Monday, December 31, 2007

Another day?

12/31/07 Monday
New years eve, another day. Ever since I woke up things like this aren’t all that significant to me. Christmas, my birthday, New Years are all basically seem like just another day. What is significant for me right now is it’s winter and I must plan on what I will plant and when I need to do so. How Cherie is doing is very important, how I am doing as far as thoughts and getting along with others is important too. Every day I wake up is a gift as far as I am concerned. I don’t have a date for when I woke from the coma but it was just before Christmas. Actually there really isn’t a date I guess cause coming out of a coma took days or perhaps weeks of gradually regaining cognizance. I do remember the first time I talked or at least tried to, and how the nurse ran out and got the doctors. That means it’s now been seven years since I woke up, give or take a few weeks. Seven…a biblically significant number. Hmm…Does that mean anything? Probably not. What I see is the miracle of how life and love have been restored. What I foresee is great increase in the quality of that life and love. We moved here last November so we have lived on this farm for a year now. We have friends and a sense of belonging. We have the puppies, a great source of joy. Carman kitty has always been here with us. So it’s been a good year of restoration and rebuilding though it’s been a hard road with much to overcome. I suppose New Years Eve is a time to reflect so is more than just another day. Have a good next year folks.
It’s going down to sixteen or so degrees tonight and will be cold for the next few so it’s important to make sure we have firewood. I cut another large branch off the mulberry last week and we’ve been heating with that. There’s still lots left I can cut and split but Chuck and Lillian have a big pile of pecan wood already cut so I am taking them up on the offer to get as much as we want.

This morning I took the dogs for a walk and went the half mile to the well to make sure it’s in good shape. It was and there is no evidence of the rat so that’s great. The damn rat that moved from the henhouse to the garage is still doing well. The sucker has figured out how to snap the traps and then eat the bait. It’s not going to be easy to get rid of but I’ll have to because they can do so much damage. Sure miss having Skittles around. It’d be nice to find another feral cat to keep around and reduce the rat population. When I came in out of the cold I got an instant headache. Not fun but aspirin cured it quickly.

Just got back from getting the wood. Tommy came out and helped me load it up. He’s a nice guy. We talked for a while about living in West Texas. He came here from Missouri to get away from the drugs and problems they bring. I can relate and said that one of the things I like about being here is it also keeps me away from that kind of temptation. In Toledo I can find anything I want and had many “friends” who would be happy to draw me back into problems. Here I don’t have those type of contacts and can pick my friends carefully, thus reducing the likelihood of ever slipping.

We are fixin to run to Midland where I will walk Steve and Janie’s dogs. See ya when we get back. Maybe.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Can't think of a title so...

12/30/07 Sunday
It’s a rough morning, at least for the moment. I can never tell how long a slowdown will last. I am down to a four on the bob scale with occasional dips into a level three when I have to figure out something like what I am or was going to do. Basically I’m wandering around again. It’s always frustrating to be lost in your own house, not remembering what you were doing. The headache doesn’t help either.

Today Cherie and I will go to see a clothing exhibit at a museum that she’s wanted to see for months. Today is the last day. It is unfortunate that her memory doesn’t seem to be much better than mine. That kind of scares me. Here she is my caretaker and I have to remind her to do things. Mostly she needs to keep up with the planner and write down everything that both of us need or want to do. Otherwise it doesn’t happen.

I picked up some furniture someone threw out at the landfill that I thought we could use on the veranda. (Just a note, I am clearing up as I write this. I can tell because my ability to type has greatly speeded up) When Cherie saw it she exclaimed “That’s Lands End. That’s good stuff”. It’s a little rough and needs some repairs but will be great out here. I will probably put a coat of poly on to protect it. Cherie can get some material that is waterproof or something. Odds are I won’t get to putting polyurethane on it because my list of unfinished projects is large and I don’t seem to get much done. There’s a chair also but it needs the most repair.

I will meet Cherie at Steve and Janie’s. We have been taking their dogs out for a walk everyday while they are on a mini vacation where I hope they are relaxing. I suppose it would be more accurate to say the dogs take us out for a walk but I don’t think the word “walk” is the right one. Even though Zoie is only a few months old she is strong and Cherie has a hard time holding her back. Zoie strains so hard against the leash you can hear her gasping for breath from the collar around her throat. Because this is so hard and painful on Cherie’s back I will probably take the dogs out one at a time. Zack is harder to handle than Zoie. They are both purebred bird dogs and that means they just want to run, real high strung and full of energy. I wish I could take them out here to the farm where they could run like they want and need to. But I don’t dare to with the highway so close. Our puppies would probably love it as they love to run too.

It’s time for me to put on my fancy go out in public clothes for this museum thing. That would be a pair of black jeans and button down shirt. Still not totally cleared up but am up to a six on the bob scale so fine for being out doing stuff.

Friday, December 28, 2007


A morning moon. (two days ago, give or take a few)

12/28/07 Friday
It has been a less than pleasant morning. The pain level is high and I have a slight headache as well. I don’t mind waking at two o’clock to put more wood on the fire. That’s not a problem at all. Sometime after we got up I realized I had left the sprinkler on all night. As with all things I couldn’t be sure because I can’t rely on my memory. Cherie told me I went out last night specifically to turn it off. That gave me some hope but I still had to go out and check. Yes I had left it on. Even in the dark morning light I could see the lake where the sprinkler was. At twenty seven degrees that will probably be ice. The running water prevented the hose from freezing.

What bothers me most is that this is another reminder that I have a disability. Everyone I talk to tells me they have the same problems. “Oh, I do that” is a common statement. I was telling one person how I can be driving along and suddenly nothing is familiar. I don’t know where I am and don’t remember where I’m going. “That happens to me” he said. It’s almost like they are saying it’s not a big deal, dismissing it in a way like it's just a normal thing. I know this kind of thing happens but there comes a point where it can be a big deal. We've all heard of how a senior citizen starts doing things like leaving a pot on the burner. That's when it's a big deal because it can be, and sometimes is life threatening. There were many times in Toledo I would leave water running in the sink as I prepared to wash dishes and forgetting would flood the apartment.

So this time I went out specifically to perform an important task, turning off the water and wrapping the faucet to prevent it from freezing and breaking. Instead I brought in firewood, which I had also planned to do. That moment’s distraction was all it takes for me to forget what I really wanted to do. This is all day long all the time stuff for me. It’s like a four year old who needs a mommy to remind him of what he was supposed to do. “Did you do what I asked?” would be a normal thing to hear in that situation. I do well for a bit but have these reminders. I still haven’t finished the “year in pictures” thing I was, or am putting together to send to our friends and family. It was supposed to be for Christmas. The Christmas cards to go along with that are still sitting here. There are tons of things around here I’ve started and never finished. For those who think it's not a big deal because they experience it too, imagine it's constant, all day long. I just lost another pair of gloves a few minutes ago. Put them down and they are gone. Yeah, I know, you do that too. Fifty, a hundred times a day as you wander from task to task forgetting what your were doing or going to do?

So I’ll pick myself back up and get moving. It’s discouraging and depressing but I am used to that, I guess.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cold morning


12/27/07 Thursday
It’s a cold morning, about 25 degrees according to the weatherman. I went out to move the water hose to where I’ll use it when it thaws out. Hope it didn’t crack open. Then I turned over the cabinet I pulled from the henhouse thinking the rat had returned there because of signs it had dug under. No such luck. I started unloading the stuff I’d picked up at the landfill a couple of weeks ago so I can use it to take the accumulating garbage to the landfill now that the truck is running. But it’s too cold on my big ears so I came in to put the knit cap on to protect those delicate things. I figured this would be a good time to get something posted cause odds are once I get moving I’ll forget. So I’m gonna get moving. I definitely have to cut some more firewood as the last few cold nights have depleted our supply. There’s plenty dead wood left in the trees to satisfy that need.
After. This is what we've used so far this winter. We stay nice and warm and don't have a heat bill to pay. Just costs a little sweat and pain. I'd rather have it that way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A hard thing

12/26/07 Wednesday
I always know when a front has come through. The pain level in the bones of my neck and back was high enough to warrant a pain pill. It’s gotten quite cold since yesterday and the wind out of the north makes sure I know it when I step outside.

I got an Email from my oldest son, Bruce. He got married on the nineteenth. He labeled the Email “some late information”. For any of you unfamiliar with this area of my life Bruce and Adam were four and five years old when I married their mom. This was after my heartbreaking divorce from Cherie and something I just jumped into. The marriage was rocky to say the least and the best part of it was the opportunity I had to raise these two boys. I can’t say I did a good job but they turned out well. Adam is seriously learning disabled and last I heard still lives at his mom’s. Bruce has done two tours in Iraq and is a police officer in Lucas County. I am proud of them both. I have made many mistakes in my life but the greatest sadness of all is the lost relationship with them. It is a hard thing to fix, especially fifteen hundred miles away. The divorce from their mom was an ugly one and the principal cause of this. I signed the divorce papers on the day before the accident that put me in a coma. It was evidently a quick small wedding only decided on a month earlier and he says few were told so that is some consolation I guess. Still my heart longs to have been there, or at least close enough for him to have let me know. But a man reaps what he sows, so I accept the responsibility for that. Good luck Bruce, and God be with you.

I will try to not let this get me too down but I think a little mourning of this loss is appropriate. Time will help to heal the wounds and our relationship, at least I pray it will.
Hooray, I think. The U-joints are finally replaced. The last one has two different size ends which really threw the parts guy for a loop. After checking some more U-joints I wondered if we could put the ends from one on the other. It worked so the guy let me do that as an even exchange. Cool. It went right on without a problem and when I test drove it, it seemed to work just fine. Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another day

12/25/07 Tuesday
Steve and Janie invited us over for breakfast this morning. It was a sumptuous spread with enough food for a small army. Also invited was Bud and Steve’s son Tyrell. Bud cooked pancakes. We had a real good time and there were gifts to open after. Lots of laughter. I let Cherie know that I was getting dizzy and my ears were ringing so a slowdown may be coming. Fifteen minutes later it did. It was a bad one. Cherie had to drive home. Pissed me off that it happened during this time of fellowship. I had a bad headache too and these seizures always drain me so I went straight to bed. Conked out for three hours when I forced myself to get up and do something. I took the drive shaft back off the truck and removed the U-joint again. Then I pieced together some of the water hoses I got from the landfill, splicing them and putting replacement ends on them. With that I could stretch the hose to the far corner of where I planted rye so set up the sprinkler there.

I stayed slow most of the day. Real rough day. My mental lucidity cleared up but I am having another episode now. This one is affecting the physical end of things so walking is difficult but the headache is the same. The TV is off and so are the lights. Even this laptop screen is bright and hurts to look at. I think I’ll call it a night.

Monday, December 24, 2007

To dream.

I remember, when Wally was taking me to Odessa, telling him how I will always push the envelope, how I will always strive to reach the stars, how I will dream the impossible dream. I say this all the time, it is a familiar theme you can find many times in this journal. The theme song from the “Man of La Mancha” has become one of my favorites in my mind though I can only remember small little pieces of it. It’s the spirit I cling to. One of these days I’ll have to get the soundtrack. I read on the homesteader forum that the original book was written in 1600. If I ever read it I don’t remember. I think there is a play or maybe even movie based on it and that is what the music goes to.

The point is, I will not acknowledge my disabilities. I will always attempt what the doctors and others say I am unable to accomplish. In many ways this is setting myself up for failure, but I believe it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. I already live far beyond what the doctors said I would but it is frustrating none the less when my limitations are thrown in my face. The fact that I am doing the throwing by putting my self in these positions doesn’t make it any easier. But to admit defeat, to hang my head down and say “I’m not capable” is to die inside. Oh I must acknowledge failures to accomplish a task but each time I fail I learn more and move another step forward, improve a little more. But I will not give up. I might understand I am unable to do a particular thing but I will continue to fight, to strive. There is a rock song I really enjoy because the refrain says “I get knocked down, I get up again, I get knocked down, I get up again”. Yeah, I know, there’s more to the lyrics but that’s what I remember now. It holds true for me. I get depressed, I get demoralized, I fail when I should succeed, I am constantly reminded I cannot do what I once could. And I pick myself up, regroup, and get moving again. Sometimes it takes a few days but I always get up again. One of the many blessings I have is that I retained much of my former intelligence, the ability to analyze and recognize things apart from the emotions and to make decisions based on that.

Why am I writing this? What brought this on? The U-joints did. There was a time this would have been an easy job. I’ve replaced many U-joints in the past. Hell I’ve rebuilt motors, installed transmissions, and so many other things on cars. I remember the blazer I had set up for snowplowing in Toledo. The motor blew up on it so I found a deal on an LT-1 Corvette engine and put it in. That was a sweet motor, had solid lifters, high compression, and idled at 2500 RPM. Oh and I fixed it up on top of that with an Edelbrock intake manifold and lots of other performance parts. I can remember I did all these things but don’t remember how. That’s the strange thing about my memory loss. When I woke up I could remember my home phone number but not my address. It’s like someone drew a line through my brain and said “You can have this but you can’t have that”.

So you know I went and got new U-joints from reading the earlier post but they were again the wrong ones. Or at least I think they were. The suckers were too big to go in. Disgusted I got on the phone and called around to see what other parts places had. The first thing I asked was if they had U-joints that were not made in China. No such luck so I called a place that sells “Genuine” GM and other parts. I liked the fact he asked for the Vin number of the truck to determine what part I needed. I didn’t like the price he came back with. The U-joint that cost $8.99 at AutoZone was $62.00. Ouch. That’s the cost of American made? So I went to Advance Auto parts. He had to bring out several U-joints to find one that was the right size. Great, I got two.

I was happy, confident I finally had the right parts and would soon have the truck running. But putting the U-joints on turned out to be harder than it should have. I had a problem figuring out the right sequence of putting it all together or something. At one point things got stuck and I was afraid I’d have to break it and buy another U-joint. I was relieved to get through that and finally got to the point where I could put the driveshaft back on the truck. Finally I was on the last step and would soon be finished. It felt good.

Good that is till I got to the very last part. When I went to bolt the rear U-joint on the axle…it was the wrong part. I couldn’t understand how that could be so I dug up the old U-joint to see. There are several definitions for “cognizance”. A simple one is being aware of your surroundings and comprehending what you see. I don’t know if I forgot or just didn’t recognize the different ends on that particular U-joint. Come to think of it the one I returned to AutoZone could well have been the right one. So this makes two days I’ve been doing a job that should have taken an hour. Now I have to wait till the store opens after Christmas. First I must repress out the U-joint that is wrong.

It is discouraging. But I gonna get this damn thing done one way or another. I just went and looked at this journal. I took the drive shaft off Friday so it's been four days I've been working on this. This kind of thing is typical for me and another reminder of the brain injury. You see, the short term memory problem really affects my sense of time. I’ve mentioned many times how I am unable to put a time stamp on events. It’s hard for me to know if a memory happened a few hours ago or yesterday. I can remember doing something but the when isn’t clear. That’s one of the big motivations for me to keep this journal.

Enough whining. Have a merry Christmas Y’all

Christmas Eve

2/24/07 Monday
Christmas Eve. Just another day to me. It’s a day of inconvenience because of the insanity of people’s last minute rushes and stores being closed early if they open at all. But I don’t plan on going anywhere so will avoid all that. Any more Christmas is for kids and mine are grown and far away.

Today is another day of trying to get things done. The latest project has been replacing the U-joints. That hasn’t been fun. The big C-clamp I bought at Harbor Freight didn’t budge it, instead it just twisted when I used a two foot lever to turn the screw tighter. Even heating the yoke with a torch didn’t work. I finally got the small sledge hammer I also bought at Harbor out. I know Danny said your not supposed to do this but my frustration was high and I really need to get this truck running. Besides I braced it all well so am confident it will be alright. Regardless the hammer did the trick. Hurray! I finally got them free.

Then it was to AutoZone to buy the replacement U-joints. They had two types. One was nine bucks and the other sixteen. The nine dollar set have a grease nipple to add grease later and the expensive set didn’t. Presuming they were better I bought the higher priced ones. This truck is a valuable work vehicle and I want it to run as good as possible.

Getting the new U-joints in wasn’t going well. I cleaned, greased, and even sanded the yokes to facilitate pressing them in. They wouldn’t even start. To make matters worse I dropped a bearing cup while struggling to get these installed. The worst enemy of a bearing is dirt, particularly West Texas sand that will grind metal to dust, and the cup was now full of it. Cherie heard me cussing and came out to see what was wrong. Upon hearing she let the dogs in and disappeared knowing this was a good time to leave me alone.

I spent the next hour cleaning each of the fifty or so needle bearings one at a time and carefully placing them in the cup, using grease to hold them in place. I thought of just returning the bearing and telling AutoZone I decided to go with the cheaper set, thus exchanging them and escaping this ordeal. But that would be wrong. The true test of honor and integrity comes when no one is looking or can know. I have no question that I could exchange this U-joint without a problem, but someone else would get the one I messed up so that would be wrong. The Bible’s says that if you know what is right to do and don’t do it, that is sin. That’s a good basic definition of right and wrong and conversely a definition of the principle of honor and integrity (the two go together in my mind) is to do what you know is right even when no one knows. It’s an internal thing that has nothing to do with impressing others. So I did the work.

With it all cleaned up I went back to the task of pressing this U-joint in. NO, It won’t go in no matter what I did. I twisted the C-clamp till it was worthless and still nothing happened. Even some judicious hammering wouldn’t get it even started. What in the world? I took the old U-joint and held it next to the new one. Damn, it’s the wrong size. I hope I didn’t screw up the drive shaft trying to get this in. The new one is only about a thirty second of an inch bigger, hardly noticeable even when held next to the old one. I called AutoZone and the guy knew right away there were different sizes. This time I took the old one with me to make sure. I decided to go with the cheaper ones as the ability to add grease later just seems better anyway. By the time I got home it was dark so that was it for working on this. This morning it was 29 degrees out so I will wait till it warms up before I go try this again. I sure hope I didn’t mess the drive shaft up trying to put the wrong parts in. If I did I’ll try to make AutoZone replace it but don’t think I’ll have much luck with that.

Cherie has gone out to brave the madness of Christmas Eve in the stores. She has a list of things we need and has been studying the ads to find the best deals. I figure she will be gone at least five hours. There is no way I can go or even want to. All that commotion would just trigger a slowdown anyway. We went to the brunch and worship service at First Baptist, Midland, yesterday. Even that was hard on me with all the people, lines, and unfamiliarity. The tables were filled up so they were bringing out chairs for folks to sit on as quick as they could. I think the size of the crowd caught them by surprise. We found so seats in the corner out of the way so that helped me stay fairly cognizant though I did slow down some. Actually quite a bit by the time it came time to go to the sanctuary for the worship service but the soothing of the songs helped a lot so I was back to a seven on the bob scale by the time it ended.

Cherie hasn’t been feeling well, fighting off some kind of nausea thing for a few days along with bad tooth pain. They could well be related. Fortunately she seems to be doing much better today. She was pretty rough at church so we went straight home. This morning I have one of the headaches. When we were visiting Don and Cindy? (I always have to check with Cherie to make sure I get her name right) she suggested using an ice pack on my head for them. The more I think about that I suspect it will make them worse. My reasoning is that aspirin seems to be the only effective thing for them and it thins the blood allowing it to flow better. Cold causes the blood vessels to constrict and reduces the flow. Based on that I had Cherie heat one of her packs that can be both frozen or heated to be placed on a body part. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference other than a lot of sweat on my forehead, but it didn’t make things worse.

That’s ok cause it’s too cold to be out working on the drive shaft so I’m laying here with the puppies who are quite pooped from our morning excursion. I went to see if any more rye had managed to come up, especially where I’ve been running the sprinkler. There were a couple of little sprouts showing so that’s good. I’ve been up since four anyway when I rebuilt the fire this morning so am already tired. I’ll post this and snooze for an hour when it should be warm enough to work outside.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter blew in

12/22/07 Saturday
Well it’s officially winter now and the weather celebrated by sending us a cold brisk norther blowing up a storm of sand. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be crawling underneath the truck in this. If it’s not the cold it’s the sand getting in my eyes and at ground level there’s the most sand. It’s kinda interesting when the winds, which normally blow out of the south, change directions. You see all the tumbleweeds blow till they hit a fence or lodge in some mesquite tree where they gather and wait. What do they wait for? The wind to change. Now they are unleashed, charging with the wind in the packs they each joined over the season. I drove into town to pick up some eggs and bread and sure wished I had the camera with me. There are some giant six footers out now. In fact I forgot to buy some butter so I think I’ll do that and get a picture or two so y’all outside of this realm can get an idea what I’m talking about.

Wally came out to see what we’ve been doing with the place. He drove me to Odessa where I wanted to get a press for the U-joints. They didn’t have one so I got a heavy duty C-clamp to try. If it doesn’t work they have a two ton hydraulic jack I can make one out of. Eric has a welder he said he was itching to use so I’m sure I can scrounge up some steel and we can fabricate one. That’s a good idea anyway so maybe that can be done next year if I don’t have to now for the U-joints. On the drive to Odessa we were dodging some of the tumbleweeds.

So here are some pictures of tumbleweeds. The first is the bottom side of one and then I took the other side to give you a better idea how big it is. Not too big, only about five feet tall. How’d ya like to play dodge ball with this on the highway? With a fifty mile per hour wind you can bet it’ll be moving at fifty. It’s when you run into a herd of them it gets interesting. Fortunately they don’t do too much damage when you hit them. A guy right in front of Wally and I smacked one on the interstate and it pretty much disintegrated into a million twigs. Can’t be good but better than hitting a deer.

The wind is dying down so I think I’ll go work on the U-joints now. Cherie isn’t feeling good, her tooth has been hurting for while she said. Knowing her that could have been for a few days. Top of my list for when we get some real money is to get her teeth fixed. That’ll be a couple of grand or so as they are in bad shape. She’s laying down now so I’m being quiet and doing this in the office.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Up and early

12/21/07 Friday
Got up and out early catching another great sunrise. I’ve decided to try and water the last areas I planted rye in with the hope some of it will come up. Tomorrow night another freeze comes through. Don’t have a lot of hope but I’ve got to try. It seems that the freezes or something broke loose the algae growing in one of the hoses and it totally plugged up the sprinkler. My hands got pretty cold from the water so I came in to warm up. I’ve had four or five cups of coffee so that’s probably what has me sweating. Cherie’s out gleaning one of the last two cotton fields she has to do. They finally harvested it. I’m jacking up the truck and putting it on jack stands in preparation for removing the axle to replace the u-joints. I’ll have to put the puppies in cause the second I lay down they are on me licking my face and stuff. Can’t work with that going on and it’s not real safe either. I’m warm now so time to get to work. Got a headache but that’s nothing new and it’s not bad.
The headache was a precursor for a slowdown as they sometimes are. I got the truck up on jacks but had to go slow and careful, thinking out each step as I went. Moving that heavy jack is a chore in the caliche dirt of our drive. When I went to jack up the truck the jack began to sink into the ground so I found some pieces of plywood to put it and the jack stands on to be safe. Last thing I need is for a truck to fall on me. I’m beat up enough as it is. I left the jack under the truck holding the axle as an extra measure.
Got the drive shaft out. Was happy to see it’s one of those heavy duty aluminum ones made by Dana-Spicer. Another good product from Toledo. Unfortunately I can’t hammer the U-joints out like I can with the old steel drive shafts. These need to be pressed. I tried one of the C-clamps I have but it’s too cheap and just bent. I called Danny’s Auto where we took Cherie’s car and asked if they could do it. While talking I brought up the doubts I have regarding replacing three month old spark plug wires. He said he had them right there on his desk if I wanted to come and look at them. Then he explained that the spark plug bases were rusty so it caused “carbon firing”? That’s understandable I suppose but did it ruin the rubber on the new wires? It doesn’t matter now so I’ll drop it. I’m the kind of guy who cleans and reuses as much as I can and that’s not what a good shop does unless it’s one of the backstreet ones that serves the poor. That’s the kind I’m used to, being a shade tree mechanic as it is.

He can do it but of course it will cost. He did suggest how to do it myself and that was a big help. I’ll need to buy a heavy duty C-clamp or small press. I can get one of those at Harbor Freight. I think I will look at that option first as it’s something that would be good to have and a valuable part of the shop I’m putting together little by little. Need a good shop for a farm you know. Being a former machinist I would love to have a lathe and mill cause I could build about anything with them.

OK, back to reality. I’m not slow now, which is always a good thing. I let Cherie know that I’ll need to run to Odessa and suggested she go. That way she can visit the Music City Mall we see advertised but have never gone to. I’ll be able to get the press or at least a heavy C-clamp because of the donation a friend made through the PayPal button on the right column. Thanks Don by the way. I don’t think I remembered to thank you earlier so here’s a late one.

I noticed some rye coming up in one of the areas I was concerned about so that was a big relief. Haven’t had a chance to look at the rest of the field yet but it is encouraging just to see this little patch. Had to totally take apart the sprinkler to get the algae out. Have to do the other one also as it too plugged up. Time to plant some wildflower mix or something. As soon as I walk out the door there will be something to do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Car done, truck to go

12/20/07 Thursday
This morning we went and picked up Cherie’s car. It cost $202.00. I am a little puzzled about it. They (Danny’s Automotive) replaced the spark plug wires and spark plugs. I had done this two and a half months ago when the rat chewed through her wires. Just went back in this journal and it was September 21 I did that. The wires cost me fifty dollars then but he charged us $98.00. I’ll have Cherie look up the receipt to see if I replaced the spark plugs as well cause I don’t remember and it doesn’t say on the journal. I just know that those wires don’t go bad in three months. He didn’t say anything about more rat damage. What he said is that one leaked and the leak etched the side of the spark plug. I don’t know anything that would etch the ceramic side of a spark plug. We took the car there because that’s where Steve and Janie go. When I told Danny Janie recommended him he asked if we worked for her. He looked kind of bothered when I told him we live on a disability check and they help us out a lot. Perhaps he thought we had lots of money or something. I don’t know. When I told him I had just replaced the wires was when he came up with the etching thing.

On the way to get Cherie’s car the noise I’ve been hearing the last few days got worse. I am pretty sure it’s the u-joint because I’ve dealt with that many times in my life. But today it got real bad fast. Didn’t feel the vibration that often comes before it really lets go but it’s escalating fast so won’t be long. Hey, the truck’s got 170,000 miles on it so it’s due. I told Cherie not to follow me too close in case it let go. Now it’s the truck’s turn to be grounded.

Unfortunately the Sear’s two ton jack I had in Toledo died when I was rebuilding the trailer there. I just mentioned to Cherie the other day that without a jack I have no way of even changing a tire on the truck. So now I need one. I decided to go to Harbor Freight in Odessa because they have some of the best prices on tools you can find. “Cool” I said to myself when I saw the three ton one on sale for $56.00. Unfortunately they were sold out and refused to sell the display. “Nuts”.

So it’s off to Walfart. They have a nice one but it was set on a shelf about head level. There is no way that I am going to attempt to pull this hundred pound box off by myself. There was a day it wouldn’t have bothered me but with all the broken neck and back bones I’ve had it wouldn’t be wise. I had a clerk call for help and it never arrived. I stopped a manager type as he headed for the employee only area and he helped, kind of. He dropped it but fortunately missed himself and me, though he did wipe out something on a lower shelf. With it in my cart I hit the check out. It cost twenty bucks more than Harbor Freight but I need it and it looks pretty sturdy. Of course it’s made in China but so was the Harbor Freight one. I asked the lady at the cash register for help loading the jack into the trunk of the car. She got one of the door greeters who looks like he’s eighty years old. “It’s real heavy” I warned but it didn’t do any good. It wasn’t far from the cart to the trunk but came close to being a bad experience. He dropped it and my hand was underneath but I didn’t get hurt cause it only slid back into the cart. We got it in and I got home. My back is pretty painful now from my unloading it at home but it wasn’t hard because I just slid it out and dropped it to the ground where I assembled it. It’s on wheels so is fairly easy to move now.

Next chore for me now is to replace the U-joints. Hopefully that is the problem.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Miracle's Christmas gifts

Cherie took the Christmas gifts that our Sunday school had bought for Miracle to Chuck and Lillian's (Miracle's parents). As usual I am unable to remember what day it was but I do know I wasn't in very good shape so didn't go. Bummer, I would have loved to see her face.

Cherie tells me that as soon as Miracle saw the gift wrapped packages she goes "Presents Presents, For Me???". Lillian said "Yes, you can open one". Well, it didn't quite work that way. She opened them all. She opened the boots first. Loved them, gave them a hug and kissed them. It was a winner for sure. Next she opened the Fisher Price one that has a pop up camper, car, people, and even a camp fire. She loved it. Chuck had to get that all out of the box as every piece was tied in. As he did that She opened the bags that had clothes in them. There were three outfits. Everything was pink. There were sweats, pajama's, and a play outfit, along with socks and underpants.

Lillian opened the presents for her and Chuck. There were a set of bedsheets and bath towels. She loved them. It was a great blessing. They are very grateful for all this and say "Thank you".

Killed a snake, It won't be the last

This morning's sunrise

12/19/07 Wednesday
It’s been a hard few days. Sunday was the bad slowdown and yesterday I had two more of them. These petite seizures come and go and seem to run in cycles where I have a season of them occurring often and then times where I go for days without one. The first one yesterday was mild but the later one was fairly severe but not nearly as bad as Sunday’s. It is frustrating and depressing. Monday’s entry shows how my worries and paranoia can increase at these times. I worry that I have offended and sometimes even that someone is gossiping about me and causing others to distance themselves. I am sure this instability makes it hard for some to be comfortable around me. It makes it hard for me to be comfortable as well. This kind of thing is not uncommon for traumatic brain injuries. In fact what I experience is mild compared to others. The list and types of personality and perception changes is large and can be quite confusing. I know of one guy who doesn’t at all understand it is improper to tell a woman how sexy her body parts are. (I’m being politically correct and mild in describing his behavior) Fortunately I am able to recognize my issues. That doesn’t make them go away. This is where communication is good but sometimes I just want to hide.

The original grape trellis my grandfather built along with the remains that had died because no one took care of them.

Yesterday I got some stuff done despite the slowdowns. I am not real clear on the order of things. I got the grape vines planted, I killed a rattlesnake. We took Cherie’s car to a shop to get fixed. I dropped Cherie off at Steve and Janie’s to do some work. I was able to talk with Patrick Duffy, our attorney. Cherie asked me what he had to say and I wasn’t too sure. She said that was why she doesn’t get a job because she needs to be with me on this stuff. That bothers me, that I am a reason she doesn’t get a job. We went to Rosa’s with Steve and Janie but that was when I had the second seizure so I had a hard time even deciding what to eat. I began clearing up towards the end of the meal so was able to drive home.
Here I cleaned up the old vines and put a new pole in. It's one of the telephone pole tops that holds the wires I picked up at the landfill. You can barely see the four grapevine plants.

Right now Cherie is using the truck to go check cotton fields. She only has two to check as she needs to do a final count when they are harvested. Then her job is over. She won’t do it again and quit. I went out and did some work in preparation to plant the wildflower mix. Unfortunately it should have been done in October. The rye grain should have been planted in September. None of it could be done because we didn’t have money to buy the seed till the CRP check came and that wasn’t until the last day of October. Then it took me five weeks to plant the rye. I was hoping that the nice warm, almost seventy degree days would have helped the last part of that come up. I had scratched up some of the seeds a few days ago and saw they were germinating. Each one had a little root coming out of it. But when I looked this morning there was nothing new showing. I scratched up some seeds and they don’t look good. The roots look shriveled and dead. I think the twenty five degree nights we had froze them. That would mean that a third of the work I did is gone. Perhaps it will work out. There are a couple more warm days and above freezing nights ahead but then another cold front is coming in. Without the proper tools and funds it’s hard to farm but I’ll keep working at it. It’s discouraging and adds to the depression making me have to push to not give up.
This rattler was almost four feet long. I had just gone out with the dogs and heard a steady noise that I first thought was a water leak because it was non stop. When I recognized it as a rattler I put the dogs inside and got my hoe. The snake was curled to strike and buzzing at nothing there. I watched and it stayed frozen still with the rattle still going non stop. It was curious. I still wonder what that was about. I crept close carefully and got it with the second strike of the hoe. It never did try to bite me.

Cherie just got home. She picked up the mail and Virginia sent a thousand dollar check out of the estate. McGilvray showed me her figures that there was fifteen thousand left in the account last month, half of which comes to me after fees are deducted. It makes me angry that this is not finished after two years and makes me wonder why. Why is she dragging her feet. Is it because I requested a full accounting of how the funds were handled including bank records? Am I just being paranoid again or is there something she has to hide? She stopped talking and even answering emails after I made this request and told her what I thought about her letting her brother steal the washer and dryer out of this house. And we sit here suffering for the lack of funds. This would have gone a long way in helping us get a tractor, but I’ve pretty much given up on that. It won’t happen without help and help isn’t there.

I need to get out and plant the wildflower seed mix that probably won’t come up anyway. Better than sitting here feeling sorry for myself and thinking. Sometimes thinking isn’t good so I work aimlessly to avoid it. There is always something to do.
Here's what I found underneath everything that was stored in the henhouse. I buried it and reset the two traps that had been tripped and cleaned out.

It’s 4:30 now. I got a little work done and am preparing to go after the rat that’s in the henhouse. Cherie headed into Midland to do some things I can’t remember. I came in to check my email and see if anyone commented on the blog. Unfortunately I am having another seizure. It is always strange how different they can be. This one is affecting the physical side more than cognitive function though that has slowed too. I am real dizzy and having to concentrate in order to walk. Am real tired. Could go to sleep sitting at this computer. If I was laying down as I often do when using this laptop to reduce back pain I would be fighting to keep my eyes open. As much as I want to go to sleep I will make myself go out and start removing all the bags of fertilizer and other stuff in the henhouse. The rat has tunneled under it and uses it for cover so I must remove it to expose it and give it no place to hide. Too bad I had to kill the rattlesnake. If it had been a non poisonous snake I would have thrown it into the henhouse to hunt the rats down. Time to go to work
The auto shop called. They have Cherie's car fixed. It will cost two hundred dollars, thank God we got the check from the estate, just in time to pay for it. He said that the rats had chewed up lots of wires so he had to replace the spark plug wires I just installed last month because of rat damage. We will pick the car up in the morning.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Delicate balances

12/17/07 Monday
Delicate balances. It’s four in the morning. I woke up at three and put some wood on the fire as the house is cold. The mulberry wood is better than that elm but still won’t last through a night. I seem to wake up at two or three every cold night to do this so I suppose there is a psychological mechanism that helps me do this. The cold doesn’t bother me, it’s there just like pain always is, but I just ignore it. Cherie gets sweats and a jacket on as soon as she gets up. For her it is different. It was kind of funny, nah I suppose it wasn’t, when the guy teaching Sunday school talked about how cold it got in the trailer he and his wife lived in during the early years. I’m not really sure who said it because I had a real bad slowdown so it’s kind of blurred. I do remember him talking about how his grandparents only got three channels on their TV as if it was a mark of how rustic times were. We only get four though occasionally we can get channel nine in. Two of them are the religious stations.

Sunday was a rough day. Cherie had to drive me home from church. The delicate balance of our finances has taken a hit. Something we thought we could rely on is no longer there.

Cherie’s car must go to the shop as it has taken to stalling out and backfiring through the carburetor. The truck has already eaten up a hundred and six dollars worth of gas and only has a quarter tank left. It will be the main transportation now. Cherie’s last check from the cotton survey job will come in next Friday so we will have to wait till then to take the car in. Not sure where to take it.

I called my former secretary and good friend’s daughter yesterday because Eileen no longer has a phone. It is depressing to hear how bad things have gone. How I wish I was up there and could help. She no longer has a car or phone, her stove and refrigerator were repossessed by the rent to own place that takes advantage of the poor. She has hooked up with a guy she knew when she was twelve who is an alcoholic and sucking her dry. I guess that’s better than the heroin addict. Her son, also an alcoholic, is not making payments on her house she has let him move into so she may lose that. They haven’t had electricity in five months. Eileen moved out of the house after her husband died, just couldn’t stay there any more. And Eileen’s health has been bad anyway. COPD, Emphysema, Scoliosis, and a world of other things. She’s allergic to alcohol and never drank but her daughter says she’s drinking now. It sounds like she’s given up. Another delicate balance going out. A life going…just going.

The delicate balance of a relationship seems to have been changing over the last few months with us. It’s hard to put a finger on but it’s there. The whole dynamic is different. I think I must start a private journal now. Before this was a place I could put my thoughts down honestly, and it is to be my memory of things I can look at later. That is no longer true because the world reads this blog. I am learning that straight forward honesty isn’t good. In a sad way I guess I am learning to put up a front and hide my thoughts. I never did this after waking from the coma and was proud of my “honesty” but am learning that honesty isn’t good. People can’t handle and don’t want it. And they don’t offer it either. They don’t say what they mean, people generally say what they want you to hear, what puts thing in a light that makes it all ok. Am I learning to be like that?

So I’ve been up for hours now mulling over things, letting these thoughts roll around in my head as I wonder and try to understand. That’s hard to do without all the information, when you have to fill in the blanks and that is just guessing at them as it is.

It’s after five now. I suppose I should try to get some sleep. During and after the bad slowdown yesterday I spent most of the day in bed.
1:00 – It’s been a rough day. Had one of those headaches all day and just generally feel crappy and drained.

3:12 – I suppose I’ve caught something. Going through this hot and cold thing where I must cover up and then am sweating. The headache has persisted. I’ve been working on putting together the year here in pictures. That is hard as there is so much that has been done and happened, and so many pictures. I want to send this as a Christmas thing to our friends but it can’t be twelve pages long, or shouldn’t be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Keepin warm

This morning's sunrise

12/15/07 Saturday
It was twenty degrees in Midland this morning according to the weatherman. That would make it about the same here. Not a problem, I put on a flannel shirt with a quilted flannel on top of it and then wear a windbreaker to keep the wind from penetrating all that. With a knit cap on I am toasty warm. But the twenty mile an hour wind still makes my eyes water and nose run. The work gloves don’t provide much protection so I just came in to warm up my hands.

It’s going to be a busy day. There is much I’ve not gotten too with the push to get the rye planted. For one thing Matt Hanson dropped off four concord grape plants that need to be put in the ground fairly quickly. I decided to plant them where my grandparents used to have their grape vines. That again brings the nostalgic sense that we are repairing and rebuilding their dreams for this place. Continuing their love story with ours, propagating a legacy. I like that thought.

But there is much repair to be done on the old…trellis? Whatever you call the thing vines grow on. At least one of the posts needs to be replaced as well as all the two by fours that connected the tops. I’ll get on that today. I’ve been out cutting mulberry for firewood. We’ve got plenty of the elm but it’s not near as good as the mulberry to burn. Besides I want to slice off a piece for a carving project I’ve had in mind. I haven’t carved in a long time, not since we moved down here from Toledo. This mulberry is tough as nails and hard to carve but it’s a beautiful gold color. I hate to burn it but don’t have the woodworking equipment to turn it into the wonderful furniture it can make. I’ll try to save the big parts of the trunks in case that changes in the future.

One of the areas I want to plant the wildflower mix in is at the corner of where we have the apple trees planted. It’s around the high tension power pole as well as the regular electric lines. This area had lots of big weeds and I was unable to get to it with the tiller so there is lots of hand work to do with a hoe. That’s not a big priority so will wait till I have more time.

We get to go visit Don and Cynthia today. I always look forward to visiting our new friends but always am nervous. Will I say something wrong? Will I offend? I’m better than the early years after I woke up but still don’t trust myself to spout out something off the wall. It’s hard to be comfortable. I still have a hard time figuring out when something’s funny. Deciphering jokes and subtleties is one of the areas of social skills I am poor with. It often just goes over my head. Sometimes I’m better at this than others. It’s all part of the cognitive instability. You know, bob scale four, bob scale eight, that’s always changing and affected by the stress and activity of the moment. I can go from one to the other in a matter of minutes. The more familiar I am with the people and location the better I do as I can relax a bit.

Well I need to go split the wood I cut so got to get moving. I had Cherie read this over as I often do to make sure I didn’t write something that would be wrong. She’s my editor you know.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a wonderful life

12/14/07 Friday
What a wonderful life. There are some advantages to losing everything you had, dying, being in a coma after they bring you back to life, wandering homeless, and losing your memory. What??? Are you nuts??? Nope, not at all. It changes how you see everything. All the money folks worry over and fear losing loses it’s value in comparison. If you go back in this journal you’ll find where I talk about seeing movies I know I have seen many times before but with no or only partial memories of them it’s like seeing it for the first time ever. Today the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” came on. Now I know I’ve seen this movie at least a half dozen times in my life but not since I woke from the coma in 2001. It was pretty much all new. All I can remember was him wanting to commit suicide off a bridge and the town coming to bail him out but nothing else. I didn’t remember why it all happened or nothing. So folks I just got to see the movie as if for the very first time. Can you remember when you first saw it? Can you remember how it touched you? I’m sure it no longer has the impact it did that first time. I cried. But that’s part of the emotional control loss I have. I cry and get upset easier than I’d like. Kind of like being a child in that respect. But that is good. Being like a child, being simpler, not being as hard or as jaded, that is good. What a great movie this is. It spells out things so well, the sacrificial good versus uncompassionate greed. Doing what is best for the other versus best for you. That is the definition of the Greek word translated as Love in the bible. To choose for the highest good of the other over yourself. I’ll need to see the movie several times again before it sinks in and stays. That’s the other advantage of short term memory loss, I can see the same movie a few times for the first time. Some parts I’ll remember but I’ll still get surprised. That’s fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Rye's done

12/13/07 Thursday
I’m gonna have to get the chainsaw out and cut some more of the mulberry wood. The elm just burns too fast so isn’t as good for overnight heating. It’ll work fine during the day as long as I’m around to keep the fire stoked. (is that the right word?) It won’t be a problem as I cut down a dead trunk off the tree last month or so and most of it is still on the ground waiting to be cut.

I’m finally done with the rye grain. It took five weeks to get done. The first weeks plantings are coming up well and the rest will catch up. In a recent conversation there was concern expressed about my being out in the cold and rain to do this. “You don’t want to get sick” I think is what was said. I appreciate and understand this concern but firmly believe that being out in the cold doesn’t make you sick and in fact strengthens your whole system. The Norwegians commonly go from a hot steamy sauna and roll in the snow. They have one of the lowest rates of colds in the world. The reason people get more colds in the winter is they dress warm, providing an environment for germs, and all huddle together inside where they share them with each other. That’s my theory.

Anyway, the big reason I am working so hard to get this rye out is because I am real late in doing so because of finances and having to do it by hand. Would have been done in two days with a tractor. It is essential for next year. This year, our first year here, the weeds got over six feet tall in some places. Despite paying to have everything mowed down at the beginning of the year I just couldn’t keep up. Without even a lawnmower all I had to battle them was a hoe. So friends from the church came out with a rented tractor and mowed and chopped the jungle around the house. They gifted us with a lawnmower and weedeater so that will help greatly. However the five acres I tilled is now a ripe fertile area for the weeds to come back on. The rye is my first and most powerful line of defense against them. The first step in establishing a solid cover of native grasses that will provide a permanent shield to fight off the weeds. Sure weeds will always be around but instead of a solid field of them their will just be little pockets I can deal with.

So if I don’t get the rye established I’ve got a worse problem than last year. Plus the rye will condition the soil for next year’s crops. That’s good basic farming. Again the urgency is here for without the rye it will be an incredibly tough battle to keep the weeds from choking out the crops. That will be a battle anyway because I won’t use lots of poisons to kill the weeds but that’s my job. If I’m going to be a farmer I’m going to have to work hard and that I look forward to. Caring and learning how to care for the plants is the agenda for next year. But now I’m behind the gun. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, and if that means working out in the rain (and earlier the snow) and cold that’s the way it has to be.

This year was the basic garden to learn from but next year will be serious business. Now it’s about earning an income and paying for the tractor, my first big investment in this farm, or how Wally put it, this business. It is a business. Just like the companies I founded from scratch years ago it’s about profit and loss, investments and returns, marketing and selling products. This I have an extensive background in, I just need to learn about the farming end of things. How to grow, where to sell, and how much to charge are part of the equation. Learning I can do and I’ve been making contacts with others who can help guide me in all this. Wally suggested getting a partner. I’ll have to think on that. Not sure how to put it together having never had a partner before.
I’ve been out raking. Walked the perimeter of the five acre plot to see if the strip if rye seed I planted as a border was coming up. In the process I saw that I had neglected to rake the strip along the highway so will get to that today. It is also an area we plan to plant the wildflower mix in so it needs to be raked anyway. The way they said to plant it is to rake the earth, sow the seeds, and then just press them in with a roller, not rake them in.

As I work on things like this I have time and am able to think things through. I often can’t remember what I come up with but figure it’s there somewhere in the back of my head so should affect my decisions later. So I worked through the advice and thoughts I have about asking for help with the tractor and farm. I’ll write a short note on the Sunday school site to direct any interested in helping with the farm to this blog where they can read about it. It was suggested I talk to people we know in the class on an individual basis and I suppose that would be appropriate. However I value the relationship with the new friends we have made there above everything else and don’t want to strain or jeopardize it. To hit someone up we have only known for a short time for help could be very uncomfortable, awkward, and the pressure created if they didn’t want to get involved not good at all. I don’t know. As I write I question again if I should even do this. I don’t think so. I’ll call the one who already kind of offered to cosign and see what he says.
So much for that. After he discussed it with his wife the answer is no. I went out and raked some more. It’s hard to keep positive sometimes and hard to keep your hopes up when an open door is closed. But there is always another door somewhere that can open up. I know what God wants so He will make a way no matter what obstacles are brought up. But it is still discouraging. One way or another I’ll build this farm and become self sufficient, where I no longer need a disability check, where my wife and I will no longer live in poverty.

Tomorrow morning we go to the VA hospital for my regular visit. There is lab work to be done so I must fast. Cherie fixed an early dinner so that’s it till tomorrow afternoon. After that I’m not sure what’s scheduled. Matt Hanson, the guy who started the farmers market in downtown Midland, called. He has some grape vine plants and garlic he wants to bring over. They came from the Texas Landscape company that went out of business. It sure would be nice to be able to use the greenhouses at the closed up facility. There must be three acres worth of covered area there. We could grow a lot of stuff. And it’s all just sitting empty. I wonder if they have a tractor to get rid of? Wouldn’t matter if they did cause we don’t have the cash to buy it anyway.

That’s it for now. Not in a real writing mood. See ya next time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Winter is here.

12/12/07 Wednesday
I guess winter is here now. It’s another cold morning where the temperatures dropped below freezing. The forecast shows several days where the temperature goes down into the twenties. It’s a good thing I cut and split a lot of firewood. We’ve kept the fire going for days now and that has made a dent in it. I’ve used up the wood on the veranda and am now burning the elm wood that is stacked out by the trailer. It burns just fine and makes plenty of heat, just leaves more ash requiring a little more clean up. I really like all of this. There is something I can’t quite put my fingers on, a satisfaction? a feeling of accomplishment? a connection with the pioneers of old? I don’t know but even getting up at three in the morning to put some more wood on the fire doesn’t bother me in the least. And I seem to wake up automatically to do it every night the fire is going.

There was a chance we would get freezing rain last night but it doesn’t appear that we got any moisture at all. I called the seed company to get some advice on the wildflower seeds. They should have been planted in November but the lady said they will probably be OK. If not we would have to wait till next fall as they need to be planted then and not in the spring. I’ve got enough seed to cover an acre of ground. If it all works out next year will be an awesome improvement for this land. It will be our second year here and just a start as we work to tame and shape this land, to create our outdoor environment. All nine of the near dead apple trees we picked up at Ace Hardware have survived. That surprised me. I figured we would lose one or two of them if lucky. I’ll be pruning them soon and tying the branches back to train them.

We’ve had some donations now through the PayPal button that’s on the right hand column of this blog. It all helps. In a conversation I had regarding this tractor a point was correctly made that it is not a need but a business venture. Needs are important things such as bills to be paid or repairs required to maintain a house or vehicle. On my disability check and even with the extra money Cherie makes as a personal assistant we are well below the poverty level as determined by the federal government. At this level we will always have “needs” as we don’t have much to spare so any financial surprise will be hard to reach. Getting the tractor is a start to financial independence where we can take care of these things our selves without having to depend on the generosity of others. Not that that is wrong but the tractor is a long term solution versus constantly plugging holes in a dam that is deteriorating. We can get siding, replace windows, and do so many other things like make the bathroom something we are not ashamed to have others see. Plus we can grow a business that will not just provide that financial independence but allow us to help others as well.

Cherie is heading into Midland to do laundry. I’ll be starting on getting the wildflower seeds sowed after finishing the last small area of rye seed. The wildflowers I will use my imagination on, be creative in how I place them with a vision for how they will look next year when they bloom. There are twenty six different kinds of flowers in this mix, most of them annuals but some perennial. There will be something blooming all year long. Plus I harvested seeds from the two types of wild sunflowers that came up here along with a gallon jug full of regular sunflower seeds from the ones we planted at the side of the house. I will plant those on the borders of this property. Time to get warm clothes on and get started.
I had no sooner than posted this when the phone rang. It was Cherie. She was getting on the highway at an entrance ramp she was unfamiliar with and hit the curb. It blew out the front drivers side tire and she wasn’t sure about the rear one. “I picked up the hubcaps” she said. I was upset because it was a careless mistake and told her she needed to learn to drive and that I would be right there.

When I got there the rim of the front tire had a dent in it the size of a small cup saucer. The rear rim was also dented but not as bad and the tire still had air in it. The little jack that comes with her car didn’t do well on the soft ground. The car fell off of it three times. That was a little dangerous. I finally got the little donut tire on but it was half flat so we limped the car to a safe place to park it. Then we went down 80 where I remember seeing some used tire places. The first was closed. At the second one they did not have a rim to replace ours. He suggested a junk yard we had passed so we went there. Nope, they don’t have that wheel and the guy said it’s hard to find them. Both of these places had recommended a place called Discount Tire.

I had brought the puppies with me thinking this would be an easy tire change and they were rambunctious so we took them home. Once there I looked up Discount Tire and gave them a call. The guy was rambling on about how he would have to look at the old wheel. I asked if he could even give me a ballpark price and it was the same “I’ll have to see the wheel” thing I’d already heard four times now. I know that’s crap. The junk yard looked it right up on the computer and told me the same wheel fits from 1993 to 2002. I hung up on the guy before I cussed him out. I called another junk yard. They had the wheel but it would be fifty bucks. Yikes, fifty bucks for a used wheel and I’ll certainly need a new tire as well. I just talked about “needs” that come up such as car repairs and here we are. Fifty bucks is a lot of money for us and add the cost of a tire it’s going to be over a hundred dollars.

I went out and got the splitting maul that has a sledge hammer end and started hammering on the rim. After a while I found the sledge hammer head I picked up for a buck fifty at old sorehead days. This I could set against the dent in the rim and hammered it with the splitting maul, thus more accurately directing the blows. I hammered away for a good half hour before it looked like it might work. Then I took the tire into town and aired it up. Nope, the rim leaked cause I could hear it. I took it into the place I’d had the truck tires patched. He pulled the tire from the rim and checked it out. It didn’t look that bad he said and put the tire back on the rim. It held air. We got lucky. It only cost seventeen dollars.

I picked up Cherie and we went back to her car where I put the tire back on. It fell off the jack two more times. Not the most fun I’ve ever had. When Cherie drove off I followed her to make sure it was alright. It wasn’t. In the process of the car falling off the jack the metal shield around the brake disk was buckled into the brake. I got the crowbar out of my truck and hammered it out of the way.

Now Cherie is doing laundry and I am home. Haven’t gotten a thing done around here and I’m already tired. Go figure.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

But what about the disability???

These guys got a bath today. What fun that was

12/11/07 Tuesday
The adventure continues. We had some lightning and rain last night. Pretty good rain judging from the puddle at the end of the drive. It was thirty five degrees out and still raining this morning but I was out by 8:00 to rake in the seed I sowed two days or so ago. The rain doesn’t bother me. I thought about how many in other parts of the world endure much worse in order to grow the food they need to survive as I worked. The puppies stayed with me the whole time as they always do. Oh, they wander around chasing birds and digging holes to investigate whatever it is they smell, but they are always nearby. As I steadily raked I watched pickup trucks slow down to see what I was doing. I imagine that there are a lot of folks keeping tabs on what this crazy white boy is up to. I know it’s probably a wrong way to think but I inwardly hope they are impressed by how hard I work and how dedicated I am to getting this farm going.

I came in around 11:00 to get out of the soaked clothes. If you remember I talked about rolling the 55 gallon plastic drum over the seeds to press them in. The rain packed the soil pretty good. I’ve read about that. Unfortunately the dirt is now a heavy mud and much harder to rake. That brings the pain level up and wore me out physically so I need to rest. The sun has come out now so after I take a short nap I’ll put some dry clothes on and get back to work.

Wally called a few minutes ago. I sent him and Eric a copy of the “Asking for help” letter to get their advice on the appropriateness of putting it on the Sunday school website. Wally made a good point that this was more a business thing than a personal need like paying a bill and the kind of thing that should be approached on an individual basis with people I know. Eric had a similar take on it so I appreciate both of their advice. I’m not always real sharp about the proper way to do things so need that kind of guidance.

As I was out working I got to thinking about the whole thing. The paper I wrote is pretty much a business proposal and you can see my business background coming out in it. But the one area I didn’t cover was my disability. If I was considering something like this that would be an important question to ask. So what about my disability??? Good question.

I’ve broken my neck three times and my back once. I am partially paralyzed and experience a great deal of pain but none of this has anything to do with why the Veteran’s Administration declared me disabled. Fact is I never put in an application for disability with the VA. A part of the VA’s homeless program required medical and psychological evaluation and it was through that that they decided I was disabled. My disability is from a traumatic brain injury.

Let me explain how that affects me and why it is considered disabling. Any of you reading this can tell I’m not stupid. Not even close. But there are big dead areas in my brain that show up on CT scans and MRI’s. The partial paralysis is because the area of the brain that controls my right side and particularly my right leg is one of those. When they taught me to walk they basically taught another part of my brain to take over that responsibility. That is an area of difficulty but is not disabling.

The disability is because of the following. My brain is unable to process information quickly and I can’t handle stressful situations well. When I am in a big busy store there is too much for me to mentally absorb and translate. This holds true for large groups, even when they are all friends. New and unfamiliar surroundings can be debilitating for me. I have what are termed “petite” seizures. These are not like an epileptic seizure at all. They are basically caused when neurons begin “firing” off and results in what I call a slowdown. A good analogy would be that my brain goes from being a high speed modern computer to one of the old 286’s. (That will date me) There are also other issues such as the ability to control emotions and understanding what I should and should not say in social situations. Headaches like the one I had yesterday don’t help either.

But here is the beauty of this when it comes to this farm. You see, I can’t hold a job at McDonalds because of everything going on in one and my tendency to tell someone what I really think. Plus who’ll hire you when you can only work “when you feel good enough”, when at any moment you are unable to, when you need to take a nap in the middle of the day, when you can't remember instructions or get lost. What the doctors tell me is I need to reduce stress and develop regular and familiar routines in life. Being a farmer is perfect, just what the doctor ordered. Things go at a nice steady and slow pace. Tasks can be scheduled and often involve a regular routine. When I need to I can go lay down and rest a bit. Of all the things I can do farming is the best option. I could stay on disability the rest of my life but have no desire to. I’ve actually had people ask me why I didn’t want to stay on disability, who encouraged me not to get off of it. It’s hard for me to grasp this. In my mind it’s better to stand on your own two feet and not depend on a hand out. Sure there are plenty who need the help and fact is I do too at this moment but I can’t just sit here and suck the government bottle. I can and will do better.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Asking for help.

I finally got this written up. It is not easy for me to ask for help but I have learned it is not a bad thing to do if your heart is right. I plan on presenting this to our Sunday school class as well as a few friends we have made over the last year. That would include most of you who read this blog. I did delete my phone number as I don't think it would be wise to put it out there for the whole world. Will be glad to release it on an individual basis for any of you who wish to talk. Just Email me at the address at the end of this. If any want to make a donation there is a donate button on the right where you can do so through PayPal.

We have been incredibly blessed since we moved to my grandmother’s farm from Ohio. Things were rough at first because the house has not been kept up for twenty five years so without heat, hot water, or a kitchen we pretty much were camping out. Living on a disability check makes things a little harder as we could afford little beyond basic living expenses. There has been an outpouring of love and generosity once our situation became known to many in the Christian community. We now have a kitchen, hot water heater, wood stove for heat, lawnmower, and a host of other helps such as when some of our new friends rented a tractor and came out to mow and chop down weeds that had grown six feet tall in some areas. There have been many other gifts and helps but what we appreciate the most is acceptance and friendship.

When others saw the need they jumped in and helped without being asked. Now we ask for help. As many of you know we have a farm. Seventy six acres just sitting here waiting to be worked. The one thing, the most essential piece of equipment needed for a farm is a tractor. A tractor opens up a world of opportunity. With it I can begin building this farm. It will be a seed so to speak from which we can grow a life of independence. I will be able to start growing crops that can be sold locally at the farmers markets and to grocery stores as well as a roadside stand in front of our house.

After much searching we have found a really nice deal from a John Deere dealer in Georgetown (near Austin). It is a new John Deere tractor equipped with a front end loader, heavy duty mower commonly called a shredder, a tiller that is also heavy duty, and a post hole digger. Included in the package is a twenty foot trailer.

So here’s the sales pitch so to speak. In addition to being able to farm this property I can earn money hiring out to others who need mowing and other work done this tractor can accomplish. After paying nearly five hundred dollars to rent a tractor for a day to till this property I understand the potential for this. That was just the tractor with no operator. There are some who charge $150.00 an hour for this kind of thing. The twenty foot trailer allows me to take the tractor to location and will also be used to transport produce to market. Each implement (post hole digger, tiller, shredder, front end loader) can provide additional income. Plus each one is essential to building this farm from scratch.

Here is where we need some help. The entire package can be had for $23,510. It can be financed over six years at 4.9 % interest with no down payment needed so the payments will be $378.00 a month. A down payment will of course reduce that. Unfortunately we had to file bankruptcy on the nearly quarter of a million dollar hospital bill I had from the accident that put me in a coma. My disability check is only nine hundred dollars so our credit is not good enough to have this loan approved. Some have offered to help with payments but unless we can get the loan approved there will be no payments to help with. That is where we need help. We need a cosigner for the loan.

We are confident that we can make the payments. We own the house so don’t have to pay rent. All of our vehicles are paid for and we have been able to live on the disability check alone for a year. Cherie now has a part time job as a personal assistant for some friends (the ones who put in a kitchen and hot water heater for us) That brings in four to five hundred dollars a month, which is more than enough to make the payments without any additional income from the farm and tractor. Someone has pledged $250.00 a month for the first six months to help make payments with. This will get us through winter and into spring when I will be able to start getting work with the tractor in addition to early crops such as lettuce that can be sold, thus bringing in income. There is no penalty for early payment on the loan and each month we are able to pay extra the loan is automatically recalculated.

Another factor is that at some point the estate will be closed and I will get the remainder of my inheritance. It’s been two years now since my grandmother died and we inherited this farm. When that happens there is an additional five to seven thousand dollars that will be released. Our lawyer is working to make this happen fairly soon but there is no telling when it will.

So there’s the money end of it. This will help us as we work to build our life together and continue the miracle that it is. The gifts and helps we have received so far have been fantastic blessings but this will be something that keeps giving for the rest of our life. It will enable us to pay for the needs of this house and other things in addition to build a working farm. In my mind there is no question anymore that God’s hand is on our life and He has something in mind for us.

The individual who pledged to cover our first six months of payments (a loan by the way that we will pay back) also said he would cosign the loan. I told him that he is doing his part and I feel that we should let someone else have the opportunity to do so. The thing about cosigning a loan is the cosigner puts his/her credit at risk. I understand that in life there are few certainties. In the gospel of Luke, chapter 14 vs. 28 Jesus said For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—With that in mind I thought it would be wise to ask for others to help if we were unable to make a payment. While we are confident we can make all the payments it would provide some security for the cosigner. Together much can be accomplished.

We have a vision for this farm, have researched and visited pick your own apple orchards. Five thousand trees will easily fit on twenty acres. There is much more we are planning to do and I am building a business plan but it all starts with a tractor. From that seed everything else will come. While we are confident of being able to handle the costs we will gladly accept donations for things like irrigation hose and seeds. And you can bet there’s going to be lots of watermelons, cantaloupes, peas, and more stuff than I can list that will be a fringe benefit for all involved.

Please pray and think about helping us build this farm. The deal on the tractor package is good till the end of the year. It’s one of those end of the year get rid of inventory before tax time things. Email at Visit our blog where you can see pictures and read about all that transpires out here. The address is

A rainy day. I like it.

12/10/07 Monday
Woke up with the type of soreness in the muscles that you get when you work out in the gym. Strangely enough I like that as it tell me I got some good exercise and reminds me of the days I worked out and practiced martial arts. But if you look at how much I did outside it doesn’t look like much. I know I worked hard and was sweating and huffing and puffing but it doesn’t take much to do that nowadays. I don’t think I will ever get back into the shape I was in before the coma. I’ve regained most of the seventy pounds I lost then but a lot of it was fat. The year on this farm has been wonderful in helping me lose that and build up some muscle mass. If we join the church we can access the gym they have and that would be good if we got off our ass and went. I’m still wrestling with the doctrine of eternal security. The acceptance of that is a requirement for joining the church. I went online to study on it the other day but it is still not settled in my mind. I should sit down and talk with someone about it, but I won’t pretend to accept it just to join.

The high is to make it up to thirty seven degrees today and it will be rainy. I’ll be going out to finish sowing seed after cleaning the puppy room. I’m sure that some of you would think I’m nuts for going out in this weather but it really doesn’t bother me. In fact I kind of like it and it’s great for working hard as it helps me keep cool. I have a harder time with the heat. You can always put more clothes on to stay warm but you can only take off just so much to keep cool and it doesn’t help anyway. I just want to take advantage of this moisture in the soil. That’s farming. Your time is often dictated by the weather and you can’t afford to sit back and be comfortable.
Hey Barbara, Sure I would love the heirloom seeds you offered in the comments last post but just remembered I didn't give you an address. You can send them to bob westbrook, PO box 1176, Stanton Texas, 79782
2:19 – I’m slowing down a bit but also have one of those headaches that is at the level of putting me to bed with the drapes closed and anything that makes noise, like a TV, off except the fans that bring the heat from the fire into the room. I turned them down a little. In fact I’m going to turn one off and the other down another notch right now. Cold doesn’t bother me but the sound of a fan sure does right now. I may be a tough little bugger but this sure puts me down. Haven’t had one in a while and they don’t come as often as they used to.

I got some raking done but am only halfway there. I may not be able to finish it today, probably won’t. There was still the light mist that covers the glasses every fifteen or twenty minutes out so that was no problem. In fact the slight amount of wet in the soil seems to make it cover the seeds better.

I took the garbage to the landfill as I often do on Monday. Here’s a picture of what I came back with. I took five bags of garbage and came back with more than I left with. There were a couple hundred of the stakes they used for boll weevil traps around the cotton fields. I grabbed maybe a hundred of them. They will be great to make trellises for tomatoes and other plants next season. Of course I grabbed any garden hose I saw to continue linking them together for watering crops. A little here and a little there all adds up. Then there were a couple of the hospital bed meal trays that had been thrown away. I grabbed one as these are real handy in a shop. You can raise and lower them to whatever height is good and they have little drawers where you can keep tools and stuff. I used to have one in my old woodshop in Toledo.

Cherie is running into Midland to mail some packages to family in Toledo. I’m going to try and sleep. Hopefully this headache will go away so I can get back to work.