Sunday, May 26, 2013

Injuries and crappy weather ...

abounded this week, and I'm so glad it's over. Maybe next week will be a little bit better. Not so much at work, as I finally got moved to a different area where I can keep my job and keep up with the pace without feeling like I'm killing myself to do so every day. It also means I can come home and have a bit of energy after dinner to get out and do things instead of collapsing.

Memorial Day is Monday and I am thinking of all the loved ones I've had who have served. None thankfully died in the service, but many served. I tend to joke (though it's true) that I've had family in every branch of the military, other than the Coast Guard. So please, no matter where you are, think of our military this weekend, and think good thoughts for them, blessing them wherever they are. It reminds me of a local group we ran into last weekend at Crawdad Days, called Shoeboxes for Soldiers. They mostly do local soldiers, but can always use help. Find a group similar to this near you. Trust me, I've done stuff like this off and on over the years as I could afford to. There are many soldiers who get absolutely NOTHING from family and friends back home while they are deployed, and these boxes of goodies mean so much to them. Batteries, hand held games, cards, small toiletries, letters, stamps, small snack goodies that will keep for the trip (especially chocolate, I had one soldier write and tell me he really didn't like Hershey's chocolate bars, but when you don't see even ONE in the base PX for six months, you really start to want and like them), puzzle books and just anything that will help make that stay away from everybody they love more meaningful. Whether you support the missions overseas or not, whether you like our government and how it's run or not, I personally believe it's important to support our soldiers so far from home, who likely are  not getting anything to help their morale.

I am sad that this week had the devastating tornado in Moore, OK. I feel so badly for those folks and all they are going through. It has to be just awful to lose everything in moments like that. I really can't say much about it, because I simply cannot find the words, even now, to describe how I felt on seeing the news and photos, other than so very sad. The remnants of that storm cruised through here Monday night and into Tuesday, which meant no work for those couple of days, or for Wednesday while things finished drying out. Quentin did get out and whacked down those brambles for me that were regrowing.

Yes, I still need to clear up the trash, though not the one piece of pipe that's runniing across the shot. That is the protective PVC pipe Quentin put around the cable from the satellite dish to the house to keep the wildlife from chewing up the wire and cutting off the telly.

The logs and other downed trees laying on the left are what's left to clear up where the old tool shed was. You can just see, in the upper right, a bit of the Fleetwood trailer, now that things have greened up.

From the corner of the trailer by the bedroom looking back toward the front door. The piles are all the things I raked up Thursday, and I got a surprise in doing so. There's actually a double-wide pad under the single-wide trailer, and there's enough of it still in good shape that it will be a nice patio for entertaining once it's cleared off of all the grass and weeds growing on top of it, all without having to lay a patio at all. More work, but this means a lot less weed-whacking once this area's cleared up.

From the same corner looking toward the parking area/easement. You can see how greened up everything has gotten and how much weed whacking got done. You can even see how big the woodpile is getting to be. Today, when leaving, I found a tree down just before I got to the upper cattle guard. Someone had cut it up and dragged it out of the road, but it was good-sized for firewood, so I stopped at the parking are for the next photo and called hubby. Telling him what I found, he said he'd drive down to see if it was worth his time. A few moments later, "Honey? I'm getting the trailer, that's a LOT of good wood." He called me not long after I got to McDonald's, and told me he had the trailer back at the house and full and he hadn't even gotten it all. Good night, that is a LOT of wood. Heehee. All the better for our place for the woodstove once it's installed. (I keep hoping we'll get things going on that end, but it's nickel and dime things like that, and it's annoying me to pieces!)

The photo I stopped by the cow pasture to take, that I've been meaning to take for weeks. The arrow points approximately to where our property is on the mountain. The tip points basically at where I see the pinpoint of light from the yardlight when we are coming home after dark. The house is 1.3 miles up the road from the main drag, so it's kind of far up from the bottom by photo!

As for injuries, it's Bouncer. He figured out how to sneak out of the house through the screen door, despite it being latched, yesterday, when a stray tom was roaming around. We really need to get a gun and shoot that stray, he annoys the heck out of Bouncher, and now Bouncer's hurt. He went out and we didn't know it, and next thing we know, there's a cat fight going on next to the deck that  ended up traveling around the back of the house and partway  up the hill and all the way back to the Fleetwood, where we finally caught Bouncer underneath it and coaxed him to come to us and get taken indoors. He's got nicked ears, a scratch down his face from between his ears to nearly his eyes, a small scratch above his right eye and a chunk of skin and fur out of both hind feet. The left isn't nearly so bad as the right, because he's not using the right hind foot at all. It's not broken, but the injury is right where the ball and arch of the foot would be on a human, and I think we all know how much it hurts to put weight on that when you walk on tiptoes and have to end up stretching the muscles (and the owie in his case)! So he's tripoding around slowly, sleeping a lot, and generally bashing Smudge in the face when Smudge decides to try to fight. Bouncer wants nothing to do other than to sleep right now, and Smudge thinks Bouncer smells all funny and wants to beat the crap out of him. Funny enough, even though he's hobbling around on three legs right now, Bouncer tried to go back out and find that other cat again this morning to beat the holy heck out of it again. Thank goodness we caught him this time, and are treating him. Peroxide to douse the wounds right off once he was in the house, and while we're not wrapping it up because Bouncer likely would just chew the wraps off, we ARE using a lot of Neosporin on it, because I know from experience (and vets telling me it's ok), that as long as you only use the regular Neo (or generic equivalent), and not the kind with the pain relief in it, that it's okay to use. The medication helps speed healing and the petroleum jelly base won't hurt Bouncer if he eats it. So it'll be a couple of weeks before Bouncer gets to go back outside on his harness and leash for walks, till he's back on all fours steady instead of tripoding round the house.

Till next time, happy homesteading, Gentle Readers. I have to finish dumping emails and get myself home to enjoy my holiday weekend.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Birthdays, milestones, and crawdads

This past week, on the sixteenth, was Smudge's birthday. My fuzzy, sweet, scared little feral rescue kitten is a full-grown, pudgy, loveable butthead neuter who has reached the ripe old age of two years old. It doesn't seem possible that this whole venture started well before his first birthday, and here it is a year later and then some, and he's all "growed up." Milestones for the week are I finished four weeks at Tysons (and I'm still trying to get them to take me off the cone line where the breasts and such are removed and into a slightly easier job that I can keep up with better and not hurt so much ... no luck so far, but I keep on trying. The extra money is nice but not really worth all the pain. OUCH!), and while it's a cheapy electric model, we got a weekwhacker and Quentin got busy Saturday putting it to use around the house. Photos down the page of early results, as well as pre-whacking before shots. Another thing that got done is that I finally had enough oomph left one day after work, and the weather wasn't so hot and muggy, that I got out with the garden rake and moved a bunch of loose trash away from the deck so we have a pure dirt walking path from the deck stairs to the back "yard," such as it is.

And crawdads. This Friday and Saturday were Crawdad Days in Harrison. Call 'em crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, or what-have-you, Harrison has an annual festival for 'em. Music of several types at different venues, fair food, a small carnival, various vendors for arts and crafts, and other goodies, including a front decor plate for the van for Quentin for an early anniversary present (end of next month) that I picked up and some incense sticks for me. Forget perfume, I prefer incense! Sadly, I forgot my camera till we were already there and parked and looking around. Bummer.

And there was a car show. LOTS and LOTS of nice cars of all kinds, mostly antiques. Also several bikes, including a nice bunch of trike bikes. Found out that there's a trike bike club in the area, which is perfect for us, because I have good balance, but not perfect. A friend of ours is in the trike bike club (Brothers of the Third Wheel, hello!), knows my balance issues, and thoroughly agrees that for me especially, a trike bike is ideal. For him, it was ideal because he's a big guy (a two-wheeler bike has to be 1500-lb range for his size) and his wife is not. If he had to lay the bike down in the road, and he was hurt, his wife wouldn't be able to lift the thing. Now a trike bike is less likely to have that issue, so if needed, his wife can handle it. We have a similar issue, only it's Quentin's a foot taller than I am. A two-wheel motorcycle his size is going to be too heavy for little ole 5'4" tall me. And I have the kind of balance that means I have trouble with even a bicycle. So if/when we can ever get a motorcycle, it's a trike bike for me.

And it's Saturday afternoon, hot and muggy and I'm pooped but still with a lot of work to do. Groceries to finish putting away and laundry to put away and a light dinner to eat later. That's not to mention that once it gets a bit cooler, I have raking galore to do, like out by the midden heap as well as what got weedwhacked today. So till next time!!!

From the bottom of the stairs looking toward the parking area/easement, prior to doing anything. It's gotten rather a bit tall, and definitely in need of some work. With all the boulders and who knows what trash in there, it's a lot easier to weed whack rather than worry about busting a mower blade all the time. Not as fast, but it will work.

The little walking path I raked next to the deck. I still have to go behind the deck where there's no crossmembers and rake all the stuff from under it to the back so it can be picked up and hauled to the burn pit. I'm waiting on more hauling and burning till I get a garden cart of some kind for hauling the stuff. It's too time-consuming to do little armloads when I can throw a whole mess of stuff in a cart and just push it out to the burn pit and dump it in. But at the very least, we no longer have to walk on trash that can cave under our feet to get to the back of the property. There's actual dirt there now. And joy of joys, the land isn't completely dead, just nearly so. I found two whole BIG earthworms in the path as I raked it out, so there's some soil life and microorganisms there, just not a whole lot.

Remember all the dead-ish blackberry brambles I cut out from behind the deck, alongside the kitchen and front bedroom end of the house? They are springing back with a vengeance. Weed whacking will do a huge number on them, that is NOT where I want my bramble patches!

After Quentin had started to weed whack near the deck. The barrel on the right is our metal can barrel. We crush stuff and throw in there for taking to the scrap yard.

About 45 minutes worth of whacking with the little electric weed whacker. Quentin didn't think it would do all that great, but look at the difference!!!!! I am going to be raking for a while, but worth it. This looks 1000% better than it did. Plus it will help cut down on things like snakes, spiders, mosquitos, and the opossum that likes to come sit on the stair rail by the one living room window and annoy Bouncer.

And finally, this is the birthday boy being a nitwit. He's rolling around on the hardi backer where the woodstove will go. Smudge is not a cuddler but he does love ear scratches and tummy rubs IF he comes to  you and asks for them. He also loves to curl up on me for naps if I'm laying down taking one. Silly kitty!

Next week, who knows what'll happen? Looking forward to another solid week of fun on the homestead! Till then, Gentle Readers, have fun!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

It's that time of year again here in the good ole U.S. of A., when we honor our mommies. One of my friends has offered greetings, as has the hubster. I'll call my Mom later tonight and chat as always. Dear daughter has yet to realize that Mom would like a call from her ONCE a year, lol. That, or she's waiting for later tonight when I call up to talk to Mom anyhow.

We've managed to get a lot of stuff cut down and burned this week, in the way of all the smallish brushy stuff that's no good for even kindling. If I have to spend a lot of time trimming something up to make it so the thing is in shape to cut up for kindling, it isn't worth the time and effort to do so, and it gets burned. That's where a lot of that awful thorny locust is going. It would be nice to have it for the wood pile, but it's so branchy that there's not a lot of hope to salvage much of it for firewood. There's been two serious piles burned this past week already, another in the burn pit right now, and yet ANOTHER ready to go in the burn pit when it's empty again. Yeesh.

In good news, Arkansas doesn't have a way on paper returns that I can find to allow for part-year resident tax credit, so what was supposed to be $195 refund turned into over $300 when they fixed it. This was a good thing. Along with a good check from work, that meant we could do some things we needed to do, like put a new tire on Sheamus the Great White Van. The "spare" - we only use full-sized tires for spares, we both HATE those stupid little doughnut spares - well, the spare for the van was shot and needed replacing. So the new tire went on the van and the worst of the old tires is now the spare. Another good thing about that meant that we could go on a major shopping spree at Wally World and fill up the cupboards with some serious basic staples. That was a shopping trip to remember!

Otherwise, things are just chugging along bit by bit, as you can see.

This is the end of the drive, at the roadside. Yes, that's old carpet tossed over what was where that one big rock stuck up, to protect the underside of the car from bottoming out too badly on going in and out. Quentin spent part of an afternoon this past week with the mattock, the sledge, the crowbar and a lot of muscles prying up big rocks out of the drive. This particular boulder has been bugging us for months, and the weather got nice enough that he could tackle this particular housekeeping chore outdoors. The carpets still staying there because we need to get more dirt in the area and we want to keep what dirt he did put down (taken from the grading ridge across the road) in place.

The hole from one of the other boulders that he dug out of the driveway. Thank goodness the Ozarks is limestone, so it all broke up pretty easy when beaten upon with the sledgie.

Scraping out around one of the boulders so that he has room to pry it up with the crowbar after busting it up.

A small chunk busted off this one, he's crouched next to it, getting ready to put the crowbar to use to get the rest of it loose.

Remember that HUGE trash pile by the easement? This is what it looks like  now. Yeah, half of it is GONE. Either scrapped or burned, mostly burned. That is a lot of garbage gone.

Hubster prying another boulder out of the drive. All told, he dug up four big rocks.

Knocking the loose stuff from around the hole into it before getting more stuff from the grading ridge to finish filling in.

This was my afternoon yesterday. This is between the walking path and the midden heap. I cleared out a big lot of small stuff and kudzu out of here in about two hours. Still needs raking and trash cleared up, but it's a big difference just with standing stuff out of the way.

And this is the midden heap now that so much more has been cut down and dragged out. There were kudzu vines in this mess that I had to tackle with my chainsaw, what Quentin calls "the midget cricket" to tease me. Some of those vines were fully an inch across at the base. I don't even want to think how long they've been getting overgrown to be THAT big.

The pile of stuff I cut down and trimmed up yesterday - it's what's waiting to go in the burn pit once it's emptied out again.

This is some local wildflower growing next to a rock near the easement. Very pretty little purple things. A splash of color in an otherwise dreary environment - dreary only for the trash and lack of garden!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

April showers brings May ... snow?

The weather's been crazy here again, as I'm sure it's been for most of us. From the early part of the week with highs in the 80s, to the end of this week with temps literally near freezing, it's been insane. We even had SNOW Friday. I was surprised, as was everybody else that made it in to work, that the plant didn't call it off on account of weather, because it was sleeting like crazy. I slipped and slid down the mountain road so much that I called the hubster when I got to work and told him he might have to come down the road to get me at the bottom by the cow pasture when I got home. It was just that nuts. The roads were awful, too, on the pavement. Sleet was sticking everywhere and making for some seriously spooky driving. And that comes from a gal who grew up in Michigan and learned to drive through winters there, which are pretty nuts in and of themselves. But this had me spooked. The temps are so cold right now that they're what, when I was in college fresh out of high school, my compatriots and I back home in Michigan called "Ohbrrr." Mainly because it was, we joked, too cold to go, "Oh, brrr." So cold we had to condense it to one word. (By the way, it's 1030ish Saturday night as I write this, and Quentin just came into the bedroom, where it's warmer so I'm hunkering down, to tell me that the weatherman said today's "high" broke the record for lowest high. It had been standing since 1888, which essentially means that today's "high" was the lowest high pretty much since they'd started keeping track of the temps around here. Yeesh!!!!!!)

Good thing I don't have a garden in yet, though, because the crazy weather would have killed most of it off. Things are still green, though, and one good thing to come out of the crazy temps is that the freeze will have killed off all the emerging ticks. We've both found a couple on us already, but not too bad. Clearing things up is helping a lot with that, as many of you will remember last year at this time, we were doing "tick patrol" every day nearly for me from coming here after work to clean things up for moving in, and on weekends when we'd both come down to work on things.

I look back at the last year and realize, especially looking at pictures from this time last year, just how far we've actually come. It doesn't seem like it when you  live in it, and can only piecemeal the cleanup and repairs and everything, but when you can look back at photos and see the changes, it's quite amazing to have it slap you in the face just how far you've come in a year's time. Even our neighbor Eric has stopped by and told us what an improvement everybody is seeing. That we've only managed to burn about half the trash piles off the deck and by the easement doesn't seem like a lot when you consider how big they were in the first place, but when you consider that size, and that there's actually some bare ground now where last year there was nothing but trash, it's incredible. Sadly, there's still the trash pile at the end of the trailer (not too bad - mostly old tires I can use for the garden beds and a big bunch of soda cans), and the trash pile behind it (bad but not impossible), and out the back doors of the other two trailers on the place (again, not TOO horrible, just really bad) ... and all the scrub brush and such to cut down ... but as the old cigarette ads said, "You've come a long way, baby."

And a long way it's been for me to get to homesteading. It's been a dream for many years, and it took moving several states away from home, dealing with homesickness (Michigan will always be the home of my heart, but I'll likely never live there again, it's not nearly as homesteader friendly as the Ozarks), job gain, job loss, job gain, job quit, job gain back at the first place (and yes, I'm incredibly happy to be back at Tysons, and apparently so are a lot of other people there happy I'm back - it's great to be remembered after nearly three years wth so much affection!), and an awful lot of being willing to deal with what others would consider horrible inconveniences to get here.

Okay, I grant that the place is still a serious mess. I grant we still have to run extension cords for everything electrical and can't run a lot of stuff that draws major power until we get even a small gennie. I grant that we have to haul water from the local gas stations, and use a solar shower bag to even HAVE a shower. I grant that we have to heat up the water on the hot plate for doing dishes, because we also don't have a water heater, or a range/oven. I grant all our cooking is hot plate, electric skillet or microwave. But we have a sound roof over our heads, entertainments, a lot to keep busy with, the kitties, each other and a steady income. And I do like the hours at my job much better than the hours when at Butterball. Tysons runs a straight eight for hours, and I start and end later than I did before. This means I get an extra hour of sleep, still have around 90 minutes (instead of barely an hour) to pull together and eat before I have to leave, a shorter commute by half the time (and 5 miles less - but a lot less curves so I can keep my speed up more towards the 55 range rather than barely making 40 most of the way), and I still get out at 5 PM every day, so even with a quick stop for fill-ins when needed, I can get home while there's still daylight during warm weather to get things done outdoors. Add in that it means that I don't have to drive to work in the dark anymore, and you have a very happy camper when it comes to work.

One thing about this crazy weather is that it's allowed me to get a bit more done on my socks and afghan. The socks are plowing along slow but sure. They're plain but kind of not holding my interest right now for some reason, even though I need them. One sock of each of two pairs of my handknits went bye bye somehow while in the laundry and can't be found, and the one full pair I had left I had to darn one of them. That means I take the one with the hole in it and hold it over the trash can and say "Oh, darn!" as I drop it in. I know, it seems a waste to trash it rather than fix it for something that takes so much time and creativity to make as a sock, but I hate darning, and I hate grafting toes closed. Probably why I always do toe-up socks off JG's Generic Sock form and call it done, because I really, REALLY  hate grafting sock toes. It's boring and it takes me forever, even though I can get it right every time. It's just boring. I much prefer working my way up the sock to the cuff and just binding off the thing and being done with it.

The afghan, however, has taken a sad turn. I hadn't gotten more than a few inches on it, and I realized it was boring me to death. I do boring socks enough (plain foot, ribbed leg/cuff and call it done). I didn't really want to do a boring afghan, too, though all the color changes were pretty. So I ripped it allllll back and started over from the cast-on. I found a pattern for Feather and Fan and put in my stitch markers so I could keep track of stitch repeats and off I went ... I had to rip out a few cast-on stitches to make it come out right, but that's okay, it'll still be pretty good sized when it's done, and a lot more interesting visually as well. Big afghans on medium needles take a loooong time to work up, so I've only gotten one pattern repeat done so far, but thankfully, FaF is self-bordering, so I don't have to go back afterwards and pick up stitches all the way round to knit on a border, too. (Oh yeah, I'm kind of lazy with my afghans, too ... I like to work the border as I go rather than after so when I bind it off, I'm done. Never mind me and sweaters, in which I take flat patterns, add in markers on the needle, and knit them in the round to avoid seaming the things as much as possible, even on sleeves. Did I mention I hate seaming, too?)

So that's my week. It's going, going, gone, and I can't wait to see what this week brings, besides more cleanup and maybe starting to FINALLY get my garden set up a bit!