Thursday, December 29, 2005

The flu came to visit

We managed to get through the Christmas play at church first, and then "the visitor" arrived--uninvited I might add. First it came to see Claire. Her temp reached over 103 and she was miserable. She got sick Tuesday, the 20th, and managed to get better by Christmas Eve. Well, mostly better anyway. Meanwhile, on Wednesday Clark received the same visitor. His temp was around 103 and he stayed in bed without any effort from me. If you know Clark, you know that meant he was ill. Thursday was Roger's turn. His temp soared to nearly 104. By Christmas morning it was only around 100 so he thought he was better. Silly man. But he did manage to go milk Isabella and see the Christmas milk fairies (We don't know who they are either. We think it's something the fever helped him come up with.) He also managed over the next couple of days to go to work at the EDC and move the kids' lockers into their bedrooms. These are heavy items and he was still running a low fever. So, by the end of the day Tuesday he was back in bed. Once I got it through his head he needed to stay in bed, he stayed mostly in bed. But he still got up and was picking up trash in the yard. I had the kids start helping him so he'd get done faster. He went on to work on something else. I was feeling desperate wondering how to keep him rested so he could get better. He already had a pulled achilles tendon in one ankle from his activities of the past few days. But that wasn't slowing him down enough. Thank God this morning Roger woke up with the other ankle sore, too. We can't figure out how he did it, but he managed to sprain his other ankle during the night. So now he can't walk. He's in excruciating pain. He can't walk because both ankles are sore. He can't swallow or talk because his throat hurts so bad. He is finally resting!!

So that means all the work he normally does is falling on us. The kids are sharing chores mostly without complaining. Stephen made dinner last night and skimmed the morning milk's cream and watched the little ones while I helped Faith milk Isabella. Then this morning and evening Faith and Stephen milked. Meanwhile the other kids, mostly Mitchell, are pitching in to do Stephen's and Faith's chores. Grace got a touch of the flu but was only down around 24 hours. Faith seems to get touches of it off and on. It seems to start with fever, aches and pains and then when you think you're about over it, the sore throat hits. Stephen, Sam, Joy, and I all had a slight touch of it, but not enough to even go to bed. Just felt bad for a day or so. So far so good with Mitchell.

The calf has been a bit neglected. Somehow everyone seemed to miss that she needs more than her bottle each day. Mitchell couldn't get her to take her bottle so I went out to try. Several blessings came from that. One was that I got to discover that while Faith and Stephen are milking Isabella, no one is making sure Sarah has water and fresh hay. So that's been taken care of. Another is that when I came in the house I got to witness a beautiful sight. My 13 yr old son, Mitchell, had taken his very upset 3 yr old sister, Joy, in his lap to calm her down and was watching Signing Time (a video series that is just incredible if you have a child who wants to learn to sign. www.signingtime.com) with her. Watching the interaction between them was very cool. Mitchell really does have a soft, loving side even if he doesn't show it often. He was quick to explain that she was crying for me really loudly and he didn't like the noise. The third blessing for me in taking care of Sarah was that I got to enjoy our farm. It's been drudgery for me and my attitude was getting rather sour again. I spend so much time cooking and cleaning and teaching and working inside that I never really get to get out and see our beautiful ranch. Tonight I took Sarah "for a walk" and got to enjoy our land. The sun was setting, the guineas were making their weird noise, the calf was munching grass and it was just quiet and peaceful. I don't get to experience quiet and peaceful very often and it was so much easier to feel God's presence. Just to know He was there, nothing more than that. So now I know that I need to find a way to get out and work with our animals more. I don't know how, but I need to do it.

And more news. The kids all got money from their grandfather for Christmas. They were beginning to make individual plans as to how to spend it. Meanwhile Faith had been trying to figure out how to earn some money because she wanted to raise something so she could earn money from that. She'd about decided on sheep. So now all the kids are pooling their money together to buy sheep. We're waiting until Spring. Meanwhile, we're doing some research on what needs to be done here to prepare for them and what breed to get etc. But it looks like Panivino Ranch is going to have yet another type of animal. I think that's pretty cool and I'm also very proud of my children for making such a decision.

Melissa

Monday, December 19, 2005

We're back, see you in a week.

It seems that every second or third post begins with “sorry to have not blogged in so long, but…” As Pee Wee Herman said in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, “Why is it everyone seems to have big buts?” In our case, we are simply too busy a lot of days living our lives to write about them. In the last week we have gotten rid of Jimmy – he killed another chicken – helped install a video projector at church, attended a couple of work related meetings, directed a children’s Christmas musical, milked a cow a bunch of times, been sick and found a mouse.

The mice in our life seem to be the more interesting parts of the story. A week ago Saturday Faith picked up Katrina and was petting the top of her head when she felt a sharp pain in her thumb. The cat had a mouse in her mouth and the mouse bit Faith, a deep, blood gushing bite that almost required ½ a stitch. (Strange how a cut or bite is only serious when it is yours.) Anyway, I ran out and got the mouse out of the cat’s mouth and called a friend of ours out here that is a vet and asked about rabies and mice. After the vet quit laughing at me I learned that while a mouse can theoretically carry rabies, it is so unlikely that the vet told me if her own kids were bit by a mouse she would not bother with rabies testing. Upon further reflection it makes sense seeing as how rabies is passed on by a bite from an infected animal to another and so the mouse would have to survive the bite to spread rabies.

The other mouse story was yesterday. Melissa had been hearing some scratching sound and started to narrow the location down to the hallway. It was further refined to the vacuum cleaner. At that point the mouse poked its head out and two scared each other. We took the vacuum outside and while I was trying to get a kid to find the cat the mouse jumped out and ran away. We decided more than one cat was needed and wouldn’t know that as we left for church last night the new cat was walking up to the house. Even better, later in the evening Stephen saw an owl hanging around the near barn.

Also of interest was a cool blessing of meat. Last night at church one of the members came up to Melissa and was telling her how he works for a guy with a game ranch and they are culling out the herd right now and would we be interested in one, two or a dozen deer? We are getting three deer worth of venison for nothing more than the processing costs. Not bad for a guy that doesn’t hunt. Particularly neat as we were about out of red meat from the cow we bought half of from my sister- and brother-in-law last spring. We have plenty of chicken. If you want some, let us know.

Also of interest since the last post, the City Manager of Coleman has resigned and is headed to a job in Springtown. I have had a bunch of folks ask if I am interested in the job. I guess it’s a fair question since it is what I have spent my entire adult life doing, but it won’t be happening again. As I like to say, I am not obligated to continue making the same mistake. I like life on the farm too much to spend more time away. The farm gives me all kinds of chances to make new mistakes.

Roger

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Big Week - Post 3

Two days of hard work of processing chickens was rewarded with a trip to Grapevine for the sale of the chickens. I had not planned to take everyone. I had planned to take a few of the hardest workers. I failed to take into account that such an arrangement would mean the hardest worker, Melissa, would not get a reward. From now on I think we will all make the trip to Grapevine. It is a reward. It is also the final hard day of the processing cycle.

I was up to get Isabella milked and then it was full bore hustle to get the coolers packed and into the van, kids fed and dressed, surviving chickens fed and the family on the road. Three hours later we were in town. We spent a couple of hours at Parr Park, but the kids were just not all that interested in the playground. I am not sure why other than it may be boring to play in grass with very little danger in the way of rattlesnakes, spiders or scorpions.

On our way to the park we bought some soda at Tom Thumb and had a picnic at the park. This was the kids’ first soda exposure for the day. Later we would soda up for dinner as we drove home. On Sunday morning the kids were all talking about how they could go a few weeks or so without another soda and be fine. While I have a hard time understanding such a healthy attitude (I would kill for a dip of snuff right now) I am able to admire it. I am utterly unable to make any claim of responsibility for this odd behavior other than it is my fingers that get them their milk each morning.

After the sales were all complete we went to see my parents in Dallas. Dad was fine and had a couple of his friends come up to see his grandkids. Our visit with Mom was a mixed bag. I have known all along that at some point I would go to visit her and she would draw a blank. The last year or so she has not known my name but at least known I was significant in her life. Saturday she was polite but she had no idea who I was or Melissa, Faith, Grace or Claire. It probably has something to do with the beard, but she is not going to do anything but go further downhill. It is the sad fact of dementia and I told the girls as we were leaving that they were not going to come with me on the visits any more. They have a poor enough set of memories of my mother and I do not want their mental snap shots to get worse.

We finally got home at 9:45 p.m. I struggled to stay awake the last hour of driving. Melissa could have driven it, but she would’ve had to wake up to do the driving. Anyway, our late arrival meant that I had to milk the cow in the dark. We have a lantern, but it is battery operated and the cold has sapped the batteries. When the milking was done it was agreed that a new lantern that did not rely on a nice temperature would be purchased. It was purchased Sunday and it does work. It took until Monday to get her back to normal with the morning and evening milkings.

Maybe next time I will stay at home and let Melissa go to town.

Roger

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BREAKING NEWS! BRAKING GNUS!

We interrupt this blog’s travels through last week to bring you BIG NEWS.

WE HAVE ANOTHER COW!

That’s right. We had Isabella, our milk cow. Now we have Isabella and Sarah. Sarah is a black baldy heifer. Black baldies are a Hereford/Angus cross. They are all black except for their faces, which are white. Some have a bit of white in other spots and Sarah has a white patch on her chest.

I was at a meeting yesterday and I got a message that I needed to call Alice or Joe Pat Hemphill. They are long time Coleman County residents and ranchers. Their son is also the EDC’s attorney. Anyway, they had a dogie that they had found that morning and needed to put her someplace. They called because they had read about us in the paper and wanted to know if we were interested. Dang right we were.

So, in the midst of a bone chilling afternoon, the temperature was in the teens, Stephen and I got the old chicken coop modified to hold Sarah. Joe Pat delivered her all tied up in the back of his pickup and we untied her and put her in the cow coop. She managed to escape. Stephen and I ran after her and cornered her. I actually roped her. Then we got the harness on her and Stephen and I took turns dragging her back to the cow coop. She is all snug and out of the wind in the coop now and Isabella is milked and we will get after taking care of her tomorrow morning, bright and early.

Joe Pat says that she saw her first humans yesterday and is a bit wild. After my brief encounter with her today I must agree with him. I think we can calm her down in the coming weeks though as she has to be hand fed and the kids will be doing that. We now have the first cow of the herd. While she is only about a month old, she will grow up. When she does we will breed her and build a herd. I have read that black baldies are not ideal for this purpose as the advantages of the mixture of the breed are only there for the first generation, but good eatin’ is good eatin’ and she will be producing food for the table.

I cannot tell you how great this feels. Yesterday, during Bella’s morning milking, I was thinking about how we were going to the red side of the ledger awful fast and was busy thinking about options. As I walked from the stanchion to the house I realized that I had never felt better about my place in the world than at that moment. I had a bucket full of milk I’d taken from my cow and was headed to the house with a beautiful sunrise coming up over my shoulder. Later that same day, from out of no where, the Hemphills call and they have a cow they want to get rid of – we do have pay them for the cow when we sell her, but not right now and not in advance and only calf value, not retail value – and they want to know if I want it. That cow was delivered today and is now in the shelter I modified for her to go into. In the coming years she will provide meat for my family as well as income. By the way, to tell you about the character of the Hemphills, the kind of people that I get to deal with out here, I want you to know that I still have not met Alice and I only met Joe Pat this morning. They had a cow and they knew a person that they had never met could use that cow. God bless the Hemphill family. We certainly will always remember their kindness in our prayers.

Roger

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Big Week - Post 2

Day two of the processing dawned another cold day, but not as windy. This was good as we had decided that no matter how cold it might be we were going to have to get after it and just suffer through. By nine we had the first bird in the killing cone and had a pot of 150 degree water rolling. One adjustment that Melissa figured out was to turn the water heater up to the dangerously hot level of instant scalding and then close the doors to the younger ones.

The second day was aided by what we all learned the day before. Mitchell and I worked in tandem. Both he and I would take a bird from the cage and process it through to the eviscerating table, delivering a headless, footless, plucked chicken. From there the process got more specialized. Step one was done by either Faith or Claire, they would cut the oil gland out of the tail. The bird would then go to Stephen who would open the bird up around the neck, freeing the windpipe and craw from the membranes around the neck. Melissa then took the chicken and cut it open from the posterior and took its insides out. The chicken went back to Stephen who cut the neck off, stuck it in the cavity and threw it into the salted ice water. After 30 minutes in the water Clark and Claire (Faith if Claire was working the oil gland) would pull the chicken out of the water, bag it and let me know it was time to weigh it. I would weigh it and put it in the refrigerator. While all of this was going on, Grace was watching Joy and Sam.

I had heard from some friends that they had fond memories of chicken processing day when they were kids or that their kids had find memories of these days and I must admit that I had doubted them. Now that we are hitting a stride and beginning to see some progress in our speed I can see why these days were so special. I feel bad for Grace as her work is keeping her from being out there with us having all the fun.

Mitchell and I have decided that we hate all chickens and are going to try to kill all of them. It helps us with the work we do on processing day. We are infinitely fascinated with the nervous system reactions that we see the birds go through – I’d heard that a chicken with its head cut off would run around, it had never occurred to me that a headless bird would flap its wings as you carried it to the scalding station. Melissa and Stephen were endlessly fascinated by things that Mitchell and I did not care about. They would dissect hearts and lungs whenever they got a lull in the action. What each part was or did was something they wanted to know. The most interesting kid, to me, was Claire. She cared about the guts and such and would sit at the table, eating an apple, and watch the process going on. Claire had the best comment of the day when she asked Melissa if she could cut her own apples now that she was trusted with eviscerating a chicken.

Thursday and Friday were both days where I was up before the sun to milk Isabella, worked throughout the day and ended up milking her after sunset. I would come in, eat, help put the kids to bed and fall into bed exhausted and totally satisfied that I had just had a great day. Even after the first day, when we messed up a bunch of stuff and had to lose all of our work to the purpose of the sale of the birds, it was a great day. We learned a lot on Thursday that made Friday a better day. We were out in the fresh air working with our kids. I know that they all have memories of these two days that they will take with them and cherish. They are why I am here and not in Grapevine, so days like Thursday and Friday are my pay days.

Roger

Monday, December 05, 2005

Big Week - Post 1

Sorry to go so long between posts, but we have been too busy to post. I think it has been the best week we have had so far out here at the ranch. I have a very long post and will divide it into seven parts. This is a semi-lazy way to get a post done everyday for the next week. The only way to get it done easier is to get Melissa to do the posting.

This week was our first wholesale chicken processing. We started on Thursday and pretty much everything went poorly. The morning was cold and we were dealing with 20 to 25 mile per hour gusts of a cold north wind. We could have started at eight or nine, but chose to wait until 10 to get going. It was not much nicer then than an hour or two earlier, so we wasted two hours of daylight for no good reason. The big problem on Thursday was the scalding and plucking part of the process as well as the chickens that were not a part of the process coming over to eat what they could find. The scalding of a chicken is critical. The chicken is already dead, so you can’t go back and the chicken can’t go back. If your water is too hot – we find over 155 degrees to be too hot – you cook the bird while you scald off the feathers. If your water is too cold – 148 degrees is the low part of our range – the feathers don’t come off well and you have an old dead chicken by the time it is ready to process. So, your temperature has to be just right.

We could not keep the flame going on Thursday. It was either burning too hot – we scalded a few at 160 to 175 degrees – or too cold – we scaled some at 130 degrees. The money quote of the day came from one of the boys when he told me “the water looks to be at about the right temperature.” This was just before a 170 degree scalding that cooked the bird.

The worst bird was scalded too hot and then got caught in the corner of the picker. The rubber fingers of the picker tore the skin and the meat off the bird’s wing. When the water is too hot the feathers pretty much fall right off the bird. I also noticed that the barred rocks held on to their feathers, particularly on the wing tips, better than the red broilers.

On day one we processed 22 birds. The biggest bird of the two days was a 2.75 pound bird we got on Thursday. However, because we did so poorly on Thursday these 22 birds are our own stock and we left ourselves with having to go through a gut check on Friday when we had to get all of our sale birds done then.

Did we make it? Read tomorrow.

Roger

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tools in the kitchen

Yes, we are in the process of a major remodel so there are always tools everywhere--including the kitchen. But that's not exactly what I'm blogging about tonight.

Roger has always told me that having the right tools is a big part of doing a job. I've been trying to make butter, and we're getting butter, but it's been a big job. We ordered some stuff to make cheese and got something called butter muslin. I guess it's "real" cheesecloth. I keep reading that the stuff you get at the supermarket isn't the same and now I believe it! I've been rinsing and draining my butter in supermarket cheesecloth. Then the job of kneading the whey out of the butter takes at least an hour. But Wednesday morning I used the butter muslin and was able to actually squeeze a lot of whey out of the butter without the butter squeezing out of the cloth. This meant it was much quicker when it came time to knead the whey out. Hurray for small victories!

And Roger has already mentioned we got a new range. I just wanted to say Praise God we have it!!! It used to take 30 minutes to boil 8 cups of water to make our oatmeal for breakfast. Then we had to leave the stove on high while cooking the oatmeal to get it to cook. With the new range, I was able to boil a huge pot of water (enough to make spaghetti noodles for all of us) in under 10 minutes. And I actually got it to a full, rolling boil! I haven't seen that since we left our old house in Grapevine. Yeah, the oatmeal boiled over and left a huge mess on my brand new stove, but it cleaned. Cooking will be so much better now! When a package said to bake something for 15 minutes it would take 45. Baked potatoes--even small ones--took 2 hours. How do you plan for this? I never knew how long it would take to do something and it seemed to keep getting worse. Roger pointed out it would be impossible to pull together the whole Thanksgiving meal with that unreliable range, so we went shopping. The new one is so great! It works! That's all it took to please me, but in addition it has a lighted oven with a window, plus a clock and timer. Really, it's nothing fancy, but I just love it!

It's so great to have tools that work! And the turkey was delicious and done in excellent time!

Melissa

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ready for turkeys.

The last few days have all been a blur. Last Friday night Melissa and I had a charming night out with the girls – we went to Home Depot and Wal-Mart. The decision was made that we would not roll the dice on the range working this Thanksgiving and we were going to get a new range. We looked at gas and we looked at electric and we ended up with a Maytag electric range. I ran the wire Sunday and it was delivered yesterday. This morning the water for the oatmeal boiled quickly, the pies cooked in the amount of time they were supposed to cook this afternoon and dinner was made in the time it should have taken this evening. These are new events in this house.

The duct work for the heating and air conditioning system was finished on Sunday and on Tuesday the installers showed up. This afternoon they left and we have central heat and air now. There is one duct that I need to run and with my brother-in-law on the way tomorrow and staying for a bit more than one day, perhaps, maybe we will run the duct work to the lone, cold bathroom. I may also use him to fix some fences. It is also just a likely that he will bug out and head off camping with first light on Friday.

On Tuesday, while the Home Depot guys were here to deliver the range, another truck pulled up and our ice maker finally made it here. We ordered this thing a month ago. Its installation was completed this afternoon and I had a big glass of water full of ice with my dinner. We are pretty much done with roughing it, now. Yeah, I am still getting up at 5 to milk a cow and it is kind of cold, but I now can come into a warm house with biscuits cooking reliably in the oven and iced tea ready to wash them down.

The boys also finished taping and bedding the drywall in their room today and we are ready now to texture the room. If I can find the brush I may make them start tomorrow. The sooner I can get them out of the dining room the sooner I get going on the remodel of the kitchen and dining room.

From the ranch where blessings fall into place all at once, Happy Thanksgiving.

Roger

Monday, November 21, 2005

Making Cheese

I made cheese today! This is actually something I've been dreading doing. I just had no desire to do it. It sounded like a lot of work and I already do enough work. I was not excited about taking on yet another job.

But last night we had a dinner at church and so no one was here to drink milk. We went to pour the milk into gallon jars and discovered ALL our jars were full. So we dumped milk into a pot and we were set. Of course, then I had a gallon of milk sitting in a pot and little excuse to not make cheese. I opted to go with the mozzarella which was supposed to take 30 minutes. It seemed easy enough. But at one stage of the cooking, the recipe said if the curds weren't firm enough (and I was sure they weren't since it looked like thin pudding) to let it sit a few more minutes. No problem, I started washing dishes. Then the phone rang. I wasn't on the phone long, but it was too long.

I think it would have been okay, but on top of that, my thermometer kept telling me the cheese was 120 degrees when really it was higher. I was supposed to work it until it was 135 degrees. So I kept going alternating heating and kneading. Finally it was really burning my hands. This didn't seem right at all. Sure enough, when I messed with the thermometer a bit, it jumped up to 170! I plunged it into ice water, but it was too late.

Fortunately, my kids still liked it and ate nearly all of it right away. It was like the cheese on the top of your pizza AFTER you've cooked it and then let it sit out and get cold--rather rubbery.

But I learned how to do it. I know what I did wrong. And I made this mistake on EXTRA milk. No one had to suffer through a lack of milk or a lack of cheese due to my mistake. I'll try again soon--after Thanksgiving.

I'm still not looking forward to making cheddar. I'm putting that off until I have a laundry room -- with shelves -- so I'll have somewhere to put everything. At least, that's my current excuse.

Melissa

Sunday, November 20, 2005

How much is that puppy in the truck?

Chickens and dogs are a poor mix and we are getting a full dose of it. This week Stephen found four dead chickens and Scout eating on one of them. Jimmy, while not right there at the time, was also undoubtedly a culprit. I tried to get them to the shelter here in Coleman, but I forgot that there is a difference between a city of 5,000 like Coleman and a city of 15,000 like Warrensburg. Here the animal shelter is a series of outdoor cages for strays that are caught by the Police. There the shelter is a full animal control shelter that has pens and operates as a place to take strays as well as an adoption center. So, dropping them off at the Coleman shelter just was not much of an option.

Our next option was to kill them. Really, that is the first option for most people. We decided against this. I decided against this as no one else was going to have to do it and I was not willing to do it.

Melissa and I had read one time about a guy that soaked the chicken his dog had killed in gasoline and then tied up the dog with water and the chicken as the only things in reach. As the dog got hungry it would take a bite of the chicken and then get sick and so on for about a week. Well, it worked for a day. The gasoline dissipated and the dogs ate the chickens the second day. Now we have successfully trained our dogs to eat chickens. This is a bad development.

Now the plan is to keep the animals penned up until this Friday and then head to the Brownwood Wal-Mart. Black Friday should be a good time to give a couple of dogs away. The final option is to kill them. See the second paragraph.

Roger

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Milk Tragedies and Lessons

Cold morning today, but a learning experience for Faith and me. We were the first ones up, which is par for the course as we are usually the ones that milk Isabella. It was cold here, about 27 or 28 degrees when the sun came up. Isabella was making a bunch of racket as we got out there as we were later than normal. This was by design as I did not want to try to get going in the dark as cold as it was because I’d had trouble with the lantern the night before. When we got out there and the water trough was empty. No sweat, we fill it up with the hose. Oh, wait, that would be on a normal day. On a cold morning like this the hose is full of ice from the water that remained from the night before. The hose was uncooperative and after 10 minutes of working on it we gave up and began to milk with out water for the cow.

This was the first cold morning for Faith and me and Isabella and I don’t think any of us had ever seen steam coming off fresh milk in a bucket. With it being as cold as it was Faith and I were working as fast as we could. Before too long we had more than a gallon and a half and we were flying with the work. It was at this moment that Isabella stepped in the bucket, tumping it over on the ground. The worst part was not the lost milk (although that was bad enough) but the fact we had to keep on milking her out and put another gallon in the bucket. A gallon we could not use that would have been a nice, rich cream harvest for Melissa. This morning we learned that the trough needs to get filled to the top at night as it is not a sure thing the hose will work come the morning. I think that if the water had not been a problem Isabella would have lasted longer before she started moving around. As it was, by the time we gave up on the water she was leaking milk and ready to get empty.

The cream we have, and we are getting about a quart of cream with every milking, was another spilled milk tragedy for us. Faith (why is she always involved?) was mixing a gallon of cream to make butter milk by rolling the jar across the floor to her sister Claire. They rolled it back and forth and from what he have been told the butter comes around the end of a Veggie Tales. Melissa and I were talking in the kitchen and we heard an odd sound and when we went into the living room, there was the cream all over the floor. This afternoon we learned that the jar needs to be taped on the jar before the rolling begins. We also realized how very blessed we are by the absence of carpet in the living room.

I am almost a week into a beard now and it is in the very scratchy, very ugly stage. I am trying to avoid mirrors (more than usual) so as to not get discouraged.

I found two web pages where they teach you how to build your own honey separator for less than $50. This is a mere $450 savings on a tool I will really need if the bees are to provide us with honey.

I must go to bed now.

Roger

Friday, November 11, 2005

SEND HELP

I am being held hostage by Isabella. She is keeping us in milk, but she is also making me milk her every time or, at least, be a part of the milking crew. Sleep is a valuable commodity and she is stripping it away, bit by bit and I think she has a plan for me as well. Every time she licks me now she is trying to get a bit of my hand in her mouth. I have read that cows do not bite. If your hand is in her mouth, she bites. Maybe since she has no top teeth it is not an official bite. Perhaps Webster requires opposing teeth to call it a bite. Fine, it is a pinch, but it has the potential to result in having your finger pinched off.

I am also concerned that she may be trying to get together with the chickens and team up on the rest of us. Caught her over by the tractor earlier today. She likes their food and they are the only animals, aside from me, that she will allow near her without trying to get them. Its just suspicious, that’s all I am saying.

When I milked her tonight she was sort of testy and after 45 minutes of working her I had a bit more than a gallon and a half. It was at this moment she stepped in the bucket. I had dodged three previous attempts this evening by her, but this time she got me. I tried to keep milking her just to get her empty, but she would not let me. I expect to get a bunch of milk tomorrow morning.

I started working on a business plan this morning for the spa treatment, the working title for now is Isabella Dermabrasion. I figure we get cows and have people lay down on a Lazy Boy or dentist chair, cover their eyes and have the cows lick them while we play some John Tesh in the spa provided headphones. I am thinking maybe we put a perfume of some sort on their upper lip to hide the cow smell. Just a thought, let me know what you think.

I read today that Barbara Streisand is calling for W’s impeachment on her blog. Since I am as important to her career as she is to political discourse in the United States, I am calling for Babs to star in the remake of Coalminer’s Daughter.

Roger

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Mmmmm, that milk is good!

I have been absent for a few days as the new schedule here at the ranch gets worked out. Late night posts are pretty much a thing of the past as 5:00 a.m. is the new wake-up time for me. The last couple of mornings Faith has gotten up with me and milked Isabella. In the evenings it has been a hodge-podge of folks as Claire and Faith worked with me last night and Stephen milked tonight. Melissa milked two nights ago, but Isabella head-butted her and that was a scary moment for all of us. Like an idiot I told Melissa to go give Bella a hug and like a bigger idiot she listened to me. I am always amazed anyone ever takes advice from me. Bella picked Melissa up by her ribs and sorta tossed her a foot or two into the air. Thank God Bella has been de-horned. I think Bella might have been afraid she was gonna get eviscerated.

Isabella’s biggest problem was the delivery of her placenta. There was a little piece of flesh hanging out her backside when we got her and Melissa noted that there was some more pinkish tissue showing up as she approached Bella for a smooch. This morning Faith noted that there was a bunch of flesh coming out of Bella and, sure enough, there was a hunk of flesh about like a polska kielbasa hanging out of her. After we got back from church she was resting by the fence and when I called to her she stood and I saw mass of tissue fall to the ground. I went and checked and, sure enough, there was a placenta on the ground. I know what a placenta looks like from my mid-husband work.

Anyway, now that she has passed her placenta she is way more active and alive. She chased the dog away from the stanchion. Not that Jimmy is much of anything. She is also mooing louder. It is funny, as I walk away from the pen she will call out to me and now that she is louder I can hear her all the way to the house. She is still trying to figure out her place in the herd and launched Grace this afternoon – after she passed her placenta. I am kind of hungry as I write this and keep on linking the words placenta and salsa in my mind. Placenta Salsa sounds about as good to me as the “Peach Salsa” I saw on the shelf the other day. If you have any good recipes for this, let me know.

She let a lot of milk loose this afternoon for Stephen and me. Stephen is still a bit skittish around Bella – he was there when she tossed Melissa – but he did well today. There were two problems for him though. The first was that we were both grabbing at the bucket when Bella moved and on one occasion we almost dumped it out together. The other problem for him is a cut thumb. He will get past both of these issues.

Have you aver been licked by a cat? If you have you know that there tongues are a little bit rough. A cow’s tongue is a hundred times bigger and a hundred time rougher. This afternoon Isabella decided that my arms and hands needed to be licked. I think that if I could train her to lick people on command I could open a spa and sell the world on the wonderful benefits of being exfoliated by a Jersey cow.

I hope Melissa gets a picture or two of her up soon so you can see how pretty she is.

Hey Charly – when did that loser Avezzano go to Oakland?

Roger

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Isabella

We got a cow! It's better than Christmas around here! This morning while eating our oatmeal the trailer showed up with some buddies of Roger's. They brought us our cow! Praise God! What an answer to prayer!

Isabella is a full-blooded Jersey cow. She's 2 yrs old and just gave birth to her first calf a few days ago. I think this morning was the first time I ever even touched a cow and that was to milk her. Poor thing was dripping with milk and we were so slow. Of course, she wasn't very co-operative either. She kept moving and laying down. She was mad. She was away from the other cows. She didn't know us. She probably was missing her baby. We were milking her by hand and didn't know what we were doing. She just wanted to get away from us.

So I took the kids to Brownwood and we bought a cow halter. We have to break her to lead. She had to be tied up for a while just to learn to be here. It felt kind of mean, but we had to do something, right? Then we went out to milk her again. She relaxed some and we finally got her to eat her grain and drink her water. After that she was pretty calm for us. I don't think she ever laid down this evening. But the poor thing was very patient. It took us two hours to milk her! We'll get faster though as we get more used to this. And she'll get more co-operative as she gets used to us.

She is so pretty! I'll try to get a picture of her soon and post it. She's got those big Jersey cow eyes with the long lashes. Roger says we just think she's pretty because she is ours, just like with our kids. But I think he's nuts. Our kids really ARE beautiful and so is our cow. Anyone can see that.

And now we have REAL milk in our refrigerator! And cream! I have been craving cream ever since we had to give up the raw milk we were getting from the co-op we were part of in Grapevine. There's something about pasteurized, homogenized milk that just doesn't satisfy my cravings for cream.

I can't believe after 13 years of wanting a cow, I finally have one! Thank you, God!

Melissa

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wal-Mart (verb)

We went to Brownwood on Thursday. We had some Walmarting to do and I was sick so I sat on the bench by the check-out registers for a while. As I sat there I saw the great unwashed of the world walking by. Less than half had all of their teeth or a combination of their real teeth and dental inserts. I guarantee less than half had ever bought or worn as much as a whole carat at one time, in one item. None of the people there would have thought twice about suspenders and a belt. I watched and realized with no doubt what-so-ever that I was at home. I am not trying to be funny about this. It is what I am realizing is the new and, to me, exciting reality for my life.

When I am not at work with the Economic Development Corporation I do not have to care if I am dressed right or wrong. I really don’t even have to care if my fly is up or down. I do not have to care if I am wearing gang colors or not since there is no gang presence in Coleman. I do not have to worry about combing, brushing or bathing for any reason other than I want to care about these things. People in the city talk about the hicks and rednecks and how backwards they are and there are probably plenty of examples, but at the same time there is a lot of tolerance for each other out here.

Let me give an example. The ladies that are the staff at the Chamber of Commerce here are two of the finest ladies in the community. They are well connected and good church going ladies. One is the wife of a City Councilman. There is a developmentally challenged fellow that comes by each day. They visit with him, give him a coke and laugh at his jokes. When he leaves they go on about their work. There are no comments about him or their standing relative to his. They just take care of him as best they can with what they have on hand because he is as much a part of the community as they are. End of story.

This is a level of decentness I’m adjusting to. I am too used to the situation described above degenerating into a laugh-fest as soon as the person is out of the room. Much to my shame I would have participated in, if not led, the joking. I think there are too many of us in the cities. With so many people it is easy to take one another for granted. Out here, in a county with less then 10,000 people, it is not so easy to just look the other way and ignore those people that are in need. We can’t be comforted with the thought that someone else will take care of the problem as there just aren’t that many people to go around.

What kills me more than anything out here is the feeling that no cares about us beyond our own little enclaves. As I sat at the front of the Wal-Mart Thursday all I could think of was how these folks were as far from the seats of power in this State and Country as they were from being as rich as Sam Walton. Six months ago I got to play a small bit in the power arenas of the Metroplex and Austin. The pressure was high, but the food was great, the cigars were Cuban and the liquor was free. I Walmarted in Grapevine plenty of times, but never once did I get the feeling I was watching and being a part of a group with very little ability to actually get representation in Austin or Washington. Yet there are a whole lot more folks like the group at the Brownwood Wal-Mart than at the Grapevine Wal-Mart. Sooner or later this group will find its voice and that voice will not be Republican or Democratic. It won’t be Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan. It will be someone in the middle with a feel for common people. Howard Dean had the right general idea of grass roots involvement and small gifts from many, he just turned out to be too liberal and loud and full of venom for mainstream America.

Next time I’ll write about chickens and sheep and such. I just had some venting to do as I find myself more and more disillusioned with the political process.

Roger

Monday, October 24, 2005

Chickens and Cold Weather

I can't believe Roger said the smoked chicken turned out okay. It turned out GREAT! I hope the next time he smokes chicken, we have a lot of them for him to smoke. I couldn't stop eating it. I had to because the kids wanted some and we were running out. And then I thought about it all day today. And no, that's really not just a hungry pregnant woman talking. Today's morning sickness was strong enough that I couldn't think about any other food at all. I had to force myself to eat. But that chicken would have been no problem! Kind of like how there's always room for dessert.

We also got the chicks moved from the brooder today. The weather was cold this morning, but it warmed up and got to the point that it was warmer outside than inside. So I went out to be in the sun to warm up. Since it was nice and would be for several more hours, we moved the chicks. Just like last time, this allowed us to count them. We have 103. We ordered 100 and lost a couple within a couple days of shipping. I'd been told that Ideal is a good hatchery and usually will add a couple extras to cover possible loss while shipping. This seems to be the case. At least they have pleased us so far. It's nice to know there's a good hatchery right here in Texas.

The cold weather is great for getting rid of bugs. And we're not feeling the need for air conditioning. We are finally able to get central heat and air, but haven't yet. Fortunately, we do have hot water so long, hot baths can steam up the bathroom and keep you warm until you get out. I removed the hose from the dryer, but it's only warming up the laundry room and not really helping the rest of the house. We are waiting to hear back from some guys about getting estimates on the system. Hopefully that will happen really soon. But we made a search through our stuff stored out in the barn and finally found coats for everyone. That should help a lot!

Keep warm,
Melissa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Catch Up Time

The blogs for the last few days have been on hold as we have been very busy here at the ranch. Big excitement on Thursday – the chicken picker arrived. We had planned to process a couple of roosters on Friday and had planned to manually pluck them. With the arrival of the picker we were able to mechanically pluck them. This will make the processing of 100 chickens at a time much quicker and more efficient.

Friday’s big deal was the processing of the roosters and the progress on chicken tractor #2. The second chicken tractor is getting close and we had hoped to move the brooder chicks on Monday morning, but a very stiff north wind, dropping temps and the smoking of the roosters made it a non-starter today. The processing went much quicker with improved chicken killing techniques. A big thank you to Karen for telling us how to do this all important task as a live chicken would not scald well. Plucking and eviscerating would also be rather cruel if the chicken was still alive. We not only improved technique but also used our new traffic/killing cones. The scalding was done in a bucket with hot water in it last time, this time we used a turkey fryer to scald the chickens. The eviscerating did not get any faster and we are bit worried about this. The Eviscerator has a new companion in the League of Eviscerators – me – and we will be teaching Claire how to do this next week. “Claire?” you ask. “Yes, Claire,” we answer. She has been interested in it from the beginning, watching all the way and not doing her other assigned jobs. She is very excited about the possibility and has dibs on which chicken she eviscerates as at least one of them has apparently offended her.

Saturday Stephen and I went fishing with some of the men from church. We went to a lake here in the county that is pretty much a secret unless you are a Coleman County resident. Our three boats were the only ones out there all day with the exception of an old guy that went out to check on his trot lines and then left. I caught a bass that just under the minimum. Stephen had the same experience. The only downside to the whole thing was when I fell off the boat. It wasn’t in the water yet when I fell. I slipped on the side as it was still covered with dew. I broke my fall with my right hand and damaged some tendons. You know that meaty part that makes your thumb kind of look like a drumstick? Well, it is one big thick drumstick now. Since it was a church deal I managed to not cuss about it. If you were to ask him, Stephen would tell you that my not cussing was the most amazing part of the day.

Today was about smoking some roosters and staying out of the wind. The colder weather, it kept dropping all day long, made it hard to maintain the proper temperature, but the birds came out okay. I would be able to tell you more if it weren’t for the upset stomach from eating too many candy corns this afternoon as well as some really awful saltwater taffy that was in the cabinet. At least that is what I am hoping made me feel not well as so far I avoided any major run-ins with the stomach flu. Puns are fun!

Roger

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rappin' and Rhymin'

Clark learned to rhyme today and I got to teach him. While the Eviscerator was fixing dinner we were watching Sam to keep him from damaging himself. There was a learning thing-a-ma-jig that asked all kinds of questions and one category that kept coming up was “what picture rhymes with ____?” Let’s say it was asking for something that rhymed with ‘bee’ and there was a picture of a dog, a tree and a bush. Clark never got it right. So we worked on how rhyming means that one word sounds like another word.

When it was time to take care of the chickens he and I went together and he quizzed me on things such as “what is in the sky and rhymes with loud?” I would then be given the chance to quiz him. The interesting part was when we would get to words that he pronounces incorrectly. For example, he insisted that “board” and “bird” both rhyme. I am not sure that he has this one down yet.

At bed time we invented our own rhyming game. I would ask him “what rhymes with get in bed or get planked?” or “what rhymes with lay still and be diet?” It worked for a while. The older kids enjoyed it more than Clark, but not more than me. I gotta tell you, this beat the daylights out of being at a meeting.

Roger

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Lost Days

Lost days are those days when you ought to get a bunch done, but for one reason or another, you get pretty close to nothing done. When I was a City Manager the lack of accomplishments on a Saturday or Sunday was a major cause of depression as I had squandered a golden chance to get something done on the house or a piece of furniture or the landscaping. Sadly, soccer games and hockey games and stuff like that – the stuff of good parenting – caused a lot of lost days and I would literally be depressed during sports seasons as I was losing time on a remodel project or something like that when I was also being there for my kids.

When we moved to the country I figured I would have more time for Saturday and Sunday stuff and would be much happier for it and would be less of a grump about stuff with and for the kids. This was true until I took a job. Now I work Tuesday through Thursday and last week and this week you can add in Mondays. I lost Friday to close on the house and I lost yesterday to stomach flu. I am feeling good today and have a long list of chores to get done. Today I have got build a chicken tractor as we need to move the brooder chicks pretty soon. The second tractor is a pile of lumber and other supplies at this time. I also need to get a heater thingy that was in the house when we got here and is still here moved out of the living room so we can begin to try to make this place feel more like home. I also need to get the water softener hooked up and working. I also need to get drywall work done and chicken stuff and whatever else.

I feel kind of bad about complaining about missing a day in order to close on a house and get to see my friend Charly - which happened Friday - or to go to kids' sports events - which use to be a day taker. Its not that these things aren't enjoyable, its that they take me away from getting stuff done and I have this odd compulsion to get stuff done. The other thing is that you don’t get sick days on a farm and there isn’t anyone else to get the tractor built for you when everyone else is sick or tending to the sick. So, now I have a bunch to do and am getting all tense about it as if I was still living in Grapevine.

By the way, we are not living in Grapevine and we no longer own a home there. We are very happy about this as it was a monetary drain on us. We are also sad as the house on Limerick was a wonderful home. It felt like home from the beginning and even when we were tearing it up to make it more like home it felt like home. We are missing on a couple of cylinders with this house and are trying to get it to feel like home. Having the boys live in the dining room is one of those things that causes a mental block in the feels like home part of the brain. Not having enough places for everyone to sit in the living room is another part of the mix. We will get there.

Roger

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Musings late on a Thursday

Joy and I are sitting here eating peanuts. Everyone else (excepting the Eviscerator) is in bed but me and the three year old. She isn’t really three yet, but claims it as her age and lets me know, whenever she can, that on her birthday she will be eating ice cream. Right now she is in the process of alternating between “reading” the Sports Illustrated from three weeks ago and falling out of the recliner as she reaches for the peanuts.

This evening we ordered a chicken picker. This is a contraption that you drop a chicken into – a scalded chicken – and it spins around. In 30 seconds it is supposed strip up to five chickens clean. I am doubtful about these claims. I have no reason to be doubtful other than I have no experience with such things and since they are outside of my knowledge base they cannot be true.

No work at any office tomorrow. I hope to be in Grapevine closing on the sale of our house. We will be making fewer trips to Grapevine after tomorrow with the exception of trips to sell plucked chickens. We are close to sold out on our first batch. The impending processing day was the motivation behind getting after the purchase of the picker.

I got into a conversation today with a guy that raises sheep. I intend to talk to him some more about this as I am now interested in being a guy that raises sheep. You see, a three month old lamb sells for $300. Since a ewe will give birth up to two times a year and many will give birth to twins pretty routinely, there is some money to be made on these animals.

The Eviscerator is out here now and reading to Joy. She made Joy give up her Sports Illustrated and is reading Highlights to her. Right now it is a fascinating story about the wolf and Red Riding Hood at a school class party.

Boringly Yours,

Roger

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

PanivinoRanch.com

I have spent about a week and a half now working on our web page. I kept getting stumped on the same spot--how to let people order chicken so that we would know they ordered it AND they wouldn't have to pay yet. Well, I finally have it figured out. It's not the answer I was trying for, but I think it works. So, if you're interested in ordering chicken from us, you can go to www.panivinoranch.com and order. I think we still may have a few kinks to work out, but it's soooo much closer than it was! The kids have watched Sam a lot this last week so that I could focus on learning all this stuff. They've been great!

Also, totally separate subject, we may have found a solution to help get me through morning sickness. Halloween candy! I LOVE those little pumpkins and candy corn. I bought a bag of it and discovered that almost immediately after eating some, the nausea temporarily disappears. I will have to be careful not to overdo this solution because I think it could backfire on me. I have suspected that I just get so hungry I get nauseous. After all, my need for calories is increased now that I am pregnant and still nursing Samuel. I know from previous pregnancies that if I can get my protein intake up to at least 90 grams then I feel okay. But how do you make yourself eat when you feel sick at the thought of food? But there's always room for dessert--and apparently candy too! So I eat a couple of pieces of candy and then quickly eat a meal, snack, or whatever that is more nutritious. But if I overdo it and eat too much sugar, I get that rebound where my blood sugar level rises and then falls quickly. This can leave me feeling even worse. It's funny, I've joked that sugar is like a drug. Someone even pointed out to me that it's a white powdery substance derived from a plant. Sound like any other well-known drugs? So I guess like any drug, it can be useful if we just use it wisely.

I can't figure out any way to say the dyes are useful. I'll have to watch out for signs of depression or something now. I've been amazed at the effects of those nasty chemicals. I knew they bothered some of my children. I just was surprised that they even affected ME! Try avoiding them for a while and then see what happens. You might be surprised too!

Okay, time to go eat a pumpkin so I can make dinner. ;-)

Melissa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Murder Most Fowl

There is a ZZ Top song lyric that goes “I didn’t know what meant to be loved to death.” While I do not have a personal knowledge of such, we have just lost a hen to this phenomenon. Henny Penny died this evening, she was a favorite of all the roosters. Stephen took her out into a field far from the hen houses and we will watch the cycle of life continue on tomorrow as the vultures come in for their feeding.

For the record, this week we have lost a hen, five hippie chicks from tractor and one chick from the brooder. Next week we plan to lose two roosters to the table. It will be our last practice prior to the big processing the first weekend in November. Also on tab this week is the construction of another tractor for the chicks in the brooder, a trip to Grapevine to close on the house, a Board meeting for me Tuesday night, an electric service upgrade that will result in hot water at all of the sinks in the house and a trip to interview a new midwife.

We are also supposed to get another cold front our way tomorrow. Rain and a stiff north wind! Add getting estimates for an HVAC system to our list of stuff to do this week. Also add finding out where our coats are. We have located some of them, but not all of them.

The kids dug a fire pit out by the near barn yesterday. Only two of them reported burns. The pit is a 3½ foot hole about a foot deep close to the water hose – safety first! – that they are burning all manner of junk they find. I was a bit concerned that they were going to ask to give Henny Penny a funeral pyre, but I guess calmer heads prevailed. That or their education is deficient in the ancient burial rites of various cultures. Anyway, the fire pit is a nice diversion for them and keeps them out doors absorbing Vitamin D. It was cold, but sunny, yesterday and I noticed some freshened up tans this morning.

We live on a farm and outdoor stuff is the rule rather than the exception. Right now, as kids are going to bed, Stephen is outside continuing his quest to rid the farm of stray cats. So far we have three – Katrina (whom we plan to keep), Rita and Dennis. The kids have named them after recent hurricanes, mostly because earthquakes don’t get names. It is dang hard to get rid of stray cats as they will put up with rocks and such being thrown at them as free food sits out within 100 yards of the house. I am considering letting Stephen shoot the cats. My main concern with this course of action is that he might just wound one and it would run under the house and die there. I don’t like the stray cats, but I hate the thought of crawling under the house to get its body out before it begins to rot.

All of the kids have gone to bed now and it is time for the best part of the day – ice cream.

Roger

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We have hot water now, which makes us better off than most of the third world. Finally!

Two trips to the hardware store, one trip to the farm supply store and one trip to the liquor store. Is the water heater working and the water in it from the county co-op? Yes and yes. I did not get stung by the bees living in the meter box when I turned our city water off. The gas line I took from one water heater to use on this one worked and did not have any holes. The pilot light is on and no one has blown up (yet). There is hot water in the water heater and available in the bathrooms. The Eviscerator is taking a bath at this moment. When she is done I will make a trip to Best Fried Chicken for our dinner. The day hot water became a reality on the farm is a big day. It is the first time in 114 days that hot water has been available from the faucet for the Nelsons. Even better, there are no leaks in the system. I think.

No work on the farm tomorrow other than the regular chicken tending work. If you tend to chickens are you a chicken tender? I have been with the water system all day, so the mid-day chicken tending was done by Clark. I am a bit worried about what I might find out there in a bit.

The kids dug a fire pit out by the barn last night and this morning. They have been burning stuff all day. This is also why Faith has been nursing a burn all afternoon. They were making charcoal and she picked some up only to find that it was hotter than she thought it would be. She does not know why they were making charcoal.

I was walking the trench yesterday to see if all was ok and found a skunk dead in the trench. I just piled more dirt on top of it and went on my way to see if there were more leaks. There were not. We’d heard some shots the other night and I think that our neighbor wounded a skunk, it stumbled away from his house and fell in the trench. It fell in at a time when we had a leak, so it would have, possibly, drowned in the trench. I am not sure how else to explain a dead skunk, head down, in the trench. I guess it could have been drunk and fell in the trench and snapped its neck. It could have been a snitch and it was rubbed out by the skunk mafia and left out in my trench for a message. Sadly, I am too tired to know what the message was.

The Eviscerator has finished her bath and says it is time for me to get out of here to get some chicken. She says its great being clean.

Roger

Water all over the ground, not a drop in my cup

The Eviscerator has been doing the blogging lately as I have had nothing but failure to report this week. Last Friday I rented a trencher from the Brownwood Home Depot as the only local one for hire was hired out. This means an hour’s drive to rent a tool and then back again. With crappy gas mileage and $2.85 gas that’s a chunk of cash there. Anyway, I got after it Friday evening as the job called for 750 to 800 feet of trench to be dug. Stephen and I worked past sunset to get as much done as possible.

Saturday morning came and the trench was completed. The part that was done in the dark is crooked, but serviceable. The trencher went back and we got the 1000 feet of 1” black poly pipe for the water supply line. It went in like a snap and Mitchell and I have the line all the way to the house at the end of the day. We charge it up with water and it all holds. A job well done.

Sunday, after church I went out to work on getting the line put into the house it was here that the fun began. I am working at the house and look down the line toward the meter and the trench is full of water. The connection at the meter had blown out and poured out 7000 gallons of water. On Tuesday the same happens in a different location and we lose 15,000 gallons of water. On Thursday it blows out in another location and it gets csught fast and we lose 1000 more gallons of water.

Now this 750 to 800 foot run of pipe may not sound like much, but it runs through three different fenced areas and there are no gates in line. To get from the house to the nearest field requires you to either walk 1000 feet to the west or climb through the part of the goat fence we messed up while trenching. To get through the next fence you either climb through the part of the goat fence the bull messed up a couple of years ago or you scale the fence at the corner. However, be careful of the barbed wire with this option as I tore a hole in one of my last good pairs of jeans Wednesday. But that is Wednesday’s story.

Monday I began to get the water into house. The connection through the wall in the laundry room (future laundry room) and then the set up through the wall to the existing but unusable water heater took a good amount of time as some drywall had to be installed in the future laundry room. The first stage of the line was set up and it turns out the bypass for the filter blocks the dryer plug. I just read through this and realized I have not blogged because this crap is really boring. Sorry about that.

As I worked on the water line I heard a clatter and turned to see a masked gunman holding Melissa hostage. He did not see me as I was looking through the hole in the wall. I crawled on my belly out the door and around the house. I cut the screen to our bedroom window open and heard the chattering of several men in the living room. I got the .38 Special I carry around when I walk in possible snake areas and slowly moved from the room to the hall. As I peeked around the corner into the living room I saw that the people talking were none other than Osama bin Laden, Jared from the Subway ads and Joe Montana. They were plotting to overthrow the government and enslave all of us in an Islamic sandwich republic where we would have to watch 49er games and highlights all the time. I rolled through the door and came to a shooter’s crouch. I got Joe Montana in the heart and bin Laden right in the forehead. Jared I hit in the leg. He does not deserve death as he has not killed any Americans that I know of nor dashed the Cowboy’s dreams of a Super Bowl.

Anyway, we poured out 23,000 gallons of water this past week because of various line breaks, I have had a hard time getting the leaks from poor joints fixed and it has gone much, much slower than I would ever wanted. Adding insult to injury, the last filter on the faucet went out Tuesday leaving us with drinking foul, rusty water or bottled water from the store.

Roger

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nothing New

Nothing new. We're just going about doing the same stuff right now. Roger's still working on the water and electricity and all the little pieces that have to fit together to make that work. It's much more complicated than my head can understand. But he's getting it figured out between working with chickens, working at his new job, and all the trips to the hardware store.

I feel like I've been rather useless lately. My goal for the day was to bake bread and try to get some granola made. I didn't get either thing done today because my work on our panivino ranch website kind of ended up messing up our email addresses for a while. Either that or it was because the place we registered our email with was updating their software today. Whatever it was, it was a mess and wasted much of my day. I really need to learn more html and don't know how to do that. I only have so much time each day that my head is not between my knees trying to keep me feeling well. I haven't thrown up. That is very good. But I'm unable to force myself to eat oatmeal for breakfast anymore. I really want cold cereal. So tomorrow I've got to get some granola made. And we're completely out of bread. I can't feed the kids sandwiches for lunch tomorrow until I get the bread made. If I'm smart, I'll force myself to work through the early morning sickness while it's cool. Then I won't have to be dealing with afternoon sickness and heat while the oven is on! Is it always this hot in October? I know 3 years ago when I was pregnant with Joy it seemed unusually warm. I suppose it's normal and we just forget each year. What do I know? I've only been in Texas 10 years. And this is my first year to REALLY notice the weather since I deal with it all day long. Funny how my perspective changes without heat and a/c.

So, everything we're doing is the same as the last time you heard from us. Nothing new. I just thought I'd update and let you know we're still alive.

Melissa

Friday, September 30, 2005

Three squared is nine

And number nine should be arriving in May!

We're due May 22. We've suspected this for a while since I've been feeling so sick, but now it's been confirmed by a pregnancy test.

Just wanted to share the good news! And of course, we'd appreciate any prayers for a healthy baby and healthy (easy!) delivery. We're not sure yet what we'll do about a midwife, but we have time to figure that out.

Roger is outside right now digging a trench to get better water to the house. I'm off to take him some ice water. Praise God for the cooler weather, but it's still pretty hot if you're out in the sun!

Melissa

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Jinxing Myself?

Saturday night I was talking to Roger about how I haven't seen any of those tarantula-sized wolf spiders in the house for a while. I was glad of that because Samuel has been waking up more at night and I have to walk through a dark house to get him--barefooted!

Then Sunday night at church someone was telling me to watch out for rattlesnakes because our closest neighbor had found one in one of the kids' bedrooms. I commented that we had seen two or three when we first moved in, but nothing since then.

Then later Sunday night I heard the THUMP THUMP in the hall. That's the sound of someone trying to kill a spider with a shoe, but it keeps getting away. He got it though. Roger had seen one of those huge things running across the hall. Okay, I thought to myself, but still no rattlesnakes.

Monday afternoon Roger needed to relieve some stress so he took the guns and went off to do some target practice. Suddenly Clark comes running in crying and says, "Mom, I saw a snake and it was really fat." I asked him what it looked like. He said it had diamonds on it. Ugh. So I made Claire watch Sam and had Clark show me where it was. I was expecting it to be long gone, but figured I should at least look around. Of course, I had no clue what I was going to do if I saw it. So he tells me it was near Dad's suburban. I look and sure enough, there it is. I thought it looked really fat too, like perhaps it had just eaten. It's middle was rather lumpy looking. And it was sound asleep. I was amazed at how calm I was. I sent Clark to go get Stephen and Mitchell and he left. I stood there staring at this snake with my measly flip flops on. I had a thousand thoughts running through my mind.

"I've got to quit wearing flip flops. My foot could get bit!"

"Roger has the gun. But what would I do with it if he didn't? Shoot at the snake and hit the suburban?"

"It's awfully close to the tire. Maybe I can run it over."

"How could I get past the snake to run it over with FLIP FLOPS on?"

"Where are those boys? What's taking so long?"

Then Clark came back without either of his brothers. I sent him back again and then Stephen and Mitchell came out pretty quickly. Of course, they wanted to shoot it. But we couldn't do that--no guns AND it's too close to the suburban. It still wasn't moving although I knew it was alive because I'd seen it flick it's tongue a bit.

Finally we decided that I would get in the suburban from the passenger side while they watched to see if it moved. I started it up and the snake kept sleeping. (I really believe God was helping us out.) I rolled about 9 inches forward and the boys said stop. I had him trapped under the tire.

We felt horrible watching the poor thing struggle to get away, but not horrible enough. They are poisonous, you know! It was stuck with it's head just barely poking out, but lots of tail coming out the other side. It rattled. There's something really spooky about that sound. The kids all came out to see it. I want them to know that sight by heart so they know to be careful of them. Then Stephen used some sort of a tool with a flat metal piece on the end and a long handle (I think they use it to tear out tile, concrete, or whatever.) and chopped into it. It began to bleed. Another chop at the same spot and it came apart. It had 8 rattles. I really wanted to leave the dead snake there for Roger to find. I thought that would be funny. But we just couldn't do it. He came back and we showed him. The next morning Stephen backed up the Suburban and disposed of the rest. The kids all got to look at the fangs first.

Silly me. I then thought--didn't say it out loud--at least we still aren't seeing any scorpions. Sigh. Guess what. Roger saw one run across the kitchen Tuesday night. Then last night we were sitting in the living room talking and this HUGE scorpion ran out from between us. I was barefooted so I had Roger get up and stomp it.

So rather than being glad that I'm not seeing things running around or slithering around here anymore, we have started praising God that we find them before they hurt anyone. God is good and is keeping us safe. We are grateful for that.

And I am praying that He will just send them away!

Melissa

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sweat Bath

The high today in our area was 102. We were getting used to days in the low 90’s and upper 80’s with nighttime lows in the upper 60’s. Early fall in Coleman, at least this year, is kind of like life in an oven. We still do not have any AC for the house and the cooler weather with such a jump to hot was not appreciated. The rain from Rita was really nice to have. Oh, wait, we didn’t get any rain from Rita. I had hoped to gain at least a little precipitation off the misery of a couple of million folks down along the gulf. Well, at least the convenience store industry in southeast Texas is having a great quarter.

We purchased our water heater today and I will pick it up on Friday. The electrical panel is in place and all of the existing circuits as well as five new ones are wired and ready for the electric coop to come in and hook us up. Tomorrow morning is going to be all about getting the service entrance ready, which will involve cutting a hole in our metal roof. I am a bit nervous about this, but believe that if I am patient and move slowly it will all work out well. Kind of like facing down an angry dog – just act calm and don’t make any sudden moves. With the service entrance in place we will be ready to have the house wired. Hopefully we will be there by Friday.

I will also get the water heater that day and hope to get the trench for the water line cut next weekend. It is feasible that we will have hot water flowing through our pipes in the next 10 days. Then it will be on to the heating and air conditioning. We are getting close to normal in at least some areas.

Roger

Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, I would like some of that flu, thank you.

Been busy the last few days. I am trying to get all of the projects wrapped up all at once and start a new job. Other than the job, nothing else is getting going. Nothing else pays, either. The meter for County Co-op water is installed - it has been for more than a week – but the trench for the service to the house still has not been dredged as water is step two. Step one is getting the electrical system upgraded to 200 amp service. For that I need time and help from Herman, our neighbor. Herman will be by tomorrow and that will get the electrical side of the house going. Then comes the water.

On top of that it is time to begin taping the drywall in the boys’ room. This is my least favorite job. I prefer painting to taping. I prefer the dentist to painting. I prefer the flu to the dentist. I will teach Stephen and Mitchell how to tape tomorrow. On Sunday I will teach them how to sand as I am not optimistic about the taping work. I would not be optimistic about it if it was my work, either. Supposedly there is a new type of drywall mud that does not require tape, but they do not have it at Home Depot. If you know where this can be found, please contact me.

The job – I started Wednesday as the Executive Director of the Coleman Economic Development Corporation. Nothing much to report so far. I have had a couple of meetings with folks from here in town and will be having more meetings in the coming days and then I will have more meetings. After that, I will meet some more.

We have a second cat now. The cat arrived this evening and is beginning to make itself at home with us. We are not sure what we will be doing with it. Katrina is enough of a concern as cats will kill chickens. (We were told this by someone – so it could be wrong and we apologize if it is slanderous to any cats reading this. Let me rephrase, cats allegedly will kill chickens.) We are not sure what we will do with the cat, assuming it will stick around. I have thought of a trap, but Jimmy and Scout are more likely to be trapped than the cat. I am a dog person, but I must admit that for now it appears that Katrina is smarter than either dog, by far. Or, as the dogs would say, more smarter.

Good night,

Roger

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pictures again

Joy and Katrina
Originally I was just going to upload a picture of the chicken tractor with the chicks in it. But while I was out there with the camera, Katrina (the cat) went running to Joy. I went to snap a picture of them together when Joy picked up the cat, turned around and asked, "Is this how you hold the cat, Mom?" as she held the cat with it's rear sticking out. I had to upload that pic too.

Hippie Chicks Tractor

And then here's our Hippie Chicks tractor. I'll let Roger tell you about it in the next blog.

As I was heading back to the house, the 3 oldest hens came running by me as fast as they could. I wondered what the hurry was until I turned around and saw one of the roosters running after them. I tried to take a pic, but it really needed video. Poor hens. I think they're looking forward to when we process some more roosters!

I also learned that flip flops, while great in my earliest years as a California girl on the beach, are not so great on the ranch. Mesquite thorns will poke straight through leaving both thorn and a piece of flip flop in your foot. I'm fine now though. ;-)

Melissa

Monday, September 19, 2005

DISH Network - blech!

Melissa was told by DISH Network when we cancelled our service that if we wanted to we could get just the over the air channels for $11 a month. Our antenna is not very good and we decided to take DISH Network up on their offer. I called to have it set up and while doing so told them that we were only signing up for the $11 month service. The lady on the other end of the phone said: “That will be fine.”

The installer showed up to set us up with our two dishes and went to work. The problem is that the second dish is what you need to get the full range of channels and the local channels. You don’t need two dishes for the $11 month local channels offer from DISH Network. I called customer service. Sadly, the service is very poor. Waiting on hold for 20 minutes to get a human is not a high level of service. Once I got the person and explained what was going on the Customer Service Representative for DISH Network told me that I was not allowed to do what I was told and Melissa was told we could do. I asked to speak to a supervisor. After some discussion, he agreed to have us hooked up for the $11 a month local channel option from DISH Network.

The installer was happy because he only gets paid if he installs something, but he also knew he had to call his company, the folks that have installation contract for this area. They told him no way. I was already gone so Melissa had to take care of the rest of the mess. In short, she spent about an hour on the phone with DISH Network and their installer and in the end DISH Network told us that we could not get the service their own service reps had suggested we get. They tout how they are the highest rated satellite TV provider by J. D. Powers and Associates. I hope they call me.

Now we are looking at a great big antenna for the house. Maybe we will go with DirecTV, but we expect them to lie to us throughout the process as well, so we may just stick with the antenna idea.

I am actually in a good mood today. The chicken tractor got finished, so I am happy. I just wanted to complain about DISH Network as I get ready to watch the Cowboys play the Redskins on a fuzzy TV.

Roger

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Learning about the differences in chickens

I bought chicken at the grocery store for tonight. This was my first store-bought chicken since we butchered our roosters a couple weeks ago (or whenever it was. Time means so little to me these days.) As usual, I got two chickens. I looked at them closer this time as I cleaned them. I wanted to check on things I'd never noticed before and learn if I'd done things right when processing our birds. I have a lot more to do in the future and I want to do it right, you know.

So I started to pull the organ meats out of the cavity. There were two livers and a gizzard. No neck inside, but the neck was still partially on the chicken. I'd had questions about the oil gland removal while processing ours and ended up just cutting off the whole tail because I couldn't figure out what to do. I'd never really looked at whether the tail was there or not before. I figured it out today. I think I can get it right next time.

So then I move on to the second bird. No neck still attached on this one. The feet were removed as sloppily as we'd done our first bird. Inside the cavity was a liver, a gizzard and a heart. But wait, there was more! The ribs were all caving in and falling out! This bird had the worst skeletal structure you can imagine! It makes sense if you think about it. Your bones get stronger as your muscles get used. But this bird just sat in a box and ate and pooped and ate and pooped. What's going to strengthen the bones with that kind of a life? Okay, you may argue, I want my meat tender and that means the bones are softer. Big deal. Here's the big deal: Joy choked on her bones because she got a drumstick from that bird. The bones were falling apart as she ate the meat. Honestly, I would never have given that a second thought before. I'd have thought something happened while cooking or whatever. But we have a good, healthy flock out there. They move around. They play. They chase down bugs and eat all that good healthy protein and truly natural food. They live a happy life right up until it's time for us to process them. Maybe that sounds cruel to process these happy birds, but it seems so much more cruel to keep them in little boxes until they are processed!

And this chicken was labeled "100% natural. No hormones, no steroids." Hmm. Is that all it takes to be called natural? I thought it was natural for chickens to walk around and forage for things. It just seems sad what we've done to our food source.

Oh, and let's talk color. Once, one of my children asked me why they call some meat "white" and some meat "dark" because there isn't really a difference. Our chickens had definite white and dark meat. I had to call the kids in to show them that there is a reason for the two terms when I was fixing the birds we raised. Tonight I noticed that the store-bought chickens' organ meats weren't as dark either. It just looked so unhealthy.

So I guess we'll be slacking off on chicken consumption until the chicks in the brooder are ready to be processed. We'll be taking orders soon too. You can order yours at Orders@panivinoranch.com. Sorry if this sounds like a commercial, but I am more convinced than ever that our birds are healthier than store-bought chicken and I wish we could grow enough of them to help everyone I know to eat healthy! But since it's not a real commercial, just email us if you want more info about availability, pricing, etc. I won't bore you with all that info here. ;-)

Melissa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Film later

It seems that the best blog thoughts come along at about 11:30 p.m. I am just fading off to sleep and want to be sure to write about X tomorrow, but I don’t want to open my eyes to go write down the idea and I am sure I will know what the great idea was tomorrow. Today’s blog is not a late night thought. Today’s blog is about dinner with the preacher and getting the chicken tractor going and whatever other stream of thought comes my way.

The preacher and his wife and their two children and their two foster children came over for dinner this evening. We had spaghetti and bread sticks and salad and ice cream. They bought a bit more than we needed and we got to keep the extra. It is good to have people over. It would have been good even without ice cream. They both seem to be the kind of folks you would want to have over and spend an evening with. Melissa and I are both comfortable with them and the church and we’ll be joining on Sunday. Unless we don’t. The preacher is a younger guy and they want to make a difference and push the church along the route to more growth. They are facing resistance as any change agent will face. I am glad we are getting ready to join a growing church. This is particularly impressive when you take into account that the community is shrinking. No great and earth shattering occurrences during the evening. It was just a couple of families eating and playing slaps.

The chicken tractor is on the right path now with possible completion a day away. This is good as the tractor needs to get occupied soon as the chicks are getting restless. I’m not to sure I ever thought about writing the words “the chicks are getting restless” and not following it up with a lurid paragraph or two. So here goes. Or not.

Anyway, the outer shell is built and the frame for the door is ready to go. Tomorrow afternoon I will get the tarp secured and door built. The mast arm would have been done already if not for the loss of a drill bit. Right now it is raining and the wood for the moast will not react well to that. I will get a picture and force Melissa to upload it to the blog as I know all of you are trying to figure out what I am talking about.

Believe me, if I could only remember what I had planned to write about last night as I was falling asleep you would be enjoying yourself.

Roger

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

little box, little house, #%*#@ chicken tractor

Did you miss us? Did you even notice we were gone?

Today’s blessing came in a small box that was in a big brown truck. What can brown do for you? It can bring me a gift! My buddy, Will Wickman, had a tankless water heater he’d gotten at Elliott’s as they were going under and he gave it to me. It got here today and it is small. It also needs a pair of 40 amp double pole breakers to make it work. At least that is how I read the instructions. I will get Herman to help me out with that one. This means that we have to buy only one water heater! It is good that we are upgrading our electrical service to 200 amps.

Today Claire and I went shopping at Home Depot and Tractor Supply. Tractor Supply is quickly becoming a new favorite. We have a Tractor Supply kind of store here in Coleman called Coopers and it is a good place to shop too. I bought a bunch of stuff for a chicken tractor today at the three stores named above. We really need to get a trailer. I drug four 16 foot stock panels home from Cooper’s this afternoon. Stock panels are welded wire fence panels. The wire is not rigid and was dragging on the ground behind the truck. It is about a mile and half from home to Cooper’s if you use the back roads, which I did. The panels sorta smoothed out the dirt roads. I am just glad I was smart enough to not try getting the dang things from Brownwood to home as I would still be making the drive.

The chicken tractor? I thought it would be smart to use pressure treated lumber to make the frame. Wrong. Treated lumber is wet and because of that the screws don’t bite into it and it can’t withstand the torque from the stock panels that are being bent to make a roof for the chickens. Tomorrow I get regular wood and start all over.

Tomorrow night the preacher and his wife and their kids are coming over for dinner. In some ways I get the feeling I am stuck in a Little House on the Prairie episode. Hopefully, Nelly won’t come over and spoil the day for Laura and Mary. This would be pre-blind Mary as we aren’t prepared for all of the angst of the later Little House episodes.

Roger

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why we moved

The yard over by the barn has looked like crap since we moved as it was a “pile up the junk” zone. Weedy and junky. This morning Stephen, Mitchell, Faith, Grace, Claire, Clark and I worked on the area and it is now clean and nice. Before we began I asked each of them to look at the house and then at the near barn and asked each if they were proud of how the near barn looked. All were ashamed of the near barn. We talked about how many hands lighten load and got after it. Together, we all worked for an hour and a half and the job was done. After it was over we talked about how many hands lighten the load meant that 10½ hours of work had been done in 1½ hours. A couple of kids went inside at that point, but all eventually came back out. Clark and Claire went to work (with some grumbling) picking up and bagging the dog and cat poop. Grace helped put the two dog houses together and we have put them, along with the dog and cat food, over by the barn. The dog and cat poop situation around the house will, hopefully, improve now. Stephen mowed some. We all went to lunch amazed at how much of a difference we had made on the appearance of the farm in such a short time.

This afternoon we treated ourselves to a movie and some more mowing. Faith is now able to drive the riding mower, but she has yet to get a blade turning. Stephen learned how to work the weedeater. Clark and I put a flap on the brooder in case it rains someday and we looked for things that could cut wood but not Clark’s skin. We did not bother looking at peanut butter for this purpose as Clark was already certain it would not do the job.

The high for the day was about 92 and it felt like fall. We ate the last watermelon of the season this evening and everyone bathed because tomorrow is a church day.

We got a lot done today. We spent most all of the day together. We all felt good about the work we did and we started the process of inventing a new game that involves throwing a golf club and hitting a tennis ball. We will see how this turns out.

If I was still in Grapevine my day would have been one of going to the Mayor’s breakfast at 9, working for two hours in a beer booth, walking up and down Main Street a couple of times, eating something or other in the VIP room, putting on a tux and sitting through a Wine Tribute Dinner.

This is one of those days when I am just so very glad to have escaped to west Texas.

Roger

Friday, September 09, 2005

Killing Cones Found!

Life in the country is pretty simple. You shake out your shoes before putting them on and always check before pushing something over or lifting it. You need killing cones you go to the poultry supplier and see that you can buy them there for $30. After looking at them you realize these look an awful lot like traffic cones and those are free if you are driving in the right part of the country. Just kidding. We Googled it and found killing traffic cones for $6.

We now have the cones, sharper knives and a set of plans for a plucker. We have a scalding system that is not very good, but a friend of ours is looking for an old, unwanted turkey fryer and we are relatively certain something will turn up before too long. Another friend has noted that in her past they scalded turkeys over an open flame. This sounds appealing except that Sam, Joy and Clark are all spazzes and we would have singed kids and have to break from our work frequently with an open flame. Jimmy is also a spaz and would be a flaming terrier within half a bird. If any of you have an old turkey fryer, with the pot, that you want to get rid of, let us know and we will be happy to help you clean out your garage.

Measured the route from the house to the far barn and it is almost exactly 1/2 mile. Round trip would be - drumroll - one mile. Stephen is in charge of mowing and keeping the path and a swath to the sides mowed is his job. I am looking forward to running in the mornings or at lunch or some other time. I know I am in shape for much of the work here, I just want to make sure I am in good cardio shape.

Right now, though, I am dog tired as this has been a long day of construction type of work in a furnace we like to call the old garage. Tomorrow we try to make the outside look a bit better. It could be much worse, I could be having to put on a tux and go the Wine Tribute at the Hilton tomorrow night. I will take this life over that one every time.

Roger

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Home Depot has spoken

Jimmy is fine. Thank you for your cards and letters.

I spent three hours and $1200 at the Home Depot in Brownwood. We now have all the supplies we need to get the boys’ room drywall completed and the materials for the upgrade of the electrical system. We have the water softener and the whole house filter. We do not have the water heaters as they do not stock the 50 gallon models in propane, just electric and natural gas. I am supposed to get a call from “Wade” tomorrow when we will find out if GE makes a 50 gallon propane in the nine year warranty family. Fascinated yet?

Anyway, I am walking around Home Depot and notice that the directional sign for aisle 3 says “Drywall” and “Drywall Tools” instead of “Sheetrock” and “Sheetrock Tools.” The biggest single purchaser in the world of drywall/sheetrock calls it drywall. That pretty much ends the discussion. Sorry to spoil that chat line for everyone.

Mitchell caught a scorpion yesterday. It was put in a jar we have for venomous insects. Stephen and Clark added three crickets to the jar this morning. This evening there is a dead cricket, two live crickets and a partial scorpion in the jar. If there are any entomologists around, please let me know if this is really possible. The scorpion struck one of the crickets – the kids saw it happen. It could just be that our crickets are hopped up on crystal meth.

We have a wire spool sitting on our property about 75 yards from the house. It has the remnants of an old beehive in it. Yesterday Claire came in all excited as it turns out it is not a dormant beehive anymore. I may have a free beehive set up ready to go once I get boxes built. Just put on the funny bee suit and get the queen and move her to a new house. Hopefully they are not Africanized bees.

Roger

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fishin' Dawgs and Rugby Chicks

We named the rat terrier after Jimmy, my imaginary brother that was always dying in order for the kids to have a real life example of what could happen to you if you did something bad. Today might have been our first indication of how appropriate this name was for the dog. I was on the phone with UPS discussing how to get to my house since they don’t where we live and I hear Stephen yelling about the dog. He comes bustin’ into the room and says, “Jimmy has a hook in his mouth.” We go out the door – the phone is cordless – and chase him down and sure enough, Jimmy has a fishhook in his mouth and the fishing rod is trailing along behind him. I sent Stephen in to get scissors to cut the hook loose from the rod and asked the UPS customer service rep if I was still needed as I had to get a fishing hook out of a dog.

We carried Jimmy into the house – this was the second time he has gotten to come in. I knew there would be a way, over time, to break down Melissa’s resolve to keep the dogs out. Stephen left the dog work to Melissa and me. The first round involved cutting the hook off as the tip of the hook had gone all the way through his dog lip and was poking out the other side. I held him and Melissa cut the hook in half. She was worried that in pulling the hook the rest of the way she was going to yank out his hairs and so we swapped with me pulling and her holding the dog. After a few minutes it became clear that pulling the hook was not working. Stephen advocated pulling it out the other way as that is what he does with fish. I disagreed and we decided to push it through, rather than pull it through. The hook popped through and Jimmy was let loose. (We have a catch and release policy here at the Panivino Ranch.)

After church we all went out the brooder (except Mitchell who needed to come inside and be alone after an hour with people) to watch our favorite show – chicks gone wild. In tonight’s episode Clark, Stephen, Faith and Claire caught crickets and tossed them into the brooder. A chick would grab it and other chicks would chase after the first one trying to get the cricket away. It was a lot like rugby. Eventually we had four chicks with crickets getting chased around in the brooder. When you only get one channel, and that one not very well, you make your own fun.

One final animal note: Kat is doing fine and we have gone ahead and purchased cat food for her as I am the only one in the family still believing that we should dump her in town.

Roger

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pictures

Several people have asked for pictures to try to visualize what we're talking about. So when I had the camera out to take pictures of Katrina the cat, I took pictures of several things for you.


before pic of garage and breezeway

sheetrocking the laundry and boys' rooms

First is the "before" pic of our garage and breezeway. I stood by the wall to take this picture I think. I believe it is taken from about the same place that the second picture is taken. There is now a door where I stood for picture #2. In the first picture you are seeing the breezeway and door to the garage from the breezeway. (What we are calling a breezeway is simply an enclosed area connecting the garage to the house. It is connected to what was originally a garage and was converted.) Roger and the boys demolished most of what you see. They made the exterior walls line up between the two garages (old and newer) so it isn't a breezeway and garage, but one great big area. Then they framed in walls inside to create a bedroom and laundry room. They are in the process of drywalling (or sheetrocking) the two rooms now. At the time I took this, they had the ceiling pretty much done. You can see they still have a good sized stack leaning up against that center "wall" there.

Katrina the kitten

The next picture is Katrina (aka "Kat") who was named after a hurricane and is about as still and quiet as a hurricane. I'm assuming she cries all the time because she's hungry. She gets quiet between feedings now. Taking a picture of her was tough! I got lots of blurry shots of something moving.

brooder

The last picture is the chicks in their brooder. I was going to post one of the brooder from the outside showing our roosters underneath in the shade of the truck and then one of the cute little chicks up close, but dial up takes just short of eternity to load a picture so this one has to do.

I was going to post a picture of the current dining room/boys' room, but again, dial up is sooo slow. So just imagine your typical garage. Now, where there is often a step up in a garage, that's been walled in to make a small laundry room and a closet with a water heater in it. There's also a railing around a "landing" by the door that leads to the house (this garage is enclosed, but still feels very garage-y so it still feels to me like you're entering the house rather than just moving from room to room.) So in what is left, we have a refrigerator, a freezer, our large dining room table, and two sets of bunkbeds. There's enough room for all this, but it's not a very private bedroom yet. The new boys' room will be done soon though. I'm sure they are glad! This odd garage-y feeling room will be our new kitchen and dining room. Then we'll turn the current kitchen into a larger living room. Hopefully it will be big enough to have a sofa again. I'll post a picture of these spaces as we work on them so you can see before and after pics--or at least before and "where we're at now" pics.

Melissa