Friday, May 29, 2009

no brakes

5/29/09 Friday
The old man told me I could borrow his disc set up so I drove the tractor there yesterday to pick it up. First problem was when I went over the overpass on I-20. The turn to get to the old man’s place is immediately at the bottom of the overpass hill. I wasn’t “flying” because the old Massey Ferguson bogged way down just to get up to the top but did pick up a little speed on the downhill side. The problem showed up when I hit the brakes. There are no brakes. With this goofy transmission I couldn’t just slow down the engine speed. When you let off the gas you also disengage the transmission as they are both controlled by the same pedal. I made the turn but was extra careful approaching the stop sign at the next intersection. There are lots of tanker trucks that fly down that road and a blind spot at the overpass. Not the place where you want to be unable to stop.

The old man came out and looked at the tractor. It’s the first time he, or anyone else for that matter, had ever seen it. First thing he saw was that I was missing parts for the three point hitch. That really didn’t surprise me. He looked around for the “Third arm” (That’s what he called it) and asked that I back the tractor up to the disc. Unfortunately the tractor won’t go into reverse when it’s hot and the three mile trip to get here certainly heated things up. Carrol couldn’t find the part and I couldn’t back up so that was it for the day.

I went back this morning. The reverse works fine when everything’s cooled off so that was fine. Carrol was able to find the third arm but I still need two bars that keep things from swaying in the back. I backed up to the disc and we hooked everything up, planning to figure something out on the anti-sway bars later. Now it was time to lift the disc set. Not going to happen! The three point hitch didn’t budge.

We look to see where you might put fluids in and found a place. Looking inside the transmission housing I didn’t see any oil except maybe a thin layer on the bottom. Now it’s back to my need to get the service manual for this tractor, something that tells what types of oils and hydraulic fluids are required, where to put it in, and how to tell if you have enough. By this time Carrol had a good look at the tractor. “How much did you pay??” he asked. When I told him $3800 he said “You could have done much better than that around here”. That’s probably true but after two years I’m still a stranger here in Martin County, not really a part of the community we had hoped to find. I’m sure there are fantastic deals to be found but I have no way to find them unless advertised in the paper or something. The old man had recently sold one of his old tractors and just sold a disc set for two hundred dollars. Another part of finding good deals is having the cash to get them so that’s an issue. “I think you might have bought a piece of crap” was the old man’s last statement on it.

So now I’m home and fixing to go online to see if I can learn what I need to get this tractor going.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pissed at myself

5/28/09 Thursday
Sorry I haven’t posted. I’m pretty pissed off. What am I pissed about? I’m pissed at myself. When I talked to Lillian the other day she told me about how her garden was booming. Her tomatoes are almost ready to pick, her beans were flowering, and on and on. When I drive by Matt’s garden I can see tons of healthy green plants and there are many folks at the farmer’s market selling what they grew and harvested. Me? I’ve hardly got any seed in the ground and ninety percent of my garden space isn’t even ready to plant in yet.

So I’ve been busting my butt and still don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Put my fishing headlight on and worked till almost midnight last night. Because I haven’t been keeping up with this journal much of the last few days are a blank regarding what I did, but I have lots of pictures that will help me remember. At least I figured out how to move the pictures around on this laptop.

I’ve hurt myself a few times doing things I know I shouldn’t because it’s hard on this beat up body. But they are things that need to be done and won’t get done by themselves. I found some fence posts at the landfill that I need. They are basically telephone poles cut to about eight foot lengths, so they are heavy as all get out. I managed to load eight of them on the truck before I gave out. Tried to borrow Chuck’s trailer to get the rest but they are using it so I’ll go back to the landfill this morning and, providing they are still there, will get as many as I can before this back gives out.

Yesterday I pulled the clothesline poles we had in the back yard out of the ground. I plan on using them to make the t-frame trellises for the tomatoes. I’m glad I remember some of the lessons learned in school decades ago for the principles of leverage are what enabled me to get these monsters out. The last one was the hardest as over the years the wind has piled up three foot of dirt over it. This put the big chunk of concrete on the bottom five feet underground. Thank God for pain pills. I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. Getting the rest of those fence posts won’t be fun but I need them. Everything comes with a price.

The main reason I haven’t posted is that by the time the day ends I’m just done for. On top of that I feel real guilty spending time writing in this journal in the morning when there is so much to do and I need to beat the heat.

That’s it. Just thought I’d post this so y’all know we’re ok. Got to go get fence posts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

5/23/09 Saturday
It rained last night. Not much but any rain is good out here. It was still sprinkling this morning so I figured it would be a good time to catch up on my “inside” work. One of the things I wanted to do was take my laptop apart and see if the problem was the same one I read about online. That was where the dc power jack disconnected with the motherboard. Taking the laptop apart was a task despite having instructions with pictures. But when I got the motherboard out I was not happy to see that it looked nothing like what I read about, it was a different one. So I tested the cable with my ohm meter and everything worked. That means that I will have to buy a new motherboard. They only run around two hundred dollars though the exact price for mine will have to be looked up. It will have to wait regardless. Ben’s vet bill set us back a little.

I’ve got one of those bad headaches. Makes me bitchy and things like the dogs barking just pound inside my head.

Friday, May 22, 2009

5/22/09 Friday
It’s 11:30. I just came in from weeding the corn. Been at it since eight this morning and it doesn’t seem like I’ve done anything, other than make myself hurt. It appears that I’ve killed about seventy percent of the corn. How did I kill it? I suspect it’s from too much water but it could be from the fertilizer I mixed in when I made the beds. Or it could be from some critter eating it. There are lots of empty spaces and no trace of the corn that had started growing. But what is there has little spindly roots and some of it just fell over despite only being three inches tall. So I’m replanting in the empty spaces. It’s a different kind of corn so will cross pollinate with the other corn. Both of them are heirloom types of seed. I’m slowing down bad as I write this. The ears are ringing and it’s hard to figure out what to say. Glad I don’t get these as much as I used to. Really don’t have…forgot what I was going to say. This might be a bad one. Crap, I've got things to do. Not convenient. Got to go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Up and at em

5/19/09 Tuesday
I’m up and at em this morning. Anymore I get up and dressed, fix breakfast, and am ready to work when Cherie leaves for her job. During the winter I would laze around and not get going till later in the morning and often work on this journal and go online before going outside. Now I’m paying the price for that laziness. So here’s a short entry and if I’m not to beat I’ll add to it later.

The church Cherie works at was broken into Sunday night. It’s probably the same people who have been breaking into churches for a while now. I think the count is at seventeen or eighteen churches now. They are destructive, vandalizing everything and making a big mess, but they only look for cash, not touching thousands of dollars worth of equipment. This is typical dope fiend stuff. So her day yesterday was not real smooth.

I ran the tractor a lot yesterday and now that I’m using it more I’m discovering problems it has. A big concern is the clear fluid that is leaking out of the top of the transmission housing. Whether it’s hydraulic or transmission fluid I can’t tell. We are going to have to bite the bullet and shell out some more funds to buy the service or operator’s manual for it. The shop manual doesn’t say a thing about what type of fluids go where and how much to put in. It doesn’t explain how to operate things like the PTO or tell what different mysterious levers and switches are there for. When the tractor get’s hot it stutters and stops running. I must turn it off and let it cool in order to continue using it. Not convenient.

The corn and blackeyed peas are doing well. We lost about thirty percent of the corn to whatever critters feasted on it but what’s left is probably big enough to survive any more nibbles.

That’s all for now. Too much to do to sit here and write about it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


5/18/09 Monday
I settled down just fine Friday. Did a good job fixing the stove top and it works great. I’ve been running the tiller all weekend. I focused that on the pathways that will be a key part of how we put this farm together. With the “pick your own” concept it is important to have easily identified walkways. Another motivation is to eliminate the weeds. There are tons of them and until I can get buffalo grass established they will be a constant battle. Buffalo grass won’t stop that but sure could reduce the number of weeds.

I can’t believe it’s already 10:30. I got out early and had the sprinklers going, mostly on the pathways I tilled. I’m doing this with the idea that when wet I can pack the dirt down with the tractor and thus create rock hard surfaces. I’m not sure how that will work. I’ve been running the tractor all morning. It gets hot and stops working so I have to let it cool off before I can go again. There is a lot of fluid leaking from where the steering column goes into the transmission housing. I sure wish I had the service manual that tells what fluids goes where and what kind of fluids to use. We were going to order it when I lost the disability check so that’s on a back burner now. I am really tired already. It’s like I’m 80 years old. Not at all convenient but that’s part of the brain injury.

This morning I must juggle all the things that need doing. That’s pretty much how it is every morning. There are weeds growing everywhere but there are crops to get planted and beds to prepare for that. If I keep putting the weeds off they will overpower everything and the longer I let them grow the harder it is to get rid of them. So I guess I’ll spend the day pulling weeds and neglect the other chores. That’s how it is, damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Wish I had about three of me.

I’ll set the alarm and allow myself a forty minute nap. Hate to waste even that much time but I operate better once refreshed. It clears the mind and helps me think.
My frustration with Kodak grows. Yesterday I was again touched with how Rascal would keep pace with me as I ran the tiller so asked Cherie to make a video of it with the Kodak camera. She did but when I try to play what was downloaded from the camera I only get the sound, no picture. I can watch it on the camera itself but it won’t work on the laptop. I tried and tried to download pictures or the videos to my Picassa program but it wouldn’t recognize the camera was even plugged in. “No devices available” was all it would say. I tried to move them from the Kodak “Easyshare?” (What a lie even the name is) program to Picassa with no luck at all. Never took my nap. It’s not good to let these things eat at me till I’m about ready to throw things at walls. But I don’t give up easy and try and try again and again. I give. Anita, if you have an answer I would love to hear it. These things make me feel stupid, like I’m some kind of idiot who can’t understand simple things. Doesn’t help the depression at all, just makes it worse.

I long to get my computer running again. It didn’t have as much of a problem with this. I learned that Toshiba laptops like mine have a common problem with solder joints breaking. There are instructions on how to fix it online. I’ll have to take the whole laptop apart and take the motherboard out to do so but have little to lose, except the time it takes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

5/15/09 Friday
Took Ben to get his stitches removed. “He’s doing great” the doctor said. That’s good to hear. Right now my frustration level is way up there. Been trying to get the pictures off the Kodak camera. Forgot just how irritating and stupid the “Easy share” software Kodak has is. There’s nothing easy about sharing when it comes to moving the pictures around in anything else that is not Kodak. Finally got it done after an hour. Just want to throw it against the wall. I’ve got more important things to do than this. Hate this anger that comes up. I’ve got to finish fixing the cook top. When I finally got it all apart I discovered why the burner quit working. The connection had fried right off. Other connections to other burners showed that they had also overheated and melted the plastic that covered them. I went to Ace hardware and purchased a soldering iron for the ridiculous price of $35.00 plus nine bucks for some solder. I soldered the connections but have no idea if this is a good thing to do or a bad thing. The solder didn’t want to melt in right. Hope it works and doesn’t catch on fire. I’m having a hard time thinking right now. The depression is knocking on my door. I’m so tired of this.

Some of the corn is sprouting. I finally finished planting the first batch of blackeyed peas. Weeds are popping up everywhere I tilled. So many weeds. Five acres of them. How in hell can I keep up with that? The gophers killed one of the two apple trees left and I’m sure they’ve started eating the roots of the last one. What an exercise in futility planting those was. The only way we can successfully grow fruit trees is to put a wire cage two feet in the ground around each one along with something on top to prevent gophers from coming in that way. All of that costs money we don’t have. Why dream? It doesn’t do any good. I’m so angry inside I need to stay away from people. It’s a poop scoop day so I must go into town. Will just sneak in and do the job and leave. Hopefully I’ll settle down.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First rattlesnake of the year

You can barely see the rainbow through the gossamer strands of cloud/rain coming down. I'm sure there are tricks to use where the rainbow would show up better but I don't know many tricks.

5/14/09 Thursday
I’ve got some catching up to do on this journal. I usually write in the morning but lately I’ve been getting to work outside as early as I can, even skipping breakfast, or at least putting it off till later. By the time the day ends I’m pooped and hurt so just go to bed. But for me the day has been ending about 9:30 in the evening lately. I usually have to take a break for a couple of hours around three or so and get my second wind after that. By then things have cooled off some so I go back to work.

I’ve made a lot of progress, in a slow kind of way. I was determined to finish planting the blackeyed peas last night but ran out of steam and couldn’t see well because of the dark so called it quits. I’ll finish that today. We had purchased a seeder at a moving sale Saturday but it only has one of the plates that are designed to fit certain size seeds and place them at a variety of distances. I was excited about this potential work and back saving tool but unfortunately it didn’t work with the blackeyed peas. I’ll go online and see if I can find anyone selling the plates.

I want to build a device that will help me put in the drip tape. It would be similar to the seeder and spare me the pain of bending over and walking backwards the entire seventy five foot length of each row as my hands bury the tape just inches in the ground. With the device I have in mind it would be much simpler and easier to do, just rolling it down each row.

Two nights ago I killed the first rattlesnake for the year. Had gone out to shut things down for the night and as I walked back in I suddenly heard a fierce rattling. Turning quickly with the flashlight in hand I illuminated the rattler. It was only five feet away. Despite having the flashlight, which I carried specifically to spy the rattlesnakes that are so active at night, I never saw the little guy. Little because it was only about a yard long. I forgot to tell Cherie when I got in and forgot all about it till I found it’s body laying where I put it in the garage. “Oh! That’s right, I killed a rattlesnake” I remembered. So here’s a picture of it.

Yesterday we noticed that a light had come on in our stove top. It’s one of the lights that indicate a burner is on and none of them were. That’s not good. It means that electricity is leaking and leaking electricity isn’t a good thing ever. Besides that, one of our burners had stopped working months ago so there’s something going on. I’ll be pulling that unit out of the counter today and will take it apart to see if I can fix the problem. Something else that takes time away from getting the crops in.

One of our readers sent us a donation for Ben’s vet bill. It’s a thoughtful thing and tremendous help right now. Thank you. There wasn’t a name attached, just some initials for a signature. Thank you again. Just so you know, we do plan on getting Gretchen fixed and appreciate the names you gave us of groups that help get that done.

I guess I won’t be able to put any of the snake pictures up, or any others I take for a while. The camera is no longer able to hook up with Cherie’s laptop. I don’t know if it’s the USB cord that goes from the camera to her computer or something in the camera itself but it just doesn’t work. Nuts. What next? It’s a beautiful camera that Janie gave us after she upgraded to a new one. I hope it only needs a new cord. Will go to Best Buy and see if they can get one. They might be able to test it and make sure it’s broken before I order another one. The camera has one of those removable cards that stores pictures on it but our computers don’t have the proper slot to plug it into. At least I have all the pictures I took Saturday. There are some really cool ones of a rainbow. (Top of the post)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

blackeyed beds

5/12/09 Tuesday
I worked till 9:30 last night preparing the beds destined to have blackeyed peas planted in. The blackeyed peas were our best money maker last year so I want to plant a lot of them. I’m so far behind on things but that’s my fault. I wasn’t diligent about preparing early for planting and probably got a little lazy over the winter. So I’m paying for it now. Got out early this morning to take advantage of the cool of the morning. My goal is to get the blackeyed peas planted today. It’s a poop scoop day so I’m going into Midland. I’ve been intending to visit my friend, Don, but haven’t made it. Today I want to make an extra effort to do so.

I just finished the initial step in preparing these beds. Only made ten rows on this section because of the mesquite tree that’s in the middle of the plot. There’s a lot of them all over the place that need to be pulled up. You can’t just cut them off, have to pull them up by the roots. I hope the tractor has enough gumption to do that. The old man has a back hoe and offered to bring it out and do that after we had a good rain. A good rain hasn’t happened in a while out here. Besides I’m real unsure of myself regarding things like that. I haven’t finished working on his wood sculpture and worry that he’s upset about that. I don’t want to ask for a favor when I haven’t completed what he asked of me.

Wish I didn’t get tired so quickly. I’m moving a lot of dirt making these…I can’t think of the name for them...the rows of mounded up dirt like in a plowed field. The grip in my right hand has never recovered from the wreck. That’s the side that’s partially paralyzed. I have a hard time using a hammer and often must grip it near the head to keep from dropping it. When working the hoe I must rest often and switch my hands to even out the strain.

The second step will be much easier, I’ll just run the wide scoop shovel over the top to flatten each row. Then I’ll install the drip feed tape down the middle, that’s step three. That will give me room to plant on both sides of the row so one row of dirt produces two rows of plants. I did it the same way with the corn. With the tape in I’ll be able to plant the blackeyed peas. I’m debating mixing in a lot of compost like I did with the corn. It’s probably the best way to do it but that is a ton of work and will take a whole day, at least I think it will. I’m just not good at judging this kind of thing, you know, how long something will take.

I need to go to the landfill and dump our garbage also. It’s noon now so perhaps I’ll run into Stanton to grab a bite to eat, check mail, and then hit the landfill. It’ll be a nice break from preparing the beds.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Burned my butt

5/11/09 Monday
It sure cooled off, quite a drastic change from the 100-plus degree days we’ve been having. I put on one of my insulated flannel shirts to keep the chill off. I see I haven’t made an entry since Friday and that doesn’t surprise me with the way I’ve been working and the heat. Thank God for pain pills for otherwise not much would have gotten done. Speaking of that there’s something I wanted to address. Paula Abdul (I think that’s how it’s spelled), the American Idol judge, announced that she had been addicted to pain medications and was getting help to get off of them. I’m a member of the American Pain Foundation, which is a national organization fighting for law reforms and addressing other issues facing chronic pain sufferers. In their monthly newsletter they addressed what had been written in the interview Paula had. The first point was a good one. There is a dramatic difference between being dependent on a drug versus addicted. A diabetic is dependent on his insulin shots, not addicted. Someone who suffers chronic pain is dependent on the medication that allows him/her to function in life. Granted that over the years one develops a tolerance for opioid medications, requiring an increase in their strength to maintain effectiveness, and a physical dependence as well. The same holds true for many other medications, including the statin drugs used for blood pressure and plaque build up in veins.

There is a fine line between dependence and addiction. The problem comes when someone begins abusing pain medication for the “high” they get when they take larger doses than prescribed. I know because I’ve been there. Now I’m extremely careful about it. The temptation to take more than I should is always there, especially when my pain level gets up there. My biggest problem is because of the short term memory loss. I will come in to take a pill because I hurt so much but five minutes later can’t remember if I took it or not, but I still hurt because it takes forty minutes or so to take effect. Recognizing this I always make sure to tell Cherie when I take one to prevent accidently ingesting another. When she’s not here I try to make notes to let me know when I took one. Without that I could take five in an hour and not realize it. That would not be good and even dangerous.

Nuff said on that. I spent three painful days getting the corn planted. There was lots of bending over involved in making the rows and then planting the seeds. To ease the pain I would often crouch down instead of bending over, balancing with my feet spread over three rows and my knees bent so I could put the seeds in while keeping the back a little more upright. It was similar to some of the martial arts training I had but my legs are a lot weaker now. This will certainly help strengthen them.

An unfortunate result of all this bending over was a sunburn. As I worked my shirt would come up, exposing part of my lower back. Saturday afternoon I said to Cherie “Could you look at my ass? It feels like there is a rash or something there and it really bothers me”. When I pulled my shirt up I heard “Oh my!” and Cherie informed me I had a pretty bad sunburn. While it’s on the high side of the butt or low side of the back I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say “I burned my ass”. For some perverse reason I like describing it that way. I guess that’s because it’s a common street slang to describe when someone gets conned.

So I’ve finally planted my first seeds. There is mostly corn in the plot but when I ran out of corn seeds I planted black beans I had harvested when I grew them two years ago. Don’t know if they are still good but we’ll find out. It didn’t take me long to remember what a problem the dogs will be. They made sure to remind me as I worked on this. First they dug up some of the drip tape and walked all over everything.

Tommy and Jamie finally came over to start working off the price of the car we sold them. It’s been two months now. I had them help put of some fence to keep the dogs out. I’ll need to fence in everything.

Another reminder of the issues I must deal with was these fresh gopher mounds. The little bugger is digging right where I put drip tape. They are known to gnaw through the tape, thus trashing it and precipitating a need to repair it. With warmer weather comes an increase in these pests activity and I’m seeing signs of this all over the place. One of the two remaining apple trees (out of the nine we planted) is now dying, and the gophers are to blame. This isn’t just a little problem, these pests are killing things off as quick as they can and if I can’t get a handle on it they will kill off any hope to make this place a success. If I could afford to get a bottle of oxygen I could blast them out and destroy their tunnels but there’s no money to spare. I’ve got plenty of gopher poison but am not keen on using it. If one of the poisoned gophers dies on the surface or gets dug up by the dogs, the dogs could eat it and in turn get poisoned.

The sticker grass is already making stickers, which are seeds to produce more sticker grass. The land is already full of these. Just sitting my hand on the ground to support myself got me these two nasty things stuck in my flesh. My plans were to plant the rye to compete with the sticker grass and then till it all under before the grass went to seed. The rye didn’t make it due to the drought and I don’t have the capability of tilling it all under. I’ve got a tractor but nothing to pull with it. I know what I need to do but can’t do it. The old man had his guy come till this land for me as a favor but I’m not comfortable asking him for more help. Frustration is constant out here.

Much of the struggle to make this a working farm, one that produces a good income, is due to a lack of funds. There is good money in farming but it takes money to make money. With the Mittlieder method of growing I can produce a hundred tons of tomatoes on one acre of ground. This sounds outlandish, or at least it did when I first read it, but is documented worldwide. This method of growing is labor intensive and requires specific fertilizer applications so is not feasible for me right now. The point is that there is much potential for just the five acres I’ve cleared for use, I just don’t have the capability to accomplish it.

I’ve been contemplating finding a business partner or five to help jump start things. One way or another I’ll build a good working farm but it would go a lot quicker with some help. Just a little math to show the potential, a hundred tons equals two hundred thousand pounds. At a buck a pound for tomatoes that’s two hundred thousand potential dollars to be made on an acre of land. How much of that would be profit I can’t tell but I’m sure we would make a buck or two. The key is to be able to sell what you grow. With access to the old man’s building on the interstate there is great potential.

I need to get to work.
Going outside I saw the lawnmower and remembered that I had seen sparks coming out from underneath as I was mowing weeds so brought it in. Sparks are never good around dry grass. So that’s the first task for today. Taking the mower blade off I was real puzzled at what I saw. “Was this the wrong blade” I wondered. Then I thought I’d used the wrong washer. You see, I remember putting this blade on last year. The original blade died and I had to go buy one. I had a hard time finding the right one, going to several stores before finding it at Sears.

The removable center “washer” piece had a hole that was too small to fit where it mounted on the mower. Thinking this was the problem I spent the next hour trying to drill it larger. I went ahead and sharpened the blade while I had it out. As I tried to put the blade back on I discovered the real problem. I had put it on wrong in the first place. It’s no fun finding your mistakes and wondering “what was I thinking”.

So it’s 2:00. That’s pretty much all I’ve gotten done today. I came in and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so took the time to write this.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Little by little

5/8/09 Friday
It’s 10:30 in the morning now. I made it two and a half hours before I had to come in and rest. The pain level is extra high. I’m sure that the work I put in yesterday is a major contributor to that. Plus I’m doing the same thing this morning so that just aggravates the same muscles and bones. Had a hard time putting that sentence together where it made sense. Not a good sign.

I’m still working on getting the corn planted. Will try to not get distracted till I finish the job. If I had a plow for the tractor I could have done this in seconds instead of days. Little by little we will build this place and acquire the tools needed to make it a profitable working farm. Till then I bust my butt, aiming for the goal. But I need to be careful about that. It’s going to be 105 or so degrees today and that can be dangerous. Can’t believe how tired I am already.

These pictures will give you an idea of what I’m doing. The first shows the drip tape being installed to go around the entire plot. This will water the sudan I’ve planted to make a fence/windbreak.

Next you can see the rows I’m making for the corn. First step is to water it so the soil is softened up and then run the tiller through one row at a time. Once tilled I use a hoe to pile it up like it was plowed. I learned to do this from what I saw at Matt’s place. (Matt is the guy who runs the farmers market in Midland) Then I take the shovel and make a groove in the top. After sifting and breaking up the clods in the compost I’m putting it in the groove. Later I’ll sprinkle some fertilizer on that and carefully mix it all in. One of the problems I have is I can’t remember all the lessons learned last year so I must relearn them. I would experiment with doing different things different ways to see what works best but then would forget what I did and where I did it so it was an exercise in futility. But I seem to remember doing something like this last year. I know the black eyed peas were done this way only without the compost.

Once I get all that done I will install the drip tape on each row. Then, and only then can I plant the corn.

I just drifted off for a few seconds and had my finger on a key so it filled a page with kkkkkkkkkk’s and then llllllllllll’s. Can’t believe I’m so tired so early but it’s been that way now that I’m working out in the heat more. Tomorrow things are supposed to cool off some. That will be a big help. Right now it doesn’t take long for me to get soaking wet from sweat, which means I get pretty stinky too. Today is a poop scoop day so I’ll be going to Midland. I can’t smell things well as that is one of the senses damaged by the TBI but I can sometime detect my body odor. If I can smell it you can bet everyone else within miles can too. We don’t have a shower so jumping in and cleaning up isn’t an easy option. Pouring a bath is a long operation that I don’t have time for. So when I go to town I’m sure I will bother others but that is the way it is. Don’t like it and it’s embarrassing but like I said “That’s the way it is”. I’ve figured out that when I come in and lay down to rest I soak the pillow and blanket so they become odiferous. I’ll start putting a towel or something over the pillow to reduce that.

Geese, it’s 11:30 already. Doesn’t seem like I’ve been in for an hour now but I have. Suppose I should fix something for lunch even though I don’t feel like eating.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another hot one

5/7/09 Thursday
It’s going to be another hot one, somewhere around 104 degrees. Yesterdays heat took a lot out of me. I’m still rough from it this morning. Cherie asked me to take it easy today. That’s hard to do when there is so much to do. I will probably come in around 4:00 or 5:00, I’ll probably have to whether I want to or not. Towards the end of the day I’ll probably go back out as things are cooling off then. Did that yesterday and worked till about nine that night.

Ben is doing fine. Here’s a picture of him. What a scar that is and you can just barely see the hole the pin is in. That will eventually get removed.

It’s already warm and only 9:00. Got to get going.
2:30 – I came in to grab a drink and cool off. What I thought I could do in an hour took four. This is unfortunately not at all unusual for me. Perhaps I don’t account for the difficulties I have or just can’t calculate all the parameters of a project. I don’t know, what I do know is everything takes longer than I thought and that adds to the frustration.

I got the drip tape installed on the perimeter of one garden plot. There are several more I need to do but I’ve decided at this point to only do the perimeter drip lines one plot at a time. I might change my mind and probably will. This first plot I plan on putting corn in so I’m proceeding with that. To plant the corn I will mix generous portions of the horse manure compost I made, in the rows. Then I must mound up the dirt so it looks like it’s been plowed and install the drip lines on each row. I used the tractor to bring compost over to the plot. It ran out of gas. I don’t know if it still leaks gas or if the gas just evaporates out but it runs out often. Can’t believe how tired I am. If I laid down I’d be out like a light. Drifted off a little as I sat here writing. Need to get back outside working to keep that from happening.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Motherboard's gone

5/6/09 Wednesday
I’ve set up my journal on Cherie’s computer so I can keep up with things. The tech at Best Buy informed me that the motherboard on my laptop was probably dead. “That will cost three to eight hundred dollars to replace” she said. Nuts. I’ll go online to see what I can find for less after I figure out what I need. Considering our new budget with the loss of the disability check it will probably be a while. I need to look into the external hard drive to find out how to extract the information I need. Once again there is lots of research on my laptop, research for the business plan and on how to grow things. There was tons of stuff on the old hard drive that is lost to us till we can afford to send it to a lab to see what can be recovered. The hard drive currently in my laptop is brand new so can be placed into another computer with little difficulty. Money, Money, Money, the biblical root of evil, is also the answer to a lot of problems for us. But our needs are constantly met, just when they need to be. Not our wants, our needs. While it’s frustrating to live at this level it’s a daily blessing too. We’ve learned to be content, though sometimes it’s hard. No matter how hard it gets we know that at our worst we are still much better off than many others. We have food, we have clothes, and we have so much more. Top of the list is that we have friends.

Ben is doing quite well. He doesn’t put weight on his bad leg but hops around on three fairly well. We worried about him doing that but Dr. Law said he would be fine. Ben will often hobble to where he can see me working and lay down there. The other three stay with me as I work. Rascal is the most loyal and is always close. He’s daddy’s boy for sure. We love them all and despite the frustration of dogs acting like dogs they are a big blessing in our lives. After Ben’s accident, on top of losing Ginger and several other pets, we have developed a degree of fear that something will happen to one of the others.

I need to install the software for downloading pictures from the cameras so I can start posting them. Had some killer sunsets recently that I look forward to accessing.

I’ve finally gotten off my butt and started tilling up the garden plots. Been doing that for two or three days now. Last night I worked way after dark with the headlight thing on my hat to light the way. It’s much cooler then. Plus I’m getting out early to beat the heat. The depression seems to have subsided and that helps a lot. The frustration at not accomplishing my goals is still there but I can used that to keep motivated. It’s going to be another triple digit heat day, with the temperature predicted to hit 105 degrees. That just drains me. I don’t know what else I was planning on writing as it’s a little hard to formulate thoughts right now. I guess I’m a little slow but not too bad. A big problem for me lately is deciding what to do. Do I till weeds under where there is so much rye trying to survive? That will leave the ground bare and you can bet more weeds will take the place of the other ones. Or do I get the hoe out and chop them down? That will take weeks to do and other needed tasks would be neglected. Should I just focus on one plot and get something planted, letting the weeds go? It sure hurt when Tommy got his hernia. We had sold him Cherie’s car in exchange for physical labor so now they have a car basically for free and I don’t have the help I so badly need.

I need to focus on just one thing. Running the tiller works good because there are a lot fewer distractions that can get me off task and sidetrack me. First thing I might do is put in drip irrigation on the borders of the plots so I can get the sudan planted. That’s the tall stuff I plan on using to make borders for it also serves as a fairly effective wind break, thus protecting the plants.

Time to get moving. That fatigue thing, a common problem with traumatic brain injuries, is raising it’s head now. I’m resisting falling asleep as I write this. Once I get out working that will lessen.
I forgot how quickly I get tired in this heat. To top it off I’ve got one of those headaches that make me sensitive to bright light. I’ll have to get out my sunglasses to continue. I came in and heated up some tamales Cherie had in the fridge. Hope she didn’t have plans for them cause they’re gone now. After that I laid down for an hour. I just uploaded the pictures from the camera to Cherie’s laptop. I’m drained. Don’t know if I had a slowdown or what but there’s too much to do so will push through.
OK!! I lasted about an hour and a half out there. Came in and drank a big cup of tea and turned on the air conditioning. My typing speed tells me I’m slow. About a four on the bob scale. That’s pretty slow. I wasn’t aware of it till now. It’s so strange, this not being aware of it. As soon as I have to do things like writing or talking to others I’m aware of how slow I am because I must process information to do so. (This took fifteen minutes to write, give or take a few) When I’m out doing something simple like running the tiller there’s no problem processing information so I can’t tell I’m slow. I wonder if the heat and exercise cause or contribute to a slow down.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Laptop died

Well folks my laptop just died. I had written the post for this morning and was just going online to put it on when everything went black. It seems there is no power going anywhere. Not from the battery or from the ac hook up. Nothing. I tried to plug it in to Cherie's power supply, which I know works cause I'm using it now, but it didn't make a difference. CRAP. Another expense we don't need right now. My laptop has seen some hard use in the three or four years I've owned it. It's had a new screen put in along with a new hard drive. Hope it's easy and cheap to fix this time.
The frustration continues. The tiller has once again started the stalling out thing it did before. I replaced the fuel filter and took the carb apart two or three times to clean it the last time this happened. It seems like there are obstacles popping up at every turn when it comes to getting the farm going. Just when I get to work preparing ground that should have been planted weeks ago the key piece of equipment begins failing. I'll get it fixed but it's another delay. Plus it's going to be hotter than hell starting tomorrow while it's cool enough I needed long sleeves on this morning. The perfect time for hard sweaty work and I can't do it, at least not right now. I will try to nurse the tiller through to see how it goes but will have to tear into it to find the grains of sand that are probably behind this. Eventually I will have some kind of shelter to put it in and protect it from the elements. That will help. The wind blown sand finds it's way into every crevasse. Even though the tiller was just sitting the air filter was full of sand. I'm not going to quit, even though I feel like it, so time to go beat my head against the wall till I break through. You know, I realize that there's not a lot of positive in my writing and that it's probably more enjoyable to read joyous uplifting prose. But life isn't always that way, there's good and there's bad. I try to be more positive, to be like I used to be, but what can I say? Ben got run over, my laptop died, the tiller doesn't want to run, do I put a positive spin on that?? I guess just announce that I will overcome these things, but it's hard to smile about it.

Sorry there's no pictures. They are on my laptop and I'm having to use Cherie's. A good thing is that mine has been backed up on the external hard drive we bought for that purpose after I lost everything when mine got a virus and crashed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ben is home now

5/3/09 Sunday
Well Ben is home. We went to visit him yesterday and Dr. Law said that he was doing so well we could take him home. That would save us the cost of him being kept there. The final bill, when all’s said and done, will be close to a thousand dollars. That will include multiple visits to the vet and the removal of the pin and wire holding his leg together. That reminds me, a recent commenter said that he/she (it was an anonymous comment) would like to contribute but didn’t use Pay Pal or anything else online so wanted our mailing address. Our mailing address is bob & Cherie Westbrook, PO box 1176, Stanton, Texas, 79782.

It will take weeks for Ben to heal up, as long as he doesn’t make things worse by trying to walk on it too much. He can walk, on three legs, but it’s obviously painful for him. The pin should come out in six weeks and Dr. Law said that shortly after that we won’t be able to keep up with him. Oh, we’ll keep up with him, or at least try to. I’m hoping to train him to stay home. Sure wish we had one of those electronic fences with the shock collar to keep him close. Gretchen will be the problem here. We’re going to get her fixed as soon as we can.

Here we are at the vet's.

When we walked into the vet’s place and Ben saw us it was something else. He started the loud howling, whining, “You still love me, I’m glad to see you” ministrations. It was just like when we tried to adopt him out and he was returned because of the deep depression he went into. You can read about that somewhere in this blog but I don’t have time to look it up. Despite the pin, huge scar, and pain, he struggled to get out of his cage to greet me. Doc picked him up and set him down near me. I was sitting on the ground by this time knowing he would want to get close. Ben buried his head in my lap and cried as he burrowed deeper soaking up the pets. That didn’t stop the entire time we were there, about a half hour, so I let Cherie talk to the doc about how to care for Ben. We carried him to the truck and as soon as I started it Ben calmed down, knowing he was going home. I’m sure he was afraid we’d leave him behind.

Getting home Ben started his vocal ministrations again, recognizing where he was. Gretchen heard and RAN to the truck with great joy her Ben was back. She jumped in right over me to get to him and vigorously examined him as she gave lots of kisses. They truly are a couple. I picked Ben up and carried him close to the water bucket. The doc showed us how to run a towel under his hips to lift his rear so he wasn’t on the leg and let him walk with his front legs as we walked with him holding the towel. He had to pee so that was awkward.

I started to fix the kennel up so we could keep Ben confined and reduce the time he spent on his feet. Ben, unsupervised during this, hobbled about investigating everything he could, glad to be home again. Gretchen stayed with him but I had to keep her away. She’s still in heat and tried to get her old lover excited, finally trying to mount him in her frustration. Ben crawled under a piece of fencing that was leaning on the fence our friends put up, thus preventing Gretchen from bothering him.

Ben made his way to the veranda, where the food bowl is. He’s so weak that he can only go a short distance before he must lay down and rest. This is where him and Gretchen sleep every night so is a familiar and safe place for him. Seeing this I decided it would be a better place for him to recuperate so made a barrier with some plywood to keep him confined. There’s no question he’s glad to be home.

It was a restless night for me. Gretchen got me up two or three times barking at whatever. That’s her protective guard dog instincts coming out I suppose. I got up each time and went out to make sure everything was alright.

This morning Ben was resting right where we left him on top of the cushions we had in the kennel for them. He was so weak last night he couldn’t crawl up on them so I lifted him on. I placed the food and water so he could access them without getting up. That seems to be working well and he’s not inclined to get up and explore. He’ll have to use the bathroom but should be able to do that without assistance.

So our baby’s home.
One of the two peacocks that were abandoned in our vet's neighborhood. They wander up and down the street and everyone looks after them.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Renewed enthusiasm

5/2/09 Saturday
It’s gone from a hundred plus degrees yesterday to about fifty this morning. There’s a thick fog out. That’s good as it indicates a lot of moisture in the air. Any moisture is good even when it’s not in the ground. I’ll have to get out a flannel shirt till it warms up. I’m sure that won’t take long.

I started the tractor up to keep the battery charged and drove it around the five acres we cleared for farming. It doesn’t have much power and bogs down easily but you could say the same thing about me. As I drove I checked out how things were growing. It was another slap in the face. I had been running the sprinklers every day to get the six hundred and fifty pounds of rye and winter wheat to germinate and grow. When we had that good rain I stopped watering because the soil had lots of moisture in it. I’d only intended to not water for a couple of days and start back up when things dried out. That didn’t work. My short term memory problems kicked in. First thing is I can’t remember when it rained. In my mind it was just a couple of days ago but from the looks of things it could have been two or four weeks ago. I’ll go back in this journal right now to see.

Looks like it was about three weeks ago we had some rain. Basically I stopped watering because of some rain and forgot to start back up again. Forgot for three weeks while I worked on other stuff, all the time thinking it had just rained a couple of days before. Driving out there I saw lots of stunted rye standing about two inches high and turning brown from lack of water. Five acres of it! The weeds of course are doing quite well and going to seed now. The plan was to till everything under before it went to seed with the hope that the rye would be standing tall so it would provide a lot of organic material to this sandy soil. To do that I was going to rent a tiller or disc to tow behind the tractor but now that we lost the disability check there are no funds for that. I started chopping the weeds with the hoe yesterday and will continue that today, but that may be an exercise in frustration. I think it would probably take over a month to do five acres by hand. But there’s all this baby rye growing and I’d hate to waste all the time and money I put in to plant it. Maybe I’ll just mow the weeds down. That will cut off the seeds and by catching the clippings with the mower bag I can compost it. Then the rye may have a chance to grow. It just feels like I’m banging my head against the wall.

Let me tell you about the visit we had from the rehabilitation people. It went better than I expected. Up to this point I’ve lost my enthusiasm for life and have become quite demoralized. I was surprised to see two cars drive up instead of one. “They are ganging up on me” I thought as they pulled in. My new counselor is deaf so the second car was her interpreter. That was cool, at least to me. She started out by explaining this and hoping I wasn’t put off by it all. The truth is I always like to see others with difficulties overcoming them. Just wish I was better at it myself.

I started out by explaining that Cherie had just got a full time job and I lost my disability, figuring that would disqualify me for any assistance. I was surprised to learn it wouldn’t. Her question was if I still desired to go back to work. I explained that I certainly did and had no interest in sitting around feeling sorry for myself. (Though the truth is I sometimes do) So I asked “What can you do for me?” All of that had been explained when we first went to the agency but I couldn’t remember much of it so it’s like starting over. Actually we are. I told her about my dreams for this place. Not the big dreams of putting in an RV park and campground along with a greenhouse operation in addition to the “Pick your own” apple orchard. I just talked about getting the apple orchard going along with short term goals of growing farmer’s market type produce to generate immediate income. Just got to start little by little, set up easier goals one step at a time to get to the bigger ones down the road. She said it sounded exciting and was very positive. We talked of what’s needed to accomplish that and she explained how they can help. So I have my hope renewed and hope to regain the enthusiasm that dried up over the last year or so.

Cherie’s gone to a women’s church thing she was invited to by someone where she works. She will be gone till about 1:00. I’m going to call the vet and see if we can visit Ben today. That’s it for now folks. See ya next time.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Time to beat the heat.

Last night's sunset

5/1/09 Friday
Ahhh! First of the month, a time when we used to stock up on essentials and buy other things we need. As expected the disability check did not come. That changes the equation dramatically. Good news was that when I went to see about getting my cell phone fixed all it needed was to be turned on. I forgot how to do that. We were worried we would have to buy another one and that’s an expense we didn’t want.

Today will be a hundred degree day. I’m getting out early to do as much outside work as I can before it gets stifling. Yesterday was hot too and that just drained me. Then at the end of the day I had one of those bad migraines. They aren’t technically migraines because the stem from the brain injury and are different. Doesn’t matter as they are debilitating no matter what label you put on. It’s just that normal pain medication doesn’t touch them so I resign myself to the bedroom and avoid bright lights and loud noises. Cherie sneezed and it went right through my head, the sound did that is. I don’t get these as often as I used to and hope this isn’t a resurgence of the problem.

We may go visit Ben today but will have to play that by ear. At four a lady from Texas Rehab Commission is coming to the house. She is the third counselor who has taken our case. I no longer have a lot of confidence they will do much for us and suspect that because Cherie is working and I no longer collect disability we may no longer qualify for their help. Such is the way of things. I’ll build this farm one way or another but it’s sure slow going without any help. Actually we have had lots of help. The water system that I now have was a gift from Jay and his son did a lot of the work with a trencher. Like I’ve said before “This is the farm that love is building”. By myself I can do little but with friends I can do all things, well a whole lot more with a little help.

So it’s take a pain pill and get to work time. I wonder if losing my disability will change the medical benefits I get. Probably will but I hope not. A big part of that is the cost of medication. Time to go beat the heat. Today also happens to be the freeze date, the time it’s figured to be safe to plant. I’m so behind.