Thursday, January 31, 2008

Still blowing

1/31/08 Thursday
It’s another windy sandy day. The wind sounds like a freight train is rumbling nearby, complete with feeling the vibrations. The power went out for seconds a couple of times so it’s wreaking havoc with the power lines somewhere. I went outside to take these pictures and didn’t stay long. It’s worse than yesterday so not only did I get gritty teeth but lots of sand in my eyes. If I was wearing contacts there is no doubt they’d be getting removed right now. The puppies came out with me but it’s too bad for them also so they will get to stay in this morning. This is supposed to slow down by 1:00 or so. Till then it’s a chance for me to catch up on my reading and maybe even finish the year in pictures project that still isn’t done. At least we have a fire to keep warm.

(Click to enlarge)

Here’s an interesting effect when I took a picture. Because the light is poor due to how much sand is blowing the camera used a flash. This caught the particles of sand that were blowing by making these spots. At first I thought the lens was dirty but the other pictures turned out fine because there was no flash. It gives you an idea how much sand is swirling around me.
Well, I just came in from the cold. Had to bundle up and go see what blew away and secure the rest. Some of the steel siding I had recovered from the landfill is gone now. There were three pieces where the melon patch used to be but nothing else in sight. With this wind it could be miles away. The wind has shifted from the west to coming out of the north, a sign the cold front has arrived. In that direction the siding would have blown towards the interstate. I hope it hasn’t caused any harm. I piled some heavy fence posts and a steel post on top of the rest so it should be ok. The roll of insulation I was saving for where the house burned was scooped out of the fenced in area I kept it, unrolled, and the plastic facing was mostly torn off. That sucks. I can still use it after I shake out the sand that now fills it in.

I went out to the field and brought in both of the water sprinklers. Yesterday the blowing sand had totally filled in where the springs and mechanisms are, turning into hard packed mud as the wind sand and water collided. I had to take one totally apart and resurface the bearing faces because the sand had ground it’s way in. This West Texas sand is hard on any moving parts. So I put the sprinklers in the garage and will clean them before they go out again. This will be part of the many adjustments to be made regarding taking care of things out here. I’m not in Ohio anymore. The sand has even gotten into the switch on the camera, making it a task to turn it on. Right now I am watching the blanket we have over the bedroom window blow in the wind that is coming through. I don’t have to look to know that the sill will have a layer of sand covering it.

Yesterday we went to the Texas Rehabilitation place. It was a two hour long interview. I was fairly sharp at the beginning but by the time we were done was worn out and fighting to keep my eyes open. There will be a battery of tests and examinations to determine “what’s appropriate” for me to pursue. I told the lady that farming was appropriate and that’s what I am going to do no matter what their tests said. Not sure how that went over but it’s the way it is. I have a farm and will farm it one way or another. If they can help that is good but if not that’s ok too. There is no way I can work a “regular” job. Just too many issues. The fatigue I experienced just from the interview is an example. Then there is my getting confused and the brain freezing up with any stress or lots of information to process. Especially if I have to think fast. Plus my tendency to speak my mind isn’t conducive to working with others. I’m better than I was but you can’t tell someone they smell bad or to kiss your ass if they piss you off. So the farm is a good place to be. Not much stress and lots of routines that can be developed.

I cut some more firewood while out there as it’s going to be a cold night and for that matter is cold now, especially with that wind blowing in. There is some of the pecan left but I’ll need to go pick up some more. I’ll also probably take up Sheriff Woodward’s offer to cut some wood off his place. I need to fix his sign as the wind tore it up.

Cherie’s sick with something that is evidently going around. She went to get something for her cough and the cold medicine isle was so packed others were waiting outside just to get in. She’s been taking it easy and laid down a lot.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

another windy day

1/30/08 Wednesday
For some reason my clock has been way off regarding what day it is. I thought yesterday was Saturday and Cherie cracked up when I asked “is today Saturday?”. I say “for some reason” but I know the reason. It’s gotten a lot better as my brain rebuilds over the last six years but there was a time that when I woke up I never knew what day it was and sometimes where I was. Opening my eyes nothing would look familiar so there was confusion till I figured it out. During the period of being homeless, when I was always finding a new place to sleep out of fear of the other street people, it was real disconcerting. But this doesn’t happen anymore, especially because we’ve lived here for over a year. It’s home and it’s familiar. But I can still lose track of what day it is. This is one of the reasons it is important for me to live by a calendar and schedule what I need to do.

I got some emails yesterday in response to the paper on brain injury I published on the blog. Tom, the author of the article, (can’t remember his last name right now) wrote and asked me to send a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal the article was in. This was after I sent him an email that outlined the many undiagnosed brain injuries I’ve sustained in my lifetime as well as asking if it was ok I posted his article. One of the other emails came from a survivor who’s brain injury occurred in 1987. He is active as an advocate for brain injury victims in addition to working with the Mt. Sinai hospital in their brain injury research. I am now on his email list and will receive regular information on things related to brain injuries. I noticed on Mapstats that I got a large number of visitors from around the world who googled “hidden brain injuries” and similar searches. There were also some visitors evidently from the Mt Sinai organizations who did some extensive reading of the blog. Mapstats shows me how many pages a visitor reads. This in addition to my regular readers from places like the Omaha Brain Injury Board. This works for me as I strive to help others understand this sometimes confusing disability. To most people I’m sure I appear “normal” and it is hard to detect the problems I face every day. So they judge my behavior accordingly and probably think that when I say something insensitive or inappropriate that I’m just an ass. Of course I might be anyway.

It will be a busy day I think. At two we are scheduled to go to Big Spring and meet with a representative of Texas’s Rehabilitation commission (or something like that. Not sure what their official name is). This is to see what services they offer that will help me get this farm working and become self sufficient. I learned online yesterday that Texas has a program that covers the cost of tuition in state supported colleges for honorably discharged veterans. That would be cool if there are colleges nearby that offer courses related to agriculture. Perhaps they can help me get a tractor, the most important piece of farm equipment out there. I don’t know what they do so it will be good to find out.

Other than that I think it’s mostly working around the farm. Always plenty to do there. Part of that plan is to experiment with mixing Portland cement with sand to find a consistency that will work to pour a floor in the old henhouse. That is one step in turning that into a seed starting room where I’ll hang the metal halide lamp.

I burned some of the oak recovered from the landfill last night. It burns as good as expected and kept us warm though I did have to throw some more on at two this morning. Because they are smaller pieces they don’t last as long as a log. That’s ok. I’ll throw on a big mulberry log for overnight heat and use the oak during the day.

Time to get out and see if the hoses have thawed so I can start watering again.
It’s another windy day. I’ve got to learn to keep my mouth closed out there because it’s making my teeth gritty. Not pleasant at all. I had Cherie put getting bandana’s on the shopping list. I’ll be needing to get some more garden hoses in preparation for the upcoming growing season. Some of the landfill ones are so brittle they snap in two when stretched. There seems to be less of them showing up out there lately. Perhaps there will be an influx with spring as folks replace their old ones.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

catchin up

This morning's view out the front door.

1/29/08 Tuesday
Well folks, I’ve got some catching up to do. Right now it’s windy, the weather guy said gusts to fifty mph. Sure seems like that’s what it is without gusts. Yesterday they said it was forty five mph gusts it wasn’t anything compared to what we have this morning. I’ve been running the sprinklers as much as I can the last few days as we haven’t had any rain for a while and with the freezes the rye needs some help. There’s no sense in turning it on right now cause the wind will just blow the water away before it can hit the ground. I’ll be working inside a lot today. Yesterday the sand was a bit rough to be out in, getting in my eyes and every other orifice it could find. Should have worn a dust mask to keep it out of my nose. All that silica can’t be good on the nasal passages much less the lungs. Nothing like finding mud when you blow your nose. I need to find some bandanas to wear as they are more comfortable than a dust mask.

I think this was Saturday's sunrise

So time to try and figure out what’s gone on the last four days. The last entry in my journal is the one you read on Thursday except for the lone cheesecake recipe I downloaded that is all there is on Friday. I suppose that is when I cooked the killer cheesecake we’ve been chowing on the last few days. I haven’t done much cooking lately though I love to. Unfortunately for our waistlines I prefer deserts. Still been eating on the elk and venison chili I made a month or two ago. Cherie had divided it up and froze it. So Friday I cooked cheesecake. The only other thing I can remember is Friday is one of my two scheduled poop scoop days of the week. But Cherie called and told me it had already been done. This kind of worries me as I tend to conjure up worst case scenarios. Steve and Janie have been doing lots of travel as she is changing jobs so Bud is house sitting. I am sure he’s the one who cleaned up the yard but my worry is that Steve and Janie (I think I’ll call the S & J to keep it short and be lazy about typing their names) will be unhappy that I’m not doing the job. Janie, I’m sorry but can’t help it already being done before I get there.

Friday or Saturday's sunset

Yeah I know, I’m paranoid but it’s part of the package and something I fight all the time. Not so much worrying about accidents or stuff like that but mostly that I offended or did something that will effect what people think of me. Considering how we were shunned by the first church of Stanton there is a basis for that. The odds are I contributed to that by what I said. This is one of the reasons I seek to help others understand traumatic brain injury because this is a common issue for us survivors. It’s unfortunate that not one person in that church took the time to get to know us despite my begging for it. It’s a sad reflection on their Christianity.

I best not get back on that but the pastor in me, who I was in the past, wants to help them open their eyes so they can be better. I suspect that instead of understanding, the ones involved will just be offended at my talking about it and harden their hearts, confident in their self righteousness. Nothing new there. Jesus had some pointed words to say on that subject. We steadily meet people in Midland who tell us that Stanton is a “Closed community”. One said that if you weren’t four generations back in the community you weren’t accepted. So the town has a reputation that goes far and wide. If only I could help them see.

I just called Cherie and got some good news. There is poop in S & J’s yard!!! HURRAY!!! What a strange thing to find relief in. So I’m running to Midland now where Cherie and I will hit Rosa’s for their taco Tuesday special and I will gladly do my job. Hey, it’s simple things folks, at least for me. It adds to my perception of self worth.

So looking at my pictures I see that it was Friday I went to the landfill and found this wood. There is a mountain of it that some company dropped off. Thinking that it was just standard pine lumber I went over to pick some out for building projects on this farm I was surprised to see that most of it was oak, white oak at that. WOW!!! It’s all rough cut with some even having the bark on but this isn’t cheap stuff. Not only is it some of the best firewood you can get but can make some great furniture too. I grabbed a little of it and some plywood that was laying in the dirt as well.

Saturday I don’t have a clue what I did. There are no pictures or anything to remind me. I know that Sunday we went to church as usual. There was no teacher for the Sunday school class so Ed took on the responsibility. I offered to do so as I was sharp at the time but Ed had already volunteered. I think I contributed well. Actually right now I am unsure if it was Ed or someone else. That’s not clear in the memory. One of the members of the class has just been diagnosed with acute Leukemia. That’s a tough thing. I have to admire how his wife, Vicky, is handling this as hard as it is. She writes regular letters to all of us through the yahoo group’s thing that is set up for the class. There is usually a touch of humor to be found in them. That is something, to maintain humor at such a time. Pray for them if you are a praying person.

Yesterday I went back to the landfill and got as much wood as the truck would hold. While there I saw an older gentleman who was unloading brush from his trailer. I said hi as I always do with folks out here and he just said hi back without pausing from his work. As he drove off I looked and he seemed vaguely familiar. It’s real hard for me to recognize faces because of the TBI but as I puzzled about it I thought he might me Charlie P. whom I knew going back to when I attended the first church of Stanton in the seventies and of course met again when we returned. His wife is the one that did my grandmother’s taxes so we’ve talked a few times recently. But I figured it must not have been because he didn’t seem anxious at all to talk to me. When he came back with another load I stopped what I was doing and walked over. “Is that you Charlie?” I asked. It was. He stopped unloading his trailer and we exchange pleasantries for a bit but he seemed rather reserved. Now there’s my paranoia again. I wonder what he thinks of me, I wonder what the gossip is that goes around in those quarters, I wonder if he would rather I didn’t come up to him. And there is no way I can know because I can’t read minds and am poor at interpreting body language and all the subtleties of human communication.

So I worked all day getting that wood. Had it loaded by noon or so and worked till after five unloading and organizing it. This morning I hurt bad from that. Took one of the hated pain pills first thing when I woke up.

Time to get to Midland folks so see ya next time.

Head injury

Our friend Eric sent me this. I know I haven't posted since Thursday but the weather has been warm, I've been cognizant, and thus have been working hard. That means I'm pretty tired and the pain levels are up. Went to bed at 8:30 the other night. I have a bunch of pictures I took over the last few days that will remind me of what I did. Will go through them later and make a regular journal entry. Now here's the article starting with Eric's note.

Bob, I think you'll be interested in this article from today's Wall Street Journal, if for no other reason than it affirms what you've been saying all along.

Studies Cite Head Injuries
As Factor in Some Social Ills
Brain Researchers Link
Mental Woes, Alcoholism
To Long-Ago Blows
January 29, 2008; Page A1

Researchers studying brain injury believe they've found a common thread running through many cases of seemingly unrelated social problems: a long-forgotten blow to the head.
New research indicates hidden traumatic brain injuries can cause social or educational failure, such as alcoholism or homelessness. WSJ's Tom Burton talks with researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York for some insight.

They've found that providing therapy for an underlying brain injury often helps people with a variety of ills ranging from learning disabilities to chronic homelessness and alcoholism. If broadly verified, the findings could have a significant impact in dealing with such intractable difficulties.

That severe head injuries can lead to cognitive and behavioral problems is widely accepted. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5.3 million Americans suffer from mental or physical disability that is due to brain injury.

What's new is the contention of some researchers that there are many other cases where a severe past blow to the head, resulting in unconsciousness or confusion, is the unrecognized source of such problems. "Unidentified traumatic brain injury is an unrecognized major source of social and vocational failure," says Wayne A. Gordon, director of the Brain Injury Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where much of the research is being done.

Research by his team has consistently found high rates of "hidden" head trauma when screening various populations in New York schools, addiction programs and the general population. The CDC acknowledges its 5.3 million estimate is an undercount based on hospital admissions; it doesn't include people who sought no treatment for a severe blow to the head or who were sent home from a doctor's office or emergency room with little treatment.

• New Findings: Researchers say a blow to the head years earlier may be linked to problems later in life, such as learning disabilities, homelessness and alcoholism.
• Early Identification: Some schools are trying to identify children who may have had head injuries to provide special help in education.
• The Impact: The findings are offering new hope to adults coping with the onset of disorders such as losing the ability to read or concentrate.

Causes of brain injury can include bike and car accidents, sports concussions such as those suffered by professional football players, and abuse and falls that can date back to childhood. Doctors say about 85% of common falls in infancy don't produce long-term deficits, but that some do.

To be sure, it's difficult to connect with any certainty a long-ago blow to the head to memory and cognition problems years later. Other researchers point out that many people do recover completely from severe head injury, and mental problems arise from other causes. Moreover, Mount Sinai's findings haven't all been published, nor have they been widely evaluated at other institutions.

Lost Ability to Read

Mount Sinai's research involves people like Kate Gleason, a business-college instructor who over the course of a year lost her ability to read, keep her home orderly and even maintain friendships.

In 1998, Ms. Gleason tried to open a window in her New York apartment building's hallway, but the heavy top window fell and bashed her on the head. She was treated by doctors at a local hospital, who she says let her walk home and told her she'd be fine. But on the way back, she was still so confused she had to hang onto lampposts and buildings to keep from losing her way.

A slim, auburn-haired woman then in her mid-40s, Ms. Gleason kept teaching, but found that the bright lights and hectic office were overwhelming. She says she confided in a boss about her troubles and soon lost her job. After that, she made ends meet by returning to proofreading work, but she slowly withdrew socially.

She didn't pay bills on time. Her house was a mess. "Years and years went by, and I had lots of problems," she says. "I didn't know it was from the head injury. I just thought I had a clutter problem." By 1999, Ms. Gleason, who has a master's from Columbia University, was "so bad on the level of functioning as a college grad that I wanted to die." She had no idea why.

Then about two years ago, she got a strange letter from Mount Sinai: It asked if she was having trouble thinking or solving problems or if she became easily overwhelmed. It turned out Mount Sinai doctors were reaching out to people whose medical records showed a blow to the head. Ms. Gleason responded, and when researchers interviewed her, she began to sob, saying, "Life is just so hard."

On what was to be the first day of an attention and memory program, Ms. Gleason got lost in the maze of hospital hallways and began crying again. Once she found the site, she discovered she wasn't the only patient who got lost a lot, or who cried.

For five days a week for six months, she worked through five hours of attention exercises, reading articles to explain the main idea, interpreting charts and graphs, taking classes on how to take apart a problem and reduce it to smaller steps, writing mock "advice columns" on how to handle life issues.

At first, she found the work so intense she needed a break every 15 minutes. By a week later, she could concentrate a little longer. She completed the program in August 2006, eight years after the window struck her. Now she's studying to be a church-based counselor. "That program gave me my life back," she says.

A group for whom the research on undiagnosed head injuries could be especially relevant is the homeless. Assessments by Mount Sinai researchers of about 100 homeless men in New York found that 82% had suffered brain injury in childhood, primarily as a result of parental abuse.
[Wayne Gordon]

An epidemiological study in 2000 was larger. Researchers went door-to-door in New Haven, Conn., interviewing 5,000 people, 7.2% of whom recalled a past blow to the head that was followed by unconsciousness or a period of confusion. In follow-up testing, the researchers found that those who reported such injuries had more than twice the rate of depression and of alcohol and drug abuse as others.

They also had sharply elevated rates of panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicide attempts, say the researchers, led by Jonathan Silver of New York University.

Such research began in the late 1980s with Mount Sinai's Dr. Gordon and Mary Hibbard, both Ph.D. psychologists specializing in rehabilitation and neuropsychology. In questioning patients referred to them, they were struck by how often they turned up a history of a brain injury that wasn't in the patients' medical records.

Using a questionnaire they devised, they tried to determine how many children in the city school system had head injuries that were followed by cognitive difficulties. At one school, 10% of students told of having once had a significant head injury. Later testing of these children frequently "was suggestive of impairments," Dr. Hibbard says.
[Mary Hibbard]

Next, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, they set out to determine how many pupils enrolled in programs for children with learning disabilities had ever suffered a hard blow to the head. The results were startling: About 50% had.

"The accident can be three months ago, but by the time the symptoms happen, the accident is forgotten. Nobody puts it together," says Tamar Martin, a psychologist in the program. The team worked with about 400 children, finding that many children who'd had brain injuries were lost in regular learning-disabilities classrooms.

They have trouble with their memory from day to day, and teachers can assume they're not trying hard, Dr. Martin says. They need more breaks between topics. But their performance varies greatly from day to day, and a teacher can also erroneously perceive this fluctuation as lack of initiative.

Just giving such children more time often helps, she says, as do special prompts from teachers. For instance, Dr. Martin says, a teacher may say, "In a couple of minutes, I am going to ask you about problem No. 10," and give the child time to prepare before officially asking.

High Intellect

One 14-year-old girl had a high intellect, but after she was hit by a car, she suddenly couldn't do outlines or organize her time, her mother says in an interview. "Her processing was slower," adds Michelle Kornbleuth, another psychologist in the Mount Sinai program. "She was frustrated, and her scores came out in the average range."

With Dr. Kornbleuth's help, the girl was allowed to take exams privately in an office and could concentrate better. With such accommodations, she completed high school and went on to graduate from prestigious Smith College.

Kansas systematically tries to identify brain injuries among the "learning disabled." School social workers and teachers with special training across the state show other teachers how to recognize and work with the brain-injured, says Janet Tyler, director of a neurologic-disabilities project in the state education department.

"When you look at children with learning disabilities or behavior problems, there's often an underlying high percentage of children with traumatic brain injury. We're looking at about 20%," she says.

In Mulvane, Kan., Sandy Baca's son Timothy, who was hit by a car at age 2, struggled in school for years. Ms. Baca says that once teachers understood the difference between brain injury and other disability, "they found ways for him to be successful. If he couldn't do the work one day, they would lower expectations for the day." Ultimately, he finished high school.

The Mount Sinai team evaluates people via a battery of "neuropsych" tests lasting up to nine hours. They are shown pictures of objects, then asked minutes later what they saw. They see a complex geometric design with triangles, lines and circles and are asked to draw it from memory. They're shown a series of multiple random letters and asked to cross out, say, the "c" and "e" every time they see one.

On a recent morning, a 44-year-old manager at a New York investment firm was working on attention training with a postdoctoral fellow. He had sustained several sports concussions as a younger man and then in recent years twice banged his head hard. Lately, he had been feeling confused. Commuting between New York City and Long Island, he boarded the wrong train three days in a row.

In the first of several exercises, the patient was asked to read a page of text while crossing out all words ending in "ing," and then to answer questions about what he'd read. The first time through, he caught only seven of 12 "ing" words. A second test asked him to choose a word that didn't belong in a group of five, while listening to other words and pressing a buzzer when he heard words with four letters.

About five years ago, the Mount Sinai team began looking at residents of New York centers for alcoholism and drug abuse. They evaluated 845 patients and determined that 54% had once suffered a hard blow to the head. Of course, some had injuries after they began drinking, so there is a certain chicken-and-egg problem with that number.

Link to Addiction

Steven Kipnis, medical director of a New York state agency for alcoholism and addiction, says his work with counselors convinces him that many of the patients became alcoholic or addicted in part because of a head injury, and knowing about it helps in treatment.

"Someone can get hit in the head with a softball and still be working. They tend to be in denial. They get mood swings, they yell at a spouse. It's a slow downward spiral, and that's when alcohol and drugs" become an option, he says.

The agency has a program specifically for the brain-injured at the R.E. Blaisdell Addiction Treatment Center in Orangeburg, N.Y. A counselor there, Steve Oswald, tells of one patient who dropped out of a general alcoholism program three times before the program for the brain-injured began, and then successfully completed the program.

In 2006, Mount Sinai's Dr. Gordon began to work with Common Ground, a New York nonprofit that builds housing for the homeless. About 70% of 100 homeless people they tested came out in the 10th percentile or lower for memory, language or attention, says the group's director of psychiatric services, Jennifer Highley. Questioning uncovered that 82% had a significant blow to the head prior to becoming homeless, usually from severe parental abuse during childhood.

"People get abused as kids, making them inattentive in school and sometimes unable to learn," says Ms. Highley. She says head injury and the emotional fallout from abuse can lead to alcoholism and addiction, and "that combination creates the inability to function and often leads to homelessness."

Write to Thomas M. Burton at

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New person new world

1/24/08 Thursday
It’s been an interesting day. I been running a little slow all day, kind of wavering between a four and six on the bob scale. Real disconcerting. Constantly get that thick headed feeling that is a precursor to a slow down but it doesn’t quite happen. It’s like leaning over the edge of a cliff but never falling. Drives me nuts.

We went into Midland today. First we went to the small engine place we went to yesterday or the day before. Right now I’m too lazy to read the journal and see. After taking the pull starter to the tiller apart I decided to just get the pulley instead of the whole assembly. That way I’ll save about eighteen bucks, as long as I can put it all back together again. I left my pocket notebook there the previous visit and was able to recover it. She had been using to make notes not knowing where it came from. We laughed about that and I told her I was glad to help.

While there someone we knew from the first church of Stanton came in. We had sat with him and his wife at the churches Wednesday dinner thing a few times but I don’t think he recognized me. I asked how things were going at the church and he said that pastor Dave had back surgery not so long ago. In the course of conversation he learned that Daryl B. was my cousin. “I’m sorry to hear that” he said. When Cherie said several others told us the same thing he said he was just joking. I told him that we had reached out to Daryl several times with only a cold response for our efforts. “Kind of like we were lepers” was my thought but I didn’t say it. I think that some who wear the Christian label believe that the “love of Jesus” is something you just show to people you like, not for any others. I told him to tell pastor Dave Hi for us and that our invitation for him to visit still stands and that I was sorry to hear of his bad back.

After that we went to Walfart to pick up some food and drywall patch stuff. The dogs got into it yesterday, destroying a whole roll of that paper tape you use on corners. It was spread all over the living room. I got pretty mad and they knew it. I always feel bad after I blow up like that. I’m much better than I used to be but emotional control is still an issue and probably always will be. Hell, it’s been a problem all my life. Part of the Asberger’s syndrome and multiple brain injuries going back to infancy. I was held back in the sixth grade not because of my grades but because I was deemed to not be emotionally advanced enough to move on.

On the way home we checked out the large pile of wood we’ve been driving by for months. There are at least three different types of wood there, one of them being mulberry. I picked up several pieces to see how well they burned. Don’t know how dry they are. Most of them are cut too long for the wood stove but short enough for me to handle. This appears to be on city or county property alongside the loop near a trailer park and it obviously came from trees they cleared on the land so I figured it didn’t belong to anyone and was OK to take. At least I hope so cause there is a lot of potential firewood there.

Here’s a picture of something one of the trees was growing around. There was other stuff around that made me think it had been a junk yard or something in the past. I carefully split this part of the wood off with the intention of digging it out. Unfortunately my cognizance level was such that I put it in the woodstove minutes later without being aware of it. It turned into a puddle of aluminum.

We’ve been seeing little signs put up along 80 for several days now advertizing taco, menudo, tamales, and other things at what had once been a carry out. We decided to give it a try figuring it would be a small family run place with good food at a good price. It was. Other than being a little salty it was great food. All of it was made from scratch. They cooked the taco shells on the spot for my order. She made the sapodillas after I ordered them as well. Great food and we’ll go back.

After we got home I cut some dead wood out of our mulberry tree and was splitting it along with some of what I just picked up when I saw a white pick up truck pulling in the drive. Out of it stepped a young man with a badge. “Oh Oh” I thought as paranoia rose up in me. With my past and the experiences I had with Toledo’s criminal injustice system I fear the worst despite knowing I am a law abiding citizen. In Toledo I was charged and convicted of a crime I never committed. That’s a story you can find somewhere in this journal. It’s good reading.

This is an instance where my being unable to remember or recognize a face came into play. I walked up to him and he smiled, reached out to shake my hand, and said “I’m John Woodward”. Now while I can’t remember the face I do remember him. John was the guy who had an adobe brick maker for sale that we looked at a while back. Great guy and we really enjoyed talking with him. He has some “beefalo”, a cross between a buffalo and cow. John is a deputy sheriff and is running for sheriff in Martin county.

Here’s where we see just how much I’ve changed. I’m definitely a new person in a new world. Once I figured out I wasn’t going to be charged with a crime I didn’t commit or hassled because of my background I relaxed. Things are so different in Toledo and we are so glad to be here. Cherie came out after putting the dogs in the house and we all visited for a bit. John’s wife was there as well. John asked how things were going and we told him about the fire. When he learned we heated with wood he said that anytime I wanted I could come out to his place and cut what we need. He also wrote down his cell phone number in case I needed anything. Now he’s not doing this because he’s running for Sheriff because he did the same thing when we talked to him last year. He’s being a good West Texas neighbor, the kind we hoped to find when we went to the church in Stanton.

He had some election signs so I told him I would be happy to put one in our yard. Now this is a good illustration of how much I’ve changed. In Toledo I was always disgusted with the proliferation of signs at every election. There would be fifteen plus signs in a yard and so many along the road it was sometimes hard to see what was coming at a corner. I joked with John, telling him that I could pull competitors signs down for a price like they do in Toledo, and explained how nasty Toledo politics could get. John said things weren’t like that here and in fact he liked the other two who were running for sheriff.

So here you go folks. Look, I have an election sign in my yard and for a sheriff at that!!! Yep, I’ve changed a lot since I woke up from the coma. In fact I will be registering to vote for the first time in my life ever. That’s another sign of change. Before I always wanted to stay under the radar and by not being registered I could avoid jury duty. Besides that my lifestyle in the early days wasn’t conducive to being a good citizen. Later on with my companies I just never took the time. There is nothing more constant than change you know. I'm gonna vote for a sheriff.

I’m tired now so that’s all I’ll write. See ya next time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We got heat

1/23/08 Wednesday
Things got a lot better after that last entry. Ed, our friend from the Bible Life group at church, called to let me know he had called a friend who is an electrician and works in this area. The friend said he would stop by and look at the repair work that needs to be done to offer some advice. Forgive me for not remembering his name but when he learned we didn’t have heat he called two of his employees (At least I think they are) and had them come straight over. I heard the statement “we’re not carpenters” several times but they managed to get the chimney hooked up in an hour or two.

I wish I wasn’t slow but wasn't in good shape so wasn’t a lot of help. The siding still isn’t done yet but we have heat now. Now I can see what I needed to do to get the chimney installed right and will order two fifteen degree angle fixtures to get it finished. In the meantime they did a great job with what we had on hand and we spent a nice warm night. It was a fantastic “let’s get heat quick” job that we can make pretty later. It’s nice to not have to put a coat on to get out of bed.

The electrician only lives a couple of miles away and said he would come by later to help get the siding on. Thanks a lot Ed. What a blessing this is. Today I will try to get to the drywall repair job and caulking on the new window that’s been needing to be done for several months now. The pull start on the tiller broke this morning so I’ll need to replace that. Hope this old tiller won’t nickel and dime me to death. Right now I’m going online to get the part numbers for the fifteen degree Dura-Vent joints to see if Tractor Supply can order them. It doesn’t look like you can order direct through Dura-Vent and will have to go through a dealer. Our funds are down as is usual towards the end of the month but not bad at all thanks to the help we’ve received for this new chimney system.

Eric and Debbie gave us several cases of Mason jars they had found in storage when they moved. They have no plans for them but they will be a great asset for us as we plan on doing some serious canning out of the garden this year. Somewhere there are some of my grandmother’s old recipes, including one for chow-chow that is the best I’ve ever had. My brother makes it and gave us a jar during one of the periods he was trying to be nice. He may lie, steal, and cheat, but he’s a great cook. If he would just be honest with me one time I’ll forgive, but not until he acknowledges his actions.

Got to get moving again. Can’t believe it’s already 11:30.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cold and foggy

1/22/08 Tuesday
It’s cold again. Sure wished I’d been able to finish the chimney job. Didn’t really get much done at all other than figuring out I had to figure out how. This morning it’s foggy as all get out. I’m running back to Tractor Supply to see if they have a twelve inch stove pipe with the hope it will solve one of the problems. The windshield is iced up so I’m waiting for the truck to warm up enough to melt it. Going to run as fast as I can. At least my brain is working well so that always helps. Cherie will be busy and it’s one of her cleaning days at Steve and Janie’s. It’s also one of the days I’ve scheduled to poop scoop out there so will make sure to get that done despite all that needs to be done here at home. Bud told me that Steve had been upset at how much poop was in the yard so called him to clean it up. That was a day before I was scheduled to do it. Tuesdays and Fridays are when I figured on doing it for they are also the days Cherie goes up there. I really want for them to be pleased with what I do.

Time to run folks. Can’t sit around on this computer cause there is too much that needs doing. See ya when I can.
Well, it’s been a long time. At least I think it has. For me a long time can be days when it comes to having seizures. I can’t remember when I last had one but it’s been a few days at least. I have the moments where surrounding environments are too much for this brain to process but they fade away when I get familiar and can relax. Last one of those was at McAlister’s where we picked up lunch while at Tractor Supply. But this is a doozy now. Not at all related to having to process lots of information. I was going to climb the ladder to remove the rest of the old chimney but it wouldn’t be wise to do now. I am too dizzy and unsteady on my feet. Plus, at these times my control of the right leg is hampered so I can’t trust my foot to go where I want it. Not good when you are twenty feet in the air on a ladder. This just started ten or twenty minutes ago. May get much worse. It is still going downhill. I’m tired and it will drain me farther. Getting hard to formulate thoughts and write. Will go to bed for now. This sucks. I’ve got stuff to do.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Gonna be busy

1/21/08 Monday
This is going to be a busy day. By the way, I don’t think an hour had gone buy since I posted yesterday about only needing a bit over a hundred dollars to buy the chimney stuff that someone stopped by and wrote us a check to cover it. Mathew 6:26 says “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap yet your heavenly Father takes care of their needs” or something like that. We have been blessed and are grateful for the love shown us. It is a good witness of their faith.

It will be a busy day. Eric can access a trailer we can use to pick up siding from Christmas in Action. Today will be warm, up to sixty degrees, which is practically T-shirt weather for me. A good day for working on this house. It gets cold again tomorrow but nothing like the temperatures we have had the last few days. So I may not be posting much today. We did buy the chimney stuff yesterday so that’s done.
Well, of course it’s not going to be easy. We got all the things needed to repair the damage and put up the chimney. I rented a trailer but upon getting to Christmas in Action found that Bob had lots of cut offs from the siding that would work just fine and I could fit them in the back of the truck. I took the trailer back and he refunded the payment. Saved us another forty bucks.

So I’m home opening up the boxes in the chimney kit. Oops! This won’t work. The chimney is set up to run about two inches from the wall with the support and braces all at that distance. Unfortunately the roof’s overhang is ten and a half inches. So I need to figure out how to do this. The old chimney had braces I fabricated but they won’t work on this new stuff. I’ve got all night to think about it. Reading the installation book shows me there is more to putting this in than the old one. I’ll have to make a frame for the thimble within the studs. There’s a few other things it shows as well that I’ll have to consider. I think I’ll need to buy one more piece of pipe, a twelve inch long one. There was only one left at Tractor supply. What I really need is another nine inch one like was in the kit for going through the wall but I didn’t see any there. Perhaps I can order it but that will hold everything up and leave us without heat till it arrives. But we’re handling it just fine. Just imagine what the early settlers endured and for that matter even those of my grandmother’s generation. Chuck and Lillian’s house was built by his grandparents and there was no insulation at all. We are just used to being coddled when it comes to personal comfort. Most of the rest of the world is in far worse shape than we are without the wood stove. Going without just toughens you up and makes you stronger.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Here's what I found

We just got back. Went to Lowe’s first and got pictures of their product along with verifying prices. One of the things I wanted to check out was being able to transition from the insulated pipe to regular old stove pipe. Looks like I can do it without a whole lot of problems. On the label of the kit it shows using the insulated pipe all the way to the top though it does indicate regular stove pipe leading from the stove itself to the thimble. There is a transition piece for that joint.
(Click to enlarge)

We stopped at Pet Smart on the way to pick up worm medicine for the puppies. Trixie has been having a problem with her stool and they both eat lots of grass which is the cause of Trixie’s problem. I mentioned this to Steve and he said it was a sure indication of worms and asked if we regularly worm them. I thought we wormed them when we first got them but the only medicine we found was for cats so there is a good chance we didn’t. Steve said that worming dogs out here should be a regular thing, especially if they are outdoors much. There were several types of worm medicine but only one claimed to kill four different types. The others were more specific, killing roundworms or tapeworms but never both. It cost $44.00 for both puppies. I was thinking ten or fifteen bucks. Oh well, they are worth it and more. We take care of our kids. Cherie also wanted to take advantage of a sale on dog food so we picked up a thirty five pound bag for nineteen bucks.

After Lowe’s we headed out to the Walmart on the south side of Midland because it is close to Tractor Supply where I wanted to take pictures of their chimney stuff. You know, efficient use of time and miles. Normally we shop at HEB but milk is usually cheaper at Walmart anyway. With that done we ran to Tractor Supply, which is only a block down on the other side of the street.

There are lots of Tractor Supplies up in Ohio so Cherie was somewhat familiar with them. It looks like I’ll be visiting them a lot because they carry much of what we will be needing as we build this farm. The first thing she saw was fifty five pound bags of the same dog food we just bought at Pet Smart for the same price. Oh well, we know where we will buy it the next time.

I led Cherie back to where the wood stove stuff was and showed her what they have. Even she could tell it was better. At least I think it’s better. Here’s the picture of the pipe. What do you think? I asked a young kid with a Tractor Supply hat on if a manager was around. “Yep” he said “What can I do for you”. You know, when you hit fifty plus everyone else seems to look a lot younger. I explained we were needing to replace our old chimney because of a fire and that there were people at our church who were helping so I wanted to get prices. Actually the way I put it was “I’d like to see what kind of deal I can get”. I’ve known for a long time that you can often negotiate a price at stores so this wasn’t new to me. Telling him about the fire and others helping because we lived on my disability check were to encourage him to be nice. I don’t know if that is wrong to do, you know throwing out stuff to gain sympathy, but I did it anyway. I also told him Lowe’s had a lower price on their stuff though I was honest about it and said it wasn’t as good as this was. But stores often have a policy of matching competitors prices so I figured that would help too. It did. He not only matched Lowe’s prices but beat them.
(Click to enlarge)

So here’s the deal. The chimney kit he dropped from $245 to $200 where Lowe’s price was $217. On the pipe he came down from $76 to $65 beating Lowe’s $66 dollar price. Cool. On the illustrations on both of the kit boxes they show using the insulated pipe all the way to the top. To do that with the Tractor Supply chimney will cost $525.00 plus tax. It’s a bit over the four hundred we have but I think it’s the way to go and is a long term investment that will last decades.

I had the guy write the prices he gave us down to make sure if we came in tomorrow or Monday and he wasn’t in there would be verification of the prices. I mentioned that I would have a problem recognizing him when we came back because of the brain injury. “I know exactly what you mean” he said and explained he had similar problems after receiving a concussion. We talked about that and I told him the story of how Cherie and I were divorced because of the personality change I had after my concussion in 1981 (or 82, I don’t recall at the moment) Then went on and told of how we got back together after I woke from the coma. I gave him this blog address as well so Hey Dude, if your reading this Thanks for the help. By the way folks, Tractor Supply is a good place with great deals so give them a visit, and just for fun tell em I sent ya. Hmmm…I wonder if that will get me more money off the price???

What to do?

1/19/08 Saturday
So now I need advice on the right way to do things. I emailed Eric and he asked me to make a list of questions he could show some friends who may have the experience to answer. I think I’ll post this on the blog for it will contain pictures to help you get a better idea. Don called as I was heading for Bill’s fireplace to see what he had. Don let me know that Tractor Supply carries woodstoves so they might carry what I need. Bill wasn’t in so his secretary called him and handed me the phone. Bill said he no longer carried thimbles and stuff but he had one somewhere in the back. He asked me to write down what I needed and leave a number so he could call back. I’m still trying to figure out what I need so that’s difficult. The thimble I know so I wrote that and tried to describe the bottom part I don’t know the name for. He didn’t call back.

Tractor Supply does have woodstove stuff and in fact it just went on sale as they are clearing stock for the upcoming spring season. There is one of those kits like Lowe’s has but it was $250. Neither kit has the five 36” lengths I need to get up over the top of the roof included. The ones at Tractor Supply cost $76.00 each. Ouch. Times five that is $380.00. There was one out of the box I could look at. They are stainless steel units with an insulated center pipe surrounded by another one with an inch or so air space between the two. Unfortunately my memory can’t recall what I saw at Lowe’s so we will go back there this morning.

One of my questions is “Do I need something this nice?”. I called the place in Odessa suggested by a friend in the comment section yesterday. The lady flat out said they were “Ten times the cost of Lowe’s”. “OK…Thank you” I said after she also informed me they do not stock this stuff but would be glad to order it. There is no question I want to put the good stuff through the wall but I wonder about the need to use it all the way to the top.

Everyone (including Tractor Supply) carries the single wall snap together stove pipe so I have to believe it’s not totally unsafe. I’ll need to see if there is something that transitions the insulated double wall stuff, or what ever it was Lowe’s has, to the single wall pipe. (You can see what I had before in the top of the picture) That would be much less expensive. There has been two hundred dollars donated through the PayPal button to the right for this need. Thank you very much guys. Plus we have a couple of hundred bucks to use so I would like to do it all within that budget. Bob at Christmas in Action will donate some siding and perhaps other building material so that will help.

Here’s another question. What is the best way to repair the wall itself? Bob has some cement based siding that would be very resistant to heat. Unfortunately I don’t have a clue about it. Would love your input on this folks.

Could I just screw in a short piece of 2X4 where the stud was burned or do I need to replace the whole thing. That would require taking off a ton of siding. Jay had suggested I reside the whole side of the house and I think Bob could supply that much siding. But that becomes a major project that I can’t do by myself and it’s winter so it’s probably not workable. Besides we plan on residing the entire house as that is desperately needed with the rot in various places. A project for next year or whenever it works out.

The drywall repair I think I can handle.

That’s it for now. We are heading into town where we will look at and perhaps take pictures of the Lowe’s stuff as well as buy groceries. Can’t make that drive without getting more than one task done.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The culprit

1/18/08 Friday
It was sixteen degrees out this morning and the weatherman put the wind chill at five degrees. We were comfortable tucked under the covers and down blanket Cherie got a steal on before Christmas. A seventy plus dollar blanket for seventeen works good for us. So everything was nice and cozy till I had to sit on the toilet. OK!!!! I’m AWAKE now. Outside of the bedroom, where we have the space heater, it wasn’t bad all things considered. This old house is well insulated. It was forty five degrees in the office area with no heat back there at all. I was surprised the puppies slept on the couch in the living room. If there was a wind it would be different with these old leaky windows. Anyway, I don’t think we will have to worry about the pipes freezing.

So the official investigation on the cause of this fire is complete in my incomplete way. “Here is the culprit” the detective proclaimed. At least I think it is. This is the original “thimble”. I learned that’s what they are called as I looked at stove stuff in the stores. Ace Hardware, where I bought the stove pipe last winter, doesn’t carry them. Home Depot has absolutely nothing for woodstoves. Only Lowe’s so far has these types of items. I’ll get to that in a bit.

You can see in this picture that the thimble is rusted out. Odds are it was this way when I installed the woodstove last winter but I decided it wouldn’t hurt as there was still a large air space there. Besides, when you are poor you do the best you can with what you’ve got. I just went back in this journal to read about this. We got the stove on 1/27/07. It took me quite a while to get it all installed but there is no mention of me noticing the thimble was rusted out. I know it was rusty but it may have rusted through over the last year from the combination of heat and rain seeping in during this unusually wet year. Regardless I put in all new stove pipe. There is a note I made that said I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Nothing new about that. Much of what I do I must figure out as I go and making mistakes is a regular event. Going back and reading this journal is always an experience as I see what I can’t remember. Brings things back, mostly sadness about how things went at the first church of Stanton. I just don’t understand how they can be so blind, I don’t understand any of it but am sad and was hurt.

I suppose you could call us the "Hole in the Wall Gang"

Amy made a comment yesterday about seeing some things that were probably done wrong. No surprise there. When I went to Lowe’s they didn’t have any thimbles by themselves but did have a lot of insulated pipe and a kit with everything you need from the stove to the top. There is a piece that goes on the bottom of the outside pipe with a removable part so you can run a chimney brush up to clean out the creosote buildup. The kit costs $218.00. That’s a chunk for us but I want to do this right. Don’t need any fires. This is our home and future. The place we will build a life we can be happy with.

It will get up to forty eight degrees today. Nice and warm compared to yesterday. Jay let me borrow his reciprocating saw so I will be able to cut out lots of the burned wood. Eric called yesterday to check on us. The Marshal’s called and offered to let us stay at their place. (I think it was them. They talked to Cherie) I’m not real clear on it all because of the memory thing. As much as I hate to I might take Eric up on the offer to help financially. There has been so much generosity shown us by the Sunday school class. It’s just…I don’t know, I would rather stand on my own two feet I guess and don’t like being a bum. That’s a pride thing but pride is something I’ve been swallowing ever since I woke up from the coma.
It's patched up for now

That reminds me. I was going to write the “Poop Scoop Essay” and as usual didn’t get to it. Cherie has gone to Janie’s to clean and I will head up there to poop scoop when it warms up. I’ll do some more shopping around for wood stove stuff while there. Just put $84.00 in the gas tank yesterday. That makes $160.00 for the month so far. Someone asked me “Why so much?” a while back. It’s twenty miles to Midland from here, which means it twenty miles back. So going to town is a forty mile trip plus the miles we put on in town. At sixteen miles to the gallon and roughly three bucks for a gallon of gas it costs at least eight bucks per trip. It adds up so I try to do as much as possible when I go up there to get as much out of that trip as I can.

Poop Scoop Essay

So here is the poop scoop essay.

“…but know that you’re over qualified for the poop cleaning job!!! You are very intelligent and a hard worker and need to give yourself more credit than you do” a friend wrote. I suppose that is true but not true at the same time. Over qualified? Let’s see, I founded and built several companies with only pennies in my pocket with up to 127 employees. I commanded $120 an hour consulting fee teaching companies how to create a corporate image, find customers, and sell their products. And there are many other things I could put on a resume. Sure I could find a job in Midland where they are starving for workers. Oh I could put on a show in a job interview, as long as I wasn’t having the slowdowns that come with stress. But I would have to lie and it wouldn’t take long to be found out when I freeze up and forget what I was told or was doing. You know, this is hard for me, to see opportunities all over but be unable to reach out and grasp them. To know I would fail. That’s why I will build this farm. Here there is a familiar environment and I can create the routines the doctors say are good to have. Here I can go lay down when having a seizure and work when I am able. There is no other job that allows you to work when you feel like it.

So I am grateful to poop scoop. You see, no one is born with humility. At least not that I know of. I was on top of the world at one time, had success and reputation, all that stuff folks strive for. Was I proud? I don’t remember but I’m sure I was. But there’s a saying I’ve heard “Pride goes before a fall”. Don’t know where it came from but it rings true. Humility is learned I believe and I learned it hard. In the Bible there was a king. He was the king of Babylon and at that time one of the most powerful people in the world, having conquered most of the nations around. Then his pride pissed off God and the next thing you know he was wandering without his mind and eating grass with the cows. Quite a story. So here was I, on top of my world but then I fell and what a long and hard fall it was.

The precipitous slide down apparently started when I fell from the pallet racking in my warehouse. From that moment everything began unraveling. It probably wasn’t wrapped to tight as it was so didn’t take much. The wife (second wife, not Cherie. She’s the first and third wife) was caught with another man, I wasn’t being faithful either, drugs and drinking escalated, and more I won’t get into. Then came the car wreck. Next thing I know I’m waking up having my diapers changed. Waking up took a week or two. My hands and feet were tied down and I was fed through a tube. Then they began hand feeding me stuff like baby food with a spoon. I can’t talk, I can’t think clearly, I’m pretty much operating at a babies level. I’m learning humility though I don’t know it yet. As they teach me to talk and walk my memories begin to stir. Nothing clear, just unconnected fragments. I knew I had been somebody.

Over the next two years things begin to clear. I ended back up in Toledo but was wandering homeless, sleeping where I could find a spot. If I had a dollar hamburger a day I was happy. My toilet paper came from Wendy’s and McDonalds where I could get their napkins. Despite my circumstance I refused to beg. Other’s I met on the street tried to get me to bum spare change and other things but there was no way. I hung on to that scrap of pride. I still hang on to it but have learned a few things on the way. All pride is not bad but must come with integrity. At least that’s how I see it.

So I am grateful to poop scoop. It allows me to help those who have helped me so much. It allows a little pride to remain. When I get this farm running I can stand on my own two feet but until then I must rely on my veteran’s disability pension and the free medical attention I get from the VA. To take a job that I would only lose is not wise right now. So I work to create my job, one I can do and do well. You can’t get fired when you are your own boss. At least I don’t think so. Humility? It’s a good thing to learn, it’s a good thing to be content and grateful for what you have.

End of essay.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fire continued

1/17/08 Thursday
It’s daylight now so I will be able to go out and see the damage. Then I will go buy what we need to fix it. Whether we do just a patch up job or what depends on how much it costs. Regardless I want to get the wood stove back to operating safely as it is our source of heat. I think those pass through things that insulate the stove pipe from the wall cost about seventy bucks but I can’t rely on memory so who knows. Then there is the challenge of knowing the right way to repair this as I don’t have much experience with construction or don’t remember it if I do. As with everything I’ll do the best I can with what I have. Damn sure don’t want this happening again. I am impressed by Cherie’s strength in all of this. There was a time I think she would have fallen apart but now she can even make little jokes to lighten up things.

So I have a busy day ahead and it’s cold even for my northern self and going to get colder. I’ll have Cherie check our bank accounts but there is a hundred dollars in our savings account so I think it will be alright. Besides she gets her last check from the cotton survey job tomorrow so we’re covered. Time to dress warm and get out. Dressing warm is now required inside the house. The warmest room is the bedroom where we have the space heater but walk past the blanket hanging over the doorway and the temperatures drop drastically. I’ll take some pictures of the burn damage in the daylight as they will show you a better view of the damage than the ones I took last night.

Wow, I have to wonder how long it was burning considering how much wood is absolutely gone. But this siding is old old so pretty dry. Will have to see how bad the two by fours are burned cause they are structural or something like that. I will call Jay to see if he had Bob Trimble’s number at Christmas in April. Perhaps he will sell me building materials cheap.

10:45 - I just came in to warm up. Despite wearing two pairs of socks my toes are frozen. The nice thing about being partly paralyzed on the right side is I can barely feel it but I have to be real careful on a ladder, make sure my foot is where I want it to be. I’m going slow, one step at a time, to be safe. It looks like I’ll have to take the whole chimney down. Is that what you call this? A chimney? Not sure but it’s not relevant because you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to believe I put the whole thing up by myself. But looking it doesn’t seem like too good of a job. Oh well, I’m sure I was proud of it at the time.

I called Jay. He was in the hospital with his son, who was getting a colonoscopy. I’m sure they are glad I mentioned that. Hope it was a routine inspection like we all should have at this age and not something more serious. Jay gave me Bob’s number and let me know he is not allowed to sell material but would probably be glad to give us some.

Got a hold of Bob. He has some cement type of siding I can have but it’s twenty degrees and he wasn’t keen on going out to the metal shed and get it. Besides he has to leave soon so suggested I just put something up to cover the whole and get with him Monday when it warms up. I’ll probably do that but will still work on it as much as I can. Jay said he would call when they are done at the hospital and offered to come out and help. That’s appreciated but it’s freezing and he’s pretty old so I’m not too keen about putting him through that. It is a mark of his character that he is willing to do this in this weather. A good man for sure. We’ll be ok, just batten down the hatches like we did the first winter here with no heat till Amy got us the wood stove. I’ll work on getting the stove pipe removed and cut away the bad wood. Will leave the drywall in place to at least keep the wind from coming in too bad.

The toes are warming and I’ve consumed the cup of strong coffee Cherie prepared knowing it would be appreciated, so time to go back out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


1/16/08 Wednesday
It was a great day because I was able work all day and I love to be able to work. The temperatures are going down to about twenty degrees tonight so I laid the usual fire just the way I always do. As we watched American Idol I smelled something burning so looked in the backroom where the stove is. I could see the light flickering from fire burning outside. “The chimney is on fire” I yelled and grabbed whatever was handy, running outside with my boots untied. It wasn’t the chimney, it was the wall. I had unhooked all the hoses because it’s going to freeze so screwed one back on in the dark and turned it on. Then I sprayed water on the fire and was glad to see it went out fast but soaked everything real good just to make sure the fire wasn’t traveling inside the wall.

Cherie called Janie to pray during all this and then was going to call 9-1-1 but I told her not to because I got it. Besides it would play hell with our insurance. For one thing they don’t know we have the wood stove because it wasn’t here when they inspected. I went up in the attic to make sure there was no problem and it seems to be ok. I think the problem is because I used the old place my grandfather had put the chimney way back when. The device that is used to protect the wall from the heat of the chimney (Can’t think of what it’s called right now) is probably thirty years old. That is where the fire started. We’ve been using this since last winter and it gave us no problem.

All I can say is it could have been much worse. It could have happened while we were asleep. Or I might not have noticed till it was so bad I couldn’t put it out with a garden hose. The house could have burned down with everything we value in it. So many possibly worse scenarios but...we are blessed. Now we have a big problem. A big hole in the outside wall with much of the siding burned and the drywall inside is burned through. You can see through to the outside. We will break out the electric space heaters we used when we first moved in and put the blanket down over the doorway to keep in the heat. No more fire till all that gets fixed right.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Can't get comfortable

Click on this one to enlarge. Boy, you can see towers going up for miles

1/15/08 Tuesday
Man, I feel like crap. Woke up this way and couldn’t really put my finger on what exactly the problem is. I’m not slow in the traditional sense of that phrase for me, and I don’t have any of the pain that plagues specific areas such as the small of my back, I just feel lousy. There is a headache that has been with me all day and I did have a hard time answering questions when the lady from the Texas department of rehab called me. Plus I’ve been making wrong decisions regarding where to turn while I drive and thus took the long way to Steve and Janie’s. But my typing speed is up there and I can think clearly (at least I think I can) so it’s a conundrum. I suspect it might be due to the change in weather as this often affects me. My general pain is up there. I seem to be strangely weak though with my muscles tiring out quicker than usual. I don’t have a clue really. Tried to go online several times but Alltel is not being nice about it and I keep getting bumped off and then unable to get back on.

I haven’t gotten much done. Did make it to Janie’s and poop scooped. I’ll do some work on her garden tomorrow. Here at home there is no sense running the sprinklers because the wind is blowing so hard little will make it to the ground and then not where I want it to. I did move a load of wood inside in preparation for a cold night.

So I guess I’ll talk about yesterday. Going to the landfill is the only thing that sticks in my mind. I finally remembered to take the camera so I can get pictures of the wind turbines. You see the one I posted yesterday but I took a bunch more.

The landfill is for me a store I go shopping at. I never know what I will find but the price is always right. I picked up these two big PVC pipes that have been laying out there for weeks now. Not sure what I’ll do with them but figure they would make great structural supports for anything I want to build such as a greenhouse.

There was another roll of fencing I picked up. There are several more out there but I only had room for this one and it was a bear to get in the truck. I can use them for trellis’s in the garden. Will probably pick some up every time I go. Most of what I find is for the farm, things that will enhance what we plan to grow and do.

In that vein I found hundreds of these bags. They are new and the kind that are usually stitched closed on top. There were fifteen or twenty sacks of cotton seed in the pile these bags were in so they were probably for that. All I know is they will be perfect for packaging up things we grow so will come in handy.

What else? Oh yeah. I was going to buy some tires to put on the tiller so it wouldn’t sink in the ground as bad. Was thinking about the same kind of tires that are on the wheelbarrow and two wheeled dolly but saw these at the landfill. They were on a child’s electric car that had been thrown out. I took them off to see if I could make them fit on the tiller. It took some southern engineering but there they are. They work real good and are much wider than the tires I was going to pay money for so are better. How well they hold up only time will tell. The tiller is blowing oil bad but that is just how it is. I’ve done what I can so will nurse it along the best I can.

So that’s all I feel like writing now. It’s either too cold out or too warm in. The wind is howling. Hard to get comfortable. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to get online or stay online long enough to post this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1/14/08 Monday
It’s been a busy day and there is much to write but I’m tired now. I do want to post this picture I took of the wind turbines while on the way to the landfill. This is the best of the lot.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cherie's better.

1/13/08 Sunday
Well I missed Saturday. That’s because it was another good day and I stayed busy. Cherie is over the flu and spent most of yesterday sleeping and recovering her strength. This took a lot out of her. I think that the pendulum of my cognitive state has swung to the good side again. If so that will mean I can look forward to days or perhaps even weeks of being sharp and having few seizures. Like I’ve said before this seems to run in cycles. I wish I could predict what would happen when but if I could I would be a millionaire.

So yesterday? Uhmm…Hey, I might be sharp but the memory is still a struggle. I have two pictures that remind me of things. First, I found an old Kirby sweeper at the landfill. Oh it was a mess with a broken handle and all but I know Kirby and if the motor still worked it had a powerful suction. Yep, it works. So I hooked it up to the burn barrel, replacing the weak shop vac I had also found at the landfill. That sucker blasts and burns the entire barrel full of burnables in minutes.

I am the great white hunter. Got another rat. Yeah, I know, you don’t want to see a picture of a “Nasty” (to quote Janie) rat but this is a journal of farm life and out here these pack rats are a part of it. The suckers (probably this one) dragged off a bag of wildflower seeds we had paid something like twenty bucks for. It just disappeared but they’ve been getting into all my seeds so I’m sure that’s where it went. We will need to get a rat proof seed safe now that things are getting serious with this farm. Anyway the rat is toast now. Literally. He went in the burn barrel and actually was my motivation for firing it up because the puppies had a keen interest in this potential puppy treat.

I went to Janie’s and poop scooped. Was glad to do it. She was there with her friend, Pam, so we got to talk a few minutes. A friend of mine sent an email which included a comment about poop scooping. It was a good observation but got me to thinking. I will probably write a short thing about my thoughts, what it brought to mind, so providing I actually get to it (my track record of doing what I plan is poor) you can look forward to a Poop Scoop Essay. Oh Boy! Can’t wait. Now that I’ve committed it’ll probably happen.

Well it’s time to get ready for church. I’ve been running the sprinklers non stop for days. Whether it’s been a week or two I don’t remember but it’s been every day. There is some cold weather coming down the pike, with temperatures going in the teens, so I must cut and split some more firewood in preparation.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two steps forward, one back

1/11/08 Friday
It is much harder to put something back together than take it apart. The tiller project is going slow and today I must take it apart to put on a piece I forgot about. Two steps forward and one step back. At least I got the motor put together. Won't know how good of a job I did till I try to start it.

I only had a small slowdown yesterday so that was good. Don and Cynthia dropped by on their way back from Lubbock, for a short visit. Cherie had just run into town so missed them by only a few minutes. They couldn’t stay long because they are picking up the grandkids who I think are spending the weekend. Cherie is not feeling well this morning. We are planning on going to Steve and Janie’s sometime today. It is Cherie’s regular day to do laundry and stuff there. She may not make it today. Janie was going to hire a company to pick up dog poop in the yard but I told them I would appreciate the job. They weren’t real sure about me doing it because of reliability issues but will give me a chance. Today will be my first day. We can always use the extra cash.

The metal halide light bulbs came in. Now I must hurry to figure out how and where to set up a seed starting operation. It’s time to do that for sure. There is so much work to do. I’m not real confident on getting it done. Hell, I still haven’t finished the Year in Pictures thing yet. I need to sift out the compost, start laying posts for the storage area, build a worm bin (not a high priority), map out what we will grow where, finish trying to find the water line from the well, tap into it and start running irrigation pipe, start building the six foot high vertical lattices for tomatoes (something I’ve studied online), do a concrete dirt mix for a floor in the old henhouse (that will give a solid base rats can’t burrow in), and lots of other stuff I can’t remember at the moment.

Speaking of rats, I finally got the sucker in the garage. Odds are there are more but at least there is one less now. I must get busy. Unfortunately I am getting the dizzy ears ringing feeling that tells me another slowdown is coming. Tough, I’ll work through it anyway, keeping focused on simple tasks. As long as I stay focused on one thing I’m fine. Otherwise I’ll wander from thing to thing lost and little will get done.

I had to change the password on my email because I’ve started receiving spam sent from myself. That tells me someone has accessed it or perhaps put a Trojan on my computer.

Been reading my past journal entries from before my grandmother passed and it is disturbing and sad. Will work past it but it brings up lots of stuff I need to deal with internally, or maybe externally. We’ll see.
Cherie definitely has the flu. Being the loving couple we are, sharing everything, odds are I’ll be sick soon. Today I’m taking care of her and plan on cleaning the kitchen. I cooked gingerbread cookies last night because I saw the recipe on the molasses jar and it sounded good. They are. Just ran to the store and bought Cherie some popsicles.

So here’s the good news. I have a tiller!!! It works!!! Took a lot of pulling to get it going but once started it ran fine and restarts easily. It still blows some oil but I figure that will reduce when the new rings get seated. If it doesn’t I’ll just keep putting oil in it cause the sucker is going to get used whether it likes it or not. I still have to run to Steve and Janie’s to do the poop scooping. She called to warn me about parking in front because some low life shot the window of her car out. Probably punk kids. I don’t have room to talk considering my shenanigans as a teen. Things like stretching a rope across the road with a garbage can tied on each end. This was in Big Spring right where the air force guys sped off base when their shift ended. A car would catch the rope at speed and the two garbage cans would swing and collide violently behind it making a loud crash. It never hurt the cars but sure caused a fright. Didn’t do the garbage cans any good either. It was fun at the time but not the same as shooting windows out.
You can see two of the fans we use to pull as much heat off this stove as possible. There's a third one that helps circulate it through the house.

Cherie’s pretty sick. Running a fever, running to the bathroom, and…well it’s the flu so no need to go into detail. Cherie wanted some ginger ale so I went back to the store and got some. Fetched her some saltines and poured a glass of ginger ale for her. Brought in firewood for the night. This will probably last two days as it’s only going down to thirty tonight and will be in the fifties tomorrow. After that things will get a little colder, in the mid to high twenties. We’ve got enough wood to last the week and there is always plenty dry and seasoned wood to be cut out of the mulberry as well as a couple truckloads of pecan at Chuck and Lillian’s.

Now that I have the tiller running I can start clearing and cleaning the garage to make room for other things I need to do. There is a lot as there always will be. Still need to finish the headboard recovered from the landfill. It’s covering about half the woodworking table so when it’s done that will free up more space. I still haven’t run the wiring in the garage. Last year I ran an underground cable from the house to replace the overhead wire that feeds electricity to the garage. That wire has insulation flaking off from years of exposure to this Texas sunlight but is all I have till I get the other hooked up. Just another thing I haven’t gotten to. Still running the garage on extension cords. There’s so much to do and I seem to do so little. It’s frustrating. But the tiller works!!!

I’m going out to the garage now. I’ll keep my cell phone so Cherie can call if she needs anything.