Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday

3/28/08 Friday
I busted my butt yesterday. Finally got the potatoes I said I was “determined” to get done Tuesday planted. Tilled up where we had planted squash and beans last year. The seed potatoes I got had started to grow so I cut them up in preparation for planting. They are supposed to sit out for two or three days before you put them in the ground. I don’t know when I cut them up but I think it was longer than three days. I’ll go check the journal to see if I made a notation. On Tuesday I said that I had cut them up “two or three days ago”. That means they were cut at least six days ago. Not good but unfortunately it’s not unusual for me to lose track and forget. I hope this didn’t harm the chances of the potatoes making it. This is the kind of thing that worries and depresses me. It’s hard to have all these hopes and ambitions but seem unable to keep up with simple things.

So to plant the potatoes right I needed to dig a trench by hand with a shovel after I tilled it. Then I laid in a bag of peat moss, a bag of something called “landscaping mix” I’d picked up in the broken bag haul before Lowe’s vetoed the idea, and some compost. After throwing in some fertilizer and bone meal I tilled it all in. Then I planted the now wrinkled cuts of potatoes. I strung a soaker hose from last year over as much as I could and watered it all real good.


That was a lot of hard on the back work so I’m paying for it today. I’ve poop scooped at Janie’s where I am writing this. Then I will finally be able to post on the blog. I know it’s been since Sunday but that’s the way it is folks. I’ll post each day separately. There are lots of pictures. Cherie took a video of me using the tiller with a camera someone blessed us with. The Kodak takes video too but we never used it before. I don’t know how to post video’s on the blog but I’ll try.
videoIt worked!!! Here's vidio of the new tiller in operation

Thursday

3/27/08 Thursday
There was a whole lot I was going to write yesterday but as usual never got to it. We spent a couple of hours at Alltel regarding our internet line. In the process the guy called a customer service rep to have me talk to. It was one of those guys in India where so much telemarketing is done now. It wasn’t long before I was screaming at the guy even though I was in the middle of Alltel’s sales room. “Don’t you understand English” I yelled in frustration as the guy followed the script on his computer evidently not comprehending what I told him. It is extremely embarrassing for me to have these emotional control issues in public. Eventually, after being shuttled to various other departments and people we learned that our house is in a fringe area. The nearest tower is five miles away and in order to get good data service we should be no farther than three and a half miles. Despite that they won’t let us out of the contract unless there was something changed on Alltel’s end that causes our problems.

We went to the I-Hop near the Walmart on interstate 20 so we could go online. Cherie ordered the grilled chicken salad and when it finally came out it was just a bowl of lettuce with some parmesan cheese on it. The waitress was a trainee and after going to the kitchen said “Your supposed to put that on yourself. Their cooking it now”. I asked to see the manager. She left and came back to say the manager wasn’t in her office. “So there is no manager here at all?” I asked. “She’s here, she’s just not in her office” I was told. “Well, I want to talk to her so could you go find her please”. The girl left again and came back with another lady who, after trying to get us to accept the chicken salad that Cherie no longer wanted said they would take it off the bill. I didn’t finish doing the stuff online I wanted to, which included posting on the blog, but we were pretty much disgusted. My sandwich sucked and the cheese soup was so nasty that after one bite neither of us would eat it. When asked the standard “how was it?” at the cash register (incidentally the couple before us said “We won’t be back”) I expressed my dissatisfaction. A lady had come from the back and heard us. Come to find out she was the manager. The person who had come to our table before was just another waitress impersonating the manager. Because they had already accepted my credit card and rung it up she said she couldn’t refund my money but to just ask for a manager next time we come in. I don’t think that will happen. All of this just set the stage for our visit to Alltel.

This morning I accidently took a double dose of my medicine. I remember looking at my pill minder and telling Cherie I must have messed up before cause there was only one dose instead of the two that were supposed to be there. So I took it. Now I am feeling…well kind of like I took two seizure pills instead of one. That’s the short term memory and is why I always try to tell Cherie when I take a pain pill so I don’t forget and take another one and another one. I just didn’t remember taking my morning meds so presumed I’d screwed up loading the pill minder instead of trusting it.

I’m fighting the depression again. There’s a despair when I see how much there is to do and how little is done. Am I doomed to failure? My saying “If you reach for the stars and don’t make it at least you went farther than if you never reached at all” seems kind of shallow right now. I’ll get over it but it can be hard to keep your head up sometimes.

Wednesday


3/26/08 Wednesday
Kind of a crappy start for the day. I went out to do a few things before we ran into Midland. That’s when I discovered that I had never watered the strawberries. I spent two days planting them but forgot to water the ones on the north side of the house. They were put in the ground five days ago. This is so not good. I had drug a hose out to them but evidently got distracted so forgot all about it. Yesterday I even went and got the same hose to water the compost I was preparing but it never crossed my mind. This is where the short term memory loss can cost me. It is depressing, I again wonder why I even try or if there is any point in it.

Tuesday

I don't remember what day this sunset was though it had to be within the last few. Found several pictures of it I had downloaded.


3/25/08 Tuesday
I can’t believe it’s after 12:00 already. Got up, took my meds and a pain pill, early so I could get to work. I have been encouraging Cherie to take a walk every morning for her health. This morning was the first one. We used to do this when we first moved here but that habit fell away during the winter. She had started back on the Staten drugs for cholesterol despite learning just how nasty they really are, because her doctor said she should. That pissed me off. I feel that the best way to reduce cholesterol and get healthy is to exercise and eat right. So I’m going to have to be a nudge. I love her and want her strong and healthy so we can have as many years together as possible, and make them quality years. From what I’ve read Staten drugs are one of the biggest frauds perpetrated on the American public by the big pharmaceutical giants to date. Y’all ought to go online and check it out.

Yesterday was a rough day. The morning was ok but at eleven I had to go back and take more tests at the neuropsych. That was two and a half hours of learning just how poorly my brain works. It drained me, I was exhausted by the time we were done. We went to the Thai restaurant we had found for lunch. I love Thai food. It has flavors that are unique. Then we went to Tractor Supply to get the warranty card on the tiller filled out. After that we hit Janie’s to go online. I didn’t want to stay too long as her son was there but mostly because there is so much to do on this farm. It’s too bad because there is so much information I need to get and some new contacts I’ve made that I need to follow up on. Both came through the Mittlieder gardening method group. One of them is the VP for the Food For Everyone (or something like that) Foundation. He is working on setting up a non profit for disabled veterans and after learning about me wants to talk.

After all of that activity I was not processing well. At home I was again wandering as I do when slow. One of the things I had a hard time with was trying to determine what size plot to prepare for the corn. The more I tried to figure it out the more confused I got. I have a hundred and fifty seeds that need to be planted ten inches apart. The rows need to be two and a half feet wide. I want to make the area a square as it’s best to have the corn bunched together for pollination. As simple as this is it was too much for me. I decided to make the area ten feet by ten. I marked out two plots this morning that are about three hundred feet apart. This is to prevent the two different kinds of corn from cross pollinating. That way I should have good seed for next year. One of the things I’d dearly love to find is an antique corn machine that removes the kernels from the cob. You see lots of them up in the Ohio Michigan area.

Right now I’m working on compost. I moved the compost bin we got from the seminar put on by the extension agent in Odessa. I had filled it with green clippings from mowing the rye along with some cotton and stuff I had chopped up with the lawnmower Wally has given us. Boy, that sucker stank. Smelled like some animal had died. But it was sure composting. The level sank by two thirds. So it was time to stir this up and I decided to move it farther away from the house and to reload it with more stuff. I’m mowing pathways in the rye fields to collect the green clippings in the mower bag. Cherie and I marked where we are going to plant the Afghan pines so I mowed along that. The clippings will go in the new compost along with the goat manure I got last year. It will make a rich mixture that should be ready in three or four weeks.


Today I am determined to get corn and potatoes planted. The potatoes I planted last week or so I did all wrong. This time I’m using the seed potatoes we got from Walfart. I cut them up two or three days ago and they are ready to go in the ground. I finally got the base of the greenhouse in the ground. At this rate I’ll be lucky to finish it this year.

I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so it’s time to get back to work.
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It’s 4:00 and I am still working on the compost. I have a hard time estimating how long a task will take. I figured this would be done in an hour. It’s been over four hours and I am not yet done but pretty close. I think I’ve stayed on task with this, not wandered off doing something else, but it’s hard to say when I don’t remember what happened an hour ago. I had to come in and take a break. Was getting a little light headed and unsteady on my feet. It’s getting pretty warm out now. I’m so tired. Hope it’s not a slowdown.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

PC card died

3/22/08 Saturday
It’s 3:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I figured I would have crashed out quickly considering how hard I worked yesterday but that’s now how it worked. I got the strawberry beds I planned done and Cherie helped me get them planted. In my mind the areas I prepared would have held all the plants but it ended up being only half of them. No problem, I’ve got a killer tiller so will just make more beds tomorrow for them. That machine is going to see a lot of use over the next few weeks. I hope I can get some sleep tonight but at this rate may not. Hope that doesn’t slow me down. I know I’ll hurt, mostly from moving the telephone poles and about fifteen wheelbarrow loads of dirt. Thank God for the pain medication.

I kind of drifted off around 5:30 but never really got any sleep all night. Doesn’t matter, I’ve got things to do. I got up and out by eight and the first thing I did was fire up the tiller. Then I went to carefully put mulch around the strawberry plants we so carefully put in the ground last night. Because it was getting dark and we worked till we could not see there were some areas I had to fix. As I worked I saw the puppies wrestling on top of the south bed of strawberries. OH NO!!! I thought as I got up and screamed at them. My yelling and pointing to the area saying “NO, Bad Dog” didn’t do any good. They were in it just minutes later. Then Trixie decided it was a good area to sprawl out and lay. Each time they heard it from me. When I looked at the bed I could see it has already been a major pathway for them. I don’t know how many of our strawberries they have destroyed yet but will when I mulch them. I’ve worried and thought on how to deal with pests such as rabbits and bugs but I think our biggest problem will be the puppies. Last year the destroyed seventy percent of the melon patch as they exuberantly played. This is a major problem. I think I will have to go online and see if there is a way I can make an electric fence for cheap. I sure can’t afford fencing for the large area we want to plant.
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I tried to post that for about an hour and gave up. I think that our pc card is failing in addition to Alltel’s signal bouncing in and out. There are times the card shows no signal at all but my cell phone shows that Alltel’s signal is strong. I often unplug and plug the card back in several times and then suddenly there is signal. Janie suggested we take our card in and have it tested. It really doesn’t matter cause if it is bad there is no warranty and we couldn’t afford one anyway. Besides that, if it is bad and they know then we won’t be able to get out of our contract. So I’ll leave it be.

I’ve got one of those splitting headaches now. That on top of being slow. I called Cherie to find out where some peanut butter is and she said I should take a break and rest, or maybe even call it a day. My reply was a simple “No”. I explained that we were under the gun and couldn’t afford to take a break. I’m not moving too fast as it is so the work is going in slow motion. I am tired.

I’ll try to go online again but really don’t have much hope.

Nah, it ain’t going to happen. There is not much signal registering on the cell phone so even if the card is working it couldn’t make it.
Here's how much I've dug out of the big compost pile so far.


It looks like our PC card has bitten the dust. There is no signal of any type no matter how many times I put it in the laptop. It doesn’t work in Cherie’s either. I’ll take this laptop to Midland when we go to church and go online through one of the free Wi-Fi sites to be found like we used to when we first moved here. So I won’t be posting everyday for sure. There is so much else I need the internet for beyond email. It’s the greatest source of information for anything, like details on how to plant and grow different things.

We got all the strawberries planted. I worked pretty hard and after not getting any sleep last night am pretty tired.
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This is for my new blogosphere friend, Jim. You mentioned how my problems make your's seem less. Here is my philosophy. I carved this while recovering in St Louis. You know, I used to complain about having no shoes till I met a man with no feet. Many have it much worse than I. I am blessed with life period.


3/23/08 Sunday
It’s one of those mornings where I had to take a pain pill when I got up. The combination of bone pains that come with weather changes and the effects of all the work I’ve been doing are like a one two punch. It hurts but I remind myself that this is part of the blessing of still being alive. I remind myself of that all the time as it really puts things into perspective. Regardless of the pain and a brain that doesn’t always work well I am a lucky and blessed person. My life is a gift. Pain I’ve lived with for eight years now and the first five of that with no medication so it’s just something there. I would gladly endure more for a brain that worked like it used to. I’ve always had a high tolerance for pain.

You can see the strawberries I just put in behind the puppies doing what teenagers do.

We were blessed with some rain yesterday with little sprinkles during the night. It was disappointingly light and I stayed out in it putting mulch on the new area I planted with the remainder of the strawberries. I haven’t been outside yet this morning so don’t know how wet the ground is, but the dog’s paws were pretty dirty so that’s a good sign. They weren’t out for long for Cherie looked out the window and they were again dancing on the strawberries. I’m not anxious to go out and see the damage. Those puppies to more to try my emotional control issues than anything else. It bothers me when I get so angry I scream and throw shovels around. At least I am able to restrain the urge to hit them but it scares me when I get this angry. Fact is though that I have always had an anger problem going back to childhood. Part of it I inherited from my dad. My memories of him involve lots of explosive anger, much of which I triggered but he was easily set off in general. I was held back in the fifth grade, not because of my grades but because I was deemed emotionally not ready. I feel this is another evidence of Asperger’s syndrome. I wish my dad and mom would talk to me so I could learn more about these problems I had. Hell, I just wish they would talk to me.

The rye grain is growing well in spots.

This is the first real rain we’ve had this year. Up till now the highest recorded level of moisture was five one hundredths of an inch. Here’s another of the glitches from the TBI, I’m not clear how to write that out numerically. Is it .05 or .005? It’s a small thing but the testing at the neuropsych really brought that out. So the rain is a reminder of how far behind I am on the garden. Much of our seed needs to be in the ground and if I had it together there would be lots of tomatoes and peppers growing in flats ready to plant. Next year will be better as things like the greenhouse and seed starting shack will be finished and ready for use. Plus once the beds are made it will be much easier to just amend the soil in preparation for planting. So we are creating the infrastructure of the farm so to speak.

We are sitting in Steve and Janie's driveway and taping into their WI-Fi so I can post this. It works better than the PC card did anyway. We didn't want to go in and bother them just to go online.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Love it, getting things done with the tiller

3/21/08 Friday
The visit to the neuropsych involved taking a bunch of tests to see how well my brain worked. I hate that because they remind me of how much I have lost. We were there three hours and when I came home I laid down and turned on the TV. Next thing I know I am waking up a couple of hours later. Those tests exhausted me.

The meeting about wind energy was put on by an attorney who’s firm puts together these deals. The idea is to get a large group of us together who’s land is in the same area to attract wind energy companies and get them to compete for leases. This guy has been doing it for seven or so years. It sounds pretty good but we will see. I’ll have Steve look at the paperwork they wanted signed before we do anything. Regardless nothing will happen fast. Seems that these things can take a few years to put together. But considering there are a hundred or so wind generators operating in sight of us with a couple hundred more scheduled to go in it looks promising. Time will tell.

James and his wife were there at the meeting. He’s one of the people from the first church of Stanton who was in our Sunday school class. I liked him and he was fairly open and friendly then. He didn’t seem inclined to talk. They sat next to us. I didn’t recognize him but that is not unusual for me. Cherie let me know who they were. I tried to talk about how things went when we were there in my very awkward way. What I did was try to explain how my social skills aren’t very good and that I probably said things that were not smart. He just repeated that he hadn’t heard a thing, which I found kind of strange being sure I created a stir. I invited and encouraged him to come and visit us. He said he doesn’t get out our way much. After that things seemed to get more relaxed so we talked about things like hearing loss. That encouraged me. I just want to have friends in this community and enjoy the same kind of fellowship we have in Midland.

So I’ve been out using the tiller for the first time. What a blessing that will be for us. Even with it there is lots of hard work for me to do to prepare the beds. First thing is the strawberries. I ran the tiller with the tines running in reverse just a few inches deep as suggested in the directions for breaking sod. Then I’ve been hauling wheelbarrow loads of dirt from the compost I piled up last year with the front end loader on the tractor Wally had rented for us to mow the weeds with. It’s got to be some good dirt as evidenced by how well the rye is growing next to the pile. I was already in pain from helping them load the tiller at the store but today will surely add to that. Thank God for the pain meds. I already need them but they sure help me keep working. As much as I hate them they sure help.

It’s 12:30 now. I’ve taken a half hour break to rest the back and write this. I suppose I should fix something to eat despite not being hungry. Because I don’t feel the sensation of hunger I must eat by the clock. So it’s peanut butter and jelly time. Pray for my friend Don. The infection in his foot has rebounded. Being diabetic that is particularly dangerous. It is not uncommon to hear about diabetics losing their legs. Cherie’s grandfather lost his but that didn’t slow the old guy down.

I’ve got work to do so enough of this.

What an ordeal posting or just going online is. It's taken a half hour so far.

Finally. Forty five minutes, several disconnects, and much frustrating time watching the signal strength go from two or four bars to no signal while the bottom message scrolls "Dormant" even when there is signal. I so look forward to when we can get a satellite hookup.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another milestone

3/20/08 Thursday
11:27 – I just got back from picking up the tiller. I view this as another milestone. It’s a big leap forward in our dream of creating a living farm. When I picked a check up from Jen she said “it’s a mini tractor”. Without the help of them and Don, for that matter all the friends we have found at First Baptist and Midland, none of this would be possible. Thanks very much for the blessings all of you. That goes for those of you around the country in the blogosphere who have supported us even with simple things like an email, comment, or material things like seeds too.

I don’t have time to post this now. Too much to do. First thing is to read the manual for this tiller. By the way, let me tell how this worked out. After much research I had decided to get the White brand tiller but then Don called this morning. Along with a gift to help us purchase this vital piece of equipment he just happened to get a ten percent off coupon from Tractor Supply. Now the Cub Cadet tiller costs eighty bucks more. Sure it uses the same drive train as the White but it has a three year warranty versus the two year one for the White. The eighty dollars is the reason I was going with the White but ten percent off means I could get the Cub for only eleven dollars more. Not good at math I thought it would be thirty bucks more but figured it out when they rang it up at the store. Looking at them side by side at the store I could see a clear difference. So we’re blessed in that as well.

Today will be busy anyway. I go see the neuropsychologist at one for evaluation for the Texas Rehabilitation people. They may help me get this farm going and off of disability. Even if they don’t I’m gonna do it but I’ll take all the help I can get.

Then tonight there is a public hearing or meeting regarding plans to extend the wind generator farm to our area. If we can get one of those huge things on our land there’s money in it. I don’t have a clue how much but it could give us a big boost for creating a pick your own orchard. Who knows if it will work for us but we are sure curious to learn.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's been a few days

Smoke from one of the recent grass fires

3/19/08 Wednesday
I know it’s been a few days. Things have been busy with lots going on. I just got done with lunch so will take this time to write. You’ve probably noticed how short the posts have been lately compared to the wordy entries I usually have. Part of that is due to how difficult and frustrating going online has become but mostly it’s because there is so much going on. So let me try to fill that in though it will be hard to remember some of it.

Let’s see…I took the tiller to Small Engine Repair (I think that’s the name) to get their advice on fixing it. Cherie had to help me load it on the truck. When the guy came out and saw what I had he flatly told me it’s not a good idea to sink more money into it. Just the carburetor and electrical would cost two hundred dollars and it needs more than that. Plus gas tanks are not available but mostly it’s because of the clutch. They commonly wear out and they don’t make that one anymore. What a bummer. Other than that it’s a rock solid piece of equipment made back when things were made good.

The Blackberries and their new trellis

Even doing half of what we plan will require a tremendous amount of tilling, at least by our standards. Nothing compared to what farmers do but a whole lot for my weak damaged body to do by hand. So a tiller is important. From the small engine place I went looking at what was available. Lowe’s has a little rinky dink thing for $680.00. Not an option. Home Depot didn’t have anything better when I stopped by so the next place was Tractor Supply. Now we’re talking. They advertised a Cub Cadet tiller for $679.00 but didn’t have any put together when I dropped by. They had just came in and were still on the truck or something. The lady said they have been selling them as fast as they come in. There was a White brand tiller there that looks pretty good. It is priced at six hundred dollars ($599.00, same difference). That looks good.

I stopped by Home Depot a little later to talk to the Garden center manager about getting their broken bags of material. She said that they were no longer allowed to give that stuff out. Seems that some of the venders had complained about it so now the policy is to throw it in the dumpster. “I don’t suppose the back of my truck could be considered a dumpster” I jokingly asked. The answer was no. What a shame and what a waste but that’s the American way isn’t it? Throw it away before you give it to someone in need.

Where some of the raspberries are


But while there I saw they had just brought in some Cub Cadet tillers like the one Tractor Supply advertised. They wanted four dollars less so that’s not a big deal. I spent the last couple of days going online to learn about the White machine so I could compare it to the Cub. It didn’t show up on Tractor Supply’s website or even on White’s. That got me worried. The Tractor Supply manager told me that they had just started carrying the White brand of products so that’s why it wasn’t on their site. Even typing in the model number didn’t bring it up on White’s site. Come to find out the same manufacturer makes both White and Cub Cadet so I called their customer service number. The tiller that was listed White’s site was listed at $900.00 and was a hair larger that the Cub. But that’s not what was on the floor at Tractor Supply. After going through the “if you want…push two” maze I got a human. He let me know that this was the new 08 model so wasn’t online yet and switched me to the White products guy. He told me that the White tiller uses the same drive train as the Cub. The only difference was a few bells and whistles (his terminology) and the motor on the White was a Brigg’s and Stratton versus a Honda on the Cub. For eighty bucks less I think it’s a no brainer. The warranty is only two years versus three on the Cub but I’ll take good care of it.

So I went back to Tractor Supply. I got a hold of the manager and asked if they could hold the machine for us. It’s the only one they have in the store. Let me tell y’all how things fell into place on this. Seems that Jen and Wally had donated some money Sunday or so through the PayPal donation button on the blog, then Don called yesterday to say he’d like to contribute. Amazingly enough it came out to the exact price of the tiller. Is that another “Godcidence”? (I made up that word a few years back after I woke from the coma to explain the many things that seem to fall into place since then.)

So it looks like we will have a tiller soon. It’s a rear tine model with a reversible drive so even Cherie can operate it. The front tine type like the old Sears I read are not at all recommended for hard dirt like we have. I would like to get it today, mostly for the 150 strawberry plants that have been sitting and probably dying for nearly a week now, but must wait till the funds are there. PayPal takes four plus days to get to the bank. We are so under the gun. Mother Nature doesn’t wait till we are ready. It just doesn’t work that way. So every day counts. Our seeds arrived Monday. I don’t even have the seed starting room done or the greenhouse put together.


So I probably won’t be making too many posts. I picked up two of these workbenches at the landfill today. They are made of pressure treated lumber so will be great outdoors and real handy when we start doing all this stuff. Looking at the pictures I have I see the ones I took of the raspberry and blackberry plants I put in. The blackberries I made this trellis for and put out by the mesquite patch. They grow pretty tall, about ten foot high if I remember right. The raspberries need shade so they are under the mulberry.

Enough prater. Got to go. Hope the stupid PC card works so I can post this in under an hour.

Ok, it took thirty five minutes

No, fifty four minutes so far. Uploading the pictures
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I was digging a trench across the driveway to bury a garden hose that will lead to the back of the house where our evaporative air conditioner is. The hose currently runs on the surface where I must walk and run over it daily. That isn’t good so I figured on putting the hose Wally gave us inside some pvc pipe to keep it from getting squeezed and cutting off the water flow. So as I dug I hit something solid. The first thing I uncovered was a metal strip. Then as I dug farther I saw it was embedded in some concrete. Now it’s a mystery. What could it be? Time for an archeological excavation to see what we have. It is a big block of concrete that is at least a foot and half thick. I haven’t finished uncovering it because Cherie and I needed to plot out where we are planting the Afghan pines. I’ve got ninety things to build that will protect the trees from the wind and heat.

In thinking about it I believe this block is a cover for the old water well. When Charles Lewis visited he told me that an old windmill had originally been in that area. The well had evidently gone dry so was replaced with the current well that is a half mile away. I wonder if this well is still dry. It would be real convenient if it now had water in it. That will be something to investigate later. Just moving this hunk of concrete will be a chore.

It’s a shame that my cousin, Daryl, has been so cold and not even accepted my repeated invitations to come and visit. What a hypocrite he is, an elder or deacon in the church but he can’t even show the love that Jesus said to show to strangers. He knows much about this place and could help us learn about what is where. But when I revealed we not only knew but had taken pictures and documented how things were being taken out of the house both before and after my grandmother died, Daryl really distanced himself. Actually he was never open and when we first showed up at the church he was transparent as he tried to avoid us, speeding up and keeping his head down when he had no choice but walk past us in the hall. I had watched him down the hall talking to others and making furtive glances to see if we were still standing there, so purposely stayed put instead of going into the sanctuary for the service. When he walked by I said “Hi Daryl” in a loud voice he couldn’t help but hear. He kept hurrying by so I repeated my greeting so he had no choice but acknowledge my greeting. That’s the kind of behavior that raises some questions. Makes me wonder if he knows about things stolen from here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

3/16/08 Sunday
Going online is a big source of frustration now. It looks like we will be taking our laptops into Midland when we need to get some internet stuff done that requires a good connection. It took me fifty minutes to download a manual needed for our camera. Got disconnected five times and even when connected download speed would be slower than dial up. This just gets me to where I want to tear my hair out and I don’t have much hair left as it is. I’m pretty sure we want to get a satellite hook up. Janie is going to check with some folks she knows who do satellite set ups for the oil industry. They would know more about it and probably could give us a good direction to look at.

After church we stopped by Don and Cynthia’s to drop off the child’s picnic table we picked up with the greenhouse. He’s doing ok all things considered. The infection on his foot hasn’t gotten worse and that’s good. He hadn’t gotten much sleep so we didn’t stay long. We met Janie at Wendy’s for lunch and enjoyed a bit of fellowship with her. Then we came home. I had developed a headache by then and was pretty tired so just laid down a bit. After that Cherie and I went out and picked up much of the debris from cutting the mulberry tree back.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to post this but can never be sure if it will work.

I started that at 9:12 and am finally done at 10:03. What a pain this is. Used to take five minutes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rough day

3/15/08 Saturday
It’s been a rough day. Went out and it didn’t take long for thinking about everything I need to do, when to do it, what should be done first, how should I do it, to become overwhelming. It triggered a slowdown that has been with me all day. It is so hard for me to sort things out and make decisions. I know this may be hard for some to understand but that’s one of the reasons I put the post about Mathew Drake, the soldier with a TBI, on yesterday. There are times that deciding where to put something in my hand down turns into a crisis. That’s not all the time but it comes up.

I pulled the tiller up to the garage. Someone offered to pay for the parts to fix it but I won’t know what it needs till I take it apart. But there are other things to do so that will have to wait. In order to plant the raspberries I need to clear out an area. It is under the old mulberry tree and much of the tree needs to be cut down. Because the branches will fall where I want to plant the berries I must cut them before they are planted. Cherie has been helping me clear out debris. She just left for Janie’s to help her clean out a closet.

I’ve been fighting one of those nasty headaches on top of being slow. Makes climbing a ladder and using the chainsaw quite an adventure. Being slow sometimes drastically affects my ability to operate my right leg and that is true this time. Thus climbing the ladder can be risky so I move very carefully.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Understanding TBI

I get regular information on Traumatic brain injuries and thought this would help you get an idea of what it's like. I'm not in as bad shape is Mathew but the problems I've faced are similar. After eight years I've come a long way. Here's a link to the story so you can see pictures
http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=83253

Courtesy of Lisa Schuster
Army Veteran Matthew Drake works with a therapist to relearn how to prepare a meal.

Relearning life: a 'new normal' for veterans with brain injuries

by Elizabeth Gibson
Mar 12, 2008

After surviving an attack by a suicide car bomb, Drake recovered at military facilities.

Drake's mother, Lisa Schuster, said he never lost his sense of humor and wit.

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Matthew Drake used to love cooking hot dogs for lunch.

It used to be easy. Now it isn't so simple.

As a soldier in Iraq, Drake was the sole survivor of a suicide car bombing that killed the other four people in his Humvee. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, and suddenly everyday activities like making hot dogs became too much for his brain to process, said his mother, Lisa Schuster.

Three and a half years later, at age 24, Drake can make hot dogs again, and he's independent enough to move into an assisted living apartment. Those are big deals, his mom said.

"There's a new normal for Matthew," she said. "But at least now it's a normal where we can find joy."

How does a man relearn how to make a frankfurter or to do any of those other pieces of life that bring a smile to his face? A year ago Drake moved into a privately run cognitive rehabilitation facility recommended by military staff to regain those pieces.

But cognitive rehabilitation -- the process of learning to compensate for, not necessarily heal, an injury that impairs thought processes – is not recognized by the military insurance company, Tricare, as a primary course of treatment, although it will cover some portions of the rehab. There is not substantial proof that cognitive rehabilitation works, according to a 2007 assessment by Tricare.

Most private insurance companies agree with Tricare, but the Brain Injury Association of America has repeatedly said cognitive rehabilitation is legitimate.

Although traumatic brain injury patients and their supporters say hospitals for the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments have made strides in incorporating and improving cognitive rehabilitation, some say veterans also should be able to seek care from civilian companies as an additional step or as an alternative.

To receive civilian care, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for a year of treatment, veterans have to apply to the VA on an individual basis.

Drake's mother said cognitive rehabilitation at Quality Living Inc., a private facility in Omaha, Neb., was an invaluable piece of her son's care. And the VA paid for it.

"There is no downside to cognitive rehab," Schuster said. "With (a traumatic brain injury) the very essence of your loved one is so changed that you don't even know how to dream dreams anymore. My heart just started to despair, and I wondered if he could ever be happy again. I no longer fear that he can't be happy. QLI has shown me with the right support he can have routines where he can have purpose again."

Drake went through brain and skull surgery as well as rehab at military and veterans hospitals, and Shuster said the doctors did a wonderful job. Then, one of the military's patient advocate arms, the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition, asked Schuster if she'd like to see a cognitive rehabilitation facility.

"We walked around this tour and I started to cry," Schuster said. "I just kept saying, 'This place, this place…' and Matthew finished the sentence for me -- '…is freedom.'"

Freedom can be as simple as relearning to open a hot dog package. Imagine trying to open that tricky plastic without the problem-solving skill to think to pick up a pair of scissors from the counter.

In cognitive rehabilitation someone would write up a series of steps (such as pick up the scissors) that Drake would practice until they became ingrained. The staff would slowly back out until Schuster's son could do it on his own. Repeat that sort of process 10 hours a day for every step of life – grocery shopping, getting dressed, remembering to shower, planning free time, volunteering at a YMCA and scheduling the next day every night.

It wasn't a miracle – Schuster doubts her son will ever fulfill his dream of finding a well-paid job to support the wife he hopes to meet someday – but after a year of rehabilitation, he can be left on his own overnight and make himself breakfast, Schuster said. Like most twenty-somethings, he craves independence, she said.

About 31,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military estimates that almost one-third of troops sent home because of wounds have had traumatic brain injuries from blasts, bumps and accidents.

The Veterans Affairs Department alone estimates it will spend $573.3 million through 2017 on medical and rehab care for traumatic brain injuries incurred by the current generation of combat veterans.

The military has stepped up screening for brain injuries, checking in with phone calls to veterans and teaching courses on how to recognize signs of the wound.

The military opened a Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury late last year and estimates it will be fully operational by October, although Veterans Affairs and Defense already had a center focused on traumatic brain injuries.

Quality Living Inc.'s Clough said Veterans Affairs and Defense do a great job of taking care of the medical side of a traumatic injury, but might be holding onto veterans a little too long. Military life and veterans' hospitals are a separate world from everyday life, whereas private care helps veterans relearn how to function while in a civilian setting, he said.

Some private care facilities already have VA contracts to serve veterans, but Quality Living Inc. has been waiting more than a year for the department to approve a contract.

Veterans' activists said that when a veteran or soldier applies for civilian care the initial answer from Veterans Affairs and Defense is always no, but they said it has become increasingly easy to turn that no into a yes with a little prodding.

Military and veterans health care officials also disagree with Tricare and get around it by using their own funds to pay for such rehab, said Barbara Sigford, national director for Veterans Affairs' physical medicine and rehabilitation services. However, there is a gap where veterans are only covered by Tricare between when they leave the service and when their claim is processed by Veterans Affairs.

Sigford said the benefits are just hard to see on paper since cognitive rehabilitation is about coping mechanisms rather than physically repairing the brain, and it can be hard to separate what is responsible for progress in the long run.

Pfc. Andrew Parker said each soldier at the National Naval Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., works through cognitive rehabilitation at his or her own pace.

Parker would know: He's in the program.

At a gala to honor wounded veterans last month, it was hard to see a difference between guests without a traumatic brain injury and the well-spoken Parker standing straight in a sharp suit.

The 20-year-old from Maine discovered he had a traumatic brain injury less than a year ago. A bomb hadn't hit him, but Humvees had knocked his head a few times too many as he rode up top in his position as a gunner. His friends joked he was losing his memory, and then it slowly stopped being funny.

"It's a handicap," he said. "It might not be no legs, but it's almost like being retarded."

Now Parker is learning to use a notebook to plan and remember his day. His cognitive rehabilitation also includes computer tests of his memory and problem-solving ability.

Doing the tests makes his head hurt and he still can't score as high as an uninjured person, Parker said. The soldier said he's not sure if the rehabilitation will work as well for him as others but he hasn't given up yet.

Sigford said the military and veteran services, like the private sector, provide worksheets and therapists to work through tasks such as how to prepare a meal, and the agencies are training their staffs to incorporate cognitive rehabilitation into every aspect of the day.

Veterans Affairs has worked with cognitive rehabilitation since the 1990s, and it has made significant progress in recent years, according to patients and the Brain Association of America. The VA is providing as much as six hours of personalized rehabilitation a day at its hospitals, Sigford said.

Although some military officials and patient families say military cognitive rehabilitation hasn't caught up with the expertise and experience in the civilian sector, Sigford said that's just typical consumer sentiment – assuming the grass is greener on the other side.

Sharon Henderson, deputy director of the military's patient advocate Care Coalition, said some families go out to see civilian care facilities and decide they prefer the military camaraderie and specialized knowledge of combat wounds at veterans' hospitals. Others, she said, find private care to be a beneficial extra step.

Whatever the best way to help a patient, Henderson said, the official response should be obvious.

"When a solution is identified, the government has a responsibility to pay for it," she said. "There is no one-size-fits-all rehabilitation."

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The building blocks of a day

By Elizabeth Gibson
Medill News Service

Everyday tasks can be difficult to think through for a person with a traumatic brain injury because they often have impaired memory and problem-solving skills. From the perspective of his mother, Lisa Schuster, read how Army veteran Matthew Drake worked through rehabilitation for his injury at Quality Living Inc.
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At 9 p.m. Drake usually makes himself a milkshake. One day he finished drinking his milkshake, looked at his watch and realized it was about time to make his nightly milkshake. He couldn't remember or feel that he had just drunk one and started to make another. So the staff at Quality Living Inc. taught him to cross out tasks on a checklist as he completed them.
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Even putting on clothes had to be broken into steps. Sometimes Schuster used to tell Drake to change into his church clothes, but when he came out of his room he would still be in a casual outfit. He would get halfway into his church clothes, forget what he was doing and think he must have finished church and was changing out of his formal clothes.
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Part of Drake's job as a volunteer at a YMCA involved wiping down the equipment. He struggled to figure out how to juggle the cleaning supplies and free weights with a shaky hand, another side effect of his wound. Here's the routine he learned: set the rag down, spray it with cleaning fluid, set down the spray bottle, pick up the rag, leave the weights on the rack and wipe down the handles. Drake learned the routine quickly by his standards, his mother said. It took only about 10 repetitions; some processes require hundreds of practice runs to internalize.
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For a while Drake tried a job stocking produce at a grocery store. It was the same position he had in high school, so his job coach hoped he would catch on more easily. But even with a coach at his shoulder, the job was too much. People moved things and asked questions. "Are you getting more of these tomorrow?" would stump his memory. He had to give up on the job.
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After picking what he wanted to order at a restaurant, Drake would forget what he had selected by the time the waitress would arrive. When put on the spot he might order something he didn't like or that he couldn't eat with a shaky hand. Drake learned to cope by looking at menus online, printing them out and selecting a meal before leaving home.
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Since Drake also has trouble with his balance, he had to relearn how to navigate uneven sidewalks and potholes. Imagine walking down the sidewalk and not having the mental processes to think ahead and navigate around a ditch before getting there.

Note from me; so much of this is a reminder of where I have been. I remember going to McDonald's and getting confused every time. Just looking at the menu displayed above the counter was overwhelming.

Another blow

3/14/08 Friday
If it’s not one thing it’s another. I picked up the little Mantis tiller from Don the other day. It’s designed for light duty work on a home garden. Cynthia said it couldn’t mulch hay into the ground so probably isn’t able to cut through the roots and stuff in our ground. It will be useful but I really don’t want to beat it up and will still have to do lots of the work by hand. So I decided to give the old Craftsman tiller one more try. I had already taken the carburetor apart, cleaned it and adjusted the float level, and reinstalled it for the fourth time. I went online and looked up adjusting the points and timing so took the tiller apart to get to the electrical part. Played with that and put it all back together. Now was the big test. I pulled the starter rope and it coughed, a good sign. So I pulled again and again. On the fourth pull the rope snapped and I almost spun around in a full circle when it let go. Nuts. So I found a piece of the same kind of rope and installed it in the starter. Now I’ll try again so with great hope and anticipation I gave a mighty yank. It broke. I suppose that’s to be expected when you use old stuff you find in obscure corners. So I took the starter coil off the mower Dave gave us. It had been in storage for years and I was unable to get it started so saved it to scavenge parts off of. The rope was in much better shape so I again installed it.

This time the tiller started. It ran and it ran good. Cherie could hear my jubilant whoops from inside the house. At last, after much work, time, and precious money, it runs. What a relief that was. What a blessing and life saver this would be at this crucial time when I need to prepare maybe two thousand or more feet of beds for the plants we hope to gain a decent income from.

I took the tiller to where the strawberry beds are to be and began to till. It got two feet before the engine began to sputter and stall just like it did before. After taking the carburetor apart four times and studying it online I’m confident I know what the problem is. The float and needle valve are getting stuck flooding the carburetor. It was getting late and dinner was about ready so I left it there and went inside. An hour later, after it was dark outside, my phone alarm went off to remind me to turn off the sprinklers. Walking out I saw the fire.

By this time it had mostly burned down. The plastic from the wheel was still burning as was grass and fencing. In the dark it wasn’t clear how much damage was done but that didn’t matter right then. I rushed to get a garden hose out there and sprayed everything down putting out the embers that were smoldering everywhere. I just went inside and laid down. “I’ll go see how bad it is tomorrow when it’s daylight” I told Cherie.

It’s bad. The plastic gas tank was gone. I had just filled it up yesterday after I got the tiller running. When that went it must have been quite a blast. It looks like some of the aluminum melted. I’m pretty sure the engine is still good but the electrical wiring and carburetor are gone, along with the gas tank. The odds of finding a gas tank for a late 1950’s machine are slim but a little southern engineering can remedy that. I can buy a new carburetor for it cause they still make them. I’m glad this didn’t happen when I was using it. That could have been a very bad scenario putting me in the hospital.

But buying things for this tiller is not possible right now. The seventy five dollars we invested in seed and the funds spent on trees, blueberry bushes, blackberries, raspberries, has drained us. It’s the middle of the month and now we have to worry about having enough food to eat and gas for the vehicles. Hell, gas costs us more now than food does. So I’ll get the pitch fork out and get to work. I can use Don’s tiller to mix in fertilizer once I’ve turned the dirt up. All of this work is to produce an income from this farm, thus relieving the pressures that poverty bring. It’ll happen, it just won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

I suppose I’ll try to get this posted. That is such a source of frustration now. It can take me an hour sometimes to just post something like this. You never know what the cellular gods will let you do. Sometimes it works just fine but those times are rare anymore. Getting a satellite internet connection will cost us about two hundred dollars for the initial equipment and installation. After that it’s fifty bucks a month, ten dollars less than we pay to use Alltel.

I got lots of digging to do. Today is poop scoop day and I am going to mulch Janie’s garden beds to pick up a few extra bucks. Got to go.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3/13/08 Thursday
This is so not fun. Been trying to investigate other services for our cell phones and internet but even the phone calls are getting dropped. Nothing like talking to a phone company and then no one is there. This even happened when I was talking to the Alltel technical guys. I did learn that AT&T’s satellite doesn’t offer internet connections. I don’t think Dish Network does either. AT&T’s DSL doesn’t go into Martin county either. That’s because the local phone company, Westek, (not sure of the spelling) has things locked up through a state law where no other phone company can operate here. It sucks. So even shopping for another phone and internet service is quite the pain in the ass.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TBI issues

The fence I started remains unfinished.

3/12/08 Wednesday
There is a reason the government declared me disabled. I just don't like facing it or the reminders. I just realized this morning that I forgot about the 125 strawberry plants we got a few days ago. They are sitting in the back room out of sight and out of mind. It’s a stark reminder of how hard this garden may be with my brain injury. Another thing neglected. I will try to focus on doing only this today. Then perhaps it will be accomplished. There is so much to do. Who knows how many of these plants will actually make it. Without the tiller I must dig the beds by hand. This I can do no problem. I did last years garden by hand but Leroy (the guy who installed our well) tilled much of it with his tractor. Don offered to let us use his little Mantis tiller. I’ll have to take him up on that but it’s a small thing and I don’t want to wear it out or anything. By the way folks, I don’t know if I mentioned it but he was in the hospital because of a nasty leg infection. Being diabetic that is particularly dangerous. He’s on dialysis for kidney failure on top of that. He just came home today. Those of you who pray please remember him in your prayers.
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The raspberry and blackberry plants arrived today. More stuff I’m under the gun to get done in a timely manner. Now there is ninety trees, one hundred and twenty five strawberries, and nine black and raspberries to get planted. Each one requires work to get ready and put in the ground. I went over to Chuck and Lillian’s to get Tommy to help me move the telephone pole I got off the side of the road last year. I hurt myself trying to move it back then so it’s been sitting ever since. It will be the side of one of the raised beds I’m putting the strawberries in.
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Internet access is still not working. I’ve been trying for twenty minutes to post the last paragraph on this blog. The signal strength was bouncing from strong to not there at all as it’s been doing. Now there is no signal at all. I give. If any of you are familiar with satellite internet access I would appreciate any advice.
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I was talking to Don and the call was dropped three times in maybe three minutes. Alltel is getting worse. The guy at their office said they had put in eleven new towers and that made things worse?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Frustrated

3/11/08 Tuesday
There is much frustration right now. I don’t know what to do with the tiller. Will play with the points and timing, maybe. Just don’t know. I’ve spent days working on it. I went to Lowe’s to get light switches and boxes to put electricity in the seed shack but after looking at the hundreds of choices had to come home. Went back later and got some stuff but really don’t know if it’s right. This morning I went in the seed shack to work on it and got confused again. Can’t decide what wire to put where or how to get it there. It’s such simple stuff but you have to remember, there are times that deciding where to set down what is in my hand is difficult and confusing as I weigh different options.

The cold water faucet in our tub stripped out yesterday. I was afraid something like this would happen. The mineral buildup inside the valve is so bad we can’t stop it dripping no matter how hard we turn it. I tighten it down so hard to reduce the noise it makes that Cherie had to call me to open it yesterday. Now it’s running at a steady stream I can hear from the living room. At least it didn’t just break flooding the bathroom like I feared. Fixing it will be a problem as I will have to tear out the wall and know as much about plumbing as I do electricity. Besides, faucets aren’t cheap so we’ll just live with it. If I have to I’ll buy a pair of vice grips and clamp them on the thing to be able to turn it on and off. At least it’s the cold water instead of hot. We can run the hot water and just let it cool down before we get in.

I’ll run into Midland soon to poop scoop at Janie’s. There’s other stuff they would like done such as mulching the front garden beds. I’ll play that by ear. Just too far behind here at the farm.

I stopped at Alltel on the way home from Lowe’s. Told them if they don’t fix our ability to go online we want out of the contract. Even now, as I try to go online and post this the signal strength jumps from three bars to no signal preventing any access. We’ve endured this since December and are just out of patience altogether. It took Cherie three days to get our seed order in. I give. Spent twenty minutes trying to post this. You might see this tomorrow if you’re lucky.
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Just came back from Janie’s. Cherie and I went to the Moon Garden for lunch. She noticed I’m depressed. When she brought it up I told her there wasn’t too much to be excited about. That I am surrounded with what I haven’t done or been able to do. It’s hard to be happy about that. I poop scooped at Janie’s and came home. Got the water going. I think I’ll lay down a bit.

It took six tries to get online and post this.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Gotta keep pluggin away

3/8/08 Saturday
I’m pretty discouraged. Worked all morning on the carburetor for the tiller. Took it all apart and carefully cleaned every part. Then I went online to learn how to adjust it and followed the directions as closely as I could. Didn’t have any new gaskets for it so used the silicon gasket maker I bought a while back for this kind of thing. After getting it all back together and mounting it back on the tiller I had high hopes everything would be fine. As soon as I poured gas in the tank it started running out of the carburetor from every little hole and orifice it had. So it’s worse than it was before I “fixed” it.

It’s 1:00 now. I’ve spent the whole morning on this. I did manage to start watering the rye again and brought one of the sprinklers in that had again frozen up from the mineral buildup caused by this hard water, and cleaned it. That’s it. Working on the fence is not possible for me to do by myself right now. The wind is blowing maybe twenty miles per hour and there is no way I can hold a section of this fence up with one hand and try to attach it with the other. Hell, in this wind I can’t hold a section of this fence up with two hands. I doubt I could do it by myself with no wind blowing. Cherie had to help me carry it from where you see it stacked up behind the fence. I think that was Thursday but am not sure.

When I downloaded the pictures from the camera I saw this one. It reminded me of what we did yesterday as pictures so often do. (that’s why I take so many, even of mundane things because it helps me remember) So I’ll write about yesterday as that is a bit more uplifting. Besides it gives me something to do other than dwelling on that carburetor as I lay here to relax the back and reduce pain.

The Afghan pines were waiting for us when we got there. It is hard to believe there are ninety trees in these three little boxes. Cherie said “Oh! They’re so cute” when I opened the box. Fortunately the directions say we have a month to plant them. That will take the pressure off. I’ve got to construct ninety little shelters to protect them from the wind and heat. They suggested using roofing shingles but it will be cheaper for me to make them out of some of the wood fencing we have and maybe easier too. I’ve got to do some soil preparation too for them so all this will get added to the list. It’s getting to be a pretty big list.

After we picked up the trees we went to the Apple Country Orchards to grab a bite to eat. This is the orchard we visited to research creating a pick your own orchard here on the farm. The owner came in for lunch too so we talked a bit. He had some real useful suggestions. Too bad he lives a hundred and thirty miles away cause I would sure like to pick his brain on how to do things. Going to visit the orchard was how we discovered the place we got the trees as it is just down the road.


Anytime we are gone for a while we always wonder what the dogs got into. They are fine for a couple of hours but after that they seem to get pretty restless and into everything. The other day they pulled the stuffing out of a pillow we have on the couch. Yesterday they disappeared a loaf of bread that was on the counter as well as a few other things but this time…well the picture is worth a thousand words. I heard Cherie cracking up and came in to see her holding up her hands. The little buggers surgically chewed the rubber part of these pot holder gloves out. It’s funny but there goes nine bucks out the window.

Janie invited us over for dinner last night so we went to Rosa’s. It’s always good to visit with her. With Janie Midland becomes a really small town cause she always sees people she knows. Not just one but several. Her new job has her doing a lot of traveling. She went to Florida for business and her husband Steve went also. They didn’t have time to enjoy the sites, just worked the whole time. Steve’s plate is as full as Janie’s. I used to keep that kind of pace before the accident but in a way am glad I can’t now. I get frustrated and depressed about not being able to do what I once could but at the same time am glad I have time to “smell the roses”.

It’s 2:50 now. The back pain is down, thanks in part to the medication, so i must get back out there. I’ll try once more to figure out this carburetor. If I can’t I suppose I’ll have to buy a new one. One way or the other I need to get this tiller running. It is vital to me being able to plant what we’ve ordered.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Under the gun

3/7/08 Friday
This morning we are heading to Lubbock to pick up the ninety Afgan pines we ordered for windbreak trees. The one hundred and twenty five strawberry plants we ordered came in yesterday. I received notice by email that the blackberry and raspberry bushes we ordered were shipped. Some of the tomato seeds Cherie planted in flats are starting to come up. The seed shack isn’t done so we can put them under lights and protect them from the cold. The greenhouse is still in pieces in the garage. It is overwhelming and I am way too far behind on getting things done. I managed to get the fence posts in the ground for the fence I started three or four days ago to protect the trees that came from the Audubon Society but that’s it. The tiller still doesn’t work but it’s been sitting in the garage for days now. I finally took the carburetor off last night but looking at it I don’t see anything wrong. But I don’t know what to look for anyway. I’ve been just guessing my way through it.

Without the tiller making beds for all these plants will be lots of hard labor. We need to plant the ninety trees. I need to clear space for the berries. Setting up the irrigation system has not even been started. I have at least repaired the hoses folks donated to us. So I’m under the gun big time now. I haven’t posted in a few days and may not do much writing for a while. If I could keep on track with the tasks I could do better, I suppose. Can’t remember if I’ve wandered lost a lot or had lots of slowdowns, just know not much is finished.

We did get to visit Don in the hospital yesterday. I’m glad that happened. He’s got a struggle ahead with the infection in his leg. Being diabetic makes it extremely tough and dangerous. They have him on I.V. antibiotics in the hospital. While there they brought his lunch. The ticket with his choices for the meal was next to the plate. Not one thing was right, only the bowl of peaches. Here he is a diabetic and his diet is vitally important to keep the blood sugar right and they give him the wrong food. Part of me wanted to go down and raise hell with management but that’s one of my problems I need to learn to control. It was a good visit. I want to go up there some more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Voting???

3/4/08 Tuesday
Well, I’ve had my first ever voting experience. And I am not happy. They had Cherie’s name on the list but not mine. I really don’t care about that. One phone call to the tax office fixed it. These kinds of things happen and it didn’t bother me at all. What did bother me was seeing that my freedom was imposed on. Walking in the door is a sign announcing that you HAD to vote either republican or democrat and couldn’t switch later. Then the ballots were set up with either republican candidates or democrat and in big letters on each one was a statement. “I AM A REPUBLICAN” or “I AM A DEMOCRAT”. So you MUST declare your affiliation if you want to vote. That is fine if you are one or the other. But I am neither a republican or democrat. Here is my declaration… “I AM AN AMERICAN” …period. My country is founded on the rights of individuals, on freedom. Voting is the integral core of that but now I find that freedom is impinged. What if one of the candidates I feel is best suited for an office is republican and one I feel is best for another is democrat? In Texas I am not allowed to vote freely like this. My choice has been taken away. Either I vote for the entire republican ticket or the entire democrat, no in between. My only other choice is to not vote at all. So as politicians play and wrangle for power in this chess game for dominance our rights have been trampled on. We have become pawns moved about like cattle being herded and in the process our voices are muted.

So I am not happy. I picked the party that had the one person I wanted to vote for and didn’t vote on much else.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Grass fires

There was another grassfire out to the west. There have been lots of them lately. For our readers who are not West Texans grassfires can be a serious problem when the winds are cranking. A few days ago some 250,000 acres burned in this part of the country. That hurt the ranchers in that it not only killed a bunch of cattle but took out their principle source of food. I don’t know how far away this fire is but the smoke looks like clouds. 1450 acres burned out in the same direction the smoke is coming from now. The news just came on and said this one covered seven and a half miles.

I worked hard all day but don’t seem to have gotten much done. Cherie helped me carry the sections of fence I cut. I tried doing it by myself but with the strong wind wasn’t able to. It just pushed me over. Things go much faster and easier when there are two of you.

The back of the house. You can see that the rye is a little spotty out here at the far end. It's doing much better closer to the house

She said that everyone missed me at church. Several asked if I had another “spell”. She explained that I had lots that needed doing. It is comforting to see that folks have taken the time to learn and understand what I go through. A nice change from what we’ve experienced in other quarters. It makes me feel good to be missed.

The cold front they talked about this morning just blew in. Came in with a vengeance. BAM, the winds here knocking and blowing everything not tied down. The weather guy just said visibility is down to a half mile because of the sand. I had intended to cut firewood today knowing this was headed our way. But like happens so many times with me it escaped my mind and was gone. Now I’m getting a coat on and heading out to cut some wood in the dark and blowing sand.

That was too much fun. I just took a bath and got cleaned up. Sand has matted in my ears a quarter of an inch thick. Not really that bad but sure seems like it. My teeth are gritty and eyes aren’t feeling too hot. I’m glad I got that oak lumber from the landfill as it is quick and easy to cut for the wood stove.

If we are lucky we will get some snow or at least some rain. Haven’t had any precipitation for a couple or three months now. That’s one of the reasons grass fires are such a problem.

Hopes and dreams

3/2/08 Sunday
Obviously nothing got written yesterday. The trees we got needed to be planted immediately so that became a priority. I know there were other things going on but this is all I can remember right now. First thing we did is look up all these trees on the internet. That way we could see pictures and learn more about them. Things like how high they grow and their characteristics like drought tolerance and soil types. Based on that we drew a map of where to put them. Then Cherie and I went out with stakes to mark the spots. Let me try to convey how deep this is for us. I’m having a hard time finding the words I want but there is a significance, a … Ok, I’ll try to explain it this way. Cherie has never owned a house and lived in apartments her whole life. As all (or at least most) young married couples we had dreams of building a life and home in our own house with our first marriage. All those hopes and dreams became broken with the brain injury that resulted in our divorce.

So now we are out envisioning what we are creating. First we walked across the highway to get a better idea of what it could look like. Then, with map in hand, we walked the property to mark the spots and label which type of tree would go in each of them. We talked, we loved, we got excited about the potential future this place holds. In our minds eye we could see these trees ten years from now along with the many other dreams we plan to pursue.

It was twenty eight years ago we got married the first time. With the restoration of that marriage comes the restoration of those dreams. “You never imagined this could ever happen did you” I told Cherie as I held her hand. “No, not in a million years” was her reply. It’s the same for me. It is so hard to believe I have to pinch myself to make sure this is real. Never…never in my wildest imagination could I have thought this would ever come about. But here we are building a home bit by bit.

So after all that we came in and I read the directions that came with the trees. Nuts! The trees need to be planted in a protected spot and allowed to grow for two years or so and then transplanted to their final location. That changes everything. Now it’s a rush to get done. The trees have been soaking in water for several hours as directed and must get planted now. I chose the area I’d tried to grow herbs in last year to put the trees in. Unfortunately this is an area the dogs like to trample in so putting up a fence is mandatory to protect the trees.

The sun is going down fast as it does out here so there is no time to lose. Cherie pitched in knowing I couldn’t do it in time by myself. Working side by side on this again brought out those feelings of building together, a sense of oneness that helps us comprehend the biblical concept of “the two shall become one”. What a marvel our lives are. What a wonder it is to live the love story books and movies are made of.

So we got the trees planted. I looked around and the only fast way of getting a fence up was to use the wire fencing that I was going to give to Don. I felt bad as I unrolled and measured it. There wasn’t time to get it up before the sun was gone and darkness had taken over. This morning I checked it out and decided it would be much better to make a wooden fence with the old fencing Jay had given us. Now I have time and can watch the dogs to make sure they don’t trample things down.

This is the area I am digging out for the greenhouse

I didn’t go to church this morning. There is just too much to do including getting the fence up for the trees. We have a hundred strawberry plants on the way and beds must be prepared for them. Got an email notification they were shipped yesterday. The greenhouse needs to be installed, the seed shack finished, the tiller fixed, hoses mended, locations marked and holes dug for the ninety windbreak trees we pick up Friday, drip feed irrigation assembled and installed for them and the strawberries, and more and more. So I took a break from church. Right now it’s 1:00 and time for me to take a nap as the fatigue is pretty bad. It’s so weird to me to have this problem but it’s a common part of traumatic brain injuries that is talked about in all the literature and medical papers on TBI. It just drives me nuts and is incredibly inconvenient. But an hour or two nap does wonders and revitalizes me so that’s good.

It’s going up to eighty degrees today. Unfortunately the wind is pretty bad. I might have to wear the safety goggles I have to keep the sand out of my eyes.