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Friday, May 25, 2018

Tom Malone, blackberries, goats and pigs

After several days absence the cat was back last night. Such is the life of a tomcat. Since Mama named him, Tom, and was constantly fussing at the dogs to leave Tom alone, I just finished out the name to be more formal. Thus, he became Tom Malone. When he showed up last night, Mama was prepared. She had bought some canned cat food before he disappeared, so it was at the ready when he resituated himself on our property. We are well past the time when he could do any damage to the chicks – which are now almost as big as the mature chickens. Mama’s hope is that he will be a good mouser for us. I have little worry that he will become a nuisance at the house. There are three dogs in the back yard anxious to make his acquaintance. He has consciously avoided them. Victoria did tell me there was an encounter with the dogs. She had to call them off as Tom made a hasty exit. That is when he disappeared for a time. Mama is happy to see him back. Lord only knows why. I do know that he will be a draw for the local coyotes. Domestic cat is at the top of their list of delicacies. Hiding within Sam and Sasha’s circle of protection should work out well for him even though Sam and Sash have not specifically taken on his watch care.

 Mama harvested quite a few blackberries last night. She is more excited about them than anything else we have growing at the moment. Maybe that is because they are ready to be harvested. We are still nursing along our peaches, plums, apricots, figs, blueberries, and grapes, but they are a month away from ripening. We took the night off from our research, so I could work in the garden. It has been sorely neglected of late and was showing obvious signs of that neglect. I tilled between the rows of vegetable plants and ran soaker hoses to water those same rows. Two rows each of okra and butternut squash, and one row of potatoes. All the plants perked up quickly after a thorough soaking. The plants in the raised bed are doing very well but Mama has been more diligent about watering them. The long, hot afternoons are hard on the plants as they struggle to build the root system to survive. They will get there with a little help but the extreme hot – for this time of year – is continuing to challenge them. The peppers, tomatoes and onions are doing well in spite of the heat. The pumpkins, cantaloupe, zucchini and cucumbers are thriving despite the heat.

Mama and I will go to Bowie this evening to retrieve our two nanny goats that are now bred. (Another night off for us.) Rick called yesterday to let Mama know they could come home. We have not had any success selling the goats yet, but I am confident that that time is coming. We still have the two little bucklings to sell and Mama is willing to part with Kia and Yukie if we find an interested buyer. Also, the Nubian Dwarf goats are showing signs of being near the point of kidding. I did not know what to expect from them as far as how many kids we can expect from each one, but I believe twins are common. Zack and Alissa have expressed interest in getting one of them for their place, but I have not verified the interest with Zack. As far as a farm pet goes, they would make great pets. They eat significantly less than the Myotonic goats. They seem to relish the heat, and they prefer to be outside versus inside any shelter – except overnight. They sleep in the pig building through the night.

Although I have not spent any time on it lately, I still plan on putting the Nubians in the paddock by the shop. The cattle seem to like that area, but I need to get the pig building ready for the piglets Mama has already spoken for. One of the families at our church is raising pigs for the first time. He told me Sunday that two of his six sows are very close to having their litters of piglets. I think Mama has spoken for two. It will not take much effort to get the pig enclosure back in service for pigs but I still have a good deal of work to do on the paddock so I can move the goats.
At some point, all the effort we are putting into this business will pay off and I will have both the time and the money to finish the projects I have on the farm. I am looking forward to that day.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Inching closer, Victoria, Nate and Cori, Aaron

I squeezed out a few minutes through the workday yesterday to analyze a couple properties. Mama and the school kids went to a park in Alvord for lunch yesterday, so I was on my own for the lunch hour. That is when I did the property work. I did not take the time to print them out but let Mama know they were ready for her to look over. I suggested we stop by after church to do the printing. Mama had other ideas, so we hustled and got the feeding done. Ate a quick dinner. Showered and dressed for church and went to the office before church. It did not take long to print out the few pages of information I had complied, but it will be very helpful to do our drive-by research Saturday. I have a feeling we are going to end up with about six properties on the final list. Hopefully, that will be more than sufficient. We will get a better idea of what we are up against on the morning of the auction but at least we will be prepared to the best of our abilities at this time. The preparation process should get refined and improved as we mature in this business. At least, that is the expectation. I believe that expectation will be easily met because Mama is fired up about this business. This is not necessarily our first opportunity to work on a business together, but it is the first time she has actually been interested in doing so. It has been quite fun so far. If we really do start making money at it. It will be even more fun.

Victoria made it to Florida safely. After she got through security, she was not diligently checking her flight status for gate updates and almost missed her flight because she was waiting at the wrong gate. She only thought about it when the boarding time had arrived, and her flight was not the one listed to board at the gate where she was waiting. I am not sure if she asked for help or found the change on her phone, but she made the discovery in time. Fortunately, the gate she needed was in the same terminal; nearly at the opposite end of the terminal, but in the same terminal complex. She ended up getting to the gate in time to board, but she was near the very end of the line in getting on the flight.

She is enjoying the kids. Savanna will not leave her side – which is fine with Victoria. Savanna cried when Victoria and Cori went into the AT&T store to get Victoria switched over to the iPhone she bought two or three months ago. That is how possessive she has become. Cori, who was originally a bit stressed out at having the extra person to deal with as they packed for their move to Honduras, came pretty quickly to realize that Victoria was a God-send. Victoria can deal with the kids (especially Savanna) as she and Nate concentrate on getting everything packed up. This is not a vacation they are packing for. They are literally moving their home from one country to another. Everything they can pack to take in order to reestablish their home must be accounted for, safely stowed and arranged so that everything fits in the space they are allowing themselves. It is a daunting task on Nate and Cori. Victoria is there to help. They are flying out next Tuesday. If everything works out as it should, they will not be back in the United States for three or four years. Everything they have been doing for the past two years has led to this moment, and now, here they go.

Maggie forwarded to Mama a photo of Aaron. He is on the boat in New York Harbor. For a cell phone picture, I thought it was a particularly well-done image.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Coaching, training, flying

Monday evening, we had a coaching session with Theresa. We only spent forty minutes in the session because Mama and I did not have any other questions or new direction we wanted to head. We started off by getting the particulars and pathways to complete the research on the homes in Lawton that we are interested in bidding on. Mama and I will have to spend a lot of time on the computer getting all those particulars. It is not a straightforward process, but it can be done with persistence. The coaching sessions have been a big help to us. Because of those instructions and discussions, we feel excited and ready to go to the upcoming auction. That is a very big change in attitude for Mama. Originally, she was not even remotely interested in doing live auctions if it could be avoided. Now she is anxious to go; determined to get two properties out of the auction. Plus, we are doing a full profile on one house available on the leftover list from a county in Arkansas. That bid will be placed on the 17th of next month.

Yesterday I was in class all day. I was not the instructor for this class. It was led by coworker whom I have coached in delivering the class. He had to be audited yesterday in order to be able to teach the class for us in the future. I am happy to say that he passed the audit without even the least concerns on the part of the lady who does all our audits; another coworker – who happens to be his boss. She even remarked that if we develop a Training Department, he should be in that department rather than where he now works. She is not one who is lavish with praise, so that was a very high recommendation. I will have him teach the class next month and travel to Conyers, Georgia for the class there that is scheduled the week of Mama’s surgery. Having the additional instructor will be great benefit to this company going forward – and I will feel better when Mama and I finally move to fulltime self-employment. There are two more individuals I am working to qualify as instructors, but they are still several months out at this point.

Mama and I cut short our time with Theresa last night mostly because we felt like we had enough information and direction to move forward but also because Mama needed to get to bed early. She was scheduled to get up this morning at 4 am to take Victoria to the airport to catch a flight to Florida. Victoria will be there until Memorial Day – saying a final stateside goodbye to Nate, Cori and the kids. (Mostly to the kids.) It seems thatit was a very short night for both Mama and Victoria. I got up at 1:30 to use the bathroom and Mama walked in just as I was exiting. She told me this morning that she did not go back to sleep. When she finally got up at 3 am, Victoria was already up and ready to go, so they left. I do not know what time her flight was scheduled to leave but I know she was there in plenty of time. Mama got back home before I left for the office at 6:20. Victoria had already called to let Mama know that she had gotten through security very quickly and was at her gate. There were only two people in the security line with her when she got there. I would have like that as opposed to some of the security lines I have been in lately.

Of course, Mama laid down for a bit right after I left this morning. We had a set time for me to give her a wakeup call, but she texted me before the alarm went off to let me know she was up and going. Church tonight might be a rough for her.

Monday, May 21, 2018

List work, church work, Mama

Since Mama and I shifted directions in our business we have been intently reviewing the list of properties in one county in Oklahoma. That has occupied our short evenings for the past week, but Saturday after our Youth Conference we were able to finally complete our initial review of the properties available; all 167 of them. In that review we identified fifty-three properties that we will now go back and do a deeper dive into. We have to narrow that list down to no more than ten that we will prepare to bid on in the coming auction. My real objective is to shrink those final candidates to three that we definitely want to acquire. Even though, of those three, we may only get one. One is all we need to get started.

We have a coaching session tonight. During that session we will be shown how to do all the final research to know any potential legal issues in a given property – liens attached, judgements attached, fees and notices at the state, county and city level, etc. The last thing we want is for our first property purchase to be encumbered with surprises that will cost us more than we had anticipated. On this first investment, we are on a pretty tight budget, so the fear of making an error in poor research is a very real threat to our potential gain. We are confident that Theresa can help guide us past those pitfalls prior to the auction. We area at 21 days and counting down to that auction.

Meanwhile, I and doing the same kind of research on three houses in Arkansas. The three are on the leftover list of two counties. Potential purchase dates on those properties are twenty-one and twenty-five days out. Al of that will happen by snail mail on the appointed dates. Mama and I are going to be busy. In fact, we had to let Brittany know that we would not be available this weekend for her and Andrew to come over with the twins. It is a bittersweet conflict. We want to see the twins and visit with Brittany and Andrew, but this Saturday we have planned a trip to the county where we are evaluating potential houses for the June auction. We are working on setting up the visit for another weekend – but we still hated to be the source of the conflict.

The majority of the weekend was spent in church activities. Saturday morning, I went bus calling with the pastor. That was from 10 am to 12 pm. We had a great morning. After that, I spent a short time at home doing a few very small tasks at the farm before getting dressed to lead the singing at the Youth Conference our church sponsored. That was from 3 pm to 6 pm. From there, Mama and I went to the office to finish going through the Oklahoma list. Sunday morning, I taught the Adult Sunday School Class and Sunday evening, I led the Men’s Meeting before service Sunday night. Needless to say, I did not get much done on the farm, but Mama worked to the point that she was in significant pain by the end of the of the weekend even though she was completing a steroid pack prescribed by the doctor.

The problem with limiting the sensation of pain is that the injury may not be corrected so the source of the pain is not eliminated. Once the analgesic wears off, the pain can often be more intense than it would have been had the medication dulling the pain not been used. That is because, we tend to do more than we should because the pain is not hindering us from tasks that would normally be accompanied by pain; however, what is causing the pain is still an active force in our body. It is only being masked. That is why I often say, pain is our friend. That is certainly the case for Mama this weekend. Hopefully a night of rest and an easy day at school will allow the pain to once again subside. Mama is scheduled for surgery on the 18th of June. We will have to wait until her consult with the doctor on the 12th to find out what surgery he is planning. Whether a total knee replacement or a repair of the joint.

Pray for her as she prepares for the surgery and the recovery afterward.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Snakes, cats, yanny/laurel

Perhaps, since this looks like a banner year for the fruit trees and the garden, everything else will share in the fortuitous conditions – like insects, rodents and snakes. So far this year we have seen three snakes at the farm. Two were non-poisonous. The third was poisonous. I killed it. The two harmless snakes were both near the house – one of which greeted us as we exited the vehicle Wednesday evening after church. I never got to see it. It was on Mama’s side of the Sequoia. I do not know if it was the barking of the dogs once they spotted it or if it was Mama’s screams (I know which one I respond to the quickest) that made it flee as fast as possible, but it was gone by the time I had gotten out and walked to her side of the vehicle.

I assured her that if it could get away that quickly, it was a non-poisonous snake. The two different kinds of snakes have a vastly different muscle structure which allow the constrictors to move much faster. Bedsides, the poisonous snakes will generally assume a defensive stance when threatened; at least the kinds of snakes common to our geographic area.. She found that to be of little assurance; wondering if she would even be able to force herself into the Sequoia in the morning for fear the snake had hidden itself inside. I never heard mention of the snake after that, so I assume she had forgotten all about it by morning.

Also Wednesday night as I was going out late to close up the chickens I heard the oddest noises coming out of the coop. It sounded like a cat mewing. Turns out it was. The chickens can make some of the most unusual sounds as they communicate with each other – peeps, squawks, trills, tut-tut-tut, soft and loud clucks, the bawk of a hen when she has laid an egg, crowing of a rooster. Startled sounds. Threatened sounds alerting the flock of danger. So many sounds. It took me a minute to separate the mewing from the peeping of the rapidly growing chicks and the squawks of the hens defending their place on the roost from the long meow of the cat. But, there it was. It is not an unfriendly cat. Mama has begun putting feed out for it. I have no idea if it will stay, but for the last few days it seemed content to hand around. The dogs do not tolerate it at all. So, it avoids the back yard and the house. That suits me. From Mama’s point of view, as long as it does not kill any of the chickens, it is welcome to stay. Hopefully, it will discourage the rat and mouse inhabitants from nesting in our coop and garden shed. Time will tell.

Yesterday morning at work our boss played an audio clip and asked each one of us what we heard; whether a robotic voice saying “yanny” or a man’s deep voice saying “laurel. I heard “yanny”. Most did. A few heard “laurel”. When we had had our fun, I asked one of my coworkers to get the clip and see if we could change the frequency. He did, and we could isolate both sounds. I played the audio for Mama when I got home. She heard ‘laurel” and was convinced that I was lying to her when I said I heard “yanny”. When Victoria got home we repeated the clip. Victoria heard “yanny”.  Look it up if you have not already heard it. It’s all over the internet. I did find a posting that had massaged the frequency, so Mama got to hear both sounds. I was formally vindicated.

On the way to the office yesterday evening, Mama was ether reading a text from Brittany or listening to a Marco Polo but in the communication, Brittany was telling about making dinner that evening. She, Andrew and the twins were all in close proximity in the kitchen when one of the twins said, “dada”. Excitedly, Brittany asked Andrew, “Did she just say ‘dada’? “No”, Andrew answered, “She said ‘yanny’”. Mama thought that was hilarious.

So glad we were up to speed on that joke.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A long cold, quick work, inheritance from our children

I have had an issue with – and from – my sinuses for over a month now. I suppose it is allergies, but it has been the longest battle I have ever had with a runny nose and irritated sinuses. I think my nose is getting calloused from the constant wiping. Still, it does not interfere with anything and I am sleeping alright – albeit, with a tissue stuffed up one side of my nose or the other. It is amazing how snot dripping out of your nose can wake you out of a dead sleep. Natural remedies are keeping it from getting worse but are certainly not correcting the condition. Victoria is also fighting the same battle. With the same results. It could be a cold, but I doubt it. I do remember a friend of mine in New Jersey telling me he routinely got two colds every year. Each one lasted six months. Because of that condition he had two doctors, Dr. Winter-off and Dr. Summer-off. Of course, he was kidding, but he did miss more work than anyone I have ever worked with.

Because of the computer time Mama and I need to do adequate research for our new business, and because the best internet available to us is at the office, we have spent every we can at the office doing that research. There is a more urgent need at the moment because we are preparing for an auction on the 11th of June. Complicating that, we have been busy every Saturday for the last few weeks. This weekend and next weekend will maintain that schedule. Things at the farm are on hold with only the most urgent items making the do-it-right-now list. For instance, I did not even change last night before I got on the tractor and ran to the property next to ours to get a fresh round bale of hay for the cows. They have been out for a little over a day. That is a must-do.

Also, when we got home from church last night, Mama and I each put on our farm clothes and watered the plants in the darkening evening – me in the garden, her at the house. That also was a must-do. Tonight, we will team up to clean the coop – both sides – before we will go back to the office to continue working our way through the list for the June 11th sale. So far, we have looked a 40 of the 170 properties. We need to finish the research because we are going to Lawton next Saturday to view the properties we are interested in bidding on. So, there is a good bit of excited urgency in our research right now. Patience, persistence and thorough preparation are still the key, but we are still meeting a deadline to have all the research completed in case we can actually win a bid on a property.

Cori confirmed to Mama yesterday that we have officially inherited Bella. The cost to get her to Honduras is prohibitive. I do not necessarily want to keep Bella, but Mama does. I am not strongly opposed to keeping her, I just did not want the complication of having another big dog to deal with long-term. I foresee a good bit of travel in our future – both within the continental US and internationally – and I did not want to complicate arrangements for that travel. As long as we are at the farm, it will not be a big issue. Should we ever move away from the farm, it may become problematic. Mama looks at today. I try to look forward to tomorrow and beyond. I have often found that what is easy to accomplish today, may not be as easy to do tomorrow and taking on Bella is a twelve to fifteen-year commitment.  Just doing the math is a bit sobering. In fifteen years, should the Lord tarry, I will be 77 years old. Mama will be 71. Mykenzie will be 29.

Don’t tell Mama I said that. She hates it when I think like that; but I can’t help it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The doctor, insurance, puppy free

I got to work an hour earlier yesterday, so I could take that hour later in the day to be at Mama’s doctor’s appointment. I was glad I did. I am not sure of the specialty of the doctor that talked with Mama during the consult but both Mama and I liked him. He was direct, but he was thorough. He took enough time to really cover the sciatic pain issue Mama is dealing with. Her prognosis is similar to mine. She does have some disc compression issues related to age. She also has some arthritic buildup in the area where that particular nerve passes through the canal at L4/L5. But, none of those conditions warrant intervention at this point. Another “yes, you are in pain, but there is nothing we can do about it” diagnosis. That is not necessarily a bad thing. He recommended physical therapy and steroids. We passed on the physical therapy for now, electing to try exercises at home for the next month along with the steroids. I am not sure if that puts any treatment for the knees on hold until this month of personal therapy is done, or if we will move forward on that front. Regardless of the sciatic issue, Mama needs some help with the degeneration of her knee joints; regardless of the therapy we choose – or are assigned.

The orthopedic surgeon that Mama is working with for the knee issue has gotten some notoriety in the area of stem cell therapy. Maybe that will be a viable option for her. At this point we do not know, but we are actively seeking to get some measure of relief to Mama soon. Even if that measure of relief comes through surgery and the ensuing recovery. Though I have looked around some, I have not happened across any natural remedy that would heal or aid the body in restoring the joints – but I bet there is one. For certain, Mama and I need to get serious about getting our weight somewhat closer to what is recommended for our age and height. Neither Mama nor I will ever fit into the ectomorphic model expressed by those weight charts, but we can certainly lower our weight by an embarrassing amount on approach to a healthier BMI. I was told by one of our doctors that couples put on two pounds of weight per year of marriage. Mama is pretty close to that. I am a little less than one pound per year. That weight loss alone will help Mama’s knees. It is not a cure, but it is something we can do that would make a noticeable difference.

Complicating this whole issue, Mama and I are looking into insurance alternatives. With the present insurance we have an effective $10,000 deductible. So far, we have accumulated more than $6,000 in charges against that deductible. I am not sure there is a better alternative, but we are looking at one of the Christian sharing programs. At some point in the very near future, we will have to move to another plan because we will be self-employed. That time is not more than a few months away, so we are trying to determine if moving Mama to that plan now would make sense. It is not an easy decision; especially if the knee issues Mama is having are considered a pre-existing condition by the new insurer. Lots of questions to ask – and I heard yesterday that my current employer is thinking about switching insurance providers again. We will have to wait to see how that turns out…for however much time I have left with this employer.

With the puppies gone, things at the farm are a little less guarded. We can leave the door to the sunroom open, so the dogs can be let out more quickly in the mornings. We can take down the barriers I set up to keep the pups out of areas we did not want them to access. We are getting the birthing center cleaned up and closed up until the next set of puppies comes along – some time in the fall when Koby will be bred again. And, my personal favorites, my plants will not serve a chew toys when the puppies do break through the barriers we set against them, and there will be so much less dog manure to deal with in the back yard.

Victoria had money in her account and I am puppy free; everybody wins.