Sunday, February 17, 2013

Crazy weather, crazy happenings

This has been a crazy week. It's ended with me coming down with some kind of spring cold, so I'm popping sinus pills like some crazed druggie so I can breathe and get some kind of awake time. Hopefully, I'll be fairly well past this by Monday morning, so I can get through work without feeling like I'm dying on my feet. Looks like that Devil's Cut is going to go down my gullet the next couple of nights in a toddy to help me sleep. It would almost be funny that we got it for medicinal purposes and now it's going to get used for it, especially since I spent most of Friday sneezing my fool head off at work.

As to the car, Quentin figured out what happened. Somehow, I blew out the thermostat, completely destroying the housing. It seems the upper radiator hose has a small crack somewhere, too, but no funds to replace it this week, so I have to carry antifreeze with me now till next week so I can make sure that I don't have a major problem in the meantime. The fix was cheap though, since the parts only cost $30. The gasket in the thermostat housing got stuck in the spring somehow, and stuck bad ... to the point that the spring wasn't able to move properly to relieve heat pressure and buildup, and so .... BOOM. The thing's on the front of the engine, so it's easy to get to, unlike some places it could have been located. Of course, with it being a 2006 car, and pretty much everything is original, so it's bound to start having some issues with things needing to be fixed. Sure is cheaper to maintain and repair Victor right now, rather than replace him. So it's fix-it, and that means next week, Quentin has to replace that upper radiator hose that's leaking a teeny bit. Thank goodness it wasn't the water pump, because that would be a major issue.

Tuesday was pretty, as we had snow Monday night. Being at a higher elevation than the main drag, we get the weather that the lower part of the mountain doesn't. We got about an inch, which was the kind I'm used to from "back home" in Michigan - big, wet, fluffy flakes that stick to everything. And if I'd had a chance before going to work, I'd've been taking photos of it all, because it looked like total fairyland. Everything was covered in white, making it look so darned pretty. Unfortunately, it all melted by lunchtime, so I never got a shot, and Quentin has no clue how to use the camera and doesn't want to learn, so not a hope in heck of getting a shot of the first real fairyland I've seen in four years since I moved here to the Ozarks. Grrr.

Thursday became a bit of a nightmare at my lunchbreak. First break at work, I texted Quentin as usual while noshing during my always too short break. A couple of coworkers I sit with saw me putting my phone back into my lunchbag and zipping it up. Second break happens, and I go to grab my phone, and guess what? I didn't find it. Some <redacted> idiot stole my phone right out of my lucnhbag. And of course, nobody saw it happen, and nobody's responsible. So I had to get a new cheapy phone, whicih is fine, because about all I do is text and make occasional calls. For long calls, I'll just use Quentin's phone, because the one I could afford to replace my old one with is a stupid Tracphone and those suckers cost a fortune to use them. I hope the person who stole it enjoyed what little use they got out of it, because the thing was turning itself off at all times without warning, including during phone calls and texting. Just right in the middle of things, bloop! and off it would go. And it was beginning to be a pain in the tuckus to get it to turn back on and stay on. Add in that it only had a couple of bars left on t he battery and you get that I'm not that unhappy that it's disappeared, but it's sure a pain that it's gone, and I don't really like the new one, since I can't turn the stupid T9 off. Cheap phone .... Grrr.

But the week's over, the car's repaired (sort of), and my cold is trying to go away. The weather is starting to warm up so things can be done outdoors even more, and I keep hoping every day that things will start to green up. Spring is going to be so pretty.

Oh yeah, and I'm getting in a ton of sed catalogs and am prepping my orders. They may be kind of late this year, depending on finances and all, but they'll get out and I'll get seeds, even if I don't have a chance to get them in this year. All heirloom varieties, because I want to save seeds and keep the varietals going and creating more seeds I can eventually sell packets of myself for a little extra cash, along with excess seedlings and produce and ... hey, this IS supposed to eventually be a productive, self-supporting, sustainable farm, right? Gotta start somewhere, and seed catalogs are a start. Heehee. Till next week, Gentle Readers. I'm off to get some more sleep and try to feel better for Monday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's raining, it's pouring!

And yes, my "old man," despite being six years younger than me, has spent a lot of time this weekend snoring. Heehee. Can't really do anything outside when it's pouring buckets and making the yard a soupy mess, so might as well take a long nap, since the rain is soothing enough to make even me sleepy. So, no, we really didn't get a lot done this week, even with him being off work.

It was nice enough for a few days that Quentin did get some more trees cut down, especially in the area we plan on using as a midden, to bury all the things we can re-use, burn or scrap out. We figure since it's all been laying on the ground this long, just bury it under dirt and gravel and plant some wildflowers or clover or something on the pile to keep the dirt in place. Can't do any more damage to the place than it's already had done to it with that stuff laying around, and it'll be cheaper to bury it than to take it to the landfill, and have to pay the dump fees and the gas to haul it there, especially with all the gravel/dirt ridges left behind on the mountain road every time the graders come through, which is about two or three times a year. And since there's a ridge right across the road from the end of the driveway, it makes it super easy to haul up a bucket or three at a time of the stuff for burying things. I can't help it, I'm inherently cheap and lazy. Quentin says I'm not cheap, just very thrifty, and I have often joked throughout the years that I'm lazy because I like to do things right the first time, so I get to avoid re-doing things.

Quentin also took some lumber and built sides for the trailer that slot into the little square slots on the sides. It makes it so much more useful than just being a flatbed, so now he can haul bigger loads of scrap or wood around, as long as he can figure out what's going on with the hitch assembly on the tongue of the trailer where it goes over the ball. Something in the mechanism is acting funny, and he plans on spending the drier parts of today sitting on a tarp out there while I'm at "McQuackers" trying to get it apart and fix it. More than likely, it just needs a good shot of WD-40, but you never know. Could just need a new bolt and nut, too ... he's got to tear it apart and figure out what's wrong so he can fix it and then we'll go from there.

Work's kept me pretty busy. I leave in the dark to go to work, and this whole last week, despite longer days of sunshine, I've gotten home after dark every day but Friday. It's kind of depressing, because I hardly ever see daylight right now, and there's so much I want to get done, but I'm too pooped for anything but a quick dinner when I get home. Even on Friday, I was so tired from the long hours that I ended up not getting anything done outside. But it's only February, I keep reminding myself, and it will change. Hours will drop eventually, weather will warm up and days will last longer. And I'm truthfully very grateful we're here instead of still back in our tiny apartment, because the commute, even in bad weather or heavy traffic is only 40 minutes tops, instead of 90, and only 22 miles instead of nearly 100, one way. So it makes it so much easier to not be tired and to get a few things done around here in the way of indoors chores even at night. Even if I get to do nothing anyhow, because Q's usually got it all done already, it makes it so nice to come home to a clean house and hubby and the boys (the kitties), and not have to do anything but kick off my boots and settle down with the laptop to goof off.

I'm getting some knitting done yet, because I do take it with me to the laundromat on Saturdays when we run errands, which generally takes most of the day, and then on Sunday morning, I take my knitting with me to church, where I knit during the service. We have sort of an informal knitting group going on during services, which is kind of funny. We don't disturb anybody, we sit in the back, we pay attention, and we take knitting or crochet with us that's essentially mindless work, like my afghan, or another lady who's working on sewing together granny squares for an afghan, or the lady who brings along a pair of socks every week (though how she can follow some of her patterns AND the service is beyond me, that's a bit too complicated even as long as I've been knitting, which is over 30 years!). I still need to work on rewriting a lot of my patterns for doll clothes and baby things so that I can save them as PDFs and put them up for sale on Ravelry, which I haven't done anything with for a while. Between work and sleep and the farm, there hasn't been a lot of time for that for a few months! I'll be glad when hours go down a tad so I can do more things here at the house rather than spending all my time mutilating turkeys, driving, eating and sleeping, lol. But at least I'm able to keep the bills paid, so Quentin can get all the muscle work done around here.

We did get a chance yesterday when it cleared up for a little bit to go out behind the Merlot to the old horse pasture and walk the fenceline. Sadly, most of the posts and wire will have to be replaced, which means we'll likely invest in horse fencing rather than barbed wire for it, so there goes my idea of weaving brush and such into the existing barbed wire to solidify it and make it somewhat sturdier. There's so many trees downed over the wire, and so many places where the bottommost of the three strands is so high off the ground, it's a wonder that the horses that were being kept there by the last occupant here didn't manage to get out of the pasture. And who in their right mind uses barbed wire with horses, anyhow? Horses are inherently dumb in certain circumstances, and barbed wire is one of them. I can't tell you how many times I've seen or read of a horse that got caught up in barbed wire and ended up tearing themselves to shreds because the pain of the barbs terrified them and caused them to fight, just getting themselves tangled up and torn up worse. So the wire has to go, possibly a new load of posts has to go in, and then we invest in horse fencing. A hundred-foot chunk of 5' tall horse fencing is only $180, which is a lot for the size we need to fence in, but it'll be worth it in the long run to know stock won't get out very darned easily.

There's also a ton of downed trees for Quentin to cut up out of the pasture, and rocks to grub out. I'm amazed that the three horses I know were kept there over time didn't break a leg on the freaking things, there's so many rocks and boulders out there.

Quentin can't get to a dentist for his broken tooth (because the local dentists want too much up front for the work, which mostly isn't covered by the insurance) which is pretty silly, but there's not a dentist around here who feels comfortable dealing with getting the stump of a tooth out of his gum, so it has to clear up and work its way out on it's own. It's happened before, and it was a long-term nightmare for him. Eventually, he had to do a "Marine extraction," which basically means waiting till the thing is loose enough on its own that he can grab it and pull it out. He was in the Marines, and he's just as tough as can be from it. It scared me when he did that, but I got my revenge, haha. He forgot what salt water in an open wound does, and I had him gargle afterwards with a strong salt water solution to kill germs. He about screamed, but he said later it sure killed any pain from having to do his own dental work. We solved the salt water problem yesterday on the way home, for when this one comes out and in the meantime, so he doesn't have to chug a hanful of ibuprofen for the pain.

We stopped at the liquor store and got a pint of Jim Beam Devil's Cut. Now I lke a good, strong alcoholic brew myself, being  mostly German, English and Gaelic (Scots, Irisn AND Welsh) ... I often say that American beers are just like drinking flavored water, because there's nothing to them. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit the genetic ability to HANDLE said strong liquor, and half a wine cooler puts me weaving down the hall to the bathroom, bouncing off the walls all the way. Genetically, I do have the ability to drink the strong stuff and not have a reaction to it, though Quentin and I both tried a swallow of the stuff to see what it tastes like. It's an excellent American whiskey, drunk cold and neat, though he sure does make funny faces when it hits him. Me, I just felt it go down smooth and warm me innards a bit. His reaction, "Hey, no toothache!" So we agreed, as strong as the stuff is, it's being kept handy for medicinal purposes right now for his toothache. Plus, heaven forbid he have a major accident that requires a trip to the emergency room but it's awful nasty-looking and such (like, say, a minor accident with the chainsaw that leaves him with a gaping slice in an appendage), out will come the whiskey to disinfect it and clear it out till he gets to a doctor.

I have an interest in brewing, too, so he knows that down the line, I'll be doing some homemade beer and wine-making, and a lot of it will be kept. Not so much for entertaining, though that's a big purpose, too, but if the refuse hits the rotary oscillator, I want to have some of that on hand for medical purposes and trade goods. I'm a decent jackleg doctor and a very good herbalist (I really need to get my medical herb garden going again) in that I can sew up a wound, set a broken arm/leg, wrap a sprain, etc. I can't do major stuff, so major stuff requires a "real doctor" in the event of TEOTWAWKI, or someone's going to have a big problem. So keeping some liquor on hand right now for medical purposes is a good thing. If he has to take a swig of the Jim Beam once in a while to keep his tooth from hurting, I'd rather he do that and smell like whiskey than end up tearing up his innards and thinning his blood out to nothing from having to seriously OD on the ibuprofen.

Now we did have a big problem with UPS this past week. Somebody, we have no clue who, sent me a package via UPS. I've never had a big problem with them before, but this time I really had a big problem. Apparently, someone sent me a package that someone over 21 had to be here to sign for. Unfortunately for us, Quentin's off trying to find work or odd jobs to do, and I'm at the plant when they tried the first couple of times to get it to us. And because it "requires" a signature, the driver won't just leave it on the deck. So I called UPS to see about having it redelivered. They won't deliver it outside of weekdays and ONLY within a three-day window, and they have to be consecutive. So the representative said sure, we can set it up to be waiting for you at a pickup location. However, the pickup location in Harrison is some business that's only open during the week, and only for a few hours. They can't seem to find the UPS STORE in Harrison which is open on Saturdays and later during the week, so that we could pick it up easier. I had to call the store to find out how to get ahold of the place where the package WAS supposed to be, and then from Tuesday through Thursday, the place says it's not there. I called UPS back Thursday night and got a big runaround. Oh, they can "assure" me the package is there, despite the place saying they have no record of it, it's there, they know it's there, and then I find out that because our drivers licenses don't match the delivery address, Quentin can't pick it up for me. I'd have to take time off work to go get it myself! Well, I asked to speak to the representative's supervisor, who was about as American as the first guy (ie, it's a call center in India), and kept going, "I have to inform you that ..." I finally got mad and told him, "I have to inform YOU that you have two choices on me getting this package. One is to let me give my husband a note to pick it up even if his ID doesn't have the correct address, and the other is to deliver it to the house and leave it without a signature because nobody's HOME during the day. Which is it going to be." The guy still wanted to give me the runaround, so I asked to speak to HIS supervisor, who apparently was "busy" and would "call back in fifteen minutes." Needless to say, the callback didn't happen and the package didn't get delivered, either. So one of my chores here today while I'm online is to drop a customer service email to UPS and gripe at them, as well as to get the name and address of the CEO and write them a letter this weekend and gripe at them. It may be "company policy" to require ID to match, but I know darned good and well that there are workarounds for when it doesn't or someone can't be home to sign for a package, and I was just getting stuck talking to people who have no freaking clue about real customer service. In all my years in the accounting field, if I'd tried that kind of rigamarole with a client without having IRS or State regulations to hand to back up what I said, I'd've been losing clientele right and left. UPS, with this, lost my business. I'll use DHL or FedEx from here on out, or the Postal Service. The latter may not be all the great, and sometimes they can all be more expensive to ship things, but at least I've not had package delivery issues like this with any of those three. I have always liked UPS, but this situation is ridiculous. (Yes, that long paragraph qualifies as my gripe for the week. The whole situation was EXTREMELY GRRRRRR-some.)

In the long run,though, it's so nice to be up here. With the late winter rains that we so desperately need pouring down regularly now, in the next few weeks, things will stop being so brown and will start greening up again, and the place will look a bit less like a trash dump and a bit more like a "cabin in the woods" again, giving us a chance to work our butts off clearing out more deadwood and junk trees and brush over the warm  months. I may not get a garden in this year either, but I'm at least getting some seeds and will see what I can do about some containers and planting in them. It's a start, if not much of one, but it's a start. It's kind of odd sometimes to think about all of my Gentle Readers who live elsewhere, in different climates and your weather. I know some of you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and are heading into your fall and winter weather, while we're heading into spring and summer, so it's got to be odd for you to hear about my weather being "late winter rains" while yours is "early fall," and likely still pretty warm! But now it's off to check email, and do some goofing off, and finding some more games to bring home to play offline at home, so until next week, here's hoping your weather is the way you want and need it to be.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What a week ...

we've had here. Not that it's been all bad, as some stuff's gotten done around here, but we've had a big setback. Quentin got canned from the plant. I don't blame him, he went home early Wednesday with a major toothache, and it turned out the darn tooth broke later that day anyhow. (He does have horrible teeth, what he's got left, poor dear.) But he followed protocol and told his boss he was leaving early and why, and even had a witness to it. His boss acknowledged what Quentin said, and then denied even hearing it. HR wouldn't even listen to the fact that he had a witness, so he ended up fired for "job abandonment." That leaves us financially tight again, and means that all projects again have to be done piece by inch. I don't know if I'm strong enough for this, but I have to be. He's feeling like he's not a "real man" and is very depressed, and I can understand why. It just bites that I can't do anything to help, other than keep my job and keep things together financially as best I can.

Honestly, I HATE this. I really, really hate this. It feels better putting it on paper, so to speak, but it doesn't change or fix a doggone thing. It's three months before he can attempt to rehire at Butterball, though they did tell him he's eligible for rehire. And Tyson recently changed their rehire policy from six months to a year, so if they made it retroactive for everybody, that means he can't try to rehire there until mid-November. I don't know that I can do another fresh season - this last one just about killed me. I'm so scared that things are going to fall apart worse than they have that I'm just about frozen in place with the fear. But only just about, because I don't have a choice in getting myself in gear and doing what needs doing.

I did tell Quentin that maybe this is all a sign from karma ... because there's so much here that needs doing that male muscles make easier to get done, that perhaps he's supposed to be off work for a bit to get them done. Neither of us really believes it, but we're trying to make ourselves fake it till we make it on that one. Mainly because we both know there's two choices - give up or don't give up, and neither of us is a quitter. If we were, we'd've quit on this place a long time ago, when we first saw what a disaster it was last spring.

The good news is, it's nearly spring, days are longer and slightly warmer, and so there's not going to be major cabin fever for him. He can get out and do on the property a lot more than he could when Tysons got silly last fall, and goodness knows, there is a LOT to get done. So why am I hanging out at McDonald's checking email, blogging and doing whatever? Because it gets me out of the house someplace other than necessary shopping and work, so *I* don't go nuts. If we had 'net at the house, it wouldn't be so bad, I think, but right now, we don't and it's got to be worked out somehow. This is the solution I could come up with. It's not perfect, but it'll do.

We did take time yesterday to hit one of the pawn shops in Harrison to see if they had anything we could possibly use. They've got some tools and things that will be helpful if they're still there when we save up a bit to get them, including a weedwhacker. With the property being Ozarks mountain land, it means it's mostly rocks ... I've heard it said around here that you can sift out the dirt from an Ozarks mountain and get nothing more than a wheelbarrow full of dirt, but you'll still have a mountain full of rocks. I've also heard it said that if you dig out all the rocks out of a spot on an Ozarks mountain, you can come back the next day and there's 50,000 more of the things, because they breed worse than rabbits. But that's why the weedwhacker - with all the rocks sticking up around here, there's no freaking way you can get a lawnmower around the "yard" without breaking it inside of three feet. A weedwhacker will do the job just as well without busting, though it'll take longer. (Good exercise for the hubster.)

We went to Home Depot and priced out a couple more things we need for the windlass (which Quentin will now build, since he has tons of time) and the bailer bucket. If you guys want the plans for the windlass, drop me an email and I'll shoot it to you. Ditto the link for the bailer bucket on youtube. Incredibly cheap to build, overall it'lll run us less than $100, and we'll have water out of the well. It's now getting the $100 together to DO it that's the problem.

He's going to be able to get a lot more scrapping done now, though, from the stuff lying around and the little old tool shed that got clobbered by trees falling on it back during the 2009 ice storm, and even the Merlot. It'll bring in $500 or so that we will be putting to help pay off the truck (down to just under $1200 total left on it, so any extra will be a big help there). He's looking for some work to do till he can rehire at Butterball, it's just getting by till then that's the major pain.

He did get the one bike out of the weeds and up onto the porch that we'll be using for the windlass the other day. Now he needs to find time to fix it up for that, but he's got to work on the trailer and fix the one chainsaw first. The trailer needs a bit of work to make it able to haul bigger loads, and the chainsaw needs to be torn down to find out what went blooey the other day - he got it started and it went to blowing white smoke, so it either blew a ring or a gasket. It'll take forever and a day to fix it, but it's a whole lot cheaper than replacing it, and that's less time I have to think up things to keep him busy.

There's also the pasture fencing to fix. Trees to pull off parts of it and get the barbed wire reattached to the posts or trees acting as posts, and the loose brush and even paneling from inside the Merlot to weave into the wire, because he and I both know that once we can get hoofstock, feeder calves especially like to test fences to see if they can get through. We figure the more solid-looking the thing is, the less likely they are to even think about trying to get through, which saves us a lot of hassle in the long run. That alone will take several weeks to do, not even counting the couple of weeks it'll take to clear off and repair the fence. Then he'll have to build some kind of shelter out there for livestock. I want him to build the chicken coop and a small rabbit hutch/barn, too. We may be kicked in the teeth, and feeliing pretty low about now, but I'm by golly gonna keep him so busy around here that he doesn't have time to mope, any more than I do when I'm at work mutilating those darned turkeys.

So it's a tough week this week, and more of them to come, but we'll make it. Crying about it won't help, but when it all first started, it sure relieved a lot of the tension. Quentin says he has to be the rock throughout this ... and yet he's the one falling apart the worst. It leaves me in a precarious position, because I'm not all that great with stress, and I hate being the money-maker ... I did that for the better part of two decades in my first marriage and then as a single mom with two little ones to take care of, and it stunk. It may be just us and the boys, but it's still a pain in my tuckus to have to be the breadwinner. It's supposed to be the other way round for us, and it ain't happening, and we do NOT like it.

One change to the blog ... I've had to disable anonymous comments, so you will have to log in to leave a comment now. I've had some A. Nony Mous leaving me comments every week for a bit  now on how they think I can improve the blog "with pictures and articles and oh by the way, visit my potential porn site!" I don't think so. I already put up pictures, this isn't supposed to be full of articles on goodness knows what, and I am most definitely NOT going to recommend to my Gentle Readers that they visit a possible porn site, what with popups and malware and virii abounding on the blasted things, as far as I know. So from now on, to leave a comment, just to avoid this kind of silliness. Thank you to all who come and read and even occasionally leave a comment that isn't in the tone of A. Mous's ... you mean so much to me.

But, hey, I'm still working, he's got plenty to do, and we'll keep our spirits up as best we can. The earth is greening a bit at a time, so that's uplifting as spring always is, and we'll do our best to keep things on a more or less even keel. Till next time, happy homesteading, my Gentle Readers, and I'll "see" you next weekend.