Friday, July 31, 2009

Will the rain fall?

Yesterday I started mowing weeds. Instead of putting them in the compost I spread the clippings on the beds I'm making for fall blackeyed peas and tilled them in. Where I had put lots of compost on the other blackeyed peas, just two rows to see what happened, they are doing much better than the rest. A good sign.

7/31/09 Friday
We got another good rain overnight. Haven’t checked the rain meter yet but from what I see in the driveway, where it pools up, I’m guessing a good inch. We’ve gotten more rain this week than all year. I’m happy for every inch. Even if we can’t use it all on the surface (because I don’t have fall crops planted yet) it will trickle down to the well a hundred feet below ground. At least I think it does. This morning I’m going to work on the business plan. It gets neglected because I spend so much time working outside and am pooped by the time I come in. So I usually lay down, let the pain subside, eat dinner, go online to check email and the blog, veg out in front of the TV, if we can get anything in worth watching, and go to sleep.

But yesterday was a little different because of the letter I got from my dad. I researched CNS Lymphoma and then my sister called. We talked a lot about dad and also my relationship with my brother. I wasn’t surprised to learn that dad had forbidden her to tell me he was sick way back in March. He pretty had discouraged any contact between us though my sister was willing to talk with me, mostly be email. She wouldn’t share details like when my dad’s birthday was or talk about him at all but was interested in our lives here on the farm. That I was grateful for. I feel bad that I wasn’t very good at writing her consistently. I’m not good at doing much consistently. We discussed my brother a bit. She said that she didn’t understand why we didn’t get along. That’s because she hears Larry’s spin on things, and of course he paints the picture that he was a saint when it came to how he treated me. I’m real curious to hear what he had, and has, to say about me. I shouldn’t have but I told her about how Larry had lied, cheated, flat out stole, and tried to scam me out of this land I inherited. But he was the only one who reached out and helped when I was in the hospital and they were going to escort me out and leave me on the street. They probably would have dropped me off at Salvation Army or someplace similar. I told my sister that I wanted to sit down with Larry to work this stuff out but she doesn’t think he’s to inclined to do so. It would be a hard meeting with my temper and his attitude. I said that if we did get together it would be a good idea to have a mediator there to help keep things under control. I’m blunt, painfully honest, and say what I mean without any guile or sugar coating so I often don’t come off well with others. I’m getting better at that, at least I think so, but that may because I don’t stay around people who trigger these things. Good company helps good conversation.

All in all the primary topic was this opportunity to communicate with dad. As much as I want to she advised it was premature to go visit him. So I’ll send cards and letters and will follow her advise to keep things light and positive, and avoid any of the controversy. I can do that and keep in check all the things I want to say. Things like the truth of what’s happened versus the stories he’s been told. Dad always hated a liar but he sure has been quick to believe lies and not at all inclined to learn the truth. He’s listened to every side but mine. Again I wonder what Larry has had to say. I know what my ex said, or at least have a good idea.
Yesterday's sunset
So all this is running through my head. I imagine conversations with my dad and also my brother, playing out scenario’s in my mind. There is always the fear that I will somehow mess up this opportunity, this door that has been opened with the father I never knew.

I suppose I better get to work. All of this depresses me. It brings back so many unhappy times and reduces my hope. As I watch the grey overcast clouds I wonder if the rain will fall on this chance to renew my relationship with family. Hell we never had much relationship so it should be considered a brand new start.
I never worked on the business plan. Just went out and started running the tiller. Came in at noon to rest, take a pain pill, and sit in front of the fan to cool off. It’s not that hot out, only in the 80’s but I’m soaking wet from working so sitting in front of the fan is absolutely chilling. Feels great. Cherie called to let me know that we can now afford for me to get a motherboard for my laptop, that is if I can find one for about $200.00. That’s a price I saw but I’ll have to make sure it’s the right one. So I’ll get the serial number or anything else I can find to insure I do. It’s good news. A big part of this is the fact that our vet didn’t charge nearly as much as we feared to remove the pin. In fact she just charged for an x-ray and anesthesia, no charge for taking the pin itself out. What a sweetheart.

I think I’ll run the tiller most of the day. Have to in order to combat the weeds that are going to town with these rains. I thought I had stored my rye and sudan seeds securely where they would stay nice and dry but when I got the pails they were in out I was not happy to see one had filled with water and the other was pretty wet too. All the seed is gone now. The rye had been soaked for a while and fermented pretty bad. Really stank. I had hoped to plant it in some of the blackeyed pea beds to till under as what is called “living manure”. Not going to happen.

I suppose I should eat something before I go back to work. Eating isn’t convenient but something I need to keep up with.
4:44 – Came in to once again cool off and take a pill. It’s been four hours and that’s the appropriate time. I sent a letter to my brother asking him to sit down and talk so we could work out our differences. He sent quite a nasty letter back telling me I’m severely psychotic, cause problems everywhere I go, care nothing for other people, only myself, and that I was like poison ivy so he wanted to stay as far from me as possible. Wasn’t quite the response I was hoping for. I went back and read all the emails we ever wrote to each other. It brought up lots of stuff but to be fair I wasn’t always nice either. I can see the effects of the brain injury. I sent Larry a response to his response and when I just looked at it see all kinds of mistakes in my writing. It’s kind of confusing. Normally I proof read and can catch the many mistakes I make but I didn’t on this one. No telling how he’ll interpret it. So it’s not looking good. What a shame but I hope it will get better. But it’s depressing. That’s not good as depression is always lurking around a corner waiting for a chance to attack me. It’s a battle I must fight often. Don’t have time for that now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My dad has cancer

I just went to get mail. Opening the box there was only one envelope. I was surprised to see that it was from my dad. This would be the first time he’s initiated contact in thirty years. I was elated and apprehensive at the same time. I didn’t wait till I got to the truck to open it and was reading as I walked out the post office door. My heart sank. He said that in March he noticed he had mobility problems with his right side. At first they thought it would be a stroke but it turns out that he has primary CNS Lymphoma. That’s cancer of the brain. I looked it up online and it’s not good. Not at all. He’s being positive and said “hopefully I will be fully recovered in a few months”. He’s undergoing chemotherapy. In May he caught pneumonia and has been bed ridden ever since.

It’s heartbreaking that it took this for him to contact me. But now I have hope we can reconcile. He did say that I could write if I wish to. Even that is a first, a door that has never been opened. I want to go visit but don’t know where to go. I’m reeling here, all kinds of thoughts and questions in my mind. I am afraid that I will say or do something that will set him off and slam the door in my face.

I was going to get something to eat after I picked up the mail. Lost all interest in that and came straight home. I’ll whip up some peanut butter and jelly just to make sure I have some protein and will probably go work in the dirt as I work through all this.


We spend our health in search of wealth. We work, we toil, we slave...Then we spend our wealth in search of health but all we get is a grave.
I woke up with this running through my head. It's something my grandmother sent me decades ago. It won't go away so I'm putting it here because I know it's for somebody. I know it's stark but the truth is often uncomfortable. So if this shoe fits heed these words. It's not that you don't have time, you don't make time. I know now, after all I've experienced, that life is a precious gift. There's a bit of prophet in me you know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lightning strikes

The initial tilling for making blackeyed pea beds. You can see the string and stakes I used to mark each row.

7/29/09 Wednesday
We had a good rain last night. It was an intense lightning storm along with the rain. This seemed to last all night long so neither of us got a good sleep. At 5:00 this morning we were rudely startled awake when a lightning strike happened very close to the house. Cherie said I woke up yelling. The explosion loud bang probably triggered old memories and instincts. Regardless we were awake. It’s nice and cool out now but when the predicted 96 degrees hits it will be miserably humid with this rain. So I’m not going to write much. I’ve been working on the blackeyed peas beds since Monday.

Note the dark line of dirt on the right. That's the compost placed where a row will be. There are several piles of compost visible that I placed with the tractor's front end loader.

Yesterday got the tractor out and moved as much composted dirt out to the area as I could. I’m putting about three wheelbarrow loads of compost on each row. It looks like the bucket on the end loader holds about six when I can get a full load. Could only do that the first few times I attacked the four foot high pile of compost. Once it got lower it was hard to do as the loader pushed the dirt more than picking it up.

Just a few days ago, like four or so, this was all bare dirt that was freshly disced. Look at the weeds now. If I can turn them into fertilizer that would be cool

I think I’ll experiment a little. From my studies I learned that fresh green vegetation contains a lot of nitrogen. That’s why its good to use in compost as the nitrogen feeds the microorganisms that break down the organic matter. So I’m thinking “Why not just put it straight in the soil? After all nitrogen is fertilizer”. So I’m going to run the mower over the tons of weeds we have with the recent rains and instead of putting it in the compost bins spread it in the hills I’m making for the next batch of peas.

you can see where I used the tractor to scrape weeds off the ground. Unfortunately I can't get into a lot of areas with the big clumsy thing so that will have to be done by hand.

I also have a little of the rye seed left and will plant that thickly on one row. When it gets about eight inches high I’ll till it in. This will delay my being able to plant beans on that row but I’m more worried about learning better ways to grow organically than one row of peas. I’ve got twelve rows in all that I’m working on. That’s going to be real hard on me physically today with the rain. Wet dirt is ten times heavier than dry. Oh it might only be three times heavier or something, don’t care to go out and weigh it, just know it’s going to be a lot more work.

There’s so much to do, always. The peas are loaded with pods that have dried. Each pod is one we didn’t pick when it was ideal so it all represents money lost. Plus by not keeping up with it the dried pods trigger the plants to quit producing and call it a year. You can see how they are dying off. Just one of me isn’t enough to keep up. Cherie gets out and helps weed and pick but it’s hard on her, especially when she spends an eight hour day at her job. That plus the fact that she gets home when the temperature is as hot as it can get.

Speaking of hot I need to get out there while it’s cool. Bye now.

I just came in to rest my back, take a pain pill, and fix breakfast. Didn’t fix any earlier in my rush to get out while it’s still cool. I can often tell when I don’t eat because I get kind of weak.

It takes me an hour to make just one of these rows. That doesn't include tilling or spreading compost, just piling up the dirt. That’s a lot of dirt to move with a hoe. Let’s see, I’ve got twelve rows to make so that equals twelve hours of hard labor. I can’t wait to get a double bottom plow. With one of those I can do this in one pass of the tractor. And it will hurt a whole lot less.

There are of course many things other than farming to do. This hole is where the top of the cesspool, where all our sewage goes, has been exposed through wind and water erosion. It's been here for weeks now and the big rain just made it worse. Fixing it will require my bringing in lots of dirt with the end loader. Unfortunately I can't bring it in close or the tractor will break through the old rotted railroad ties that make the top of the cesspool.

1:38 – It’s two hours since I last came in, when I wrote the previous post. That’s about how long I’m lasting. There’s a nice breeze that helps keep me cool, I’m grateful for that. Using the hoe to make rows is one thing but using the shovel to spread the now wet compost is killing me. Just a whole lot harder on the back. I came in to take a pain pill but realize that I had one just two hours ago so won’t. This is the temptation I have to resist. I know it will make me feel better but I also know the danger that resides in those little white capsules. I sometimes fudge a little bit when I hurt bad, taking one at three hours instead of four, but don’t do it often at all. One thing I maintain is a healthy respect, and even fear, of pain medication. Like alcohol they can be insidious, slowly infiltrating your sense of judgment, sometimes over many years, till you suddenly realize you have a problem. I’ve been there and have no wish to return. It once cost me everything I had. So I’ll lay down in front of the fan, which is on at full blast, till the pain eases up. Then it’s back out to work. I think I’ll pick peas for a while. Need to focus on the dry ones to help keep the plants that are still putting out stay vital. That will take a couple of hours and I can sit down while I do it.

By the way, for all of you local readers, we’ve got three kinds of basil that are going to town. If any of you would like some just let me know. Email me at I’ll be happy to drop some off if you live in Midland or Stanton. For that matter if any of you want to come by and get something I would love the company. I won’t put you to work, honest. Unless you really want to.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I am ashamed.

7/28/09 Tuesday
I took Ben in to have the pin removed from his leg. Also took Trixie to have her foot looked at. She’s been limping for quite some time and it’s obviously painful so we were concerned. Seems that she might have broken a toe or, most likely, dislocated it. Dr. Law said it would be ok in a few weeks.

We got a newsletter from my friend and mentor, Ron. I won’t use his last name because of what he does. He was at Cherie and I’s first wedding and Under his tutelage I helped him found and build a church in Oregon, Ohio, that still stands today. Ron ministers to the persecuted Muslim Christians in the mid east. “Muslim Christian” you ask? Sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it? These are former Muslim’s who converted to Christ and in the Islamic world that is a literal death sentence. In Egypt there is one of the largest garbage dumps in the world. When a Muslim converts to Christianity, or at least when it becomes known, they instantly lose everything. Their possessions, bank accounts, and anything else is seized. Then they, and often their whole family are taken to this garbage dump. It’s known as Garbage city now. Ron is able to take in medical supplies, some food, and clean water when he visits the country. He gets a lot of opposition from the government so often must use subterfuge.

The last time he went, not too long ago, he discovered that something like 20,000 of these Christians had been loaded on trucks and disappeared, along with all the pigs they could find. Because the Muslims don’t eat pork these pigs are their principle source of meat in the garbage dump. The Egyptian government claimed that the reason these pigs were removed was because of the swine flue. Folks, this has been going on for decades. It is a regular event for these Christians to be loaded on trucks and taken to the desert where they are never heard of again. Whether they are killed or left to die in the desert it is not known but death is almost certain. 20,000? That’s a lot! Yes it is. And it’s only a portion of the Christians who live in Garbage city. I can’t recall but there is an amazing number of people living there, making homes out of garbage and even churches to worship in. I’ll tell you what, here’s the story just as Ron had written it in the newsletter.

A tragic event is happening in the “Garbage City”. When we arrived we were told that 20,000 Christians had already been taken to the dessert along with their pigs. The Swine Flu scare is the excuse they are using, and at that time there were no cases in Egypt. In the Garbage City there are a few that are fortunate enough to have pigs because Muslims do not eat pork and it does give them meat. We were all heart sick as Brother Daniel and others told us what had happened. Mother Teresa’s group asked to talk to Ron and asked if he could help stop this disaster. As the group were in the Rock Church we all began to cry and pray for the crime that was happening. Our group was in shock to learn that most Christians there do not feel they will be alive into the winter seasons. Officials have been contacted about letting them be transported to Mt. Sinai where the Coptic Christians could help them for a cost. We have been told that the moving has been stopped for now. You will not hear about this on any news report, but, we were there. In Germany there was a TV report showing the moving in trucks, (A friend confirmed the report & he saw both pigs & people in the truck). PLEASE PRAY FOR THE SAFETY OF ALL THE CHRISTIANS IN THE GARBAGE CITY. They are only there because they were once Muslim & now Christian. Nothing is impossible with God!
Here is the address for the Cubit Foundation, which Ron founded.

After reading his newsletter I am ashamed. I’m ashamed that I worry about little things like weeds growing out of control, I’m ashamed I worry about anything for no matter how bad it’s been or can be I’m blessed and in better shape than these or many others around the world. I also carry shame because of how I fell away from my faith and eventually turned my back on God. Ron is my friend and was my mentor. I can only imagine the things I could have accomplished if I’d stayed true, the lives I could have changed, the things God had planned to do through me. It’s been slow but gradually, over the last seven years since I woke up, my faith is being restored.

Ron’s latest newsletter isn’t on his website yet. I downloaded it in the Publisher format so am uncertain how to translate that into regular stuff I can send out, but it came as an attachment. If any of you would like to have a copy send me an email or leave a comment with your email address and I’ll be happy to send it. I want to everything I can to help Ron and his family with this and the many other things the Cubit Foundation is doing. A big part of that will be getting people aware of this. I’ve been advised that this must be done with care because the possibility exists that Ron will not be allowed to enter these countries he ministers in if the Islamic controlled government understands what he does. Please tell your friends and pastors as well. Ron will be touring Texas and other areas speaking and fund raising for this ministry. Email me if you wish for more information. I’ll be approaching the GLC television station with this as well. And pray. Pray.

So worrying about money, about the future, about all these things that in this light are trivial, is something I now see as disgraceful. I know that doesn’t mean I’ll stop but I think I’ll see things in a new light. Actually I don’t worry too much about these things, just get frustrated. Since I woke up I’ve been homeless and not known when or if I would eat, not known where I could find a warm place to sleep in the cold Toledo weather, and not known if I would be safe from those on the streets with me who were violent drug addicted and mentally ill. This experience gave me an appreciation for the hidden hand that supplied all my needs and guided my feet. It gives me a confidence that my path is ordered and that as long as I avoid the pitfalls along the way I will be safe. And Cherie is with me. I guess my biggest concern is for her.

So let me ask you a question. WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT IN THIS WORLD? Is it how much money you make? Is it what others think of you? Is it being successful in your job? Or is it the lives you can change and the good things you can do. For the Christian the answer should be clear. The bible says to “Lay up your treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust can’t corrupt” and it goes on to indicate that nothing we do down here is important except what honors God. That could be as simple as living right and making sure those around us see that holiness, that pureness that exemplifies God. To avoid those things that dishonor our faith and give an impression to others of something less. Like the bible says "Whatever is pure, whatever is holy, whatever is just, think on these things" and "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all for the glory of God". I know I'm getting preachy but understand, I used to be a pastor and all things in my life are being restored. From my marriage and now my faith.

I love you guys, all the hidden readers who follow our story on a regular basis and the rest of you who leave encouraging comments. You long time followers have seen me evolve, have seen how my mental clarity and vision have improved and become more focused. I can sense that things are coming to a head, that it’s time. Time for what I don’t know but there’s something coming. We’ll find out what together folks. Do me and Ron a big favor. At the bottom of each post is an envelope. Click on this and send the post to as many people as you can.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Learned what I already knew

I just figured something out that I already knew. That’s not unusual for me as I must relearn lessons I’ve learned until they stay. This one will be a big help regarding the weed situation I was just whining about. Seems that if I turn the bucket on the end loader of the tractor all the way down, put it hard on the ground, and run backwards it will scrape the surface like a bulldozer blade but not too deep. Doing this cleans the surface of about 80% of the weeds. I’ve been doing that for the last hour or two. Needed to do it in order to level the ground where I want to put the new batch of blackeyed peas so that’s how I rediscovered this. It will be a big help in my fight with the weeds and save me days worth of work. No, not days, weeks but there’s still lots to do.

I came in to cool off from the heat. Now that I’ve sat down and turned the fan on I just want to go to sleep. No time for that. So I’ll drink a huge cup of tea with a little of the grapefruit soda we found at HEB in it. Makes a nice flavor. I learned on the GLC channel that a little lemon or citric acid helps the body absorb 80% more of the anti oxidants found in the green tea we use. That’s good stuff and it helps with arthritis as well as mental function. Come to find out green tea is the same stuff as regular tea, just made different. That’s one of the things we are looking into growing. That would be cool, to grow our own tea. Plus there are lots of herbs that make great teas too.

Maybe I should take a short nap. Usually do about this time of day. Geneva, that sweet little old lady we helped, just called. She mostly wanted to talk and to thank me for the blackeyed peas I dropped off last week. Geneva also mentioned that she would like me to come visit next time I’m in town. I need to make it a point to do. Hope I don’t forget.

The clock's ticking

7/27/09 Monday
It’s the start of another week. Almost the end of July. The clocks ticking and I see that once again I will be unable to accomplish all that needs doing. I’m going to just make quick notes that I can reference later to remember these days.

There is a return of an old problem. While I was weeding the cantaloupe and honeydews Cherie came out to see how they were doing. “Go look at the last plant” I said, “That’s where the biggest golden honeydew is”. “You’re not going to like this” she yelled back over the forty yard distance. I knew and my heart sank. Sure enough the dogs, ie. Gretchen, had broken it open to eat.

We have a large area our church friends helped put up fence posts around specifically to cordon off an area the dogs, and coyotes, can’t get into, in order to be able to grow melons without this happening. Unfortunately I was unable to put the fencing on them and doubt the roll of fence I have is enough to go around it anyway. Just another thing I haven’t gotten to and am unable to do.

The melons are the one other thing I’ve managed to plant. Everyone asks “What else do you have?” when they buy blackeyed peas and I happily tell them we have cantaloupe and honeydew that will be ready soon. If I had the resources there is no question that five acres would produce twenty to thirty thousand dollars worth of product. That’s not pie in the sky thinking, it’s documentable production based on what others do with intensive farming techniques. Actually that’s a low figure compared to what can be produced with the Mittlieder method. That’s a form of growing that resembles hydroponics, only it’s done outdoors and employs what’s called “Vertical growing” techniques to maximize yield per acre. It’s labor intensive and way beyond my current capability. Not from a physical standpoint such as a heavy lifting kind of things, but from the amount of time required. There’s only little ole me to do the work of five people.

That brings me back to the clock ticking. There is so much to do and I can’t keep up. I couldn’t if I was in perfect health so losing hours, and sometimes whole days, to headaches and seizures makes it worse. With the full slate the question always is “which task to I do?”. I collected two truck loads of manure Saturday and set up two more composting bins to prepare it for planting. That caused a lot of pain but pain’s just a part of the picture and the least of my worries. It’s mostly just inconvenient, sometimes painfully so. (Pun intended).

While out I notice, as I always do everywhere I walk every day, the sticker grass. With the rain it’s going to town like all the weeds. While I desperately need to prepare plots for fall planting, especially for another batch of blackeyed peas, our biggest money maker (Actually our only money maker this year) I know that if I don’t spend time fighting the sticker grass it will become a solid carpet of thorns covering everything just like last year. You can see on this picture where I tilled up an area and planted Sudan Sorghum hay. I did this to combat weeds, particularly sticker grass, and to till it under to improve the soil. With the old man’s disc I was able to turn lots of ground, and along with it weeds, under. Unfortunately a bearing went bad on it. I asked him to let me fix it but he said he would have it done. This is frustrating, to have to borrow equipment and have it break while under my care.

Despite my desperate need to have these tools that enable me to farm I’m ashamed to take advantage of someone’s generosity only to break his equipment. Nate has a disc for me in Ohio, at least I think he does, can’t remember for sure, but that’s fifteen hundred miles away. How I want to farm but how I’m unable to do so, severely limited by the lack of proper equipment. Drives me nuts.

So I’ll be tackling the sticker grass by hand and in the process the beds for fall crops won’t get prepared. I’ll use the tiller for as much as I can but the rest will be done with my hoe one chop at a time. Texas prison taught me how to use a hoe and work till I drop thirty four years ago. A lesson well learned. I keep the hoe knife sharp with a file that I carry in my pocket. That makes the job much easier on my back and hands. Instead of having to pound the ground I can just run it across and slice the weeds off at ground level. Unfortunately the sticker grass often isn’t so easy. A problem with all this is that with the tiller I’m basically planting the sticker/seeds when I till it under. And with the hoe I might kill the plant but the sticker/seeds are still there and will quickly sprout. The original plan was to keep turning the ground under before the sticker grass could produce seeds but I’ve been unable to do that. So to do this right I should keep the wheelbarrow with me and collect every weed I cut so I can burn them later. It’s just not physically possible to do two plus acres this way. Not unless I did nothing but this, every day, all day long, for the rest of the year.

Trixie has been limping for almost a week now. We figured she had gotten a sticker in her paw, like they do every day, and that she would dig it out. But that hasn’t happened. I had Cherie wrap her in a towel and hold her down while I carefully examined the paw, hoping to find and extract the thorn. Couldn’t find a thing as Trixie struggled because of the intense pain my probing caused. In the process Cherie noticed that one of Trixie’s nails had turned black. Tomorrow is the day we take Ben in to have the pin removed so I’ll take Trixie in as well to have Dr. Law look at it. Another vet bill but that’s part of having pets. I told Cherie that we are basically parents and they are our kids. We can’t have children ourselves so this is as close as we can get. At least I had the privilege of raising Bruce and Adam with the second wife.

I must get to work. Have to take garbage to the landfill and deposit cash in the bank. Thank God we had some blackeyed peas to sell. They’ve brought in about a hundred dollars a week. Not much but sure needed. Speaking of money, we got a letter from the VA. They want me to pay them back $56,000.00 of the disability money I’ve received over the last six years. That’s basically all the money they sent me. This won’t be fun. We are appealing. Don’t have a clue if it will do any good but have to do something. It’s not like we purposely defrauded them. We told them we were married but never filled out the correct form I guess and presumed everything was correct. Now they even want back the money I was paid before we were married and when I was homeless.

So much for a short note. Nothing’s getting done while I write so time to go.

Friday, July 24, 2009

To care, or not to care?

7/24/09 Friday
Yesterday’s headache lasted into the evening. Hadn’t had one like that in a while. Hurt my back removing a heavy cooler of oil field parts from the truck. The parts were given to me by a friend who no longer had a use for them. As he was debating how to get rid of them my old liquidator instincts kicked in. Having once built a large company selling corporate leftovers I had always been on the lookout for things such as this, though back then it was on a much larger scale. Regardless, times are tight so every little bit helps. Plus there is no shame, at least in my mind, for hustling for a buck as long as it’s legal and ethical. These are all small parts so I’ll have to be careful. Theft of oilfield equipment is a big problem out here and law enforcement is on the lookout for it. So I’ll make sure to not give the appearance of selling hot goods. My friend will verify the items are legal if it comes up. With my colorful past I’m a little paranoid of being accused of anything untoward. Like the bible says I don’t want to give the appearance of doing anything evil.

In a recent conversation this kind of came up. One of the things I always worry about is having said something offensive or given the wrong impression. I suspect that this paranoia can be a pain in the ass for some I’m around a lot. With my friend I brought up some of the things I’d been mulling over in my mind, things I said that I thought would be construed wrong. In this case I had told of the problem we had with the guys we sold Cherie’s car to. How I’d gotten upset and told them off. They got scared and came up with the money the next day. What I worried about was that my friend might have gotten the impression I physically threatened these two. That’s not at all the image of me I want to portray. I threatened to take them to court, that’s all. But I was pretty mad when I did it so they may have considered the possibility I would get physical. That I felt bad about and wrote a letter of apology the next day.

What my friend said was that he used to worry about what people thought of him years ago but he no longer did. For me it’s just the opposite. There was a time I didn’t care what you thought, I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and if you didn’t like it you could…well you get the drift of it. Now I care. I’m new to the world and started life over literally when I woke from the coma. Moving here no one knows me, I’m a stranger in these parts. Most folks here have a lifetime of building a reputation of the kind of person they are. In my mind a man’s reputation is of more value than many things, hell most things. It’s something earned. Part of my creed is to “become a person you can be proud of”. I am a man of my word, I won’t lie or even fudge the truth despite the fact it makes some very uncomfortable. My motto is that “I say what I mean, and do what I say”. It bothers me that sometimes I’m unable to do what I say. It bothers me a lot. I keep forgetting or taking into account that I’m unable to operate at the level I once did so make promises I truly mean and feel I can accomplish, only to find I can’t.

One of my favorite comic strips is Doonesbury, written I think by Gary Trudeau. He hits political subjects hard sometimes and covers current events with his characters. They are good facsimiles of personality types we see all over. A recent character, Leo, is someone who sustained a traumatic brain injury in Iraq along with enduring post traumatic stress disorder. Gary captures some of the issues we have well. It is good to see this. I strive to get others to understand the difficulties survivors often must deal with and things like this help raise the awareness of TBI and in this case the damage of war as well.

The rain’s gone so it’s back to work. I really didn’t get much done at all yesterday. Just couldn’t no matter how much I wanted to. Hope today is better. A pain pill will help me ignore my back so that’s not an issue. Not till the day ends that is. I have lots of peas to pick but not lots of places to sell them. We might attend the farmer’s market for the first time this year to do so. I’ll be delivering some in Midland today so if you want some drop me an email. I’d publish my phone number but don’t think that’s smart. Give it out individually to folks I meet but am careful with it.
Well, I’m off to a start. When I went to start the tiller I was shocked to see the gas cap was off. This isn’t good. I can’t believe I would be that careless and am certain that when I rolled it out of the garage, where it was to protect it from the rain, the gas cap was on. Here’s where the paranoia kicks in. I look all over for footprints or signs someone had snuck in to do this. Can’t find anything. The parable Jesus told of an enemy sneaking into a field and sowing weed seeds among the wheat comes to mind. There’s always something and it’s always a fight. I started it up and it ran for maybe twenty seconds and then quit. There is water in the gas for sure so I drained the tank and carburetor float. It still won’t start. So far this has taken up two hours of the day and I’m not done yet. It will start with starting fluid but won’t keep running. Next step is to remove the carburetor and go through it as I have half a dozen times now to clean out the sand that is an ever present problem. There’s so much to do. Damn it. Don’t have time for this but have to do it. It’s way humid with all the rain we’ve got so I’m already feeling the heat. Don’t think this will be a fun day at all. Have to pick peas before they dry up on the plants. No time to talk. Just came in to chill a little, settle down and collect my thoughts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lots of rain

Tuesday's sunset (I think it was Tuesday)

7/23/2009 Thursday
Looks like it’s going to be an inside day. We got ¾ of an inch of rain by five yesterday and it rained all night. It’s still raining but it’s a light one for the moment. Hang on, let me put my boots on and go check the rain gauge.

Wow! It’s almost two inches, halfway between an inch and three quarters and two. I’m not computing what that is right now but you get the idea. That’s greatly needed water to be sure. I think it’s more than we’ve received all year, as in seven months. Too bad I haven’t been able to put in a rainwater harvesting set up to capture this. As with most things it’s a matter of money. If I had there would probably be about ten thousand gallons recovered from the roofs on the house and garage. I know that sounds like a lot but from what I’ve read and researched it could well be more than that. Even if it’s half that this is quality water and much better than what comes from the well. The salt level of the well water is high and gathers on the soil surface along with lots of mineral content. Plants can grow but certainly don’t thrive in it.

The view from our bedroom window. That would be Lake Westbrook out there

So I’ll work on the long neglected business plan. It’s not really going to be the full plan because much of the information I’ve gathered for two years is locked on the two hard drives of my laptop. The first one has the most information and that’s the one that was ate up by a worm/virus. It’ll have to be sent to a lab to see if they can recover anything and the six or seven hundred dollar cost just isn’t possible right now. The other hard drive is fine but until I get a new motherboard I can’t access it. The frustrating part is that one’s all backed up on the external hard drive we bought for that purpose and I can’t figure out how to access it. If any of you know how I’d appreciate the help.

Fortunately I found some handwritten notes of research I was doing. Part of it is population counts of all the counties and cities in a hundred mile radius of the farm. So what I’m writing now is just a general outline of my vision for this place. My thoughts are I can use this to generate some interest and start putting together a team of people who can help create this vision. There was a time I could do much of it myself but I recognize that I no longer have that ability. By myself I can do a little but with the help of others all things are possible. Especially if God is involved.

I read through what I’d already written and see much that needs to be changed. The ideas are correct but how I try to get them across, how I’ve written it is a little confusing. I know what I was trying to say but need to revise it to make it easier to comprehend.

Ben is in pain right now. The change of weather does that. I can hear him whining outside the door and it breaks my heart. He should be getting the metal pin removed next week and I’m sure that will help. I can feel these changes in my broken and damaged bones so I can only imagine what it’s like for him.

Enough writing. I’ll fix breakfast and get busy. Concentrating on things like the business plan can sometimes get difficult as I struggle to coalesce my thoughts. When it does I think I’ll go out and start straightening out the garage to take a break. Haven’t done that in a while so it’s a big disorganized mess.
I went and grabbed a burger at the drug store after picking up mail. Walking out back it seems like the weeds grew up overnight with the rain. So many weeds and only one of me. I’ve been slowing down so working on the business plan is not possible. I get lost too easily. Struggling with what to say. Have a headache on top of that and sounds are getting loud and my eyes sensitive to light. Not a good sign. Plus there’s the mental fatigue thing. Will lay down and hope it clears up.
It’s 5:20. I feel like crap and have since the last entry at noon or so. Still have the headache. It’s a bad one. Even sitting in the office with this laptop is rough. The sounds of cars going by are like I’m laying on the road. Even the birds singing are loud. I hear Rascal panting at the door. It’s open so it’s not like I’ve got superman hearing but all these sounds just show up loud. You’d think I had a hangover but I don’t drink. Despite all this I had to get up. Can’t stand to lay in bed. Nothing on TV, at least not on the two channels we get. Even if there was it would be too loud to listen to. So I’ll go online to find some local news or something practical.

I’ll be delivering blackeyed peas to Midland tomorrow. If anyone wants some drop me an email at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By the sweat of your brow

7/22/09 Wednesday
This morning my bones tell me there is a change in the weather coming. I knew it anyway because while at the laundrymat I was able to watch the news on one of the three televisions they have mounted so everyone can see. It was nice to watch the news and get a glimpse of what’s going on in the city. In the weather segment he said that there are some heavy rains coming. Because of that I hurried to plant the hay seed in the apple tree area. Ran the tiller till ten o’clock last night to cover the seed I’d sown. That fisherman’s headlight is getting some use. What a valuable tool it is because it allows me to work after dark, which incidentally is when things are cooled down so I can do more. Don’t know if the rain will hit our particular piece of real estate but if it does I want to be prepared.

There is some seed left so I will sow the rest today. This is the Sudan stuff that I use as a border/hedge around the garden plots. It grows about six feet tall when not mowed and is an effective wind break. In order to do that on the remaining plots I have I must install more drip irrigation tape. A primary area for this will be the second blackeyed pea area I need to plant for fall. There are tons of peas still on the plants that we haven’t been able to pick. That will be a loss for we don’t have the ability to get to them with everything going on. Just too much to do that must be done now.

I work hard, from morning to night when I’m able and sometimes late into the night. I believe this is good for idle hands find trouble. It is the way God intends. Not to work late into the night but to not be idle and lazy. When Adam and Eve were ejected from the garden of Eden God told them that “by the sweat of the brow you will eat your food”. I sure sweat a lot out here in the desert.

Times awastin so I need to get out while it’s still cool. No time to chit chat.
Well, I’m wet. Not just a little wet but soaked to the underwear wet. I got to work getting more hay seed sowed and then running the tiller, set at only an inch or so deep, over it. The ground has a hard crust on it despite having been disced because we had some rain after I did so. It’s critical that the crust be broken to have any hope of the seed germinating. While running the tiller it started raining but I wasn’t willing to stop. To do so would risk losing all the seed I put out so I kept going. I quit when I finished the next to last plot because the tiller was going to run out of gas. Rascal and Trixie are as wet as I for being loyal dogs they never left my side no matter how hard the rain fell. I didn’t make it to the last plot. Now it’s so muddy that the tiller will just sink and spin it’s wheels. But I did my best. Came in and took my clothes off, wringing out the t-shirt and setting them in the tub. Hope the papers in my wallet didn’t get too wet.

I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Now that I’m in the tiredness is coming as it always does when I slow down. Plus it’s that time of day. I’ll take a nap. After that this would be a good time to work on the business plan and do some other writing. See ya next time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pray for a better day

as always you can click to enlarge. See the rainbow forming in the center?

7/21/09 Tuesday
I pray today will be better than yesterday. I pray that I can make wise decisions on which of the many tasks before me I tackle. Then I pray that I can actually complete a task. Tuesday is a poop scoop day and I need to do my laundry so I’ll be running to Midland. Blackeyed peas need to be picked so I hope to get some orders so I can deliver them while in town. Once picked they only last a few days. Eventually I’ll have a fridge we can use to store produce in, thus extending their life.

I put my fisherman’s headlight on and worked till 11:00 last night, hoping to make up some of the time I lost yesterday. This is actually a good time to work as it is much cooler. What I did was run the mower over the weeds that have grown up in several places and put the clippings in a compost bin to get another batch started. Then I mowed over the corn I had chopped down yesterday to also add it to the compost. After that I raked the rows clean to prepare for my fall planting. Not sure what I’ll plant. Cherie has a list somewhere of what needs to be planted when. I wonder if it’s too late to plant watermelons? Never did get the fencing put up around the area dedicated to melons. The Sunday school class put the posts in this spring but the roll of fencing is still sitting out there. It’s a job that requires two people and there is only one of me. Besides that one row of fencing isn’t enough to go around the area.

I am also planning on creating another area for blackeyed peas. It’s time to get a fall crop of them in the ground. The existing peas are losing their vigor as they approach the end of their productivity. Last year I planted the fall crop too late and they got caught in a freeze. It might not have been too late, an early freeze might have happened. I can’t remember.

Don’t know what the weather will be. We can no longer get any of the local stations due to everything going digital. The God’s Learning Channel on 42 comes in along with 24, which is Fox. That’s it except on rare occasions channel 2 ABC comes in along with the PBS station. That only happens at night when the sun goes down. So local news and weather aren’t available.
I came in at noon. Didn’t know it was noon, just that I was hot and should take a break. Grabbed something to drink and turned on the TV to the GLC channel. Listened to their news, which covers things you never hear about on the regular news channels. Things about Israel, the Mideast, and North Korea. It is clear that our media is slanted and I think controlled by not only government but strongly influenced by the Islamic world, who’s money and oil the world is held hostage by. It’s time for me to start writing in the Balaam’s ass blog I have, to begin teaching. There is so much that needs to be said in these last days, so much that needs to be revealed and exposed. It’s no accident that I was raised from the dead. God has a plan and reason for this. I have been plagued by doubts since I woke up but I must move past them. I suppose that is what faith means, to look past your doubts and believe despite them, to trust what you can’t see.

There’s work to do. Guess I should whip up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to fuel this body so I can keep going.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Frustration turns to anger

click to enlarge. (it's worth it)

My frustration has been replaced with anger. After losing six hours to this latest seizure and finally getting out to work I find the wind blowing so hard that it’s a sandstorm. Can’t keep my hat on and can’t keep sand out of my eyes. Looked all over for the hoe and couldn’t find it. Every minute I looked I got angrier. Hate it when I get this way. Cherie just came home. She knows how to deal with this, just give me room till it goes away. It always does but I feel… frustrated?...can’t find the word. It just sends my self esteem plummeting. Nothing I can be proud of when this happens. It will go away but every little thing sets me off. I want to go hide. Don’t even want the dogs around when I’m like this.

Called my friend Allen in Toledo. What he told me started the anger. Allen has suffered severe chronic pain for years and, unable to get medical attention, was buying pain killers on the street just to be able to function. You can read about him in the earlier entries of this blog. I would go over and help him do many basic tasks such as cleaning on his bad days. Allen is, or was, a member of the pyrotechnics guile, which is a professional fireworks organization. At a yearly convention in North Dakota (or maybe south, I’m not sure now) a ten inch shell exploded just feet away, launching him over his pickup truck and shoving it over four feet. I helped pull gravel from his wounds and dressed them. Then I got Allen to the hospital despite his protests. I got him enrolled for food stamps other social services to insure he was cared for. After being on a waiting list for a year he finally was able to see a doctor who treated chronic pain. This was a godsend. Allen was finally able to get the treatment and medication he needed. This enabled him to start having a life again after spending years in the basement he lives in and not being able to work.

When Allen answered his phone I could tell he wasn’t feeling well. Asking if he was sick he told me “This is the first day without my pain meds”. Come to find out our wonderful government put his doctor out of business. The DEA had put him and his whole family under surveillance and would follow them everywhere they went. Every other agency connected with the medical and pharmaceutical profession were pushed to pressure this doctor as well. Finally he gave up.

This is happening all over the country. I get a regular newsletter from the American Pain Foundation and read about it all the time. Now with the Michael Jackson thing it will only get worse. The f-ing (pardon the French but I’m pissed) numb nuts at the DEA and FDA can’t seem to understand that there are people who have a legitimate need for pain medication. I’m one of them. It enables me to work, to function. Doesn’t make the pain go away, just makes it tolerable. So here’s a doctor who has a waiting list a year long because all the other doctors are afraid to practice their medicine due to this government pressure. Now he’s been run out of business. He was able to prescribe medication to help Allen with the withdrawals he is now suffering.

There is a difference between being dependant or addicted to a drug. I must take my medication almost daily. Over the years that will increase as my beat up body ages. It’s unfortunate that the opiates do create a physical dependence but they work where others don’t. Fact is many other medicines are the same way. You can’t just stop taking insulin if you are diabetic. Many anti depressants must be slowly weaned off of when it’s time. And I’m sure there are many others as well. This doctor’s favorite movie is “Patch Adams”, the one with Robin Williams in it. He plays a doctor who’s main concern is to help patients have some kind of quality of life and he must go against the mainstream of medical opinion to accomplish it. Allen would talk with this doctor extensively and they discussed all kinds of things like this. The doc was proud that he was able to help so many people, who were unable to get help otherwise.

Now all his patients are abandoned and without help or hope. Just forcibly cut loose by our loving bureaucratic government. I asked Allen if his doc was able to give him a referral and he said it didn’t matter. The pain clinics stopped helping long ago because of government pressure and all the doctors are afraid to prescribe anything stronger than an aspirin. So my friend is looking at a dark time. If you read my posts about him you will see that he was suicidal because of the pain he suffered. He would talk of putting a gun in his mouth to end it all. I was so glad to hear how he had his life and hope renewed when he was able to see this doctor, to hear joy once again in his voice. Now it’s going to get tough again. He wasn’t too bad when I talked to him today but time will not help. I fear things will revert back to the way they were.

Strange to be me

7/20/09 Monday

It’s hard to believe it’s already the twentieth. Time sure seems to fly but it does for me anyway. That’s an effect of the short term memory loss. When you don’t remember much of the days before they blend together. One of the things that constantly happen is I will look at the plants and weeds seem to miraculously grow overnight. In my mind I just weeded the day before so finding a two foot tall weed is disconcerting. The other day I saw a melon on the golden honeydew vine that was seven inches long and almost as wide. It’s like it just magically appeared. I know I saw it several times before but just didn’t remember. So strange to be me. The world changes so quickly when you don’t remember.

I’ve been chopping down the corn. Accidently cut one of the drip tapes while doing it. I cut them often and need to order more of the repair unions. Used them all up. I’m planning on running the mower over them to chop it up for the compost. You can see lots of evidence of the bugs that trashed it. By aerobically composting I will kill all their eggs. Saw some squash bugs on the corn. Read in Mother Earth News that guinea fowl will rid a garden completely of squash bugs and unlike chickens won’t trash the plants. Something else we would like to try but like everything don’t have the means to right now.

I’m frustrated. Got out to work a little after 8:00 this morning. Got physically tired pretty quick swinging the chopper thing I used to cut down the corn. Can’t think of the name for it right now. That’s the aphasia thing where it’s hard to find words. Plus I’m slowing down. I’ve got so much to do. Can’t afford to stop or get slow. It’s already hot. Humidity is up there.

Worked on the old store yesterday. Was going to fix the roof but the old man had someone else do it. Don’t remember if I mentioned it but the wind blew the steel roof almost all the way off. Actually some did blow off. That was the day before or Friday. Not sure which.

This slowdown is effecting my coordination. Remembered I had taken pictures as I wrote so went to download them. Had a hard time plugging the cord in. Have a headache coming on. One thing on top of another. This sucks. Hard to maintain a positive attitude.

Saw a different kind of truck at the oil well across the highway. Small. Not the semis we normally see. Then it went to our well after pumping something from the first. I called the oil company to let them know in case it was someone stealing oil.

I get so tired when I have these slowdowns. Won’t go lay down. Too much to do. Too much has already been neglected. Geese, just looked at the clock. Thought it might be 9:00 – 9:30 and it’s 11:12. It’s so weird to have time flip by like this. Like I just blanked out for a couple of hours. I didn’t but it’s strange. Somehow I had erased much of this paragraph and didn’t notice. Was able to recover it using the edit thing. Maybe I should lay down.

Here’s some pictures I found on the camera. I guess Cherie took them of her roses. They are doing well.

Can't publish pictures cause internet connection went to hell.
It's still not working well but I'll try to post some pictures. Just got up. The headache is at close the blinds level. Think I''ll put sunglasses on and see if I can work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gotta get one of these!

7/17/09 Friday
I called the old man about borrowing his disc. He said it was still attached to his tractor so to just use it. Man, I’ve got to get one of these. It’s the same model we wanted to get but that was before Cherie had her full time job and our credit is still bad. Mostly because of the bankruptcy we had to file that included the quarter million dollar hospital bill I had from the coma. We could have gotten this with a front end loader for something like $230 a month. It’s way better than that thing I bought. Has a reverse that works, power steering that works, and a lot more balls. I’m grateful we have the Massey Ferguson but…

It’s going to be a 103 or so degrees today and it’s humid on top of that. I’ve been running the tractor for about two hours now. Came in to grab a bite to eat and more importantly, something to drink. As I ran the disc it was sad to see how much of the sticker grass has gone to seed. It was my hope to keep it turned under to prevent this and prevent it from propagating. Once I get my own disc so I won’t have to borrow one it will be easier. So basically I’m planting weeds as I disc. Plus if I had my own I could have disced after the rain. Now with it so dry the wheels of the tractor spin and in some places you can’t see where the disc blades were because it’s just sand and flattens right out. As this farm grows and we get the tools needed things will be much easier and I can do a better job. Till then I do the best I can with what I’ve got and I’ve got a whole lot more than last year or when we first moved here. Hell we didn’t even have a lawnmower back then. Little by little we’re getting there. You can’t blame me for being in a hurry can you?

I’ll need to drive the tractor to the farmer’s co-op and fill it with diesel. Looks like I’ll be running the thing for about another four hours to finish everything. With a reverse that works I will be able to get into the various plots that I normally have to do with the tiller. That will save a ton of work, and back pain. It’s hard on my neck because I can’t turn it far enough to look behind me. The things a little stiff after being broke three separate times. Some times I have to stand up as I back the tractor to see where I’m going when in a delicate spot.

The corn’s a total loss. Not really a surprise. Everyone tells me that corn is impossible to grow out here. I’m not buying that and will keep trying till I figure out how. One thing I can’t do has to do with the heat. Sweet corn turns starchy quickly in the heat. I was talking to Wally and he said something about “You have to pick it and cook it right away. Pull the ear of corn and put it right in the pot”. I’m going to try a fall crop so it ripens when things are getting cold. The problem is that out here in the desert you could hit a hundred degrees in October, or maybe even in November. What got the corn this time was bugs though. I only sprayed once and probably need to do that a whole lot more. The organic pesticides aren’t as effective as the other stuff so it takes a lot more. That’s hard on the budget at our current level. Organic stuff costs twice as much, if not more.

Gotta fix something to eat folks. Think it will be a meatloaf sandwich. Then it’s back to work.

Oh! Here’s a picture of the Dana 60 rear end I’ll have for sale. Steve and Janie had it laying in a storage unit so gave it to us so we could raise some funds. It was built up for a funny car so you can bet it’s beefed up pretty good. I’ll have to take it apart to figure out what’s in it. Is it a Detroit Locker, or positrac, or limited slip? What’s the gear ratio? Are the gears the heavy duty high grade steel ones? How many splines are on the axles? What kind of axles are they? I know they aren’t stock ones and are definitely stronger and bigger. The only identifying mark is the symbol on the ends. Any of y’all recognize it? It's hard to google a symbol. This is a “shortened” rear end meaning it’s made to fit fat racing slicks under the vehicle. What I was told is that the guy who owned it was building a funny car out of a pickup. There are lots of other parts including a set of racing discs and break calipers with special pads. Cool stuff. I haven’t had time to look it all up.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tick wars continue

7/16/09 Thursday
The tick wars continue. When I took Gretchen to have her stitches removed I picked eight or nine off of her. We’ve sprayed the dogs and the house and Cherie runs the vacuum to suck up the ticks we see on the floor where the dogs had been. Plus we check each other for ticks on a regular basis. If we feel anything on our skin we run and check, thinking it might be a tick. It seldom is but the paranoia’s there. Today we will spend the bucks to get the Frontline stuff that works well.

I sold out of the blackeyed peas yesterday and then went and picked some more. As I picked in saw some new types of bugs and there are lots of little moths flying in the leaves. They lay eggs of all kinds of hungry bugs and caterpillars. So I got out early this morning and sprayed everything. The cantaloupe are looking really good now. What wasn’t killed by my insecticide soap experiment has recovered well and the new seeds are coming out strong. After spraying I came in and whipped up some eggs for breakfast. Gotta keep fuel in the body you know, helps me keep going.

I need to run to the landfill later. Don’t want to do it this morning because I want to work out in the fields before it gets too hot. It will be another hundred plus degree day but the humidity will be high. That’ll make it bad. I’m already sweating and it’s only 9:30.

Yesterday I ate lunch at Bushes chicken. Don’t usually eat out because of the budget but had some cash from selling peas. While eating I could hear a conversation between the manager and another gentleman regarding advertising. With my marketing background I eavesdropped with great interest. When done with the meal I stopped by their table and complemented the manager about having chickens that “aren’t starved to death”. All the other chicken places serve drumsticks that look like toothpicks and it frustrates me. The gentleman said that Bushes hasn’t gone cheap and still buy chickens that have some weight to them.

I asked if he was an owner or something and he said he was a consultant to restaurants. I made a suggestion regarding a marketing campaign that he seemed to think was pretty good. “Who are you” he asked with curiosity. I explained that I had once owned a marketing company and told about the coma, how everything was gone when I woke up. I didn’t mention that I had pretty much trashed everything prior to the accident due to going off the deep end with the divorce from the second wife and another probable brain injury.

As we talked it turns out that he’s from up Michigan way and had managed forty or sixty pizza huts (Can’t remember exactly but it was a bunch) He gave me his business card and asked me to send him an email. Henry (That’s his name) also mentioned that he knew a couple of good writers that might be interested in helping me write my book. That sound good as I really haven’t been good at getting to that and most of what I had written is trapped on the two hard drives of my still unrepaired laptop.

I told Henry about the plans I have for the farm. Lately I’ve been feeling an urgency about getting moving on that. I have also had a return of mental clarity, glimpses of who I used to be. That is encouraging. It would be good to get back in the saddle again. I’m still up and down regarding my cognizance but more up than down. It’s time to move on this. As I tell others about my vision I can see that it’s hard for them to accept. That’s because I’m talking about a multi million dollar operation, nothing small or shy about it. And I can understand it would be hard to swallow, especially when they all know, or at least have an idea, of the difficulties I have from the TBI. Fact is that I know I can’t do this by myself. Understanding that, the primary key to my plan is to enlist others with talents and abilities, to create a team of people who share the vision and will work to make it happen. I’ll reveal more when it’s time.

So back to work. I will call the old man to see if I can use his disc today or tomorrow. I need to go cut weeds at the old store as well. See ya.
1:17 – Made it to the landfill. Ate a hamburger at the Stanton drug store. I’m tired. Forgot to take checks to the bank and drop off the check for the electric bill. Better do that now before I forget. Can’t believe it’s so late already. I think I’m a little slow. Still need to get tick medicine in Midland. Will wash dogs before putting it on with the tick shampoo. Might not get to borrowing the disc. We’ll see how that goes. Hate it when I get slow. You can see it in how I write. All short sentences. If I talked to someone I’m sure I could hear it. Cherie knows how that is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another hot one

Hey all, it's going to be another hot one. I, we have been busy. Picked peas till 10:00 PM Monday, got up and picked till 2:00 yesterday and tried to deliver them to all the folks who responded to the email I sent to our Sunday school class. Didn't get it all done so will deliver more today. I've got to pick the rest this morning and in a few days, or maybe only two, it will be time to pick again. I've just about earned the money needed to pay for the $144.00 ticket for failing to have had the truck inspected. The speeding ticket I'll contest in court, they will send the court date soon.

So it's packed in. I'm putting this article, written by Lee Woodruff, Bob Woodruff's wife. (Bob is an ABC reporter who received a traumatic brain injury while in Iraq)
It's very relevant to my injury. It's been almost eight years since I woke from my coma and every day, well every month, we can still see small improvements. I never had any of the rehabilitation therapies mentioned so am lucky to have come this far. I actually developed my own therapies such as playing chess with myself. I'd make a move and then spin the board around. With the short term memory loss I wouldn't know what the "other guy" (me) was up to so had to figure out my strategy. I'd often forget that before I could make a move. I seldom finished a game but it exercised my brain. How grateful I am that I've come this far. Unless you really know me or spend time around me you can't tell at all I've had an injury. But I can tell. Always an internal struggle to think straight. Love you guys. Be good. Got a life to build so got to go. Oh, check out my "what about bob" blog to see a story about one of our soldiers fighting to get his Purple Heart.

Can Brains Be Saved?
Medical breakthroughs are bringing new hope to people with traumatic brain injuries

by Lee Woodruff
published: 07/12/2009

September 6, 2008, was a clear-blue Indian summer day in Nebraska. Jennifer Ruth sat in the stands and watched her 12-year-old son, Derek, run with the football. She was unconcerned when he was tackled in a routine play. But as he fumbled the ball, she remembers seeing his right arm drop oddly, almost in slow motion. "He never does that" flickered through her mind. The coach noticed a glazed look on Derek's face in the team huddle. He pulled him aside and asked him for the date, score, and his brothers' names. Derek answered correctly. Then, minutes later, he screamed, "My head," pulled off his helmet, and collapsed.

Derek was taken to a trauma center and went into surgery. After several weeks in the ICU and months of therapy, he is regaining his physical and cognitive abilities. At first, he could only give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down response to questions; now he reads at a sixth-grade level and tackles algebra problems.

A decade ago, Derek's prognosis might not have been hopeful. But thanks to advances in the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI), the outlook for patients has dramatically improved. " Research points to the amazing regenerative powers locked in our brains," says Dr. Col. Rocco Armonda, senior Army neurosurgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. "The proper therapies can help with the unlocking."

Each year, 1.4 million people in our country sustain brain injuries, and 9% will end up with lifelong impairments. Causes of TBI include car accidents, playground accidents, falls by the elderly, and domestic violence. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.2 million Americans are living with long-term disabilities from brain injuries. This figure does not include the estimated 320,000 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have TBI, according to the latest statistics.

You may think you don't know anyone with a brain injury, but they're all around you. One could be the person you see lose his temper with the store clerk because sports-induced concussions left him short-fused. Another could be your neighbor who keeps locking her keys in the car or the man who looks healthy but needs a few tries to push a revolving door.

Despite its prevalence, brain injury bears a stigma. To many of the uninitiated, a person with TBI equals "slow" or "retarded."

I used to be one of the uninitiated. Then, in January 2006, my husband, Bob, was injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb while covering the war for ABC News. Hundreds of pieces of rock shrapnel became embedded in his face, neck, and back, and his skull was shattered. Doctors were unsure whether he would ever be able to walk or talk again or regain much mental function. They also told me that if and when he regained consciousness, I could expect that his healing would be largely concluded by the end of two years.

Bob spent 36 long days in a coma. When he woke up, his abilities were severely limited. I watched, devastated, as he could not identify words like "scissors" or "helicopter." But he was determined for the sake of our family to recover, and he devoted himself to rehabilitation. Today, apart from mild aphasia—difficulty in finding the appropriate word to use—he is back as a husband and father and on the air as a journalist at ABC News.

While each injury and recovery is as varied as the patient affected, scientists now know that the healing process in the brain can go on much longer than originally believed. For instance, even three-and-a-half years after the bomb blast, Bob's speech continues to get more fluid.

Innovations in cognitive rehabilitation have played a key role in improving people's outcomes. Twenty years ago, rehab consisted of rote memorization, repetition, and trying to get patients to meet certain benchmarks. "One of the advancements in rehabilitation is to make the therapy person-centered," says Dr. Lori Terryberry-Spohr, brain-injury program manager at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb. "We can tailor it to the individual's goals, strengths, hobbies, interests, and occupations."

Colin Smith, 22, is a Marine who was shot in the head in October 2006 by a sniper in Iraq. He lay in a coma for five weeks. When he awoke, he couldn't talk, move his limbs, or track movements with his eyes. But thanks to the rigorous rehab regimen he is undergoing near his hometown in Ohio, he has regained those abilities. As part of therapy, animal-lover Colin walks dogs for a local shelter. This activity helps on many levels: It improves his mobility, uses his sense of direction, and helps him get re-accustomed to working amid the noise and interruptions of normal life.

In order to understand how cognitive rehabilitation works, you need to know how the brain functions. Neurons, or nerve cells, in our brains send impulses to one another to facilitate memory, thought, and speech and enable movement. When the brain is injured, the connections between neurons are temporarily or permanently disconnected or stunned.

One helpful analogy is to think of the brain's neural pathways as highways. A brain injury is like a jackknifed tractor-trailer stopping traffic. With proper medical attention and therapy, the brain repairs itself. Neurons that ran from point A to point B can grow back in different ways and make new roads, and the brain rebuilds new paths to functions like speech and memory. They might not be exactly the same as before, but they're still effective.

"The more sophisticated the function, like complex thought or writing, the longer it takes," Dr. Armonda says. "But over 70% of our patients with the most severe injuries are now approaching functional independence after treatment, and that was unheard-of previously."

The basic principle behind cognitive rehab is for patients to relearn their own abilities and develop specific strategies to make up for injury-related deficits or losses. So, someone who has trouble recalling complicated words may learn to remember them by associating them with something familiar. When Bob can't find the name he is looking for, I've watched in amazement as he quickly runs through the alphabet to trigger the word he wants. Devices like BlackBerrys and cellphones can also be used to compensate for a loss in a person's sense of time or organizational skills.

Cognitive therapy isn't only about improving the so-called executive functions—reading, writing, planning, sequencing. It's also being used to address the changes in personality that sometimes occur with TBI, such as difficulty in emotional control. Dr. Mary Hibbard, professor of rehabilitation medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, says, "If someone's emotions overwhelm him when confronted with a problem, it reduces his executive-thinking abilities. They're all closely interconnected."

Robin DeVries, a 52-year-old nurse, slipped on the ice in a parking lot three years ago and struck her head. For months, she thought she was "going crazy" with symptoms like severe headaches, insomnia, memory lapses, and vomiting. She wrote checks for incorrect amounts and at times became completely overwhelmed with anger or sadness.

After seeing specialists, Robin was eventually diagnosed with TBI and went through cognitive rehab. She learned coping methods that she can use when she is feeling tearful or angry. "I've taught myself to take a personal time-out," Robin says. "I go for a walk or head into the bathroom. I practice deep-breathing exercises or even do something as simple as count to 10."

A recent analysis of several neurological studies found that early intervention resulted in better outcomes. "As soon as a patient can participate, it is recommended that therapy should begin," Dr. Hibbard says. "This is a critical period when damaged neurons begin to make new connections. And although younger brains have greater ability to regenerate, rehab has been found to be equally effective even for those 55 and older."

In a groundbreaking study released last December, researchers at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in Washington followed 360 injured veterans in a clinical trial. They found that cognitive treatment that taught people how to think through tasks enhanced their cognitive recovery. It also helped return them to work or school at a higher rate than those whose treatments focused on physically executing the tasks.

Quantifiable physical evidence that cognitive rehab works does not exist, but experts are confident that it soon will. "We now have MRIs that use neuro-imaging to show all kinds of detail in the brain, and these advancements will continue," says Dr. Steve Flanagan, chair of rehabilitation medicine at the Rusk Institute in New York. "Someday we'll be able to see how certain areas of the brain are wired and to map new growth."

Such hard evidence could be a huge help in making cognitive therapy more widely available. No figure exists of how many facilities offer it, because most health-insurance plans do not cover it. Only the state of Texas mandates insurance reimbursement for cognitive rehabilitation following brain injury.

"You'd never have a problem getting insurance to cover a broken bone or injured shoulder, but it is routinely denied for therapies that help brains heal," says Susan H. Connors, president and CEO of the nonprofit Brain Injury Association of America. Her group is working with federal and state lawmakers to raise awareness of TBI and to improve reimbursement for therapy. "Brain injury is often invisible since changes are on the inside," Connors adds. "Because of this, help and awareness are not as widespread as they should be."

Families of people with TBI are often advised that their loved one's recovery will be a " marathon and not a sprint." Derek Ruth's mother sees positive change occur in her son almost daily. Still, it's difficult for her not to have definite answers to him about his future, to be unable to promise him that his life will be back to exactly what it was before his injury.

"Derek works so hard just to make it through one day, tying his shoes and getting dressed," she says. "But brain injury is like no other injury. He can be doing his algebra and the same afternoon be unable to recognize a black spade from a red heart in a card game."

Jen remains optimistic—along with her son's doctors—as she watches his slow but incredible healing progress. "There isn't a day that goes by where I don't believe Derek is going to continue to improve."


Lee Woodruff is the author of the recently published essay collection "Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress." To learn more about TBI, visit the Bob Woodruff Foundation at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Every day is catch up day

7/13/09 Monday
It’s been a long but good weekend. We were able to help out some friends with cleaning and clearing stuff out. It always makes us feel good to be able to help. In the process I received a lot of stuff they needed to make disappear including some auto racing stuff made for setting up a dragster. I need to research it to figure out what it is and what it’s worth and then will sell it to raise badly needed funds. There was a small freezer they gave us but unfortunately it doesn’t work. So we picked up a free refrigerator last week and this freezer and neither one works. I learned online that they go bad when they sit unused. The fridge we will turn into another worm bin. Not sure what to do with the freezer. I seriously doubt that having some repair guy come out and look at them will be cost effective. The freezer I can take to a place cause it’s small and not hard to move. Will make some phone calls first.

We finally got the bad news we were expecting from the VA regarding my disability. I was married when we got the first check and the forms they sent out stated we should inform them of any changes in my income. I started getting the oil well royalties when we inherited this place and they knew it because it was reported to the IRS. With this veteran’s pension I’m only allowed to make just so much money and anything over that disqualifies me. So to make a long story short they are disallowing everything they have ever paid me and will require me to pay it all back. One of the reasons stated was that the first check they sent me, one that reflected the accrued amount from the date my application was put in and was twelve thousand dollars, put me over that limit. WHAT? The disability check they sent disqualifies me for the disability payments altogether? Some numb nuts bureaucrat somewhere in a government cubicle must have a tumor in his or her brain or lack any kind of sense at all. So we will be appealing this. One suggestion we got from a friend was to do nothing because the VA doesn’t have any teeth. I can’t take that advice. There are too many other benefits the VA offers that I don’t want to be jeopardized, besides ignoring things doesn’t make them go away and my experience tells me things ignored become worse.

Every day is catch up day around here and I never catch up. I work as hard as I can when I can but I can’t work hard enough to do everything that needs doing. That’s just the way it is. The pain pills help me keep pushing past the hurt but I always pay when they wear off. I was telling my friend all about our dreams and my vision for this place but like I said to him “It takes money to make money”. I’ll get there, or at least get somewhere eventually because I won’t quit no matter how discouraged I get. So time’s awastin folks. Every minute I sit in front of this laptop is time I should spend working. See ya.
It’s 12:24 now. Came in to get out of the heat and rest up. Been hoeing weeds, mostly around the blackeyed peas, all morning. I’m a little slow and had a hard time deciding what to do so did this. It’s simple work and needed to be done. Still haven’t finished, been working on it off and on for three days. My hands get to where it’s hard to hold the hoe so I must quit. Have three more rows to do. There are a ton of peas that Must be picked so I’ll focus on that. Cherie often goes out to pick them in the evening when it cools off but between our schedules and how tired she’s been it hasn’t happened much.

Cherie has a bunch of bite marks on her that we think are from the ticks that have become such a problem. That’s not good as they are a source of lime disease and probably a bunch of other ones. So that battle continues. We will have to bite the bullet and buy some of that expensive “Frontline” stuff because it works well. I sprayed the bedroom down this morning, we changed all the sheets, and Cherie ran the vacuum to suck up all the ticks she could find. After she swept she saw ticks crawling out from the baseboards. I went out to pet Ben at four this morning when he had a nightmare or panic attack and evidently picked up a tick from him when I did. Sure wish I could give Ben a wash with the tick shampoo but can’t with his leg and open wound.

Today I’ll go in about the traffic ticket. Going to plead not guilty but will submit a statement to the judge. Doubt it will do any good and don’t have a lot of hope going to court will make a difference but refuse to plead guilty or no contest to something I didn’t do. From what the ticket said they will set a court date later. This is so not fun.

I’ll make a quick sandwich and lay down for an hour before I go in. Then, despite the heat, I must get back to work on the farm. No waiting till it cools off at six thirty or seven.