How Not To’s

When Connie suggested this blog to me, and we talked about a theme and such, I pictured a series of articles about how to do the wonderful things we were going to do on our homestead. There has been some of that, I admit. I have written a handful of articles on how to do this or that and sometimes, the other.

But it seems to me, that a larger number of my contributions have been “How Not To’s”, not how to’s. Why? To be honest, this is my first attempt at homesteading. My time as the live-in grandson of a farmer ended early, and there was little, if any, input from the grown men in my life about how to build and make things.

I told a local friend last week, that I envied people raised here because they took for granted things I had never been allowed to learn. I told him, “My basic skill sets are writing, cooking and thanks to the U. S. Army, breaking things and hurting people.” I have spent the last almost two decades trying to unlearn that last one.

Today’s entry will not be any different. The basic thrust is going to be: This is what I did wrong. Don’t do that.

Anyone who follows our blog knows that early last spring, I set up two bee hives and started keeping bees. Things went well, perhaps too well at first. We harvested honey from June until August, and sold more than I ever hoped to the first year, while keeping more than enough for our uses. Honey will keep indefinitely, as long as it is harvested from capped combs, so keeping extra is not a problem.

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This is a picture of me opening the nucs last spring to put the bees in their new homes.

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Same bees, a month later. Like I said, they just took off.

Late in August I began to notice my bees acting strangely. One hive was robbing the other. I knew from study, that his meant the hive being robbed was weakening. I blocked most of the entrance to that hive, to reduce the open space the weak hive had to defend, to try to save it, but the hive was too far gone.

What I did not know until too late, was that this hive was infested with small hive beetles, and the second hive was well on its way to being killed too. At that point, I bought Beetle Traps, but that was closing the barn door after the horse has got out. Both hives were lost that quickly.

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This is a small hive beetle.

I should have had beetle traps in place from the beginning. I should have taken more care to look in the bottoms and the upper corners of the hives for beetles. I should have been more aggressive in making certain the beetles did not get a foot hold in the first place.

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This is a beetle trap with not nearly enough beetles in it. Too little way too late.

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This is a ghost town, but it won’t be around May, Lord willing.

The bad news is, this course in practical bee keeping cost me about three hundred bucks in bees. The good news, finding the positives in the negatives, is that I sold enough honey to defray most of that cost. I have beetle traps for both hives and I will know better next time.

I tell young people I mentor and train the following: “Experience simply means any mistake you are going to make, I have already made, and learned how to overcome.”

So the beetles got me this time, but I will be ready next time. I have already frozen the hives to make certain I kill all the larva. So before spring I must:

1. Scrape the hives, clean them and prepare them for the new bees. This time I bought packages. Packages consist of a queen and her bees. They take a little longer to become established, but I already have everything else I need, so I want to start that way.

2. Set up bee traps in and around our property. I will use the boxes I have left from last year’s nucs for traps, and use lemon grass oil and bee’s wax for bait. Hopefully, if we have some swarming in the area, I can pick up some more bees.

3. Buy a couple more deep and a couple more medium hive boxes. One of my problems last year was that I was not prepared for the population explosion of bees I experienced.

Except for the traps, all must be completed and ready to go, along with cleaning out the bee yard and preparing it to receive the hives, by late March. The traps can wait another month, maybe six weeks because they depend on bees seeking new homes. That should be plenty of time, if the dogs stay home and the Creek don’t rise. This year, because we upgraded our blog, I can post you some videos of our progress. Maybe that will help you, and maybe you can help me by giving me some advice based on what you see me doing.

I said earlier, the Army only taught me how to break things and hurt people. That is simplistic. The Army taught me a lot more than that, and a lot of it has to do with dealing with set backs and failings. The best one is simply this, “The winner is the one who gets up one more time than his opponent.”

It’s gonna take a lot more than some beetles to beat Connie and I.

Ed

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But Why??????

The dogs keep escaping. Anyone who has read my blog entries, facebook postings, emails, letters, prayer lists, rants, and things casually written on out house walls, knows that my dogs keep escaping. It is a continuing theme, as it well should be, because my dogs keep escaping.

It used to be mostly Meeko.

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Hi, my name is Meeko, I am very good dog. Good at escaping, excellent at making an all around nuisance of myself and the world’s greatest licker of unsuspecting faces.

Meeko has been known to literally go through a welded wire fence. Push with the head, get a paw in there, heave and struggle, and BOBS YOUR UNCLE, you’re out. His favorite method, however, has always been up and over. If Sir Edmund Hillary had only had Meeko along, he would have made much shorter and easier work of Everest. Meeko was the ultimate climber. No fence was high enough to withstand his assault.On his way out, he was often able to press the fence down, so the more gentile Libby could step over and have a run with him. We will discuss the difference in capturing techniques for the two dogs shortly.

That continued from the time Meeko was with us (2010) until November 2015 when he, while trying to climb out, got his foot caught in the fence, dislocated his right hip, and spent six weeks inside wearing a lampshade The whole ordeal cost us about five hundred bucks, which we just recently paid off. The injury, which still gives him trouble, has slowed Meeko’s climbing to a near stop.

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Hi, Meeko again, just after doing a header without taking the footsie with me. OUCH! But it’s cool, I think my hat is much nicer than Ed’s don’t you?

Yet my dogs keep escaping.

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I was working and Connie wired this dog kennel into the outside of the fence as a temporary patch until I got a day off. The next day it looked like this.

These dogs have, plus or minus, half an acre of scrubby brush to play with. Birds, rabbits, and what not visit them. They have a house and all kinds of open ground to run in. These dogs are well fed and watered, yet they have worn a trail completely around the inside of the fence and, way too often, we find them out and running come evening or early morning.

Why do my dogs keep escaping?
Libby next took up the mantle of escape artist most excellent. Libby had shown a propensity for tunneling even way back when but, after Meeko’s accident, she developed into a tunneler that would make a Welsh coal miner blush from his inadequacies. I would hazard a guess that if you combined her tunnels end to end, you would have dug a decent WWI defensive trench.

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Hi, I am Libby, I do not stand for pictures well because I sense you want me to. I am an older lady but still have a lot of spunk. Also, if I keep digging any deeper, I am going to have to learn to ignore people calling me in Chinese.

She also, even though she is getting on, has no dental problems. She will get any fencing, or troubling chicken wire we put down, in her teeth and bend it out of her way. I cringe when I think about it. So, since Meeko’s over is blocked, Libby bet on the under, and has been beating the house fairly consistently.

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Please note the bent up welded wire fence. Libby did that with her teeth. You just touched your mouth didn’t you? Yeah, that looks like it would smart. I covered the whole mess with chicken wire, hooked in with pig clips and weighed down with pallets. So far so good but she still tries.

I have a word for you: Pallets. She, so far, has been stymied by pallets laid along the bottom of, and attached to, the fence. Note: I said so far, but I might want to go check before I go much further. She IS a resourceful old lady.
Still…. why? Libby was a town dog and had no run to speak of, and Meeko cares about nothing much more that Libby or us. As long as we all appear happy, he is delirious. When he does escape, he is so proud of himself he comes directly to show us how smart he is.

Let me take a moment and compare and contrast how, after an escape, you recapture each dog.

Meeko: Yell, “Hey Meeko, come here!” and he comes. I do not believe it really matters who yells. He might just come to anybody. I am certain that it really doesn’t matter what you yell. “Meeko” is just proforma. Yell whatever you want. He will come.

Libby: Forget about it. She will not come until she is ready and, when she does come, she is more likely to give you that lopsided Libby grin and bolt right or left at the last minute. You see, when she was young she got the message that playing chase was a fun game and, if you came when called, that was the end of the fun game.

Treats? Good luck with that. I have personally offered her everything from raw meat up to (but not including) a child. She will ignore you. There is always time for treats when the game is done. Live rabbit, squalling cat, or two pounds of ground round, are not worth the end of the game.

So the best way to catch her is to let her run herself out or, better yet, don’t lose her to begin with.
But WHY do my dogs keep escaping?????

For Christmas I got an infrared, motion activated, game camera . On the very first night we put it out, we got a hint of the answer to that question.

What I have not mentioned was that not only was there a beaten path around the inside of the fence, there was also one along the outside of the fence. Perhaps not as well worn as the inside path, but easily seen and followed.

Find below some pictures of our dog’s visitors:

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Hi, I am the big, unleashed Rot that is not supposed to be here, I guess I am busted.

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This is the other one. I have only seen him/her once in daylight and at a goodly distance.

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I have business elsewhere as you can see but, based on the fuzzy tail, Ed wonders if I might not be a Fox On the Run. (For Tom T Hall fans everywhere)

The Rottweiler is a dog that should not be on our land period. I am very certain he killed another dog last summer, even if by accident. He runs with a big yellow lab whose picture I did not get, but we did see both of them here, the other day during, daylight.

I took the opportunity of their daylight visit to do some target practice, with our 12 gauge, firing at a Juniper tree that was just to the Rot’s left. The remarkable thing is the beast not only seems to recognize a weapon. He seems to know something of calibers, gauges and sizes. He just moved away when I brought out my pellet gun, but I stepped out the door with the shotgun he suddenly remember a pressing engagement elsewhere!

There is another trespasser that we don’t see often. A black and white mixed mostly Border Collie I believe and we have a blurry vision of what probably is a fox.

Thinking back, we had the same thing happen at our old house. Meeko had quit attempting to get out until folks moved in with two little dogs which were allowed to run loose.

So, having finally got enough breathing space, I got a chance to write a blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Ed

Holding On (By the Skin of My Teeth)

Last Thursday, July 21, Connie had her heel and Achilles Tendon operated on. She will not be able to put weight on that leg for three months. That would be approximately 13 weeks, or 91 days. If you really want to know exactly what your partner does around the old place, put them off line for about a week.

Yeah, all that stuff.

So this last week I have worked 40 plus hours, put at least one real meal a day on the table, tried to make certain Connie was comfortable, did the minimums to keep the critters alive, had an occasional talk with the Lord God and slept. That would be about it. Had Katherine not enlisted to take care of her mother some of the time, I might not have been able to do that. On top of that, I am just not pleased when people start cutting on the love of my life. Makes me kinda want to punch them, but that does not seem appropriate in this case.

So the first week is about over. We have a follow-up with the doctor tomorrow, and Connie is beginning to get around a little better. After waking up early this morning to finish cutting my knee high lawn, and fighting back the rag weed and various poisonous prehistoric plants that are taking over my dog lot, I fell out for a nap. I woke up to find the dishes I had washed after dinner last night put up, the new dishes on there way to clean and a plate of French Toast and bacon courtesy of Connie and Katherine waiting for me. Thank you both.

Speaking about the lawn. Let me continue a little about things I would have done differently when I started this little experiment in Green Acres-ism. No matter how tough and resilient you might think you are, if you have an acre yard (plus or minus) you do need a riding lawn mower and a gas powered weed eater.

At least, if you are in your later years and have any intentions of doing things other than cut your lawn. If not a riding mower, I would suggest goats. That does not mean you need a high dollar rider. I bought mine used from a friend for $250.00. The gas trimmer I got at Lowes for about seventy bucks. (Lowes has a 10 percent discount for military veterans; bless their hearts.)

I set out on this adventure with my 5 HP push mower and an electric weed eater. From the closest outlet, which is just inside the front door, to the farthest point of my front yard is about 175 or so feet. I needed the gas weed eater. And I really got tired of taking two plus days to mow the lawn. Also, this next year I am planning to get a wagon I can pull behind the mower, to do some chores around the place.

Another answer that is a work in progress, is just getting rid of the lawn entirely. We are working on planting it in an edible garden, but that is Connie’s project and she is in no shape to work on it right now..

The bees are going like gang busters. We have harvest a gallon of honey from each hive and they are still full to overflowing. I am going to have to get at least one more super or rob them again this next week. Maybe both.

As I said, I am involved in a project to cut down and kill a very intimidating forest of weeds that are growing, well…. I guess like weeds. To supplement the physical labor of cutting down these monsters I wanted something that would kill the beggars while not poisoning my dogs, chickens, bees or land for a couple more generations.

I had heard of something and looked it up. This is the basic recipe that I am following.

Take one gallon of cheap old white vinegar, pour it in a bucket. Add one cup of table salt and stir it up well. To that add one tablespoon of dish washing liquid to make the stuff stick better and stir that in. Put your product in a closed, marked container and put some it in a spray bottle and spray your plants.

I cannot endorse this recipe yet and it is indiscriminate, it kills the good stuff with the bad if it works as advertised. Connie or I will report back to you on it, when we know how it works.

I will close this rambling post. I hope something in it is interesting and helpful in your walk. Any prayers for my lovely wife will be appreciated. Also, I will put all you folks on my prayer list. Don’t worry, I don’t mind if you don’t believe in God, He believes in you.

The night before they took my love in for the operation, I slept very little. At the hospital in Chilicothe, Mo. Just before the operation, Connie, Katherine and I joined hands and prayed. When I looked up the nursing staff and the Doctor were in prayer with us.

Next, after we had to go out, Kat and I went for breakfast in the cafeteria. At our table we joined hands and blessed our food. I have an old soldier’s awareness of what is around me, so I knew that the tables next to ours and the people walking by stopped while we prayed.

I love the country.

She’s Comin’ Alive

The title to this post is a quote from a book called Education of Little Tree written by Forest Carter. It is a book about a little boy who was raised by his Grandfather and Grandmother in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Grandma was a Cherokee and Grandpa was a moonshiner.

I am from the Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains and, was partially raised by Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa was the one who was half Cherokee and was also a moonshiner, though retired by the time I came along. Can you see why this wonderful little book is a favorite of mine?

In the book, Grandpa takes Little Tree up the mountain to watch the dawn and, as the sun peaks across the distant mountains to the east leaving paintbrush streaks of pinks and yellows, Grandpa whispers, “She’s comin’ alive.”

What a wonderful description of a dawn. I have always been a fan of dawns, the end of rainstorms and the winter solstice. Those times when you can see, taste and smell rebirth. You ask why I add the winter solstice. From that day on until summer solstice days are getting longer, light is conquering and rebirth has begun. From the time I realized that in the middle of December’s snow the day that the world turns back to the light dawns I have always been amazed by it.

But I have digressed far enough; I wanted to write about what I do in the morning. I learned a long time ago that how you start is how you finish. So I have tried to design a way where I start my morning well. I suggest to you that people need a set time at which they rise and a routine which they follow in the morning. As Mr. Emerson tells us, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” However, an inconsistent morning routine generally leads me back to bed.

Done right my morning goes something like this:

At a time between six and seven in the morning (my goal is seven hours sleep) I rise. Normally I beat the alarm clock awake by five to ten minutes. On the morning I do not beat the alarm clock awake, I beat it against the end table. I never said it was all sweetness and light.

After a certain amount of absolutions, the first goal is coffee. Oh, you are against the ingestion of caffeine? How interesting; go away. Many years ago grandma would give me coffee; actually it was brown tinted sugary milk. Grandpa saw me drinking it and grumbled, “Man who drinks cream in his coffee has got lace on his pants.” That was that. I like my coffee blacker than my sins and stronger than my convictions.

Once I have some coffee I go to my desk if, of course, I can find it under the pile of papers. Once I have located my calendar and journal I check what I did for devotions yesterday, and plan my devotions for today. I start each morning with a chapter in the Bible, a round with my memory verses and a prayer.

Let me rephrase that, I TRY to start each morning that way. Sometimes Life gets in the way. The priority in those cases is prayer first, Bible chapter second and memorization third. Some days it gets down to GOD IN HEAVEN HELP ME!!! But that is still a prayer isn’t it?

After prayers I do my exercises. I am at that awkward age where I am old enough that polite young people offer to lift and carry for me, but I am still young enough to want to tell them to stick it. Actually thinking about it, all my ages have been awkward ages.

Be that as it may, I can really say that I do the same daily dozen I did when I was in Basic Training. The Daily Dozen is twelve different exercises with twelve four count repetitions. When I say that, it is the truth. What I do not mention is I do them a LOT slower, and the getting down and standing up is sometimes problematic.

I do the Daily Dozen every other day and on the off day I do basic stretches. This includes static stretches and some active stretches, along with some work from my martial arts and defensive tactics days.

On either day I tend to creak and pop a lot. Sometimes this does not work quite right, or that seems to have a kink in it, but I drive on completely convinced that pain really is the feeling of weakness leaving the body. It’s not flashy and it is not really cool, but I attribute some of my greatest accomplishments to my exercise program. For instance, walking up right and being able to scratch my head.

After two cups of coffee, two glasses of water, my devotions, and my exercises, I start on my chores, the first of which is waking up my chore partners. Connie’s day normally starts with me coming to her bedside with a cup of steaming coffee, at which time she smiles up at me. I sometimes suspect she is smiling at the coffee but why bicker?

After some passing affection, (you don’t think that coffee is free, do you?) I go wake up Chicken Girl. That is what I call her in the morning because her main morning chore is seeing to the chickens. She really is quite good at it, but I wonder how long that will last when two pet roosters turn into twenty assorted chickens, and Sonny and Moony turn into “that one and that other one over there”. We will see.

Back in the house, Connie and I prepare for the dog feeding. This includes dry food we get from a local producer, sometimes wet food, when medicine is involved, scraps (right now I have two chicken livers left that I made for dinner which are going to make a couple very happy dogs) and water.

When the weather is good, and the spirit is right, next comes a walk with Connie and the dogs around the place. This is always fun, and I was thinking this morning we are overdue one. The last couple morning I really felt like a romp with them and, had it not been for snow and a wind that would cut diamonds, I just might have done it.

Back inside we get our own breakfast together and then proceed with the rest of the day.

The point to all this is not that it is best to start your day my way; it is that a realistic routine that gets you up on your feet in the morning is good for everybody. After you have your day started, then you have to face the rest of the day. The best advice I ever found for that comes from the great Mark Twain. It is as follows: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

By the way, Connie and I have looked at this bundle of books, Back to Basics Living Bundle. I have looked through some of it and plan to give a lot of it, the Bee Keeping for instance, a thorough going over.

Take Care and God Bless

Ed

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Just Plain Chicken Sense

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I picked this up from Facebook. It might be a slight exaggeration but it has been kinda wet this year.

On this day last week, I was driving in fence post and wiring up a fence while wearing a tee shirt, blue jeans, boots and the ever present hat. Actually I was kind of warm. A week later, if I want to walk from the house to the garage I have to dress like Nanook of the North. Such is life in Missouri  Winter, having arrived a tad late, is perfectly willing to catch up.

Cold weather does not, however, relieve us of our responsibility to provide for and care for the animals. So it was Katherine to our bachelor chicken pad. (For those not up on the news we have two roosters and no hens; a situation I plan to rectify shortly) while her mother and I prepared to feed and water the dogs.

The cats, as always, set their own course. Captain decided to go out on one of her walkabouts, but she did not get past the door mat before she was back in. Book Worm got off Connie’s desk long enough to look out the window in awe and wonder. Bookie is at, or approaching, five years old. Every winter she sees snow and then looks at us as if to say, “See what you did?” Adora, AKA Arrhythmia, continued walking post up and down the basement steps and pleading in a loud voice to get in or out as the moment required.

 

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This is a picture of Book Worm taken before our messing up everything by making it snow again. She thought we had learned from last year.

The dogs, including the stumpy grand-dog, were absolutely delighted with the whole thing. Dogs are among the Good Lord’s most amusing and most easily amused creatures. They wake up in the morning, find freezing white stuff on the ground, and begin to run around frantically kicking up clouds of snow.

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This is Meeko and Libby. If you notice, Meeko is favoring that left leg, but he shows no pain when you manipulate it, so I think it is habit. They want us to come play in the snow. I want to go get a cup of coffee.

I am an Appalachian boy raised in a wood heated cabin with no running water and an outdoor toilet. Forgive me if I never quite got the romance of snow. You go walking in a Winter Wonderland. I will sit in my comfortable chair and read To Build a Fire by Jack London.

Our Chickens are Icelandic Chickens. They are supposed to be good layers; something I will not be able to prove until I get some girl chickens. However, I do believe that a chicken bred to survive in Iceland could survive Missouri with a little bit of help. Since there were only two of them, I built the initial coop very small, and wired a light in it to add heat. I was curious to see what survival instincts the chickens brought to the winter by themselves.

Katherine went out, spread cracked corn on the ground, opened the coop door and put the ramp in so that they could come out. No chickens. Oh they were in there, you could hear them clucking contentedly and crowing occasionally but they were NOT coming out. Our dogs and two neighbor dogs on walkabout were dancing in the snow, all about my feathered Icelandic stalwarts.

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This is all you get to see of Icelandic chickens during a snow storm. Note the small water dish at the bottom of the picture.

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If you look carefully you can see the silhouettes of warm cozy chickens and the heat light there to the left.

Birds were chirping and merrily eating the chicken feed in great numbers. Cats were observing from windows and considering trips outside themselves. Last but not least, idiot people were coming out to look and see if the chickens were going to grace us with a visit, but the two Icelandic roosters were snow no-shows thank you very much.

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Most times we look out and the chicken lot is full of birds because the big ole roosters are inside napping today. However Connie ran them off approaching to take pictures except this one young stalwart.

That was yesterday morning and today. Led by Moony, the youngest, they did venture out for a nice scratch snack. Then Moony flew out of the chicken lot just because he could. A little truth about Icelandic Chickens: besides being smart enough to stay in out of the cold, they can fly really well. At this writing however, they are back in there little coop huddled up to their warming light.

There is the answer to what special gift our Gracious Lord has given Icelandic Chickens to survive in harsh climates. He has given them enough sense to stay out of the cold. A blessing he has not bestowed on all humans, it appears.

In closing, an update on Meeko, our gimpy black Lab. The sling is off of him, and though he is still favoring that left leg, he is out with Libby and doing well. This is not the first dog I have ever seen who, after having a leg bandaged, limps more out of habit than anything else. He has started to put the foot down some. If he does not get it, soon I will wrap his other foot. That is a trick my Grandpa taught me while dealing with his hunting pack.

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and we wish you a Happy New Year.

Ed

Don’t Fence Me In

No matter your good intentions, with no regard to the detailed nature of your planning, in spite of the skill and care with which you execute said plan and in the face of all of your hopes and dreams, you did not consider one possibility. That one possibility will occur and leave you dumbfounded.

Ed’s version of the Law of Unintended Consequences

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This is the point of Meeko’s attack. I estimate this fence is probably, oh, about my age. That corner post is rotted and it all needs to be replaced.

So here was the problem. When I fenced in Libby and Tweedle Dumber (AKA Meeko), I used three sides of the already standing fence. The north side is the oldest fence on the place, but at the time, seemed adequate with the addition of two electric fence wires.

The first unintended consequence was when Meeko, who sometimes seems to channel Houdini, figured out that electricity wasn’t so bad after all, especially when you manage to short out the box by shoving the electric wire into the metal fencing. Did I say Houdini? Let’s make that Einstein.

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A little wider view, to accomplish what I need to I am going to have take out all of the fence from the Corner post to another corner post about 105 feet west of this.

That was still manageable until Meeko pushed on the old fence to where he could simply climb over what once was a four foot fence and a strand of barbed wire. Yes, I suppose it did hurt. At least once he left about an inch and half long cut on a very sensitive part of his lower anatomy. (All males please murmur OUCH!)

So the problem was that the old fence along the north side needed to be replaced, which is going to take some time. I am going to have to cut several small and one very large tree out of the fence line for starters. Answer? I, along with James, put up a four foot fence about twenty feet back from the old one. So that is a hundred feet of four foot field fencing, ten poles and a bag of wire links to attach fence to poles, at a total cost of about a hundred and fifty bucks.

Oddly enough, a hundred feet came up short. Why was that? A hundred worked the first time and it was within a foot or so the same length. Had I been cheated? No. I had not considered the fifteen foot gate installed in the south fence. That problem was solved, I thought, by cutting the standing East fence in the part I planned to replace anyway and stretching it back to attach to the new fence.

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This was my answer, I cut off about a third of their run and put up a four foot high fence. From this angle you cannot appreciate three days worth of adjustments to the original.

The next morning Connie stepped outside to be met by both dogs. Libby is the under-dog: she goes under. Meeko prefers the high flying route, though he will follow Libby under in a pinch. This time they both excelled. Libby dug out at a low point and Meeko just mashed the old fence down and climbed over. This I rectified with an old piece of fencing that we had brought from the old house.

Yes Connie, you were right, we did need it and we really should have brought it with us.

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This is the completion of step one. With poles stapled in and all egress under the wire stopped. At least there.

That started the same routine as always. They got out and I fixed the problem. Then they moved on and found a new one. At first it was all pushing and scraping under the fence. The first time I found only Meeko out I knew I had fixed the underside. Somehow he had gone over. I looked the fence line and found what I considered to be the problem.

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If you look up past my fixes you will see a dark log, I suspect this is where he tried to go over the fence and got hurt.

The next day, I had business in Cameron and made a stop at the farm store to buy four more fence posts. It was a simple enough problem to solve. I would just put in more fence posts. I tossed the post off the truck and went to work. I would do it on Saturday before I was, again, off to work.

That night I got a text message from Kat that said, “Meeko is hurt bad.” I called home, it appeared the old boy had hurt his back left leg. It was not my best night at work. Connie had coaxed and helped him into the lot with Libby and set up a temporary dog house for him. The next time Connie checked Meeko was half way across the lot, the time after that he was at “their” dog house with Libby.

When I got home it was after eleven PM, I got Connie and we went out to the dog house. He was lying there and his whining on seeing me was absolutely pitiful. When I sat down on the ground beside him Meeko placed his front paw in my hand and looked at me like to break your heart. It was as if he was certain I could fix it. Thankfully, that trusting soul did not know how many times in my life I have not been able to fix several different “its”.

We think that Meeko climbed the fence and got his foot stuck in one of the  4 x 2 inch blocks then fell forward over the fence. The result was, we found out the next day, a dislocated left hip.

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At that point all we could really do was console him. In the morning we tried our new Vet’s home and cell and he was not available. As I understand it now he probably was out of state and it was Saturday. Connie called our old vet in Independence and we took Meeko on a seventy mile road trip so he could be seen.

The vet examined him, and thought the problem was likely a dislocated hip, but they would have to sedate and x-ray him to be certain. That meant two nights at the vet’s office. They reset his hip and placed it in a sling. As an alumni of several different orthopedic torture devises myself, this one looks particularly uncomfortable.

I was concerned with how, exactly, we would keep him from chewing off his sling before the necessary two weeks wearing the contraption. When I saw him I realized that the problem was easily solved. Someone appeared to have shoved a lampshade on his poor head, backwards. It works, and it makes a nifty device with which to knee cap Master and Mistress, not to mention sticking it in the girl’s face as she is riding home with you in the back seat of the car.

That was last Saturday. Five days have passed with daily visitations with Libby, trips outside to do his business. Business that is hindered by the fact Meeko habitually lifts his right leg to pee, and he has no operable left leg to hold himself. As an old man who has a bum left shoulder which hurts when he puts his jacket on left arm first, but still puts his jacket on left arm first because “that’s the way I do it”, I sympathize with his plight, but cannot help much.

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True love cannot be thwarted. I suspect Libby really only came for the warm house and the goodies.

 

All told though, Meeko is not having too hard a time. It is mildly interesting that they gave him the same pain medication which the doctor prescribes for my intermittent pains. I am still pondering what, if anything, that says about me. Looking on the bright side I will have at least another week and half to get that COTTON PICKING fence fixed.

When you visit with the Lord, if you remember, lift Meeko up to Him. The vet has said that if this doesn’t work, he will need major surgery to put pins in his hip. That would be bad for him and, frankly, we have no idea how we could pay for that at present, although God always finds a way to provide what we need. I just hate to see the Knot Head hurt anymore.

Ed

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This is a picture taken when Connie came back in from seeing to Meeko’s need for some out door time. I add this picture because it is just slamin’ cute. Also, it is amazing how, with just the right moment, you can see how someone you love very much looked like when they were three.

 

The Horses Can’t Eat It

I haven’t written in awhile, probably because I have been busier than a one armed brick layer, and that leads to the first thing I am thankful for. I am thankful that, even after all these years of use, misuse and plain old abuse, this rather stumpy body still manages to work in an acceptable fashion.

Oh some days it’s hard to get cranked, the choke seems to stick, there is a whine in the power steering unit and the ball joints pop and groan, but I still manage to get it out on the road and keep up with average traffic.

So I am thankful that the Good Lord has seen fit to give me a body that can stand up to hard travelin’. I believe He knew I would need it.

I am also very thankful for the people God has put into my life. I believe the polite phrase for most of us is colorful. And we are as colorful as a Carney caravan painted by Picasso.

Old drunks, young artist, sweet souls, hard travelers, long riders and several failed experiments in modern chemistry, who have added more love, laughter and wisdom to this old man’s life than ever he deserved. I love you all, even the ones who I have threatened to behead with a dull shovel, and you know I was only a little peeved.

However, I am especially grateful for a handful of you. There are my two daughters, Katherine and Shannon who are full grown people in their own right, and who I can think of and smile. There are my other three who came as a package deal with my Connie. Two of them are grown men and the third is a teenager, and they have brought joy into my life.

Also there is Connie. I ask her often, “Do you know how much I love you?” And she answers with a smile and a shake of her head to say “no.” Then I say, “I don’t either.”

New Family

Connie and my wedding. Most people start a family after they are married, we kinda did it differently. Like most things.

And I don’t. One of the things I learned while being taught to jump off of high places with a rope is that the human mind cannot really comprehend distances straight down more than about 66 feet. When I try to look at my love for Connie, it is just all that I have and I have no idea how much that is.

Maybe I should consider how thankful I am for all the material blessing I have been given. In less than seven years I have gone from a homeless drunk with half a suitcase of worn clothes, a beat up old Bible and a dinged up guitar, to having just a whole buncha neat stuff and critters and all that.

It’s nice and I am grateful for it all; but it’s just things.

Some years ago in Texas an old cowboy was buying his third round for the house. A man at this table cautioned him to slow down, that it was getting expensive.

The old man laughed and said, “Its only money, the horses can’t eat it.” I was there that night, drinking his whiskey and, insult added to injury, I stole his saying.

Those who I love and who love me are what I judge my wealth by and, on that scale, I am very rich.

I hope each of you feels the same and I pray God’s own blessing on you all.

Proper Pallet Preparation (I could not resist)

You see them all the time. People building three story homes complete with in ground pool, billiard room, three car garage and tennis court that are built entirely out of pallets. You see the shelves, beds, fences, dining room tables, circular stairways and scale models of Old Ironsides all built with pallets and the question that is at the very head of most all slippery slopes comes niggling into your mind.

How hard could it be anyway?

Alexander, before he was the great, Cole Younger riding through North Field the first time, and Eve staring at the first Golden Delicious all ask themselves: how hard could it be anyway?

The question really was only a matter of idle curiosity until it met opportunity. The manager of the local Sprouts market offered me as many pallets as I cared to carry off. In two trips, I carried off a half dozen conventional pallets and one shelf like pallet that is now supporting Connie’s outdoor flowers that are wintering in our living room.

This is the shelf like pallet I found and, with no alteration, now sits in the Living Room for Connie's flowers

This is the shelf like pallet I found and, with no alteration, now sits in the Living Room for Connie’s flowers

I am still working on the cold frame and I decide I am going to disassemble a pallet to provide the wood I need for that. I have the pallets. I have a claw hammer and a nail puller, so what could go wrong? Find below the lessons learned from my first pallet disassembling:

Pallets before

Pallets before

Pallets after

Pallets after

1. No, I did not impale myself on a nail, but I did decide after looking at the pallets themselves that anyone doing this might want to know the date of his or her last tetanus shot. Mine was two years ago, when I did step on a nail at the old house, and woke up some six hours later with an infected foot. Note: nurse friendly will ask you one time when you had your last tetanus shot. If you say you do not know, start pulling down your trousers: here it comes.
2. Pallets are made to carry heavy loads being lifted with a pallet jack or forklift. They are designed to take a lot of abuse. Pallets are generally assembled with nail guns by workers who do not scrimp on the nails. Some pallets only have real nails in three of the boards, one on each end and one in the middle. The rest of the boards are attached with staples. The good news is the stapled boards are easier to pull; the bad news is that the nail guy, feeling cheated, uses more and longer nails.
3. So I go to work on my first pallet. So as not to leave you in horrible suspense, I did get enough wood to do what I wanted to do on the cold frame. The rest of the story is that it was hard.
4. It took hours to pull the pallet apart; I broke and rendered useless almost half of the boards on the pallet. Okay, useless is an over statement. I burn wood in my den so they are not useless but you get my point.

Disassembling five more pallets that represented 20 to 25 man hours of labor to produce an equal number of usable boards and kindling, did not look like such a good idea. What did all these guys who built covered bridges with pallet lumber know that I did not?

Next, I bought a full sized pry bar at the local farm store and worked on the next pallet with it. The results were only marginally better, and my bad shoulder was fast catching up with my worse shoulder in the pain department. I needed to do something else.

While we are still sad that the Library at Alexandria was burned, we do have the modern equivalent at our disposal. Google led me to You Tube. If you need to perform a kitchen table heart transplant, You Tube has a video for it. On You Tube I found a number of videos on the subject of pallet disassembly. My method incorporated the theory seen in this one.

I did not use a brick or a concrete block because I did not have them. I did have a number of the 4 X 4 inch blocks used in building pallets (I had just taken two apart). I had a small piece of 2 X 4 inch wood that I could attach to the other block (God bless duct tape), and extend it to half a foot. Then I used another of the 4 X 4 blocks and my four pound hammer.

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My basic pallet busting set-up. That and a pair of good durable work gloves.

I would set the 6 inch block under one of the boards near the place it is nailed or, better yet, stapled in, then I would put the other block on the board next to it to protect it from damage and I would hit that 4 inch block with my 4 pound hammer. After I had loosened that end, I would move to the middle and repeat the process. The last attached point was fairly easy to pry loose.

This is what happens when you do it right.

This is what happens when you do it right.

This is your set up. Note please, you will loose board even doing this. Wood is soft, nails and hammers are hard.

This is your set up. Note please, you will lose boards even doing this. Wood is soft, nails and hammers are hard.

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When you are doing the center go to the far side of the center support so your force is against the nails not the board. It cost me another board to learn that, you get it for free.

Using this method I took two pallets apart in a little under an hour, saved more than ¾ of the wood and could walk and function when I was done. All told, a vast improvement.

another view of a good set up.

another view of a good set up.

So now I am becoming a fairly adept pallet disassembler. The next trick is going to be actually building something out of pallets. Let’s see how that works out.

For those of you who noticed, yes it is raining in that picture and no, I am not that invested in pallet busting that I do it in the rain. Connie read this and said she would not understand without pictures. And I am always one for clarity.

May God Bless,

EdIMG_1354

So What Would that Look Like in Latin?

I must confess that my Lawn Tractor has been giving me a little trouble recently. The last three or four times I used it, I was getting uneven cuts. It was dragging badly and it got hung up on a couple of high spots. I casually looked for the answer to what was causing this, but seeing nothing obvious, and the problem not being too severe, I continued to use it.

Let me promise you that before starting any motorized device, I always check the oil and the gas, check tensions and tightness where appropriate, and do a walk around to make certain that “this” is in fact still attached to “that”.

So I was finishing up the yard yesterday and decided to mow the, now knee deep in weeds, garden patch. Part way through I took too big a slice of that weedy pie and stalled my mower with grass and weeds wrapped around the blade.

Have I mentioned that I am not as young as I used to be? In point of fact, I am not as young as most TURTLES used to be. Getting down on one knee once involved just dropping down. Getting up was a matter of rising in total defiance of any laws of gravity that might believe they apply.

Getting down on one knee now requires a thorough recon of the area to make certain that it is clear of twigs, pebbles and other foreign objects, plotting a route down that allows for too much yaw and play in my bad and my worse knee (I do not have a good one) having already chosen what, if necessary, I will use to pull or push myself to my feet. Can I get an Amen from the Geriatrics among you?

So, I get down on one knee and free the blade of all fouling weeds. Now to get up: I put my hand on the right rear tire and push myself to my feet. To save you any doubt I did in fact make it to my feet, but picture for a moment pushing down on a big black marshmallow. My right rear tire was effectively flat. I used the gauge on it and the gauge read “seriously?”

It is two tenths of a mile up a dirt road to our little quick shop. So carefully I limped my little tractor to the quick shop only to find out that the air hose hanging between the pumps was busted. Limping back, I recalled that, while my own portable air compressor was busted, I always carry a can of Fix A Flat behind the seat of my truck. Fix a flat worked fine and I continued with my chore for the afternoon.

That is not why I started this little essay however. I want to discuss a truth that was brought home to me as my hand buried itself into what I assumed was a functional tire and I realized with a flash of insight what I had overlooked for about a month.

A Lawn Tractor runs so much better if all four tires are inflated.

You may say that this is obvious and that any fool would know it. I will tell you that I am personally acquainted with one fool who obviously did not. The larger issues I meditated on while I bounced around finishing the lawn had nothing really to do with tires or tractors but expanded to include life in general. They included such things as:

1. No matter how smart you are, how well trained you are, how careful you try to be, and how much you plan, something will go wrong. The equation we call life has far too many variables in it for us to be able to control them. Only the Great Mathematician has that kind of skill.

2. Beating yourself up over something is a waste of time. Every person who has ever performed knows that you are going to make mistakes; they also know that, even if Auntie Mable’s garter belt explodes in the middle of Sweet Hour of Prayer, you do NOT stop. Quit blaming yourself and fix the problem.

3. If you cannot laugh at yourself it is going to be a long, long life. There are things in life that require serious contemplation; you are not one of them. We live one step away from our next stumble; you can laugh or cry. On my better days, I laugh.

4. The Maker of Everything made it all to its purpose, and declared it perfect. The designer and builder of the only perfect things loves you. Even when you neglect to check the air in your tires.

When I finished, I came in and, over coffee, shared with Connie my story of the mushy tire and some of my contemplations, I told her then, “I probably should make ‘You Lawn Tractor Works Better With All The Tires Inflated’ my motto. I wonder how that would look in Latin?”

Captain My Captain

When Connie and I got together, Katherine had just got a new cat which was named, for no particular reason I ever learned, Captain. Captain was about 9 months old when we came into contact. Let me assure you, neither of us was overly impressed.

I am not a cat person. Now cat people take the fact that I can get along with cats as a sign that this is not true. I can get along with Democrats too, that does not mean I believe that Roosevelt saved us all.

So Captain and I have been kind of tolerating each other for oh, about seven years now. In fact, we have tolerated each other so long now that we have formed our own kind of weird bond. Kind of like that long standing crick in your neck. It’s a continuing pain, but you would miss it were it to leave.

Captain is probably the sanest of our cats, but you best not forget that she is the mother and grandmother of crazy (Bookworm) and “oh dear heaven look at that!!!” (Adora, AKA Arrhythmia). So Captain, in a pinch, can show you her mind blowing spells of the crazy that she so liberally passed on to her progeny.

For instance, on two occasions Captain has deserted our lovely home complete with heat, air-conditioning and cat food to live in the woods by herself for months at a time. We would get an occasional glimpse of her from time to time; distant and unresponsive to our calls. She was somewhat like a land version of the Loch Ness Monster. Living on mice and surfacing occasionally for the amusement of the gawking masses. (Katherine, Connie or me).

Both times she came home thinner and quite proud of herself. Once, after one of her walk abouts, I saw her catch a mouse in our old house. Most cats play with Mr. Mouse for awhile and generally just scare the pour thing to death. Captain pounced on it, ate it whole from tail to neck, turned to me and spit the head out. “Take care of that won’t you.” She seemed to say and then walked away disdainfully.

When she has decided to stick around the house, she has just this summer decided to sleep most nights in the barn. Having met her child and grandchild I often wonder if she is not smarter than all of us on this matter.

She will leave the house about dusk, go out to the barn where her only trouble might be raccoons, foxes, the occasional coyote or snake, and sleep under an unused feed stall. Of course, being a cat, she cannot come when called in the morning. That would be so beneath her dignity. So Connie and I, after calling a number of times, feeding the other cats, calling again, feeding the dogs, calling, and checking the garden, walk out to the barn where we find Captain in the same spot each time. After some coaxing by Connie and/or Katherine (I can forget about it) she will come out look at all of us like, “Well what are you waiting for?” And go to the house to be fed.

Captain is really a quite pretty cat. Now you cat people are thinking “See he really likes cats.” Rattlesnakes are really very beautiful, but that does not mean I pet them. So my ability to see Captain’s beauty does not make me a “cat person”. She is white mostly with colors around here and there. A picture would do best I think.

Captain showing her love and affection for Connie. One interest we both share.

Captain showing her love and affection for Connie. One interest we both share.

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Captain, showing her ultimate distrust and disdain for me. And I am so nice to her. Reminds me of several of my ex-girlfriends.

Captain likes to sleep on my pillow. I have no idea why. I often come to the dining room table all set for a meal to find her sitting in my chair. Again, I have no idea why she would want to do that. Maybe she likes to hear me growl, “Get down you silly cat.” When not trying to sit in my chair or lie in my bed, the cat seems to spend a lot of time on my dresser lying atop my “Stuff Box” Connie made me for Christmas a couple years ago.

You would think that sometimes I petted her, rubbed her, and treated her like she was welcomed or like I missed her when she wasn’t here. ‘Course we all know better than that don’t we?

Take Care,

Ed