Tuesday, February 28, 2006

simple is best

This may sound dumb to most of you, but it is a description of this evening and a description of why I am so happy to be here. We had finished dinner and since the corn bread did not go as far as we had hoped, and neither did the beans, Melissa started dishing up some of the ice cream she’d made over the weekend. It was made from our own cow’s cream.

I went out to put up the chickens and I wanted to check on our little heifer calf. I was joined by Faith before I could get 20 feet from the house. She wanted to come with me to see the cow and do the evening’s buttoning up of the farm and, I think, she just wanted to have some time with Dad. We went to see the calf and she grudgingly let the two of us pet her. Claire came out to join us. As the little shed got too full we closed the calf up for the night and talked about what we were doing with her and how were managing her.

It is right at 7:00 as this is happening and while I have the flashlight, it isn’t needed as we are walking through the last light of the day. The rim of the sky to the west is a strip of orangey-purple that blends into the dark blue above and the nearly black to the east. All 16 chickens are in the coop, but no new eggs. We will have to make due with the 17 eggs that the coop and the two chicken tractors produced today. This is almost a scrambled egg breakfast for us, but not quite.

Faith and Claire and I head toward the house, but first we have to let the dog loose. Faith takes care of that and notices that Scout has no water. Without having to be asked, Claire goes to the faucet while Faith takes the dish to the hose. Claire turns it on when she sees Faith in place and Faith tells her when to turn it off and, voila, the dog has water. I am closing the barn door while this is going on and the three of us walk with the dog, back to the house and to the ice cream.

This life is so wonderful because of the simple things like working on the gentling of a calf, daughters that see a job to be done and hop to getting it done with a silent and knowing division of labor, noticing the end of the day’s light in a clear sky. This afternoon I sat around with the calf on the ground in the corral. I smell like it and I love it. It was what I was going to write about tonight, except for what happened a few minutes ago. These are the things I relish and they remind me of why we wanted to do this. Is money tight? Yes. Are we being abundantly blessed by things money cannot buy? Absolutely. I am sorry you couldn’t be here this evening to be a part of this. Then again, there was barely enough ice cream to go around as it was.


Friday, February 24, 2006


I added a bunch of wood chips to the nest boxes on Monday in hopes of more eggs from the hens. As with most things in life, it was a mixed bag of results as it worked and it was not totally necessary. The egg count on Monday was four, yesterday it was 11. Not so much that more eggs are being laid in the nest boxes as it is a function of the kids finding the places the chickens go to lay their eggs. There were about 20 found in a clump of old cut down tree limbs (add chipper/shredder to list of needs), a couple were found by the road and one was found in a dog house. Even the meat birds are starting to lay eggs and Melissa, ever the mother, is thinking we should save these animals from the ax and raise all of our chickens from eggs. I’m easy, so we probably will do this from now on. Hey, it saves us on the initial investment; I just don’t want to have to sit on the eggs all day.

(By the way, since the actual rules of grammar are virtually unknown to me when you see things like semi-colons – like in the paragraph above – Word put them in there for me. I just wanted to make this clear to everyone in case one of you decided to ask me about split infinitives, I don’t know or care what they are.)

Rain is falling from the sky! This is a rare experience out here these days. I saw on an Internet weather page that we are supposed to get a ½” today and a ½” tonight. This will be good for our fields, our tank and the only loser in all this may be the burn ban. This will allow us to get back to smokin’ brisket and grillin’ burgers!

I read an article about a tissue theft ring in New York that may have even sold off some of Alistair Cooke’s tissue. I never really cared for him, but I figure if you can get money for a tissue used by Alistair Cooke you can pretty much get money for anything. What would they get for Oprah’s toothbrush?

Really though, when did grave robbers become tissue thieves? I did not see anything about these guys being charged for robbing a grave, but they were charged with unlawful dissection. I guess this is a good law to have on the books in the event sophomore biology gets out of hand some afternoon. I am curious though, is there much case law on illegal dissection? Exactly when is it legal to dissect and when is it illegal? Is it like speeding and you have a limit and if you go over the limit you get a ticket? I also want to know why the police are only picking on people with Italian names in this case – the four suspects: Michael Mastromarino, Joseph Nicelli, Lee Crucetta and Christopher Aldorasi. Sounds rather Sopranoish doesn’t it? I will follow this case and keep you up to date on it until it is all resolved or I get bored with it.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Musings on woodpeckers, roosters, golf balls, hens and fan blades. Or you could just skip it.

I went in this morning and put some time in on a major project at work. I came home this afternoon and worked on a bunch of little things all around the farm. Got some trash put together for pick up tomorrow, got some water to some animals that were shortchanged with the recent freezing weather’s toll on the outdoor faucets, got some hay for Bella and wood chips in the nest boxes for the chickens. I also walked around and just looked. Found a woodpecker down by the creek hammering away on a mesquite. Found new signs of deer on the property. Turns out that before I ever start my bee hive there are already at least two wild hives flourishing on the east side of the property. I knew about them, but thought they were the same hive. They are not.

I found more golf balls as well. They seem to just appear as I was by this way last week while fixing the fence and did not see this cluster of balls. Hit a couple, left the rest to mate. They were Pinnacles and Titleists and if they continue to multiply I have a new cash crop. I took a couple to see if I can still hit a one iron. The results were mixed, I got some loft on the second one but still did not make it all the way to the train tracks.

The hens are starting to lay eggs now. Just a trickle right now, four or five a day, but as it warms up and the bugs come out we will start to get more and more and if Melissa is right, and there is no reason why she should not be right, we’ll get about two dozen eggs a day. We will hatch some as we plan to let a few roosters live. The rest we will eat.

Uninspired quote of the day - "Do not place hand in fan while fan is running." - Warning label on central air conditioning unit


Friday, February 17, 2006

Yippee! I got a double brown rectangle!

Today was a busy day at work and I am glad to be out of town and at the little bit of heaven we have here. Isabella was light with milk this evening and it is too stinking cold to stand outside looking for meteorites (or is it meteors?). It is cloudy anyway. Tonight will be game night. Melissa is making French toast for dinner and that sugar high will be just right for a night of Chutes-n-Ladders, Candyland and checkers.

A year ago, a night like tonight – cold and windy and nothing much to do – would have been so very different than tonight. To begin with, I wouldn’t have milked a cow and checked out a fence section in the windy cold. Instead of playing a game we would have watched the Olympic games (no TV, no Bode). We are having French toast because it was the quickest dinner option, last year we would have called in a pizza. Here in Coleman a pizza dinner is a special occasion, not a weekly event.

Have my kids complained? Nope. I am constantly amazed by them and their flexibility. They have left all of their friends behind and pretty much the only home any of them have ever known – a home with a pool and basketball goal and plenty of room. Now they are in a semi-cramped house with a HUGE yard. They play hard in that yard every chance they get. Melissa and I have had to declare certain clothes as “Sunday/go to town” clothes so that there will be at least one or two sets for each kid without holes or permanent stains. I think that is the kind of problem I want to have and hoped to have when we decided to move here. They take junk they find around the farm like a section of pipe, baling wire, hay, limbs and a hub cap and create landmarks for their quests or toys for their games or both combined. I think I have blogged about this before, but it is still something worth noting and enjoying about them.

The milk cow, Bella, is in heat right now. There is a beef cow in the herd that is as well. This makes for a busy bull. Tonight, as I was milking, Grace was watching the bull as the other cow came up to him. They stood there and nothing happened, but she got to talking about how those two looked good together and would have nice looking babies and began to worry that the babies the bull (an angus) and Bella (a jersey) would make would not be as pretty. I thought about explaining that both babies would be equally good on a bun, but instead Grace and I just talked about what made a pretty cow and what made for an ugly cow. I’m pretty sure this is a conversation that would not have happened a year ago. But it did tonight and it helped me to put the worries of the world away, not to be picked up again until Monday. Funny, but if we had lived here a year ago we would probably still be there. Hmm.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It happened again!

Quick post....

The kids - Stephen, Mitchell, Faith and Grace - just got in from putting up the chickens and watching another meteorite fall out of the sky. Chickens...Chicken Little...THE SKY REALLY IS FALLING!

Roger, Over and Out.

The Stars at Night....

Last night Stephen and I were out putting up the chickens, the moon had not come up and the stars were out in force. We watched a couple of military jets speed across the sky and talked about where, exactly, in the sky you could find the constellation of Boris the Constipated. As we turned back to the eastern sky there was a bright yellow low in the sky. It burned brighter and broke in two. These two lights then jiggled a bit in the sky and went out. It all lasted about two seconds. What an awesome sight! There may have been another 200 people in an area where it could be seen and out of that number maybe another 10 that were either outside or looking out a window in the right direction. Maybe these things happen all through the night within sight of our house, but we are sleeping or inside eating. I don’t know, I just know that my oldest and I got to see something very neat and unique last night. Seeing stars is a small part of why I wanted out of the big city. I hadn’t given much thought to seeing falling stars.

This also brings to mind a conversation with Mitchell this past summer. We had been at the ranch for about a month and one night we were outside. I think we were unloading the van. The night was pitch black and Mitchell looked up and made the comment that now that he could all the stars he finally understood how significant God’s promise to Abraham was that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars. In Grapevine there weren’t all that many stars to see and the promise seemed chintzy. In Coleman the full extent of the promise made God bigger and better in the eyes of a 13 year old – a bigger and better reason to move out of the city.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Chipper/Shredder Blues

Bid on a chipper/shredder
Won it all on my own
Goin’ to pick it up
Down in San Antone

Went on line to ebay
Got a real good deal
I was so proud
Paid about half retail

Took a call this evenin’
That broke my heart
The engine has a bad valve
And now it won’t start

The mesquite pile just grows
They don’t serve much use
Can’t burn them ‘cause of the drought
I got the chipper/shredder blues

So close to havin’ one
A way to chip and shred
Now what am I to do
To build up the flower bed?

I got the chipper/shredder blues
I can rent, this I know
But this was a beauty
Just like the one in Fargo

The mesquite pile just grows
They don’t serve much use
Can’t burn them ‘cause of the drought
I got the chipper/shredder blues


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More Milk!

The milking of Bella has picked up greatly since we switched her back to the proper feed. Amazing how that works. It isn’t like dog food where you really don’t notice if the food is not ideal. Bella is up about a half gallon in less than a week since she went back to the right food.

We are officially out of the Third World. We now have heating, air conditioning, running water, hot water AND the trash pile next the house is gone! I rented a backhoe this weekend and dug a deep hole and buried the construction materials and now have a hole dug for the grey water re-use system that we’re putting in. A little plumbing and a little wiring and we’ll be there. Should happen in July or September. I had never really operated a backhoe prior to this weekend and it was a great thrill. Really. Every time I would scoop up a backhoe bucket I would think about the hour (at least) of shovel digging I had just skipped through. Yesterday I finished off with the hole by the house for the re-use system and hit some rock that the backhoe had trouble breaking through. I was so very thankful that I was not on a shovel.

This weekend I go on an adventure to San Antonio to pick up a chipper/shredder that I got off of ebay. Very excited about this as well as the coming years are going to be full of chipping and shredding the mesquite trees that we are going to be cutting down. If you need mesquite chips for smoking, let us know.

I heard from a friend this weekend about how he knew for sure that our recent health problems had nothing to do with the raw milk. He pointed out his experiences as a kid when he would milk and the cow would step in the bucket and they would drink the milk anyway. They filtered it, just like we do, before drinking it. As an adult he has traveled in Mexico and eaten all of whatever he wanted and never gotten sick. He relates his iron stomach to the milk and the bacterial protection he got from that milk. I think he is probably right.


Thursday, February 02, 2006


I think we have made mention before that we do not have television here on the farm and that our Internet access is dial-up. Basically, we are what our city friends would consider backwoods hillbillies. This is fine with us as we don’t have to worry about what our kids are watching or hurrying to see some show that, if you were totally honest and objective about it, you don’t really need to see anyway. This past week we went even further into the abyss of cultural isolation: our DVD player is on the fritz. Our children don’t have video, other than VHS, which does not have any outtakes or director’s comments that can be played over the regular soundtrack. Melissa and I are just praying that we are not turned into the authorities as we are now forcing our children to play outside and read books for entertainment. Now, before you go reporting us, I do want to let you all know that we have been invited, as a family, to attend a Super Bowl watching party this Sunday. So, we are taking part in at least some of the culture of our nation, even though we also realize that we could miss the Super Bowl and be just fine.

This weekend is shaping up to be an interesting one. In addition to watching TV we are renting a backhoe to move a pile of junk and bury it and to dig a hole for our gray water reuse tank. We will be taking the water from our kitchen sink, washer, dishwasher, utility sink and ice machine and storing it. We will also capture at least a part of our storm water (if it ever rains again). We will then pump this out of the tank and water our garden, vineyard, watermelons, peanuts and orchard. These are all future plantings. In this case, the future encompasses the next six weeks.

Our chickens are really growing these days. I mentioned a while back that Melissa had a meeting with the kids to impress upon them the seriousness of getting the chickens fed and watered and cared for. Lo and behold, they are gaining a bunch of weight and we may be processing as early as next week. This is good as we used our last chickens for Monday night’s dinner. Funny how regular food service has resulted in full size, calmer chickens.

Healthiness Update: today we have two sick children. Faith is coming out of it and Joy and is still lingering in her sickness. That Joy will not admit to any illness is a real problem with getting her back to health. Other than that, no complaints.

Clark says “Hi”.