bank accounts. Fortunately, my company is giving out Christmas bonuses this year.

I cannot spend too much time dwelling on the issue, but she has definitely been in a mood to spend lately; especially on LuLaRoe items. I suppose it is subconsciously driven because I have had to spend a fair amount on materials and fixtures for the projects I am trying to complete at the farm. When I build structures, she fills closets and spaces in the house. Not necessarily a bad thing but I cannot keep up with both long term. Fortunately, Christmas will be over soon enough – and we will enjoy every present that is bought and given. My building projects will continue through the summer of next year so that spending will gradually stop. However, we will probably still be very strong supporters of LuLaRoe long after I have ceased to need large building material purchases.

I did not get much done last night. I went over to the well house and studied how I was going to assemble the door and frame. I got the door from the church. We recently put in new glass doors at the church. The older metal doors were to be discarded so I took both of them home. One will go on the shop and the other will go on the well house. Since the metal frames were destroyed when they were removed, I will have to build the frames for the doors on the openings I have designed in each building. It will not be too much extra effort, but it will take some time and I did not have it last night. Now, at least, I know how I want to do the installation. I worked a bit on wiring in the well house, but I did not have all the tools at hand to do it properly, so I cut my time over there short. Besides, I was feeling really cold last night.

As we unloaded the Sequoia last night – well after dark – all three of us were complaining about how cold it felt. The temperature was showing to be 42° F, but it did not feel like it. Contrasting this morning, it was 25° F and it did not feel that cold. Not sure why it works out that way, but Mama may have trouble getting water to the animals this morning since we left the hoses hooked up last night.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Done, woes, Christmas

Mama, Victoria and I took our last test for FBI yesterday evening. It was not too tough a test and almost everyone finished it in about a half hour. Five of us are graduating and four will go on for one more semester. After that, we have no one in the church signed up for the course. It is good to have it completed. In many ways I will miss the Monday night lectures, but I am sure we will fill that time with something else. No matter how much we talk about it, we never seem to get un-busy. At some point when our diplomas arrive, our pastor will congratulate us in front of the church and hand out the diplomas. I believe it is for an Associate’s Degree in Bible. It may never serve a purpose other than to mark a task completed, but it is a big accomplishment for us – especially Mama and Victoria. Who knows, if any of us go to work for the children’s home and need credentials to work internationally, this will meet that requirement.

Yesterday was not the best day I have had at work. It was one of those days when I could not escape the nagging feeling that I am not the right person for the job I am doing. I have been in this awkward position before and it always seemed to work out one way or the other, but getting past the negativity and finding a stable footing to operate from can be challenging. When you feel that circumstances are lined up against you and you are not being heard, or rather, what you say is being misinterpreted, it is brutal trying to fight back to normalcy in the hope of attitudes and relationships getting better at some point in the future. I have talked with Mama about finding some way to either supply or augment our income without a fulltime employer but, to date, I have not succeeded in accomplishing that desire. So, here we stay and muddle through until things begin to get better or I must leave to work for someone else. At least it is Christmas time.

Speaking of which, Mama and I stopped at Lowes and bought our Christmas tree after our class celebratory dinner at Casa Torres. The trees that remained in the bins were not inspiring. There was not much to choose from and the one Mama got – because it was full – has a crooked top that makes the tree look like it is leaning no matter what direction we spin it. Mama even asked me if I thought we could take it back and exchange it. But, it will do for this season. We get it for the ability to display the ornaments hung on it and to offer the pine smell to the house. It will do on both counts. I like the trees that are less full and have more prickly needles, but Mama does not like to see light through the branches once it is set in place. It more than meets that qualification. This morning she asked if I could build a box to set it on. Her argument was so that she could more easily water it, but the real reason is that the space where we have could accommodate a much taller tree and Mama likes to fill up spaces. It is only a five-foot tree, so we could afford to raise it a bit. This little tree cost us $40. I do not want to know what a nice, tall tree would cost.

Let the decorating begin.

Monday, December 11, 2017

OSHA, the well house, tidbits

I am glad to have last week behind me. By the time I had made the trip to the University of Texas Arlington OSHA Outreach Center twice last week, I got to feeling pretty comfortable with navigating the route. It was never less than 90 minutes to get there. It was never less than two hours to get home. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I worked in the office until about 8:30 getting a presentation ready for peer and instructor review Friday. The presentation needed to be 30 minutes in length and cover one of the topics spelled out in the OSHA 1910 regulations. The information was not a problem to gather. Making the presentation interesting was the challenge. Fortunately, we had been split into small groups in the class and one of the students in my group had chosen the same general area of the regulation as I had. So, we coordinated the presentations to avoid too much overlap. That impressed the instructor.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I looked closely at the lecture material and the notes I had taken and was a bit alarmed that I could not see fifty questions worth of material that could be extracted from the lectures or the class handouts. I asked the instructor about the test material and he promised to look at the test to see if we had covered the material sufficiently. When he came back to class Thursday morning, he told the class that he had looked over the test and was going to spend the next several hours pitting the three groups against each other in a game that would help us review some old material relevant to the upcoming test. It was a good thing he gave us the time to refamiliarize ourselves with the material we had been tested on in the class that was a prerequisite to this class. We took the test first thing Friday morning. Everyone passed. Several, just barely. After lunch, the instructor wrote the scores over 90% on the board – all four of them. Mine was a 100%. I was shocked. I had called Mama right after I finished the test because she was praying for me knowing I was anxious about the test. I had told her that I would be happy with a passing grade because there were six questions I was completely unsure of. But I prayed about each one. God did the rest. With that behind me, I have the last test in FBI tonight and the Christmas Cantata Sunday night. After those two items are completed, I will feel like I can finally relax.

Saturday, I woke to serious issues with my colon and had to spend the morning resting. As I sat, I worked through the questions for the test in FBI tonight. By about 10:30 everything had settled to the point that I felt like I could go outside and work in the well house. I put some wall stiffeners in at critical areas and cut down one wall to fit in a window that Mama had requested be left with us when it was replaced Tuesday. (Yes, the installer finally got all the windows properly installed.) Having the window in the north wall really adds to the look of the well house. Saturday when Mama looked it over she called it “cute”. Mission accomplished. I will have pictures when it is done – maybe next week,

Victoria has three of the five pups sold so far. I am very pleased with that.

Norman came by Saturday to look at the fireplace. I have put it off because I am not ready to fool with it, but Mama wants a working fireplace by Christmas. What Norman discovered is that the damper had been welded shut to accommodate the gas logs now sitting in the fireplace. He is going to update the logs, plumb in the propane and have it operable by the end of next week. Mama is thrilled. I am pleased to know that I will not have to redo the chimney to accomplish Mama’s desire to have a fire. In light of that discovery, I am going to tear off the bulky old chimney and seal it with a concrete cap. That is on my list of projects for the home.

On the fun side of things, Alex Chen is going to give us cooking lessons. We are all excited about that.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The well house, clean up, Sunday parade

I finally got to work an entire day on the well house. As of last week, I had raised and set three of the four walls knowing that the south wall would take me a good deal of time because I had the breaker box attached to a pallet where that wall needed to be set anticipating a better set up once the building was built. I had to pull the meter at the pole to kill power to the breaker box for all the rework I was going to have to do. I also had to trim the base of the wall I had build just that morning to fit the conduits that came through the slab along that wall. Once I go that in place I had to pull out the wires that had made the temporary connections to the box and set up junction boxes for those that would be too short to make the new connections. All of that took me about three hours.

Once the breaker box was in place and the permanent connections had been made I put the metal on the south wall – the one facing the barn. Once I had that done I put on the roof. I was very blessed to have the materials for the roof. Over a year ago, Mama and I had tried to help out with Victoria’s house and had bought two pieces of metal for the roof. It was all that was lacking to have the roof complete, but I inadvertently got the wrong kind, so we could not use it there. It sat on our farm until Saturday. I had thought the metal was 16 feet long, but we had gotten 18-foot pieces. That worked out perfectly for the small building. I cut the pieces in half and had the roof on in about an hour. I put two pieces of metal on the west side of the well house so the electrical supply to the building would be protected from any rain we might get before the building is sealed up and started to run wire for outlets and lights. By the time I quit, I was pretty worn out.

While I was doing that, Mama had cleaned up the well house at the house and had cleaned out the chicken coop – neither was a small task. I had stopped to help her at certain intervals as I went to and from the house to get tools or fittings I had not packed on the trailer when I hauled the tools and the wall over to the barn lot. Those two chores took her the better part of the day but both buildings looked and smelled so much better for the effort, she was quite pleased with herself.  Victoria was not feeling well yesterday but she spent her day fooling with the pups. At one point in the evening, she had all the pups in the house because their little building was too hot. When they stared stirring about using the bathroom on the living room floor, I asked that they be returned to their habitat. She reluctantly complied but it was easy to tell the pups enjoyed being inside our house.

Sunday was the annual motorcycle parade to raise money for toys for local children. We got out of church and got the Chinese Restaurant before the roads were blocked. The restaurant was empty because everyone seemed to be watching the motorcycles. Lin took the girls over to meet Alex who had parked across the street with Aubrey. They had to be on that side of the street because the riders throw candy to the children along the parade route. That excited the girls. They are not allowed to eat the candy, but they relish collecting it none-the-less. We got to watch the entire parade from the comfort of our table inside the restaurant. They all came to the restaurant once the all the motorcycles had passed and Mama got to hold Aubrey while Cheyenne and Yilin ate their lunch. By the time they got to the restaurant, Mama and I had long since finished eating but Alex insisted on cooking us a dish so we could take it home for Victoria – and for our lunch today. We enjoyed the time there.

This week I will be in class Tuesday through Friday, 8-5. I do not mind the classes but the commute to UT Arlington is a chore.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Maxed out, old hens, eating off the farm

Mama was very tired and very emotional last night. Max, the Mini Poodle pup we had gotten from our Chinese family, had worn her out. He is a very active little one and Mama was not in the mood to have to chase him down for whatever reason she needed to corral him before rushing out of the house to get to the feed store before they closed. But whatever the motive, she was done last night. It is not that he is a bad dog. He is very smart. He is just too active for us to contend with when we have three other dogs in the house.

In the short time he was with us, he got the idea of not jumping on us for attention and would respond to the command of “Down” when he got too excited and forgot. Mama wrestled with the idea of taking him when we picked him up Tuesday and she wrestled with the idea of taking him back when we made the trip last night. But Max was obviously happy to be home when we dropped him off. I was relieved not to have him in the house this morning when I got up to work through my normal morning routine. He was quite a distraction.

Before we loaded Max up with us, we loaded two chickens into a cage to take to the restaurant for the Alex and Lin to process. They like the older chickens. Lin is always saying, “Older is better.” (For Max’s part in the trip, we put him in the back seat of the truck and he laid there like he knew exactly what he was supposed to do.) When we got to the restaurant, Lin took the cage with the chickens to the back of the restaurant and compelled me and Mama to go inside and get something to eat. Neither of us was very hungry but we did sit down for a bit and got a small portion of food from the buffet. We visited with Alex and Lin off and on as we sat eating. Alex was happy to have Max back – he only gave him up because Cheyenne pretends to be scared of him. Lin was happy to have the chickens to eat.

In the future, Mama and I are going to cull the hens one by one. The Buff that went to the restaurant last night had been separated from the flock for a couple days and had not laid in that time. With that in mind, Mama and I are going to repeat the process every couple weeks to cull out the older hens that are not producing. Once discovered we will either eat them, or we will give them to Lin. It is something we need to do so we are not feeding so many unproductive birds. The Banty’s are lawing now. We are getting four to five little green or olive colored eggs every day. I actually prefer them to the larger eggs.

Speaking of eating, I will process the three remaining rabbits this weekend, possibly tonight. We are not enjoying having them and do not seem to be able to get them to reproduce, so it is time to limit the feed bill and process them for meat. That will allow me to clean up and sanitize the goat barn and set up two stalls on the south side of the barn. With that and the doors in place, it will better serve the purpose for which it was built. Right now, it is only a dry shed for the goats to come into when the weather is bad. That is not a bad thing because shelter is a basic need for the goats, but it is less than what I had in mind when I built the barn. My hope is that the building we build on the farm will be useful as built or easily repurposed for those who own the farm after Mama and I have moved on – whenever that may be.

Hopefully, I will be able to get a good bit done to the well house this weekend. Rain is in the forecast, so I need to have the power supply to the well protected by the time I put up my tools Saturday evening. Because of travel required by work, I will not get back to the project until Saturday next week.

It should be another busy weekend.