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