Thursday, August 30, 2012
I am sitting at the dining room table. Or I suppose it is the living room dining table. Really not sure what it is supposed to be called. The reason I am here is because my pain level is so high getting up from the bed is quite a challenge. I am not sure what I did but this pain started Monday. I can’t recall doing any heavy lifting and spent a good part of the day driving Cherie’s car around and taking care of things. I know her seat will not go back as far as I would like so my knees are still up by the steering wheel. That was uncomfortable but I can’t imagine it was the cause of what my back is doing now.
I shuffled out to the garage and retrieved the walking stick I had made back when we first moved here. I needed it then just to get up off the ground as I worked on building the farm. Pain was always an issue but at that time I did not have the powerful pain medication plus I was still incredibly weak from being in a coma along with the paralysis on my right side. But what I am facing now is worse than then. I need to stick just to stand up from a chair and it requires both my hands to lift me up despite the pain. I’ve peed my pants several times now as I attempted to stand up or even sit upright in the bed. The pain medication barely touches it. I take aspirin to reduce the inflammation and that seems to help.
So today is the fourth day with this. It doesn’t seem to be getting any better and in fact seems worse. If I twist ever so slightly the wrong way it is excruciating. As I walk a minor misstep freezes me up. Today, for the first time, as I sit still the muscles at the small of my back can suddenly tense up. When that happens I dare not move for it makes the pain worse but invariably it happens when I need to move or do something. Going to the bathroom is an adventure for sure, especially if I have to sit down.
But this is a good thing. It forces me to focus on many of the tasks I have been putting aside as I work on the farm or go assist the senior citizens we help. I need to finish proof reading the book Ron Charles has written, for he will be here next week. Plus I have not been at all diligent regarding the bible studies, my biography, and various books regarding Christian issues that have been on my heart to write for some time now. I can’t sit too long as the pain gets more intense and I must walk with extreme care. Lying in bed is the least painful but from that position I can do the least. Plus it is much harder to get up out of the bed than it is to stand from the chair so the chair gets the privilege of my butt sitting on it.
I dug up the back brace I had and am using that, along with the big magnet pad Jim gave me when I worked for him a couple of years ago. He used to sell them as a fix for pain along with some magnetic insoles that go in my boots. Frankly I can’t tell if they do a thing but at this point I will try everything. I got the T.E.N.S unit that the VA sent me a year ago and have used it as well. It gives programmed electric shocks or stimulation to whatever muscle area you place the electrode pads on. I can’t tell that it does much either. The temptation to take more of the pain medication than is prescribed is very much there, and this tests my resolve for sure. Considering that I had once been addicted to and abused the very medication I am prescribed makes it a substantial challenge for sure.
I haven’t had much sleep the last few days and nodded off momentarily a few times as I wrote this, with my finger pressing on a key filling the page with whatever letter it was on. I think I need to get up and walk around a bit. That should loosen the back muscles up some and provide a little relief.
Naturally this is quite frustrating. I have tons of stuff to do. Monday I picked up a spare radiator from the mechanic that had replaced the one that just went bad in May. I need to remove the bad radiator so we can take it to Auto Zone. They will send it to someplace, where it will be inspected to determine if the radiator was defective. If it is found to be so then they are obligated to not only replace the radiator but also to repair the transmission that has been damaged from all the water that was mixed in the transmission fluid.
There are many watermelons that need to be harvested. Bending over to pick a daisy is close to impossible, but I can manage to do it because I am that stubborn. However cutting a heavy watermelon from the vine and then picking it up is quite a different story. I could do it but the price in pain is more than I care to pay so will leave them alone. I will put the word out to our many friends and let them know that they can have all the watermelons they want, if they come out and pick them.
I managed to replant all the corn that birds had pulled up between yesterday and today. All this corn was just breaking the surface and birds had flocked in to pull up the baby corn in order to eat the freshly sprouted seeds. Much of that the birds were unable to pull out but they did destroy many of the sprouts in the attempts. Cherie could hardly believe I did this for she has seen just how hard everything is on me right now. “How did you do that?” she asked. What I did was took my walking stick and poked a big hole in the ground. Then I would take each kernel of corn and carefully drop it, without bending over, because I couldn’t, hoping they would fall in the hole. The ones that missed I would gently nudge into the hole with the tip of my walking stick and then press it into place with a little dirt covering it. This left each new seed planted in a hole about three inches deep but with only a half inch or so of dirt on top. The reason I did it that way is that this will make each new corn sprout hard for birds to reach, thus giving them room to get established.
Sunday we borrowed a small portable wire welder from one of our friends at First Baptist Midland. I intend to use it to repair the teeth on the flywheel of our diesel truck. Lifting the welder and placing it in the trunk of Cherie’s car may have contributed to my back being out. Who knows. I also have to consider the possibility that the gout I continually fight may have come back and set up shop in the old injuries of my back. Just in case I am taking the gout medicine again and stepped up the amount of water I drink. Unfortunately this means more trips to the bathroom, each one a painful journey. That is one of the contributing factors to my not getting much sleep last night.
The odds of me being able to move and set up two railroad ties, carefully steer the diesel on top of them, and then crawling underneath with the welder and a grinder to repair that flywheel are pretty slim right now. But it needs to be done as that is the truck that stands the best chance of being made drivable soon. Right now we are down to one vehicle that runs, while three others sit here broke down. Wisdom says it would be a good idea to get one of them running.
There is a lot of grass that needs mowing and that too will have to wait. Right now I can’t even pull the starter cord. Some of it can only be reached by the lawnmower but there is a lot that can be mowed with the bush hog hooked up the tractor. I need to mow the rest of the rye down as well. I’m not real concerned about saving the grain out of it but sure can use the stalks as a clean mulch straw.
The wheat we may miss out on. I have been looking forward to grinding our own whole wheat flower but weeds are growing tall there and some of it got moldy. I am hoping to get a scythe soon, one I can use to harvest the wheat with. If it doesn’t arrive then I will have to mow all the wheat down and then disk it into the ground. Whether it will germinate and grow or not I don’t know. There are a lot of blanks in my mind about agriculture so am not sure how that works. It would be a shame to not be able to harvest enough wheat seed to plant it early spring.
And I need to start preparing for next spring already. We desperately need a tiller that runs to till up where the tomato plants are now. That whole area needs to be dramatically redone and changed. My idea of planting in five gallon buckets with the bottoms cut out turns out to not have worked as good as I hoped. The Bermuda grass is aggressively invasive and grew up from underneath each bucket, competing with the tomatoes and peppers. What I think I will do next time is to use buckets that still have the bottoms in them. This also will prevent the gophers from tunneling in and eating the roots. Plus I must redesign the drip irrigation lines as many are damaged and don’t reach the areas needed. Then I have to reinforce each of the six foot tall T-posts. Some have cracked under the weight that came when some tomato plants grew well and bore much fruit. That was 2 years ago. They haven’t done very well the last 2 years.
The in ground drip irrigation also needs to be repaired and reinstalled in a better way. So I have plenty of work to do all winter long. I intend to get things planted early next year. Lord willing we will do well. Lord willing I will not be in this pain long.
Monday, August 27, 2012
The start of another week. Grass and weeds are high from the little rain we got last week so I must break out the lawn mower and attack that. The plow broke last week and needs to be welded back together. This illustrates how weak my welding capability is with the little Harbor Freight welder we bought.
We borrowed a small Harbor Freight wire welder from a friend at First Baptist church Sunday. I plan to use it on the diesel chevy truck flywheel. That will be quite a chore as I put the truck on top of railroad ties (providing I can get it to start with the bad flywheel) and crawl under the truck to attempt welding in metal on each individual tooth of the flywheel that has been chewed off when the starter bolts bent. This means I will have hot sparks of molten metal falling on me as I weld. Fortunately I have a leather welding vest thing to help protect me but experience tells me that a spark will find its way down to my skin somewhere. No biggy, pain I live with anyway so it’s not a big deal. Then after I weld up each of the fifty or so teeth on the flywheel I must try to grind each one into the proper shape by hand. This must be done because we cannot afford to have a professional do it and I do not have the equipment needed to pull the transmission out of the truck in order to install a new flywheel.
The other truck will take a while. This is because we must remove the radiator that was installed in May and have Auto Zone, where it was purchased from, send it to California or someplace. They will then take it apart and determine if the radiator failure was due to poor manufacturing or somehow their fault. If it is then they will be obligated to replace the radiator and repair the transmission that has failed due to the water that leaked into the tranny fluid. Who knows how long that will take and who knows if Auto Zone will accept responsibility for this break down that resulted from the radiator failing. Meantime the truck will be sitting without a radiator and a transmission full of water. I will visit with the mechanic shop that did the job and explain this to see if he is willing to take the risk of Auto Zone deciding to pay him for removing the radiator or willing to have my truck sit at his place while all this is going on.
A friend of ours, who is a professional welder, sent a message on facebook that he would be willing to weld up our plow. He is busy and has been distracted in the past so I don’t know how quick that will happen or even if he will be able to find time to help. I will grind down the areas to be welded in preparation for that and in faith he will show up one of these days. If he doesn’t then I will weld it up with the cheap little welder we have.
Our corn got planted and Lord willing we will have some sweet corn in early November. That requires us to not have a major freeze before harvest time. I was going to plant some of the red corn seeds we were sent from a friend in Kansas but the plow breaking put a halt to that.
One of the seniors we help fell and broke her arm. It is frustrating for me to be unable to get over to her place and help because we are down to one working vehicle. I had started installing drip irrigation for her remaining pecan trees that have not died. Half of her orchard is gone due to her not being able to get water to them by hand. I will take Cherie to her job this afternoon to be able to use her car to do necessary errands like taking garbage into town. I also hope to be able to visit the Stanton jail, where I have developed a relationship with one of the men incarcerated and have been of some help with his spiritual walk. Plus there are always others there I can talk to about the gift of eternal life that Jesus has made available to all who choose to believe. In my mind there is nothing more valuable or important than bringing this message of salvation to those who are bound up in the many chains that entrap us. I preach freedom from all these things and a hope for life here on earth that is good and fulfilling, with a reward at the end. But for now I am trapped here on the farm and it is difficult to go anywhere.
We went to church at First Baptist in Midland yesterday. It is always good to be with people who truly care and do not display the judgmentalism we have faced in so many other churches. Everyone asks “How are you doing?” and anymore I just say “We are blessed” because I have learned that few people want to hear all about all the problems you face. The fact is that we are truly blessed but at the same time we have many hardships. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for others when all they hear about is all the problems we face. I guess that there are some who would avoid contact because of that, but maybe I am being self-conscious. But at the same time I know deeply how Jesus feels about such matters but refrain from speaking those truths because I understand that it would not be received well. Am I wrong for not speaking these truths? What a tight place to be in, a trap of sorts. If I speak the truth I will offend some but if I don’t they will continue walking down a wrong path, which has consequences that are less than pleasant.
Jesus said "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mathew 10)
Then there are the words of John, who walked with Jesus “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3)
There is a whole lot more that I must say but will do it in a book that must be written soon. In this world the message preached is often one that does not challenge and allows the hearers to keep what is precious to them as well as making it ok to sit on their butts and do only a few comfortable things to fulfill any spiritual obligations. It’s the easy gospel but remember what our Lord said, the one who died a horrible death so that we can have life "Enter through the narrow gate ; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mathew 7)
That is all for now. There is work to do and it won’t get done while I sit here typing, but this is a form of work too so…gotta go.
Friday, August 24, 2012
I got an email this morning from a reader of the blog. She expressed concern due to my not posting in a while. I appreciate the reminder that this needs to be kept up with. Had started several posts but never finished them as distractions moved me in other directions. So here is a quick update.
Both of the trucks are down, that now means I have three pickups sitting here not running. We had replaced the radiator in one 90 days ago because it was leaking water into the transmission fluid. One day I noticed the transmission was not shifting right and that it no longer would go into high gear. When I pulled the dipstick I found water again mixed in the transmission fluid along with flakes of the transmission belts. Not good. Looks like the new radiator failed and possibly that has cost me a transmission too. Went to the mechanic who put it in and he said he could get the radiator replaced but the transmission was another issue.
Meantime the diesel truck again has a problem with the starter. I knew that the flywheel, where the starter gear engages to spin the motor, had gotten a little chewed up from the starter bolts breaking and bending twice. Crawling under the truck I found that the starter bolts were once again bent. This is the fourth set of bolts I had bought and put on. All of them came from the auto parts store and specifically were packaged for starters. Looking at the packages I see they are made in Taiwan. Obviously they are cheap steel and not up to the grade required for a starter in a diesel motor. So I went to the dealership and paid the high price for genuine GM parts. Unfortunately the damage to the flywheel is now severe so the starter grinds when it hits the spots that are chewed. I can start it, possibly, for an emergency but for now I think it’s is best to leave the truck sit for if I drive somewhere I have no guarantee it will start again.
I am planting corn today. Been working on that for three days, preparing a new area with in ground drip irrigation and sprinkling fertilizer on it. This corn will come due in November so it is a race against the first freeze. Last year the freeze got it. I have lots of corn seed that I harvested and scraped off the cobs by hand. Almost a five gallon bucket full so there is plenty of seed for next spring too.
The wheat is still sitting waiting to be harvested. I had started doing that with a small hand sickle but soon figured out that was pretty hard on my back. Cherie’s nephew has a scythe up in Ohio he said I can have but he is pretty busy and it hasn’t gotten put in the mail yet. Meantime we had a rare rain so the weeds have sprung up with a vengeance all through where the wheat is. I also still have some rye to harvest with the lawnmower but the lawnmower is on its last legs and there are many other things to do that take priority over that.
God has been expanding our horizons and introduced us to some new people. We gave our testimony last Sunday evening at a home group led by some of the foundational spiritual leaders in this area. I am not sure that is how they view themselves but their roots reach to some great movements of spirituality in this part of Texas. Had an enjoyable conversation with them after the home group broke up for the night. It is nice to talk with those who know the Lord and are not corrupted by so many of the forces that are at work these days. I suspect that God has a reason for bringing us together and look forward to what will come.
I am starting training for another round of Kairos events in the prisons at Fort Stockton and Lamesa. These always require a sacrifice in time but nothing good comes without some cost. One of the seniors we help fell and broke her arm last Sunday. We did not find out till Wednesday and Cherie went with me to visit her last night. She is under pressure to move to her daughters area, which is either in Houston or Louisiana. Mary is not anxious to move and would much rather stay in the home her husband built. It is full of memories and the accumulation of a lifetime lived there. She asked if we would be willing to do an estate sale for her and we said we would be honored to help out in any way we could. Cherie and I both let Mary know that we would like to provide all the assistance we could to allow her to stay in this home.
Geneva seems to be doing ok. For those who don’t know, she is another senior we serve where we can. The puppy she gave us, because it was a little more than she could handle, is doing well. Of course it has endeared itself to our hearts. I fear for it regarding this highway we live next to that has claimed so many of our pets, so we watch carefully whenever Maisey is out. Geneva has increasing health problems coupled with financial straits caused by the annuity she had been sold based on false promises of security that did not pan out. With both trucks out of commission I am stuck at home and less able to get out and help these folks. Plus I have been unable to visit the local jail, where I have been able to minister to so many. It is frustrating to be hampered serving others in so many ways.
That’s it. I have work to do but wanted to at least get this post out. Cya next time and I hope to be more regular with posts.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Another hot day. It is 11:15 and I am already having to come in from the heat. Ran the disk with the tractor to knock down some weeds. Went down the ridge of windblown sand that has built up on the south edge of the property to knock down some of the tumbleweeds, for I know they bother the farmer next door. That had to be done carefully as the ridge is over six foot tall in places and a definite danger because if I got to close to the edge the tractor would roll over on me.
I am trying to create some kind of platform to lay the wheat we harvest on. Am using some of the ten foot chain link fence panels that are part of the kennel we bought back before Gretchen and Ben got shot. That hurt still remains in my heart, how someone could so coldly shoot and kill the pets we love. The sad part is there are some who take pleasure in knowing it caused us pain. We live in a world that has always had those who enjoy the fact they have the power to hurt others, and run to do so. In their minds it makes them someone important or powerful but they have no clue how God feels about it. Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mathew 5:5) It is the humble, the poor in spirit, all the ones that those who think they are all that look down on, who will receive the greatest blessings from God.
Anyway, I digress. Much of the wheat I already harvested had started to mold so is no good now. I still have 3 acres left to harvest but realize that I am not capable of doing it by myself or without equipment. Nate, Cherie’s nephew, said he had some scythes in his garage but they are 1500 miles away from us. I could harvest, or at least cut down and bundle, the three acres if I had a scythe, but would still have to develop a way of threshing and removing the chaff from it. I know, or think I know, a way to do that but it doesn’t matter if I cannot cut it in the first place.
But when I started to set up the rack for the wheat I saw that I need to level off an area so must put the back blade on the tractor. While I have it on I will work to move much of the windblown sand that had buried so much on this farm. As I disked I dug up some hoses that had long since disappeared under the ever moving earth. There is so much to do here but at the same time so many other needs we know of that others have. There are watermelons to harvest but the back of the truck is full of moldy wheat I must decide what to do with. Will the wheat kernels germinate to grow more next season?
Last week we reinstalled a toilet for Geneva, one of the seniors we assist. That turned out to be a harder job than expected and took me nearly 4 hours to complete. Had to hammer away a lot of concrete and basically fix the poor job someone had done 7 years ago. She has a young lady who will be coming to live with her. We prayed together about that yesterday as this young woman has had a rough life and needs the support.
Maisey, our new puppy, is fitting in well. She seems not at all inclined to go near the road so that is a relief. However we must be diligent in watching her as she is just a puppy and inclined to explore. The other dogs help keep her in line but I have to be careful because Rascal likes to chase the farmer next door when he drives out in his truck. Maisey watches and learns from the others so that is a habit I do not want passed on to her.
I am going to run to the post office, grab a burrito at our favorite roadside stand, and perhaps visit the jail to see who is there and support the one whom I have been ministering for quite a while now. That might have to wait for they serve lunch at noon.
There is always much on my mind as I survey the world around and see the hardships that are coming. The Christian world is in for some shocks for sure. Most of it has become complacent and comfortable, often avoiding any kind of activity that will cause controversy or require self-sacrifice. Understand that this is a general statement and there are many who do not fall into this trap so don’t get upset with me for saying it. Time to run.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
We start another month. Looking back I see the last post I made was a week ago, plus one day. I read about the issue with the Veteran’s Administration drug tests so figure that would be a good place to start updating things. I had expressed my frustration in writing several times, making sure it got to more people than just my doctor. Finally I found a certified laboratory in Midland, that does drug tests for the court system as well as a variety of businesses. The cost is $200 bucks for either the hair test, that goes back 90 days, or the blood serum test. So I wrote the doctor and explained that we were planning on paying to have that test done, despite the hardship that would cause, in order to prove that I am taking the medications as prescribed. The doctor called me.
He explained that it would not matter because the only tests they were allowed to accept are through VA approved facilities. Nuts. But my insistence on verifying I was taking the medication, to the point making the 46 mile drive twice a day in order to take the medication in front of witnesses, seemed to have gotten through. Last week I went in to once again submit urine and blood samples and also to talk with the heads of the pharmacy as well as the laboratory. They had a big meeting with my doctor and the acting commander of the VA hospital regarding this. The conclusion was that I am obviously not a drug abuser, I presume due to my insistence regarding this. The head of the pharmacy talked with me. He suggested my metabolism is so high it burns off the residue of opiates quickly, thus it not showing in the test. That doesn’t add up for me, because I can’t see how the urine sample, taken minutes after the blood, can show opiates but the blood sample does not. But I am not a doctor and also understand our bodies are amazingly complex organisms and that none of us are exactly the same.
I also know my metabolism drastically changed after the brain injury and subsequent coma. I can go out in the snow wearing only a t-shirt and be fine. However part of that is from my-self training to ignore and not allow things like pain, hunger, cold, heat, or other discomforts, to hinder me in any way. This training goes way back to include the many hardships I have endured in my life. There was leaving home and living on the streets, hitchhiking around the country after Vietnam, and next the hard field labor I experienced in the Texas prison system at 19. All that and some of the self-discipline taught in martial arts toughened me up pretty good. But I digress.
So I went in for more drug tests yesterday. You can bet your boopy (Don’t have a clue what a boopy is or where that came from) that, knowing there are questions regarding my use of this medication, I have been diligent to take it as ordered and in fact took one of the quick release pills that are to be saved for what they called “breakthrough” pain despite the fact I did not hurt that bad. I had to go back at 3:00 because the one blood sample did something called “hemolysis” so wasn’t good. I made sure to send a note to the doctor and document that I took a pill at ten the night before, six in the morning, and a third one at my normal time of 2:00, just an hour before the test. It will be interesting to see what the test results are. Meantime they are just releasing this medication in ten day supplies. What a pain that is.
Our new puppy is doing well. Hang on while I go back and see if I even mentioned that puppy in the last post. Nope, not a word. So here is the announcement, “We have a new puppy!!!” Let me explain how this happened. One of the sweet lil ole ladies we care for had been out with Cherie to get some groceries and her prescription filled. There was someone giving puppies away at the Walmart so Geneva impulsively decided to get one. We knew that this puppy might be more than Geneva could handle and sure enough it was. Geneva tried to find a home for it and finally called me. She mostly wanted to pour out her heart regarding this puppy she loved but could not keep. When she told me that she would have to take it to the pound, were it would be put to sleep if not adopted in 3 days, I knew we had to help. Geneva has plenty of other problems on her shoulders without the added guilt that would come with this scenario. So I talked with Cherie. We agreed to take the puppy and work to find a good loving home for it. Understand that I already knew what could and probably would happen. Sure enough it did. Cherie was adamant that we could not have another animal at first but it only took a few days for her to say “I think we can keep her”.
The puppies name is Maisey. (I don’t have a clue if I spelled that right) She is supposed to be a Border Collie and Labrador mix but you can never be sure about things like that. She has a sweet spirit and gets along with the other dogs very well, though her constant energy and rambunctiousness does get on Rascal and Trixie’s nerves and they “correct” her. Our big concern is that highway in front of the house but she stays with the other dogs and so far has stayed away from that road. Our hearts have been broken many times losing our loved pets and I sure hope we will not go through that again. We keep a close eye on her.
The concoction I painted on the watermelons did nothing to prevent coyotes from eating them. Every morning I find more that have been destroyed. I have gone out several times in the late hours or early before the sun rises to try and catch a coyote eating my melons so I could pepper their butts with some buckshot but to no avail. They are slick for sure and sure earned their reputation for being wily.
I’ve been out with the mower for days trying to mow these weeds down. That poor mower has seen some hard use. I engineered a way to put the wheel that broke back on but the other wheels are all pretty wobbly. We need to get yet another blade for it. I have lost count how many blades we wore out with that mower. I keep having to clean the spark plug but yesterday and today the mower would only run about an hour before it refuses to start again. Eventually we hope to find a more powerful mower, perhaps even a riding one.
Started training for another Kairos prison ministry event. Here is where the rubber meets the road as far as our Christian faith goes. It is the difference between talking and doing. God is not impressed with talk. Not even a little. There is a scripture that says “Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”. I have seen many who put on a veneer of Christianity but when you get past the veneer there really is not much to see.
Now it is Thursday. Will be hot again so heading out early to get some work done. Always so much to do. There is 3 acres of wheat I have been unable to harvest and much of the rye has lost the grain from the heads as birds probably eat it. Sure wish I had a scythe to use on the wheat. I hope to build a rack that will hold the wheat I already harvested off the ground and let air flow through as much of it has turned dark from mold or something. Cleaned the air filter for the lawnmower as best I can and hope that will allow it to start and work better. That’s it. Work to do.