Saturday, February 22, 2020

Theater of the Mind: The Farm Report 2-22-2020

Theater of the Mind

 The Farm Report 2-22-2020

This time you'll have to use your imagination a little more than usual. There are a couple of really funny things that have happened out here that I just don't have pictures for. So I'll tell you about 'em and hope you can make the 'brain movie' work on your own. First, This is a pic of Annie's indoor night time sleeping quarters. We have way too many coyotes to let her spend the night in the shop. Their howling would scare her to death - or make her fearsome. They come right down into my driveway outside the shop at night. You already know she doesn't like to watch Rachel Maddow in the evenings, so she stays out in the shop with Miss Kitty until I'm ready to go to bed. About 10:00 most nights I go get her and bring her in. She is bribed with a treat every night, so she hops right into her kennel. That is the 'box' covered by the blankets.

BUT, right outside, on the other side of her 'wall' is this nice big soft pillow. It is a total coincidence that it is there. See the dent in it? Well, the other night when I was on my way up the stairs I could hear this huge PRRRRRRR. It was so loud I had to go see what was going on. Well, OJ the fearless Oakdale Farm tom cat had decided that pillow was his. The fact it was right on the other side of Annie's cage did not go unnoticed by him, and made it even better. Annie was locked inside her kennel, OJ was free to roam. He bedded down just on the other side of Annie's room and PRRRRRRed as loud as he could to make sure she knew where he was. Now I don't want to use the language that automatically popped into my head, but to say it another way, don't you think OJ was being just a huge south end of a north bound horse? And he knew what he was doing!

For the record, here is the sun going down about 6 weeks ago.

Here is the sun going down just the other evening. We're making progress as the sun is moving towards spring!

You might have to zoom up to extra-biggie size to get the joke here, but look at Annie's nose. We had a brief - very brief - warm spell recently and the top 3 inches of driveway grit thawed out. Annie decided to bury one of her special bones under the truck in the grit. She then proceeded to use her nose to backfill the hole.

Her nose had a good half-inch of gravel grit piled up on it. She didn't seem to mind, but it dried like concrete! When I went out to get her that night when Taps blew, I had to chip off the little concrete rock grotto from her nose.

So here's the most hilarious part of my recent past. It has all pretty much melted off now, but for quite awhile, I had solid glare ice all over my driveway. You already know Annie reads and does quiet things by herself out in the shop during prime time. Then one night when I went out to get her the fun started. It was absolutely pitch black dark. I had spread gravel chips on the ice to make a safer walking path, but it was wet slick ice. I turned Miss Oakley loose and away we went. Have I ever mentioned she is a super-high energy Aussie Heeler pup? BOOM! Annie was ready to go. She wanted to get into the house and get her hard boiled egg treat in her kennel. In the fracas I lost my way. I was off the chip path over onto wet glare ice/grease. I knew I was going to fall, so I was ready for it. Sure enough, WHOOSH! I was down on my hands and knees in the absolute black dark of night. It was cold and windy that night, too. So of course I had put on my absolute favorite Mad Bomber Rabbit Fur hat to go get Annie.

Now for the really funny part. You'll have to imagine it because I couldn't get a pic even if I would have had a camera with me: Picture me down on my hands and knees on wet glare ice in the pitch black. I'm personally embarrassed at my stupidity and hurting where my knees hit the ice - hard! Annie sees an opportunity! I'm down, I'm vulnerable, and SHE WANTS MY HAT!!! If you've never seen a Heeler do it's thing, you need to maybe watch some video of Aussies and Heelers working livestock. They are LIGHTNING FAST! Quick is the beginning word in their DNA. It seemed like Annie was on both sides of me and right in front of me all at the same time trying to steal my hat! So not only am I down on my knees, I'm now only one handed - I'm a tripod! - because the other hand was holding my hat on my head. I knew if she ever got it - my favorite hat! - I'd never see it again until morning and maybe not even then. She likes to hide and bury things. Well, I finally managed to get up WITH my hat on my head, and make it to the house. Annie was still grinning from all the fun when we got there, and to tell the truth, so was I. Sheeesh!

I've been mounting a bolt-on hitch receiver to the rear end of my new log splitter. It is handy to be able to pull it back out from a pile of split wood. Also, I'll be mounting a stabilizer jack with this to keep everything rock solid when I'm handling big rounds.

I bought the receiver, but I had to do a little black smithing to get it mounted.

I drilled some holes at the correct spots, and welded up some pinch clamps with angle iron and a piece of iron rod.

Here's a closeup showing how the pinch clamp is set up. The rod is the same diameter as the thickness of the base of the log splitter beam. You might want to make one for yourself sometime.

Here it is ready to slip onto the log splitter beam and cinch it down tight.

All done and ready to go to work.

Mother Nature is amazing. I have a lot of Honey Locust trees in my timber. They are 'weed' trees that came in after the Dutch Elm disease destroyed the good elms back in the '60's. They have nasty thorns and are just a pain - literally. I've had to pull more than one thorn from the bottom of my foot. It is like stepping on a nail. The guys at the tire shop say they love 'em because they generate so much tire repair work. Well, I go around on winter days when my attitude ain't right and 'girdle' the trees to kill them standing on the stump. I make a deep chainsaw cut all the way around the tree through the living cambium layers so the tree can't feed itself with sap flow, and it dies. The Iowa State Foresters say to double girdle them. I didn't do that on this one. Well, here's why they recommend a double girdle cut. You can see where I made my cut.

Here's a closer look to show you how Mamma Nature said, "Oh NO! You're not killing one of MY babies." Amazingly, she grew what is called 'callous' tissue around that cut to heal it before the tree died! Talk about a tree that wants to be there! I like to kill these trees standing because the bark will fall off - along with the thorns - and the wood will dry in place ready to burn. This wood is really oily, and burns like coal. It is one of the heaviest woods we have. It will float in water, but just.

Did I mention wood is heavy? I made a beginner's mistake with my log splitter. I had a nice 12-inch round about 30-inches long lifting up onto the deck of the splitter. Then, to get it into a better position I - stupidly - grabbed the wrong side of the tong lever. As advertised, it let go instantly! The resulting benefits of Mr. Newton's gravity system landed that rascal right on my foot! The edge of the log hit right above my 'ring' toe. See the mark? 'Dang!' I said, 'That's gonna leave a mark.' Or something like that. I didn't feel anything squishy in my boot, so I kept working the rest of the afternoon. When it was time to get into my TV Jammies though, I kinda didn't wanta look - but I did. The swelling is gone now and I'm pretty much rid of the purple, but I do still remember not to grab that (wrong) side of the tong lever any more!

So what's an old guy with a sore foot and a cold winter to do? Buy a new sewing machine! I use a Craig's List searcher and have old machines indexed in it. Just at the right time, up pops this old Singer 29-4 leather sewing machine. It needs some work, and the fellow who had it had given up on it. I never give up, and I love to fix old stuff. That's how I made my living. So I had to have it. It came from a saddle maker's shop in Norfolk, Nebraska. It was made in 1904, and runs with a treadle.

Ain't she a beauty!? Annie isn't sure she likes it. It has been getting a lot of attention she thinks she should be getting. But other than the obvious, all is well at Oakdale Farm. I'll be starting some pepper seeds pretty soon now. I'm hungry for something from the garden.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Goodnight Mrs. Calabash: The Farm Report 02-14-2019

February 14, 2020

I am re-posting this blog entry from last year for two reasons: One is that I am still the 'Unofficial Advocate Boy' for Ovarian Cancer. We need to keep it upfront and work to find the cause and cure. Two is that I still find old friends from times past who have not received the message of Joyce's passing. What a wonderful thing to have made so many friends in business so long ago that still stay in touch. At the same time, a tragedy to have to tell them the awful news. We often traveled as a pair teaching professional furniture restoration classes to shop owners all over the USA. I was a listed AIC member specializing in wooden artifacts and interior decorative objects. Joyce was a credentialed member of the American Society of Interior Designers, with a special interest in grand public buildings. Thus, we have friends in obscure places far away and in between.

This will be my last re-posting of this blog entry. Next time will be something much more fun - I promise! 


Goodnight Mrs. Calabash:
The Farm Report 02-14-2019

I've thought and thought about what I should tell you today. I do want to keep to my New Year's Resolution and post regularly for you. But you'll understand, I'm sure, when I tell you that today isn't a good day for me. I am very committed to being a happy guy committed to making the most out of every day - and not to just be a Sad Sack - and I do want to find something good for this post. But, today is a hard day. Today is the one-year-ago day I lost my lifetime sweetie, best friend and love of my life. 

Please permit me to share this with you. I do have a purpose in it. This was my Joyce at Christmas a year ago - 2017. Who would have known that just a few weeks later she would have been gone. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. Following a huge surgery, and pretty much full-time chemo, she did well. She lived another 3 1/2 years, and I want to emphasize that they were mostly good years! We had wonderful doctors and nurses - and the chemo/infusion nurses all get a very special place in heaven. Wonderful. She was able to return to her beloved classroom for another year after this. But eventually, the disease took its tole and she just didn't have the stamina to continue teaching. Her goal had been to teach until she was 70. She nearly made it too! She loved teaching and her students, and most of them loved her right back. Most of 'em.

So here's my purpose and I'm going to be blunt saying it: Ovarian cancer is a son-of-a-bitch! It shows virtually no symptoms, and it often kills its victims within weeks sometimes, or after a few months in other cases. Joyce was lucky, if you can say that, because she had just excellent doctors looking after her, and a strong faith and will to make the most out of a bad situation. Her family doc diagnosed her disease very very early. She got treatment right away. She got to live longer than most. Breast cancer has advocates and tricky pink stuff to remind people about it, because breast cancer patients often survive. Hooorayy!!! But ovarian cancer kills, and kills quicky, so there isn't a big support/advocate group to help people fight it. That's where my job comes in. I am the unofficial Ovarian Cancer Advocate Boy. So now, today, I am advocating!

Get seen by a doc if you have any signs of abdominal discomfort, and you are a gal, and you're not sure what it is. Period. 

Joyce thought she had pulled a muscle near her diaphragm doing garden work. Wrong. But her docs knew better, and they went after it.

Here is a link to help you learn more about it:

I have no relationship with this group at all. I just picked it to get you started. Learn all you can. And guys, if you have a gal in your life - sweetie, sister, mother - you get the point, support them to be seen if there is ANY symptom. 

So there. I hope you'll understand why I'm a little exercised today. 

Here is the February Calendar pic. This was taken one week ago actually. 

The land had been covered with about a foot of snow just days before this pic. Then we had a hot wind - not me! - and it all melted off in a fog London would have been proud of. 

This one was taken today. We're back to winter again. But this one is fun. Spring is coming! How do I know? Well, if you'll look carefully at the little dark dot in the middle of the picture, you'll see why. That is a lime/fertilizer truck spreading its stuff on the fields. These trucks are huge and heavy - and they go fast. I don't know who had more fun; me watching or the driver cutting cookies all over the slick field and terraces IN A TRUCK! while pretending it was farm work. Ya gotta get a yuck where ever ya can!

Joyce and I had our first date in college on Valentine's Day. We were engaged on Valentine's Day. And she passed away last year on Valentine's Day. The first year when I was a young guy hot to impress her, I gave her a dozen roses. The next year, she told me she would love me just as much if I gave her just one rose - and we could do something else with the money I would have wasted on the rest of the dozen roses. Those were her words, not mine. She was always a very practical person. So every year for the last 47 years, I have given her one single red rose for Valentine's Day. Today, I'll have to give it to her - and to you - this way.

For you young kids, this is Jimmy Durante. He was an old vaudevillian. He was a top comedian in his day, but what he really was was a tremendous piano player. He disguised it by doing comedy acts at the same time, but Jimmy Durante could play the piano - or 'pianner' as he called it. Jimmy Durante tragically lost his first wife at a very early age. He was deeply wounded by it, and ever after closed all his acts - whether on TV, the stage or radio - by saying 'Goodnight Mrs. Calabash (a nod to his wife) where ever you are.' Then he walked off. So with my own nod to my own sweetie, I'll end by saying, as Jimmie Durante would have said, 'Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, where ever you are.'

Next time will be more fun, I promise.