Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Rooster Tale

No that isn't a typo...its a tale of our two roosters that finally has been resolved. When we got our day old chicks last spring one of them was mis-sexed and we ended up with two Brown Leghorn roosters. They both had uniquely different personalities but were both cocky and we named them Carmine and Sal. Carmine is the smaller of the two and has a deformed foot (on one foot the toes are crooked) and until a couple weeks ago they mostly got along okay. But, Sal started picking on Carmine and it culminated in Carmine getting his foot caught in some of the cage wire and being attacked by both Sal and a bunch of the hens. We were out in the garden when we heard this pitiful scream and lots of commotion by the coop and poor Carmine was down and getting pecked to death. I freed him and he went up on the nesting boxes to stay away and we decided to see how it went.

Later on that afternoon I looked in the coop and there was blood all over and poor Carmine was wedged between the coop wall and the nesting boxes and all we could see was his tail feathers and one leg...he wasn't moving. Feeling bad for letting him down I reached over and pulled him out and much to our surprise he was bloody but alive and scared to death so we made a temp cage in the garage and nursed him back to health...two long weeks of him crowing and making a whining sound in our garage. You may or may not be surprised at how hard it is to give away a rooster. We put up ads at the feed store, the gas station and put the word out along with posted it prominently on our road side produce stand sign. Long story short, finally a young couple came and took Sal off our hands and now Carmine is all healed up and back in the coop with his lady friends and happy as a clam. We couldn't get rid of poor Carmine because he was just so pitiful and having a clubbed foot we just kind of feel protective over him.

So we have also been busy cutting wood, picking apples, and we have been going back and forth to Ft Leonard Wood dealing with the VA and my medical issues. We don't go to the base much but it was kind of fun dinking around and we shopped at the PX and Commissary and looked around a bit. Its a nice base but I just don't miss that at all, don't get me wrong I am glad its there with all its amenities if we choose to use it but we just don't have much desire to.

Cutting wood can be dangerous but we take precautions and use all safety gear recommended. A couple of times we had trees that lodged against other trees and we had to use the come-a-long and a heavy chain to pull them into where we could cut them up for loading. We didn't take the tractor to this location but it would have helped.

I cut and position the logs and Holly and Judy load the truck and the trailer. My back started acting up at one point and I was totally laid up which is a bummer but we try to just cut and haul a half cord at a time. I just have to learn to go slower..
We load the truck with the smaller pieces and then load the larger pieces we need to split on the trailer. We have found that lots of farmers around here clear trees or want their trees cleared for them and wood is relatively easy to come by. What many of the farmers tell us is that they offer wood to people and they want it already cur and split and are too lazy to haul it off. Not a problem for us.

I have used a Stihl MS 310 chainsaw since we moved to the farm and I am really impressed. I have gone through 5 chains (sharpened until they have nothing left to sharpen), flip the bar every other chain change and I put Stabil in the gas and blow out the air filter and the thing starts on the second or third pull every time. Keep in mind we are cutting red and white oak, hickory, and black walnut and this stuff is really hard wood that gives out great BTUs for its weight.
Once we get home we all unload and I split the logs and the gals stack it. As you can see we have a good start on the winters heating fuel and are about 1/3rd done which is really early for this time of year. We still have a lot of wood waiting to be split that isn't in this picture.

We have used this 22 tonne log splitter for three years now and its been flawless. You really get an appreciation for the old guys who used to split this stuff using a maul. Oak, hickory and walnut is so hard its a real bear to split.
This has been one of the worst fire seasons in our fire districts history and its just a handful of us who respond to most of the calls. I am on the far left and am very happy to be part of this fire department as a fire fighter and first responder. After so many years in the military this has given me a feeling of belonging and may not make sense but it just is.

So look at the egg on the left...its huge and is so much bigger than the other eggs we have been collecting. When we cracked it it was a double yolk and I can only admire the chicken that laid it...ouch!
And this is pure indulgence. We used the Dodge while we were fixing part of the back pasture fence and I had to get some pictures.

If you have ever had a black car or truck you know that every little blemish shows up and even though some people say it looks good, I am not satisfied and this will get a repaint and a lot of body work completed. I am concentrating on the mechanicals for now but soon we will begin the body work and I have to decide if black is really what I want to repaint it with.
I am thinking headers with Flow Masters some Torque Thrust chrome wheels and new tires, maybe drop down from 17 to 16" etc.
Well that's the update for now. We have harvested apples and will be canning them tomorrow and the fall garden has been planted. Next project...the pole barn shop.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Farm Auction Finds

I have said in previous posts that you really have to be careful if you attend farm auctions because you can get carried away. Yesterday we arrived at one about 1000 and there were several items (like steel topped work benches) we wanted but the elderly lady holding the sale said folks had started showing up at 0500 so we were a bit late. But we ended up with a couple things for next to nothing and we are pretty pleased.

Lots of the old farms around here are in real bad shape and the one that had the auction was no different. The very nice lady told us her husband had passed away a year or so ago and she was moving closer to the big city (Springfield) to be closer to her kids. Her house and the immediate yard were as neat as a pin and you could just imagine all of the family memories they contained but the barns and out buildings were in bad repair and lots of the equipment had sat for years. You might think it was a depressing scene but like so many of the hardy people we have come to know around here she was very upbeat and the prevailing attitude is this is part of life and I'm off to the next chapter; I hope I can be as stoic,

We have been looking for thing to get our new pole barn shop up and running; mostly we are looking for shelving, cabinets, work benches, a parts washer, tire balancer, tire rack etc. We have two shops and the one attached to the house is fairly well equipped but the new pole barn is spartan.

These three items we got for about $3.00 total. The little bookshelf will hold my shop manuals (and with as many vehicles and equipment we have I have a bunch), The metal shelving unit will be rebuilt and hold various cleaners and fluids, and the unit on the right is a cupboard under a heavy duty Formica work top with a couple of shelves above...and its a heavy son of a gun.

This little rolling bench (it has caster wheels) cost us $0.50 and will get cleaned up and a new top affixed and will be perfect for a place to put tools and parts while working on equipment. You can just roll it around as you go. Most of this stuff could have been built by us but not for that cheap and its kind of pleasing to have these older things with their implied memories and their working patina.

We gave a couple dollars for this old block that I imagine was used in the old barn to bring up hay into the hay mow. We already have several from our own barn and we didn't need it but it just has a pleasing look to it and I cant resist these old things. For the price I know I would have regretted it if we hadn't gotten it. It has "Meyers O.K." cast into it and I am trying to find information about it. The obvious thing was that  O.K. stands for Oklahoma but we haven't been able to find a community of Meyers and its odd to have the periods after the O and K for Oklahoma.

As you can see its well worn and I am guessing its from the mid 20th century.

So what is this? This wasn't from the farm auction but we found it at an old store and gave a couple bucks for it. I'm not much for pinups even in the shop but we collect old advertising and this was something that stood out. She isn't nude and shows nothing (she is wearing a long chiffon dress) but its classic 1940s pinup art. The date on the back says 1948 and its amazing to look at this photo and think that was 64 years ago; this young woman would now be in her late 80s at least.

This is another photograph we picked up. Its hard to see but she is dressed to the nines and standing next to an early 1950s Chevrolet Bel air and we suspect it was part of some type of advertising of the time. It too will go up in the shop.
But its not all farm auctions. Crops are still in full swing and our watermelons are ripening in stages and we are selling them and eating them...

Cantaloupes and passion fruit have done well even in this heat and we sure enjoy their fantastic flavor.
These berries are Elderberries and we didn't even know what they were until a short while ago. We thought they were a weed bush and we almost cut them down but an old farmer showed us the difference between Elderberries and Poke berries (which are poisonous). For some reason we have a bumper crop but we don't really know what to do with them yet. 
Next week we harvest apples and will can them. We have one pint of last years canned apples left so we don't want to let these go to waste. None of them are real big but they are sweet and juicy and they add a much needed element to the winter diet.

And we are still awash in Tomatoes. We have canned stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce of various types and now we gave Salsa a shot using our hot peppers, our tomatoes, our onions, and most everything else except the Cilantro because ours burned up in the heat.
It is the best salsa I have ever had. Even after the canning process (we had to open one to try it out you see) it tastes of the fresh ingredients and its just the right level of hot. I like really spicy things but the gals don't so this is a nice compromise.
Now that the heat has abated somewhat the critters around the farm are a lot happier. We have wild turkeys everywhere and they make a showing all the way down to the barn yard. Come hunting season you would think there were no wild turkeys in Missouri. People say they are dumb birds but that sure hasn't been my experience.

The barn cats all like the cooler weather too and there has been a lot of playing going on when they should be working at killing mice and moles. We will let it slide for now.

And finally, the long suffering Maybelle has finally recovered from her eye infection and been released from isolation and rejoined the herd, She literally jumped for joy when we opened the gate from the isolation pasture and its fun to see such an animal cavort around and kick up her heels.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back Surgery One Year On

Exactly one year ago I had a double diskectomy, two spinal fusions using cadaver bone, the reduction of several spinal spurs and a reduction of a spinal cyst. In this surgery they put you to sleep and access your spine through your throat (C-5 and C-6 vertebrae) and use cadaver bone in replacement of the disks then they screw everything together using titanium plates and screws. I have had several people ask how its been since the surgery, was it worth it, and I have found this is an increasingly common surgery so folks are legitimately curious since almost everyone it seems knows someone contemplating the surgery so here is my take.

In my case I have always been athletic and adventurous and most of my life has been extremely active physically. I spent the majority of my adult life the military with most of that as an Infantryman and the cumulative physical effects from that lifestyle is what I attribute my spinal troubles. For years prior to my surgery I experienced back pain and an increasingly frequent severe pain and burning that extended from between my shoulder blades in a radial pattern down my right arm and into my right hand. It would last sometimes for a month or two and then get better and I would resume my previous active life until the next bout of pain and burning but over the years the pain became almost constant and I started to lose feeling in my right arm. Then several years ago I started having numbness in my right leg and foot and right before my surgery I had a severe limp and often had to use a can imagine that depression and I became acquainted. By the time I had my surgery I had been injected with steroids, poked, prodded, been misdiagnosed several times, pumped full of pain killers, and in addition, I had 4 major surgeries (unrelated to the spinal issue) since my return from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and I was sick of doctors, sick of pain, and generally feeling sorry for myself. I relate all this because so many people I talk to who are having similar issues with their back go through similar sequences of events and no one should feel unique in that regard.

So after all that blather above...was it worth it? I would have to say a qualified yes. The anticipation of the surgery and the knowledge that if something went wrong I could be paralyzed from the neck down for life was way worse than the actual surgery but for me the recovery was neither as quick or as easy as it was sometimes advertised. I had to wear a neck brace and not move my head for a month which was very difficult and I had a considerable amount of painful discomfort. In fact several weeks after the surgery I wasn't feeling better at all and was actually feeling worse when it dawned on me that I had been prescribed some serious pain killers that I was taking but didn't seem to do much other than make me a zombie. So I quit all medication period and within a few days started feeling much better. I also suffered from dizziness and instability when standing (like getting out of bed) for months afterward which was apparently caused from the neck brace keeping the head still for so long (I guess its common but I was never warned about it and it was concerning) and for awhile I didn't feel like my neck was very strong. Overall for me the surgery was necessary and I am glad its over. I was warned that eventually I would be in a wheel chair and possibly lose bowel and bladder control as more of my spinal cord was impacted if I did nothing....imagine contemplating that.

Now a year later I still have back pain though not nearly as bad and I still get some numbness in my right arm. Most of the time you cant tell I have had any vertebrae fusion by my movements but I have mobility impairments when looking up or down at high angles and I tend to move my neck slowly. I work around it but its been really noticeable when I have been working under vehicles and trying to look up or when I have been in crawl spaces or working on electrical wiring over my head; it doesn't help that I wear progressive lens tri-focals that require you to look through a certain part of the lens to focus.

So what about the future?  I still have severe spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease and plenty of surgeons willing to fuse more of my spine but I am done with more spinal surgery. I have also been recommended to have one shoulder replaced (I had a severe shoulder injury that time has not healed or improved but I can live with) and both knees but again; I am done with surgeries for the foreseable future and I actually feel pretty good.

Should you do it? Spinal surgery is a tough decision, for me I was in so much pain and was so numb that my quality of life was severely diminished and there was no prospect of improvement due to the nature of my problem and its severity. I had a top notch neurosurgeon with lots of experience but you need to understand that there are other options that may work for some people and you are basically just a number and potential revenue source for the surgeon and hospital. I have no doubt what so ever that my surgeon was a most ethical and professional practitioner and I have no issue with his conduct or performance; but its your body and you need to understand the reality that you are basically a consumer being sold a product so be an educated consumer. Cost wise, I ended up with about 56K of billing of which we paid close to 4 K after insurance did its thing. I could have had the surgery basically free at a VA hospital but chose not to for a number of reasons that I wont go into here. Those are personal decisions each person has to make.

So there you have it good, bad and ugly. I think all of us look back and recognize we should have taken better care of ourselves and I am no different but its hard to have too many regrets when I have had such a great life. I would encourage anyone contemplating the surgery to thoroughly evaluate everything before they make a decision and my tale is just one mans experience, others who have had identical surgeries may have differing experiences and recommendations. My final thought is that due to the selflessness and generosity of someone and their family I was able to receive cadaver bone that has benefited me greatly and I think of that often. I don't know if the person was black or white, male or female, straight or gay or anything else and I could care less; all I know is that they cared enough for their fellow man to allow themselves to be a donor and I strongly support donor programs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Red Gold

We are still awash with tomatoes and sales have been good, eating them has been good, and canning them in different ways has been productive.

One days picking...about 60lbs. These are big juicy tasty tomatoes.

We decided to make Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce....we grew the tomatoes, the onions, the basil but bough the garlic...haven't figured out how to grow that well yet. After washing them thoroughly we cored and quartered them....about 20 lbs worth.
Then you take a cup full or a little more of diced onion and 8 cloves of garlic and saute them until translucent, throw in the quartered tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then you puree the whole thing in a food processor and strain out the pulp and seeds. Then you take the remaining liquid add a quarter cup of tightly packed chiffonade of fresh Basil, some salt and pepper and simmer until reduced by half.

Put in a water bath canner for the amount of time for your altitude....
And poof you have delicious tomato sauce for those cold winter days of marinara, soups and stews.

The chickens are laying pretty regularly and even in this heat we are getting about a dozen and a half eggs a week. In this case we were fixing breakfast and had two eggs with double yolks. Once they start producing more we have customers already lined up to $1.25 a dozen. Look at those dark yellow yolks standing proud in the wont find that from store bought eggs and lots of folks don't know the eggs you buy in the store can be up to 6 months old...Google it.
The Brown Leghorns are the ....brown chickens in this photo and they lay the white eggs, the black and white chickens are Barred Rocks and they lay brown eggs. So far we have gotten all brown eggs until...

Today when we got our first white egg. Do they taste different? Nope, but its kind of cool to have two different coloured eggs and its fun to tell city visitors the brown eggs are just not washed.
For some reason with this drought we have been over run with Wild Turkeys and they come right down by the house, run around the pasture and their tracks are all over around the pond. We sure have been enjoying their antics and if you ever get a chance to just watch them they are pretty entertaining.
We are also in the middle of the water melon (these are Baby Sweets) and cantaloupe harvest and they taste so much better than anything you can buy in a store. We have to be a little selfish at times because everyone wants to buy them and sometimes we have to stash a few and claim we are out.
And an update on the tractor tire issue, both rear tires on the IH 424 have now been changed and we are back in business. We are being very cautious right now running anything around here because of the fire danger but we will be ready.

And so the sun sets on this post...tomorrow we harvest apples and pears and can salsa...spicy salsa.