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Friday, August 30, 2013

The Power of a School Nurse

I could have lost all 6 of my children today to Child Protective Services thanks to an over concerned school nurse. Luckily, we taught our children  a secret safe word many years ago.

Sis invoked the secret safe word today during a phone call to me from school. I had wifey to the school before the police even arrived.

I am on the road right now returning home from up north. As soon as I get the debriefing from the entire family I will post the contents of today's unbelievable events.

If you have children at home please take the time to teach them a safe word. Make it a word or phrase that they can use in a sentence without drawing suspicion to the conversation.

More to follow...

OJD

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Countdown Begins...

Our house overflows with boxes Wifey packed up.
We finally got our move in date for our new (rental) house in Northern Arizona! Mr. and Mrs. Owner will be moved out in time for us to move IN on September 14th. I have requested that the moving company re-evaluate our assets next week, after I get a chance to move some things up north myself.

The hospital has graciously allowed a $9,000 moving allowance.  According to the hospital spokesperson, that money can only be used toward physically moving our stuff. If there was any left over, I do not get it. If the cost runs over, I have to foot the bill myself. So far, with the first assessment by the moving company, they concluded that it would take a whopping $12,000 (GASP!) to move our household!

What the...? Seriously?

That began the two day banter between the moving company and myself regarding how exactly they come up with these figures. To make a long story short, they pimp out things to third party companies instead of doing it themselves...which, of course, is more expensive than if they actually DID IT themselves. Go figure. Note: this is the ONLY company that my new hospital is contracted with to "direct bill" for relocating a new employee. Can you say MONOPOLY?

Mirror so large it's hard to get it in one picture
Anyway, the silly things they contract out are things like: our bedroom set mirror. It is quite large hence a large liability. So the moving company hires out a third party company to come to my house and crate it up for freight. Same with our grandfather clock, flat screen tv (although it is actually pretty small compared to what I see in most folks houses), and a few other fragile items. Lots of money WASTED and I'm not paying for it. I'll be making a few runs up there for New Hire Orientation anyway...I'll just take a trailer full of boxes every time I go. I can take the mirror, clock, and tv in my trailer. Nothing a few strategically placed blankets can't handle. I have to get the cost down to being within the allowance.

The front of our new home in the pines. Full front porch!
Turns out the house we are renting isn't cheap either but it is directly in line with what we would have paid in Oklahoma. So, I'm fine with it. I'm SO excited about the 2.5 acres that it sits on. We'll be able to garden to our hearts content. It also has a large, custom chicken coop that I can't wait to show you. It is bordered by half hewn logs, if that's what they are called? Like, when you  use you own saw mill on a tree and you cut off that first slice with the bark that makes for a flat side on the tree? That top piece is what Mr. Owner used to make the walls of the coop with. A large branch perched in the middle holds up the thick netting to repel predators.

!!!! MAN CAVE !!!..and a little woman nook. :-)
There are already two small gardens near the coop that grow food specifically for the chickens. Not sure what is growing but I bet we'll figure it out eventually. There's also a small wooden playhouse next to a fire pit for the girls to play in. Oh, and Mr. Owner has left lots of firewood for us too. There's also state forest land DIRECTLY behind us. He said with a $20 license of some type, I can cut down my own firewood.  I am really looking forward to a nice COLD winter up there with lots of fires. Did mention the awesome three car garage / workshop?!! With a LOFT?!! Woo hoo! And it all sits perched atop a nice low mountain with views of the pseudo-valley below.

I have some video footage of the house when we were looking but I went so fast with excitement that I blurred most of the still frame shots. The whole family is excited and I'm betting that the next two weeks C..R..A..W..L.. by.

~OJD

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quick Note: Don't Forget...

Today is the "Book Bomb" day for Enola Gay's:

 The Prepared Family's Cookbook




She has been living a self sustaining lifestyle with her family over at Providence Farms for several years and blogs her experiences at Paratus Familia.  She is at the top of my reading list and is always a joy to read. Stop by and check her out if you haven't already.

FYI: The "Book Bomb" concept is intended to increase an author's ranking on Amazon by coordinating an effort to have everyone buy the book on opening day. This will surely drive her book up the rankings and give her more exposure.

Don't cook? Honestly, I don't much either. But here's the thing: I gladly support friends in our internet community who strive to live by the same values and moral code that I believe in. I don't have much faith in our electoral voting system anymore but I DO believe in voting with my feet (relocation) and voting with my money.

Enola Gay is "good people" so support her by purchasing her book. I did.

Patrice has a glowing review (go figure, they're neighbors! LoL!) and you can read more about the book at her website: Rural-Revolution.

If you stop by Patrice's or Enola's blogs, comment and tell them I sent you ;-)

~OJD

So, Here It Is...

Literally, my fortune the day I got back to Arizona.

Let's back up a few weeks.

I've been at the farm for eight weeks. To secure a home for my family I have tried and failed at the following:

Attempt #1) Secure a traditional home loan to buy a home or have one built. My credit score was 640 which isn't terrific but I never thought it would have given me trouble. Turns out, traditional banks (at least where I was) wanted a score of 660 to do business. The other issue that crippled me here was the fact that I had my own house in Arizona.

Since so many people in 2008-2009 created a false renter's agreement in order to qualify for a home loan (told to me by my lender) and then DEFAULTED on the first home once they moved  in to the new residence, banks now want to see a solid six month rental history (including deposit history). I do not have this. As you know, my family is still living in my house in Arizona.

Bottom line, no traditional mortgage. Yes, I tried with multiple lenders.

Acquired an orange canoe along the way.
Attempt #2) Secure a modular home loan and place it on the farm. The salesman told me over the phone that he could get me qualified with a 640 score all day long. I visited the sales lot and picked out a nice modcl that would fit my family plus my mother-in-law. THREE WEEKS LATER, I finally get the final numbers that yes, I did qualify for the mobile home but the mortgage lender wanted 10-20% down or in my case $10,000.

If I haven't stated it already, I BORROWED $1000 to get to Oklahoma in the first place. I had been out of work for a solid month before I moved. Before that, I was half way through a medical program for which I dumped $12,000 into from my savings. I was broke. I was also looking at needing approximately $3,000 to move my family from Arizona to Oklahoma with the use of a uHaul truck.

So to get the mobile home I needed $10k + $3k and I had...zero. I was slowly building up savings while working in Oklahoma. I had saved up $1500 in the two months I had been working. That is a far cry from $13,000 and simple math told me I would be living without my family for nine or more months to get a mobile home. This did NOT take into account the need to put in septic, water and electric to the trailer.

Caveat #1) My original plans to live adjacent to the farm house and use the existing water well, electric tie in and possibly the sewer changed weeks into my arrival at Oklahoma. A concerned family member voiced that if I lived next to the farm house, thereby making the farm house somewhat my front yard, other family members who may have wished to visit the "family" farm might now feel as though they were infringing on my privacy when they paid a visit to the "family" farm. They politely asked that if I were to live on the farm, that I not set up a homestead in the same proximity as the farm house. I completely understand this concern and wish not to "take over" the family farm in any way. So this relegated me to a different section of the farm where I would now be responsible for putting in a complete sewer, water, electric connection. (read: more money and see caveat #2)

Caveat #2) My father made it clear to the family (including me) that he intended to sell his entire share of the farm  and either retire to a town farther south in Oklahoma to be near his grand-daughter (child of his adopted daughter, long story) OR relocate to Hot Springs, Arkansas. This meant that the "family farm" would no longer be inheritable (if that's a word?) to me in any way in the future. Any and all improvements that I would make could potentially be for naught. I asked him if he could leave me ten acres to homestead on the farm to which he declined. It is what it is, I can't beat a dead horse. This was quite a blow to my whole intention of cleaning up the family farm and making enjoyable for everyone.

Father/daughter football game with Sis #LoveMyGirls
Attempt #3) I downsized my living quarters to a bumper-pull trailer and had a dealership running numbers for me on a 26 foot Jayco with double pull outs. It would have slept eight people and we could have lived in it for six months to a year until I had the money saved up for a mobile home. TWO WEEKS LATER, after being moved from a new trailer to a used trailer back to a new trailer again by the dealership because they couldn't decide which one I could qualify for "easier", I finally got some numbers.

$5,400 down and $531/mo at 17.7% interest. What the...? Why is this so hard? I could go on and on about why this game doesn't make any sense to me. I have come to the conclusion that it is all my fault for not having saved enough money. With no land in MY name, I had to have money down. I didn't have either. I had seen my family for 4 days in a ten week time span and it was wearing thin. I really wasn't seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

No house, no mobile home, no travel trailer, and no farm house to live in for my family. I had landed the perfect job nearby but it would still take me months to reunite with my family. Mind you, dozens of people were now helping me look for a home to rent.

That's when I learned that there was a renewed OIL BOOM in Oklahoma like that of the late 1970's. Roughnecks from all over the country were flocking to my little section of Oklahoma and scooping up every rental available (house, trailer, room, apt, hotel) for the asking price. In most cases that I was directly involved in, the house for rent was snatched up within 48 hours of being posted for rent. And if that wasn't enough, a veteran that I worked with informed me that the local Air Force base was running an abnormally high number of "studens" as he called them, through the base. So many studenst that base housing was running short and the students were also gobbling up the public housing. I was witnessing a perfect storm for NOT being able to rent.

And then I got a phone call.

A hospital, which shall remain nameless, contacted me for a management position. For those that don't know, management is what I had been aspiring to for years. I am passively seeking my Masters degree and have been in healthcare for over 20 years. After several management interviews failed in and around Arizona, I sought the Oklahoma job (non-management, average pay) and acquired it. To keep food on the table for my large family, I immediately left for Oklahoma and started earning a paycheck. It was my ONLY option for work.

One last look at the farm.
Now, almost ten weeks into the homesteading adventure that seemed to be failing, a hospital has offered me not just a job in management but a salary THIRTY percent higher than I was making in Oklahoma. They have offered to MOVE MY ENTIRE FAMILY to the new hospital location AND a hefty sign on bonus. So, by now you've noticed that I said "was making in Oklahoma." That's because I packed up and left two days ago.

I accepted the offer, arrived back at home in Arizona and happily celebrated my oldest daughter's Sweet 16 birthday (Sis). The next day, we loaded up the family Suburban and headed to the new town to look for a rental house. Unlike Oklahoma, there were several to look at. We saw seven all together and settled on a beautiful home on 2.5 acres, nestled between gorgeous mountains. There is already an established chicken coop with layers, a three car garage/workshop and although they call it "outside of town" it is only 20 minutes drive to work. The exact same it took from the farm to the hospital in Oklahoma. The generous Sign On bonus will take care of first and last months rent leaving me nothing out of pocket to pay for except the gas to drive my family up there. Our entire house will be packed, moved, and unpacked again, at the expense of the hospital.

Only, there are no hordes of bugs crawling everywhere, billions of grasshoppers eating everything in sight, or sweltering hot and humid days because we are at 7,000 feet in elevation and to my surprise nobody has an air conditioner on their house (hello, I've lived in a desert for 20 years). It is that nice...all year long.

I didn't want to leave the farm. Honestly, I felt like my dream of homesteading had somewhat failed. But when I look at how it all played out, I can't think anything other than this is where HE intended for my family to be at this time. Several of my family members shared this same thought. Oh, I forgot to mention the rental houses in Oklahoma that I had secured also. Slowly, one by one, they backed out of our agreement for one reason or another. Two solid rental agreements found buyers paying full price at the last minute. Others said my dog, the German Shepherd, was not acceptable because they are considered "dangerous just like a pit bull or rottweiller". What?

I was lamenting about how I would get the money needed to both relocate my family AND afford all the down payments necessary to establish a new home in Oklahoma. Then this hospital offers to pay it all. It was unbelievable but still left me torn about leaving the farm. I took the tractor for one last joy ride and gently eased her into the barn where I had found her. I sealed up all the doors and took the air conditioners out of the windows. I turned the water off at the toilet but left it on at the well. The sticker bushes had grown up so quickly with all the rain we had received that I could barely see the roof to the well. With no lawnmower, a broken brush hog and no weed eater, I had no means to clear the brush.

It's like mother nature what swallowing the farm back up and erasing everything I had done over the last nine weeks.  All that remained as a sign that I had been there was the snake skin wafting in the breeze on the barbed wire fence where I had left it. I took some final photos as I pulled out and thought about all I had learned while I was there. It will serve me well in my next attempt to homestead.

For now, I will regroup with my family and focus on attaining a few more tools that I wished I had already purchased (chainsaw, wood splitter, generator, etc). I will work feverishly at establishing a decent savings with which to purchase a homestead on property that I can call my own. Property that I can do anything I desire with only Wifey to answer to.

For those of you that joined to follow my homestead adventure, I thank you for your kind words of encouragement and knowledge. I hope that you will stick around to see where I take this adventure next. If not, I understand and bid you farewell. To anyone else that might still be reading, I haven't given up on the homesteading dream. If anything, I have had the privilege of experiencing a nine week practice run and will be all the stronger the next time around. This new property has a garage just waiting for me to put my OWN tractor in it. It already has chickens and we know exactly where we want to put the garden. The views are breath-taking and I will post them as soon as I can.

The one thing I can already see that is different between the farm in Oklahoma and my home here in Arizona is that I had all the time in the world to type posts for the blog in Oklahoma. Here at home, I get interrupted every five minutes by any one of my six daughters...and I wouldn't have it any other way.

~OJD & Family

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Head is Spinning

I haven't posted in a few days as events are occurring faster than I can post.  I promise a full update tonight.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fire! Hay Baler Bursts into Flames

A day in the life of an Oklahoma farmer...
With a few hours to kill before work,  I sat in the driveway contemplating how I wanted to spend this rare (read: free time)  opportunity. My neighbor to the south stopped by to introduce himself.  He's live there 40+ years and his homestead used to belong to my great-grandfather.
15 minutes into our interesting conversation,  a huge plume of black smoke appeared a mile or so to the north of us. The width and color of the plume told me that this wasn't a trash burn.  Dressed in my hospital scrubs and ready for action,  I big farewell to my neighbor and headed north. 

(to be continued tonight)... 

Well, it took me a little longer to get back to the post than I expected. I actually typed the above paragraphs from my Droid cell phone while waiting on my lunch order at Taco Bueno. LoL.

So, I have a little down time at work now and figured I better tie this post up once and for all. There's really not too much left to tell that I didn't include in my YouTube video except to say that everyone was okay and unharmed when it was all over. My neighbor spotted smoke coming from his hay baler as he turned the tractor around and was able to unhook the baler from the tractor quickly.

The baler was a complete loss but he did manage to save the tractor. Here's the video:


Friday, August 16, 2013

A Peaceful Foggy Morning

Round bales in a fog across the road, pre-sunrise.
I've been out here at the farm for about nine weeks now. I can't believe how many times I've driven right past the farm on the way home from work. I'm typically on my way home before the sun comes up and these country roads are DARK.

I focus so much on the road (to make sure I'm aware of any critters wandering about in the road) that I don't pay enough attention to the landscape. It is common to see a few opossums and racoons in the early morning hours along with an occasional deer. The deer are usually standing on the edge of the road and I can just barely make them out. But the other varmints are usually dead square in the middle of the road. Oh, and let's not forget the lovely skunks. They are surely representing out here. If I don't see one every morning, I at least smell one. Good grief those critters are stinky.

Handsome church on a cloudy morning.
This morning was a little different because we had quite a bit of fog floating about. It rained yet again last night making me wonder if I'll ever get to brush hog the grass any time soon.  The temperature sure was nice though. I stood in the road between the farm house and the front wheat field and just looked around for a bit. An occasional car would drive by on the blacktop but aside from that, all I hear is the chirping of the insects. Sure is a peaceful calm out here.

A little sweet...a little bubbly.
I've taken a hit off my trusty NyQuil bottle and will be dozing off soon. Picked up a Sanpellegrino sparkling orange beverage to try before bed this morning. Should be watery enough to quench my thirst with a hint of orange to satisfy my never ending sweet tooth. I better hit the sack, the sun is starting to come out and play. Adios amigos.

~OJD

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Work, Work, Work...

Work bought us new xray markers.
The nice thing about working so much is, well, the paycheck. The not-so-nice thing about working a lot is it leaves very little time to do what I actually WANT to do...like work around the farm.

This past weekend, I went in to work at 2pm on Friday and left at 9pm Sunday night. If my sleepy-brain math is correct, that's 55 hours straight...and that was at the end of my regular work week (which is Monday, Tues, Thursday.) But I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. I need the paycheck for moving my family. And it helps that I actually LIKE my job too.

This small town hospital that I work in now is gracious enough to provide a break room (read: sleep room, just like the physicians get) that we are allowed to take advantage of in the middle of the  night when all our work is caught up. Considering all the bugs in the farm house, sometimes I think I get better sleep at the hospital :-/

Hope I get to play with this one!
Speaking of bugs, I knocked the same black beetle off me three times last night in a 30 minute period before I finally sent him to bug heaven. The hospital, just like everywhere else around here, has a HUGE bug problem. Grasshoppers, black beetles and spiders are so common place that everyone just seems to ignore them. They were literally dropping out of holes in our ceiling and landing on my desk. There's a virtual bug cemetery strewn across every door entryway at the hospital. They're either dead from pesticide, get smashed by the automatic hospital doors or just plain stepped on by passersby. I don't think anyone even tries to step on them. It's just unavoidable because there are THAT many of them here.

Anyway, enough about the bugs. I'm hoping the winter cold relocates them for a few months soon. As I was leaving the farm to go to work today, I found a nice surprise in the field outside the front yard: a big 'ol tractor hooked up to a huge brush hog that puts my little one to shame. I hopped in the Jeep and raced over to look at it. I guess my cousin came by this morning and began to clear our front 35 acres for the next crop while I was sleeping.

The grass is as tall as the fence out front.
I hopped in and took a chance on trying to crank it up. I pushed in what I figured would be the clutch and turned the key but got nothing. I looked around at all the levers and gizmos...clueless to what they all did. Wish I had the day off. I could have cleared some serious brush with this baby. With all the rain we've had for the past eight weeks, things have grown back up to the level they were at when I arrived. The grass is as tall as our fence in some areas. The only day I'll have off this week to mow will be this coming Saturday then my work week starts all over again.

Bales across the street, waiting to be loaded up.
The neighbor who works the 80 acres my family owns across the street has been busy baling up his recent crop. I think the large bales are called "rounds" and there were lots of them ready to be loaded on to a truck. I stopped on the way to work and took a few pictures. The sky is always so picturesque out here in the country.

So with all the work, I feel like I haven't had much to blog about lately since I haven't gotten much done. I received my multimeter in the mail the other day and began trying to trace down the electricity short that keeps me from being able to turn on the power at the barn. I was told the rats keep eating through the wires. I'd like to get the barn powered up again, get the grass mowed back down, and start straightening out the barn.  There's fence that needs to be mended in a few places but mostly I just need to clear out a ton of overgrowth all over the place.

So, come on Saturday! I'm getting behind!

~OJD

Monday, August 12, 2013

Homestead Helper: Cell Phone Signal Boost Home Antenna

Wilson SignalBoost DT for home use.
I've had the same cell phone for about fifteen years and never really had many problems with it. That being said, I've also lived within the same 40-50 mile radius of the East Valley of Phoenix the entire time.

Once I moved to the country in northern Oklahoma, that story changed drastically. Within the first few days of arriving at our farm I noticed a change in the function of my cell phone. At the time, I had an HTC Droid Incredible which had served me well for a few years. But it was no match for countryside living.

Being on-call as a hospital employee, it is imperative that I be available immediately when I am on the schedule. When a patient needs an ultrasound in the middle of the night, I am the guy they call to come in and do the exam. Typically, technologists have a one hour response time from the time we get the phone call to the time we walk through the doors at the hospital. Obviously, the sooner the better. How long it takes me to receive the call is paramount.

Days after arriving at the farm I noticed incoming phone calls were going straight to voice mail without ringing at all. I would only become aware that a call had been missed once the voicemail icon illuminated on my cell phone. This initiated what ended up being two weeks worth of phone calls back and forth with the Verizon Tier Two Technical Support Team.

The techs determined that my nearest cell phone tower was about 15 miles southeast of the farm. According to them, this was a little too far for a cell phone antenna to reach on it's own. I was instructed to purchase an external signal booster for the farm which would increase my ability to pick up a distant cell tower signal.

Since there is no phone service nor internet service wired in at the farm, I considered this a worthy project as my cell phone is not only needed for work but is also my source of internet access for my laptop (thank you PDAnet!).

I purchased the Wilson Electronics - DT - Cell Phone Signal Booster for Small Home or Office which is now on sale for about $50 less than what I paid.  This kit was easy to install as I show in my video and I recommend it to anyone homesteading out of  reach from the local cell towers.

The signal booster increased my signal reception from one single bar displayed on my cell phone to a consistent 4-5 bars (5 is the fullest signal attainable). I have since not missed a single call. Hope this helps someone else too.

~OJD

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rural Revolution Disappearance?

Screenshot of the Wayback Machine
(Update at the end of this post)

A reader (thanks Sara!) emailed me with the chilling information that Patrice Lewis' blog, Rural-Revolution) has disappeared off of the internet. I don't have Patrice's phone number but I will send her an email in a bit.

My first move, after verifying the site was redirected, was to check the WayBack Machine and start archiving her website for her in case she didn't have a backup. To my surprise, the WayBack Machine has deleted all her information! I have never seen this happen before. I built websites back in the 90's and those sites are still on the WB Machine. It serves as a snapshot in time of just about every website on the internet...except Patrice's.

Usually this type of thing happen because the website owner failed to set up an auto-renewal on the domain name. In cases like Patrice's, once a website becomes popular, there are squatters, or people that put orders in to buy a domain name in the case that it is not auto-renewed. As soon as the domain name becomes available, the squatter snatches it up and uses the traffic-attracting domain name for their own gain.

Typical blank splash "holding" page until renewal or resold.
A good place to search the status and history a domain name is Whois.sc. That is where I see that Rural-Revolution.com expired on Aug 9, 2013. I hope it isn't too late for her. I ran over and bought the .net and .org just in case she needs it. I sent her an email suggesting she renew her domain name immediately. Usually there is a 24-48 window to renew past your deadline. The generic splash page that is showing indicates to me that it is most likely in a holding pattern until she either renews or a squatter gets it.

WhoIs.sc tells the chilling details
In the meantime, I'm going to search the depths of the internet for a source to backup her old posts just in case.

~OJD

Update: 17:35 MST

Patrice is indeed aware of the issue. The problem lies between her and Google. My hypothesis about her domain name was correct and she was aware of it before it expired. Her Google login has not been allowing her entry and therefore she cannot update her domain information. She is working on it but offers her original URL in the meantime:

http://www.patricelewis.blogspot.com/

Her feedburner account seems to be working and that is how I found her latest post:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/RuralRevolution

I suggest using bookmarking both addresses.

~OJD

Thursday, August 8, 2013

So Much Rain!

Free bath for the Orange Jeep!
Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for rain just as much as the next guy. It does make it difficult to perform some tasks but it makes others easier. Like pulling stumps and shrubs are MUCH easier when the ground is soft.

I've kept Old Red Belly in the barn the past week. I don't want her getting any more unnecessary skin cancer (read: rust). She fires up without a hickup just about every time now. Still waiting to try out the new (to me) brush hog that a cousin dropped off while I was out of town. It looks MUCH newer than the one I've been using.

My cell phone is blowing up every 15 minutes with Thunderstorm Warnings via my American Red Cross application. This is one handy app for staying on top of Mother Nature. Sure, storms can appear out of nowhere with no warning...but the A.R.C catches it with NOAA very fast and the alerts keep me well informed. It is helpful to me when I am inside a building (farm house, hospital, etc) and not able to see the clues on the horizon.

Issued about every 15 minutes
There are so many thunderstorms here in Oklahoma that the National Weather Service has numbered them so that when a warning is given, they say "...thunderstorm warning #482 has been issued for the following areas...". I'm not too far off with that number either. I made a quick run to the local Wallymart tonight and always turn on my BaoFang ham radio when I'm driving. I was informed of thunderstorm warning #48x-something. This one has been reported as coming with nickel-sized hail in some areas.

Since things have been so wet lately, I figured it was a good time to burn some trash at the farm. I fill up a 40 gallon bag about every 2-3 weeks and had one ready to go to trash heaven. I walked it down to one of the old burn barrels between the farm house and barn. With just a tad bit of accelerant (come on, I'm a guy), it lit right up.

I stayed nearby to make sure no embers wondered off but the ground is very wet these days. The girls would have loved this activity. I'm sure it is a chore that won't go unclaimed. I bought several fire extinguishers on Amazon during a sale a while back. They can carry one of those with them after they've been taught the appropriate safety rules. I suppose if we're REAL thrify, we'll roast some marshmallows at the same time?

While adding pictures to this post, I found an old picture of our family with neighbors having a marshmallow roast in our backyard back in Arizona. We have a nice fire pit area formed out of stamped concrete (they don't call the city the "concrete jungle" for nothing, right?).

I hung Christmas lights all around the wall for lighting and decoration. There are two bench seats built into the wall along with some lawn chairs and two bar-b-que grills. That was the closest we could get to camping or the countryside for many years...13 years, actually, this Christmas.

I'm going to miss that house. For my youngest three daughters, it's the only house they've ever known. I personally grew up in the same house (in Oklahoma City) from first grade all the way through senior year in high school. I think staying anchored like that is good for a child. Constantly moving can be stressful but there are some folks that endure it. Some even thrive, I imagine. Yes sir, I'm gonna miss that house.

~OJD


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And the Surprises Continue (not good)

Baby snake on a sticky trap in the house!
I shared pictures of the sticky traps full of beetles upon my return to the farm. At least they were stopped in their tracks BEFORE they got to my bed. That thought made me content enough...until...

A closer look revealed a different critter stuck in the quagmire of ooze. A freeking baby snake! Are you KIDDING me? How in the world did THAT get in the HOUSE?!?! Grrr! Several weeks of spraying insectide in and around the farm house appears to be negated by a long week of constant raining. (Although, I must confess, the baby snake did have a weird coolness factor.)

The grass is back up to above the ankles. The bug population has exploded and now I have snakes in the house. I killed two wasps in the house today too. We are back to square one. I really don't want to pull all the baseboards off and seal the entire house. I don't even know how much longer I'll be here. I could be living in my own trailer in a week or two. Time to nut-up and deal (no offense ladies).

About the only GOOD news upon arrival is that a cousin has dropped off an extra brush hog that he found somewhere. I'll be able to hook the Old Red Belly up to it and go to town on all this brush and sticker grass...as soon as I have time.

Got my first electric bill in the mail today. Four weeks of running the window air conditioner (sometimes two, one doesn't work very well), regular light usage and random electronics plugged in (ham radio charger, laptop, fan, etc) and I'm looking at $78.81. I'm looking forward to a day when I have my solar panels set up...yes sir I am.

~OJD

So Much Going On...

Sleepy surprise, Flower is happy that Daddy's home.
I finally have a little time to write. I just finished my first 16 hour shift of the week and am back at the farm table to blog. It's 7am and I'm sleepy, of course, but I'm armed with a movie-sized box of Nerds and a 44oz Dr Pepper. We should be good until at least noon :-)

First, let's talk about the wonderful return trip home to surprise Wifey for her birthday. As previously mentioned, I work Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays. A coworker was kind enough to cover my Thursday shift last week so I could head out of town on Wednesday. I arrived at home in Arizona almost three hours ahead of schedule since I was driving solo (read: no kids needing to stop and pee every hour).

So it was 3am Thursday morning that I arrived at my house, instead of 6am as I had planned. 13.5 hours to drive 952 miles is, I'm pretty sure, a new record for me. I had not told Wifey I was coming which, by the way, was REALLY hard for me to do. I did, however, clue the older girls in on the surprise once I was about three hours away. They were still up goofing around and I figured I better let them know it would be ME turning the front door knob so that I didn't get shot.

I approached the front door with camera recording. Once Sis realized what I was holding she went into "Oh crap, there's a camera and I don't have makeup on" mode. I grabbed her for a hug anyway. The Queen was snuggled up on the recliner engulfed in a blanket. I don't know which was making her smile more: daddy being home or the fact that it was her first day without her braces (removed one day prior) and she was happily showing off her gleaming white teeth.

The girls were making mom a Happy "birht" day banner (lol)
I asked where Macky was since she was our family night owl. Sis informed me she had been up for two days and begged me not to wake her up for fear of an uber-grouch. I was stunned that she stayed up that long willingly which led to Sister's confession. Macky had stayed up all night, her usual milieu, and then, to her dismay, Sis would not let her go sleep during the following day. Poking at her and teasing throughout the day, poor Macky finally was allowed to fall asleep a few short hours before my arrival. Ah, sisterly love.

Now it was around 3:30am and I thought I would just let Wifey sleep until her usual 6am. I confess, a small part of me didn't want to risk a warm welcome by cutting short some much needed sleep for Wifey. That lasted about 20 minutes. I just couldn't wait any longer.

I gave Sis the camera and told her to follow me into our bedroom. I flipped on the closet light out of habit as it is the first light source walking into our bedroom. This is the light I always use when returning home in the middle of the night from being called out to see a patient at the hospital. It is a weak enough light source that it won't wake anyone up. Unlike the overhead BEACON of blinding light emitted from our ceiling fan above our bed.

As I flipped the closet light on, Sis says "That won't wake her up" and she blasts on the overhead beacon. I slide up next to Wifey's side of the bed and lean over her head as if to whisper in her ear. As I was about to speak, she heard Sis's comment about the closet light not waking her up. She turned to inform Sis that the overhead light was definitely enough to wake her up and as she turned from having her face in the pillow to looking up towards the door, I whispered "Happy Birthday."

Being a little too close, she backed away a few inches to focus her eyes on who was talking to her. The second she recognized me, she squealed and flung her arms around my neck pulling me close. She wept and for a moment...time stood still.

We talked for a few more minutes until our conversation was interrupted by a joyfully exclaiming Flower as she blurted out "Daddy!" Flower has been sleeping in my spot on the bed to keep mommy company while I am away. Our talking woke her up and it was pure joy to see her expression as her sleepy eyes squinted to see my face through her sleepiness.

I woke up Boo and hugged her too. She was happy to see me and the feeling was mutual. I struggled to wake Monster up. She was just too tired. I hugged her and told her it was okay to go back to sleep on the couch. She quickly complied.

And what surprise is complete without gifts? I brought an entire trash bag of jewelry home for the girls. I don't think I've told the story yet. The short version is that a coworker knows an Old Navy (clothing store chain) manager. After they put all their jewelry on sale, stuff that doesn't sell gets tossed. Hard to believe at first until I saw the big ball of jewelry chains, necklaces, bracelets and such that would rival any Christmas ball-o-light strings that I've ever seen. I'd almost toss it rather than take hours to untangle it myself.

Uncle got tired of explaining
So the manager gave the large ball-o-jewelry to my coworker...who brought it to work...where two other coworkers busily went to town pulling it all apart. After subtracting what they wanted for themselves, the carefully put it all in a bag and wrote in big black marker "For Ron's girls" on the bag. This is what I brought home to the kids...and shared with them...at 4am ;-)

We spent the next two days running lots of errands. Half a day was spent looking at trailers to get an idea of what we might be in for if we ever get qualified and move into a trailer on the farm. Another half day was spent with Wifey's grandmother who had stroked a few days prior and was now in Hospice waiting out her final days. The stroke was massive. Another half day was spent enjoying a goodbye party being held for Wifey and the girls on behalf of their Job's Daughters friends.

I did a few things only dads can do like reprogram the Wii remotes so that the girls could get their nightly exercise dancing to Just Dance 4. I also fixed a second-hand laptop that I let the girls use which had mysteriously contracted a virus but nobody knew how it was downloaded...

I brought the dogs in and rolled around on the floor with them. We adopted them a few  months before I lost my job. Neither one is two years old yet. I marveled at the newly acquired skills the girls had taken on, which used to be something only daddy could do, like snaking out the clogged toilet. Wifey tells me it has clogged some half a dozen times since I left.

All in all, everyone is doing fine. We'll skip the horrifying story of The Queen going for a walk while Wifey and I were across town looking at trailers. She was told to stay in the house but went for a walk anyway. Once Sis realized Queenie's cell phone was not answering and she had been done a couple of hours, she panicked. We found Sis walking the main street in front of our neighborhood looking for Queenie. Long story short, after we called the police AND started the emergency phone tree at church, a neighbor found her walking home. There was some reality check for a 12 year old that day. Glad I was there for that incident, Wifey was a nervous wreck.

I have video of the moment of surprise but it will take some editing. I've been working on it inbetween writing this post and it will take a little more time. I'm going to finish this post, proof it and head to sleepytown.

~OJD


PS I found it amusing that my uncle became so tired of people asking if my Jeep was for sale while it sat on his car lot that he typed up a sign that read "Not for sale, customer's" and taped it to my windshield. Love my Jeep...and so do others apparently.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Returning to the Farm Post Birthday

After an extended drive due to a good samaritan (me, helping three stranded drivers), I finally arrived back at the farm at 3:30am this morning. Since I have to be at work by 8am, I don't have time to post.

However, suffice it to say, Wifey was VERY happy to see me...as were the girls. I got video of her surprise as I woke her up. I'll have to edit it to make sure it is appropriate. Since I arrived home at 4am and couldn't wait for her to wake up, I woke her while she slept in bed and her gown might be showing. We can't have that! ;-)

We got lots done and I'll post all about it very soon. Much to my dismay, I arrived back at the farm to find BOTH sticky traps FULL of bugs. Back to square one with the critters...

Bathroom critters (4 days)

Living room critters (4 days)