Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Big Surprise for Wifey !

I will be posting this from my cell phone with voice to text recognition. I blame any and all punctuation and grammar errors on the phone. Lol.

I was talking to a coworker a few days ago and telling her that this coming Friday was my wife's birthday. This was going to be the first time in our 15 years of marriage that we have been apart on her birthday.

I had picked up no extra shifts the rest of the week as most of the vacations have begun to die down. My coworker mentioned that I could switch a shift with someone else creating an extended period of time off. That got the wheels in my brain turning.

I text another coworker to see if she was interested in switching shifts. My usual work week is Monday Tuesday Thursday. Normally that would give me Wednesday Friday Saturday Sunday off. My coworker was willing to take on my Thursday and in turn I would cover her Friday next week. This would give me Wednesday thru Sunday off. Thats 5 days! With no income lost.

One of my uncles owns a car dealership nearby. My dad is the used car manager. And another uncle is the service manager. I make it a point to never ask for anything as I was raised a man takes care of himself. But now that I've been away from my family for 6 weeks and my wifes birthday was approaching I swallowed my pride and made a request.

To my delight my uncles and father have loaned me a rental car that gets almost three times the miles per gallon that my Jeep gets me. By my calculations I should be able to drive to Arizona for around $100.

I am truly blessed to have such a loving family and I am excited to be on my way home to see my wife and daughters. It will be about a 16 hour drive if I don't waste too much time.

A quick stop for some drinks and I'm on my way now. Its about 1 o'clock in the afternoon Arizona time. I should get home just in time to take the girls to school and surprise my entire family with a visit.

I have asked wifey not to read the blog for a few days as it would spoil her surprise birthday present. She thinks I am putting something together for her and some girl friends from church. My third oldest daughter got her braces off today and her smile looks beautiful. I can't wait to see her in person.

Thank you to everyone who made donations . Wifey would not be getting this birthday surprise if it weren't for you.
No word yet on a trailer or a rental house. The loan officer at the trailer dealership send me a text about 30 minutes ago letting me know he would be going on  vacation.  He assured me that someone else would be contacting me soon and that I was in good hands. We'll see about that.

I made half a dozen or more calls on rental houses and was unsuccessful 100 percent. Some were already rented , some where already sold, and one denied me because I have a German Shepherd. I asked him why and he said the owners don't allow vicious dogs like pit bulls Dobermans and German shepherds. I was rather shocked at this comment. I told the man, you do know  german
shepherds are police dogs right?

Whatever. I'll keep looking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Progress

News Channel 9 Live Weather Imaging
I'll hop on here real quick just to give an update. I've been successful at posting almost daily and I missed a day. I'm now in the middle of a Severe Thunderstorm that keeps knocking my power out. I'm taking some video to upload to YouTube later.

For now, since I don't have any surge protector strips for my electronics, I'm going to leave my laptop and things unplugged. I've been trying to cook bacon for the last hour as the power comes and goes on my two burner electric grill. My Coleman propane lantern has been turned on about four times. I finally just decided to use the light on my cell phone since the power comes back on usually within ten minutes or so.

Argh. It just went out again. Man, it gets REAL quiet out here with no power on. Anyway, my last few strips of bacon are sizzling. Gonna throw them on some bread with some mayo and call it a night. It's a little after midnight and I have to report to work at 8am for a few hours. Wonder how much sleep I'm going to get with the loud thunder crashes and flickering of lights (including the powerful "Mercury light" outside the farmhouse).

Wifey's birthday is this Friday. Gotta figure out what I'm going to do. I've never been away before on her birthday in the 15 years we've been married. We were driving back to Arizona from the recent Oklahoma funeral on my birthday in May. Not a memorable year for birthdays apparently...

For those of you kind souls who have donated to our PayPal is very much appreciated. You may have just enabled me to pay Wifey a surprise visit for her birthday...but don't tell her! It'll be a surprise!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shoot Them in the HAUNCHES!

Wranglerstar posted a contest a few days back. He had a flashlight company (ThruNite) offer to send him several flashlights (is that one word or two?). Anyway, he decided to give them away in a contest. To enter, you had to make a video response to the contest and post it by Sunday night (tonight) to be eligible.

I wasn't going to enter at first since I am still learning the ropes on video editing (as evidenced by my submission) but I couldn't go to sleep so I gave it a whirl. I chose his action-packed (chuckle!) YouTube video where he described a coyote attack on his property and how he responded.

Not only did he shoot the critter AND find the blood trail to follow, he attempted to find the wounded carnivore in the dense brush ON camera. So, I did what any other guy would do...I turned it into an action movie preview voiced over by Don LaFontaine.

I laugh every time I watch it. I hope you do to. Happy Sunday everyone.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Farmers' Depression Linked to Weedkiller Chemicals

Can't get this to post on my Facebook page,  so I'll link to it here.

I'm not surprised by the results of this study,  are you?

Weedkillers tied to depression in farmers - Yahoo! News Canada

Friday, July 26, 2013

Slight Change of Plans

Change is one of the few things guaranteed in this life.
When Wifey and I originally talked out our plan of moving to the country, we pretty much agreed that it would take about two months of me living in Oklahoma to set things in motion before I could move everyone else out there with me from Arizona. Easier said than done.

Staying as positive as I could, and I'm a pretty optimistic person, I slowly began inching that deadline shorter and shorter. The more days I was away from my family, the more I missed them and wanted to go pick them up sooner. I made it a goal to go back and get them within one month's time.

In retrospect I can see that this caused me more stress than I was already under. Every time I thought I had a homesteading plan in place (doublewide, rental house in town, etc) and it would slip away for one reason or another, I would become increasingly frustrated until one day my optimism turned into pessimism and I posted a negative blog post.

Boy did I get the wrath of the readers that day. I was a little shocked at all the "tough love" I was receiving...until...
A reader suggested that I go take a look at the blog of Mystic Mud. Some of you are fully aware of MM's trials and tribulations but I was blissfully unaware. Then I read her blog from the beginning. OMG. I guess I AM being a bit soft.  Due to sudden hardships (of which I'm still not quite certain as to what exactly happened) she, her husband and TEN KIDS all had to leave their home. They relocated to the country on four acres and started over with a 600 sq ft cabin. 600 SQUARE FOOT CABIN!

That is the size of the farm house I am staying in right now. Yes, we could all fit (of course, my family of eight seems small compared to her 12) but it sure wouldn't be easy. Nonetheless, MM proves it CAN be done and she even blogs about random happiness during the whole thing. Now I've only read the first couple of months of her ordeal, and she has been at it now for about 18 months it looks like, but things are coming together for her and her family. They've added a trailer house to their livable buildings and have a large outdoor garden growing.

So I shared this blog with Wifey and it renewed our faith. With family together, anything is possible. I can't get a home loan for a doublewide trailer without $10,000 down. But I am now working on a deal to get a "bumper pull" trailer that will sleep all eight of us for $3,000 down. We figure we can pull it up next to the farm house and utilize both structures for six months to a year until we save enough money for a down payment on something we want to live in forever. Call me soft for these plans if you want but I'm sure MM would have taken this option had it been available to her at the time.

So thanks to everyone who comments and reads this blog because you are an integral part in helping us figure things out along the way on this crazy journey. After a few requests for a Donation button, I finally put one up to see what would happen. To our surprise, someone made a generous donation that will help us get down the road a little further. We'll just call him Saint Paul. When I offered to repay he simply said "Pay it forward."

I shared with Wifey that it will take me a few more weeks to come get them and it was obvious we were both disappointed. In her own loving way, she responded "Well, at least I have a few more weeks to pack up our stuff." We both shared a laugh and began recanting what all we were thankful for in our lives.

God Bless you All,



New Farm Rules

22) if you are buying a replacement part because something broke, buy more than one...because it probably will break again! (thanks to the commenter on my How to Replace a Sediment Bowl video who said "You did buy more than one, right?" My response: "Doh!")


Back Home Report

School has started back in Arizona and some of our girls had shoes with holes in them. Wifey took them to Ross and picked out some affordable but cute shoes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Grasshopper Apocalypse

I just posted a video I made today of the rampant grasshopper invasion at the farm. The locals tell me it started about two years ago and that the insects have demolished a vast amount of greenery.

I've been told by some folks that they spray their garden and yard every other day (with pesticide) to try to combat these pests. I hope to find a natural way so I can keep the poisons OFF the garden. I've been using THIS on them so far, just spraying it around the yard. There's so many of them that I can't really tell if it is working.

Here's the video about the Grasshopper Apocalypse:

I'm not going to worry about them until I have a garden to protect. It thins them out pretty good when I mow the grass but they are back in full force within a week.

Any suggestions?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Well, after my short-lived solo pity party, I settled down with my extra large Sonic rootbeer float, a solid John Wayne flick (Cahill, US Marshall) and accepted (once again)  that things happen for a reason. I may not understand why but I'll accept reality and forge ahead.

As I settle into midlife at the age of 42, I've come to accept one of my most commonly uttered phrases as an adopted motto: It is what it is. Some things you can change and some things you can't. I am right where I should be and I agree with John Wayne when he said:

"Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, "Thanks, God, we'll take it from here."

So I'll take it from here. In seven glorious days I'll be heading back to Arizona to collect my beautiful family. We'll load up our belongings and head to a little town in northern Oklahoma. We'll rent a little home in town while we attempt to homestead our family farm from a few miles away. We won't be able to do some of the things we planned, like raise chickens, guinea or goats. It would be too hard to keep an eye on them without living directly on the farm.

Whether a piece of the old family farm finds it's way into my hands someday or we buy our own down the road, there are still some things at the farm we can do in preparation for owning our own piece of heaven. Things like growing a glorious garden full of vegetables and herbs. Plant some fruit trees around the farm house for future nourishment.  Add a barn roof gutter system to catch the plentiful rainfall and divert it into barrels to slow drip into our gardens while we are away. I can still thin the vegetation of the forests to minimize fire hazards and provide firewood.

Old Red Belly...and Old Big Belly
Old Red Belly ('49 Ford tractor) will still be waiting for me in the barn. We'll give children joy rides they'll never forget, pull treasures out of the ground, and turn up the soil.  The '79 Chevy pickup still awaits new life in the back of the do the two go-carts and mini motorcycle. Maybe I can even get the two riding lawnmowers running and we could race 'em around the yard?

The fences will still need mending and the dirt road to be grated a time or two. And the acres of grass...let's not forget the tending they'll need. The rapidly growing briar patch is no match for Old Red Belly and me. I can teach my girls what it means to be stewards of the land, regardless of where we live.

So Lord, if you're listening...I'm back in the saddle...and I'm thankful for everything you have given me.



New Farm Critter

This fella contently posed on the soft top of my Jeep while I took several pictures of him. He looks so sleek and aerodynamic! You can click on the image to see a more detailed full size image. He looks eerily like the aliens from Will Smith's Independence Day to me.


New Farm Rule

21) After moving to your new homestead town, be prepared to see things you've never seen before. (The buffet at the KFC in town had gizzards(!) and livers(!) offered like they were as normal as the Colonel's extra crunchy chicken breasts. Just laying a pan...looking at you...! My hospital cafeteria served deep fried macaroni today. What the...?)

Click the pic for a bigger, more detailed version.


Back Home Report

Wifey and the girls had a fun-filled day at the local water park, Sun Splash, with their cousin and "Aunt Grandma." They enjoyed the whole day together and from the sounds of it, fell asleep almost instantly when they got home.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Tides Have Turned

I finally got the answer on my long awaited home loans. The traditional banks won't touch me. (my FICO score is only 639). The mobile home financier wants 10% down or $9500...which I don't have. I believed foolishly in what the mobile salesman was telling me. "Oh, I can get you financed. Zero down too. Your credit is fine. We're easier to get loans from than traditional banks."

Well, he was wrong. He claims not to understand why the numbers came back the way they did. Either way, bottom line is I can't get a trailer or a house. I'll have to rent... IN TOWN. Renting in town means I'll be at least 8 miles from the farm. Once I get my family here from Arizona, how feasible will it be to deal with daily life and then drive to the farm to work the land? I can't keep a reasonable eye on animals from eight miles away. Possibly a garden but it won't be easy.

I'm feeling defeated today. So many things, up to this point, seemed to have gone my way. Blessing after blessing, or so it seemed. I am 9 days away from pulling up a Uhaul trailer in front of my Arizona home to load it up for the trek to Oklahoma. The plan was to move my family onto our old family farm and it was with the blessing of the entire family.

Now, I'm questioning everything. The rental homes in Oklahoma are more expensive than the mortgage payment I am making in Arizona. Which, by the way, is being counted against me on the home loan due to all the "Buy and Ditch" as the loan agent calls it. The people that claimed to have renters for their old homes until they qualified and moved into their new homes...then ditched the old house to foreclosure.  That 2008 trend led the banks, according to my lender, to no longer allow a buyer to subtract or discount the mortgage payment of the old house (even with a rental agreement).

I basically have to qualify for two house payments...which I did...but they want 10% down. It will take my last $2500 to move my family to Oklahoma. The rest of my savings, including silver, went into my education on a gamble that I would make more when I completed the program. I am half way through that program now with three semesters still left to complete.

So I'm disappointed...and angry. Mostly angry. Angry at the banks that have bailed out too big to fail fat cats but won't loan money to me to buy a home for my family. I've been in the same house for 12 years. Guess that's not a good enough track record. I've been away from my family for a little over a month now and it's painful.

I'm ranting...and I'll stop now.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brush Hoggin' in Paradise

Long day of playing for a sleepy Flower.
I have that old song stuck in my head...Cheeseburger in Paradise. So, why not incorporate it into my title? I spent the day clearing out waist-high brush in anticipation of our new modular home. I haven't been 100% approved yet but I'm taking the positive affirmation approach.

The team down at the home store tell me I'm definitely approved. The only thing they are working on is the interest rate and how much down payment will be required. I found a nice 4 bedroom, 2 bath sporting 2400 square feet of living space. It should be enough room for everyone...including the mother-in-law.

They tell me that it can be delivered in a week.  At first, I was hopeful that I could get it here before Wifey and the girls' arrival but now it appears that time is ticking by too fast. I'll be pulling up in front of our house in Arizona in ten days. The day after, I'll be picking up the biggest moving truck U-haul offers and parking it in front of our house.

So on to Plan B: a rental property. I was lucky enough to find a kind gentleman who is trying to sell his home. After seeing his property and telling my story, he offered to consider renting the home to us.  Two days later, he called and made the rental offer. It is $150/mo less than we currently pay and he only wants a $500 deposit. Now, mind you, every rental I have looked at locally wanted $1300 and up with an equal deposit. This was a blessing.

With almost nothing in savings, it will take every penny we have (including my entire next paycheck) just to move everyone out to Oklahoma. The following paycheck will be used to pay Mr. Renter his rental fee and deposit. It will be a long (1,000 mile) drive and we'll be near penniless...but we'll be together. That's what matters most to me right now.


Back Home Report

The little girls attended "Summer Kollege" where they rotated through different neighbors' homes and attended different "classes".  They made aprons, bags, hats, and all sorts of cool stuff. They all had a great time and Wifey taught a class on sewing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meet the Orange Jeep Postman!

Meet the Orange Jeep Mailman!
Met the postman! You gotta love a mailman who drives an ORANGE JEEP! LoL! This picture captures the color contrast between his Halloween Orange color and my Harley Davidson Orange. I'll admit, mine is a little more red-ish but...I get to say HARLEY DAVIDSON every time I describe it.  That's worth a few testosterone points right there.

He showed me where he'd like me to place the post. We talked a bit about the area. He lives two farms to the south of me. His brother lives across the blacktop from me and it turns out that his brother is the man who is farming our 80 acres directly across the street from me. The farm I am on is 160 acres but my Grandma was wise enough to buy the 80 acres across from us when it came up for sale. There's another 160-acre farm somewhere to the north of me, on the other side of town, but I haven't been there since I was a child.

Standard $30 mailbox
Anyway, I bought a $30 mailbox from the local farm store (Atwoods) and assembled inside (air conditioning, it's 94 degrees outside).

I'm not quite sure what the Postman will do when I order large items. I supposed he'll either open the gates and leave it at my farmhouse OR he'll leave me a note in the little mailbox letting me know there is a large box awaiting me at the post office. Anybody have experience with this? The following is the video I uploaded today showing me putting up the mailbox and testing out my Coleman propane lantern during a storm.

As I was thinking of things I can be working on while waiting for the mobile home loan approval, I decided one basic thing I can do for now is use the Ford tractor (always a bonus to drive it!) and the box blade to scrape up the cow dung in the cow's watering pen. For a good 45 minutes, I scraped dung heaps for future use in our family garden. It is a nice start on some good manure. The thought of starting our first garden here on the farm is really exciting!

After that, I used the Ford to pull more metal scraps out from the dirt behind the barn. I am collecting everything in front of the barn so that it can be sorted. Stuff worth keeping for repair or reuse will stay.  Stuff that is not useable with go to the recycling yard for some extra cash to use for gasoline in the tractor. I'm partial to the idea of sandblasting old farming tools and keeping them for display. I found several discs today.

I pulled the old Scouting trailer that Grandpa built around front too. It appears to be all intact, aside from the obvious bad tires. Once I put new tires on it, that trailer will be perfect for hauling wood or trash around the farm. Grandpa even built a swing open back tailgate. I'll show it on a future video for sure.

Specialized dart shotgun
I spotted a truck I didn't recognize heading through our north field pulling a cattle trailer. I called Cousin big D to ask questions. There have been national news articles of cattle being stolen and I'm not taking any chances. Turns out it was Cousin big D in one of his many trucks. He stopped by to visit.

Just my luck, he had a downed cow yesterday while I was at work. He and the local butcher (also down the street) made quick work of the cow on the backside of the property. I wish I could have seen that! They gutted it right there on the farm and took the carcass back to Mr. Butcher's house. There are some skills that will serve my family very well. He also showed me his dart gun and medicated darts and explained what happened when he tried to stop a 300 lb calf with a Shepherd's hook (not good).


New Farm Rules

19) The sooner you use your windshield washer button to blast the fresh bug guts off your windshield, the better chance you have of being able to SEE out the windshield for one more day. If you wait, you'll have layers upon layers of opaque bug guts blurring your vision.

20) It's much easier to take down a 300 lb calf with a dart gun than it is with a Sheppard's Hook or sometimes called a Calf Catcher. (wisdom courtesy of Cousin big D, after he was yanked out of his quad and drug face down through the stickers and sand while trying to stop a calf with said Sheppard's hook).

Back Home Report

Team Alpha is busy helping Wifey pack up all our food storage. Years ago, we were blessed enough to put aside nearly a year's worth of food. It is either dehydrated or freeze dried. Originally, we had it just sitting on top of the overhanging knockout in our kitchen. Then we started to feel like we were broadcasting to anyone that came over that we had excess food so we decided to place it inside the knockout. I wrote a post on it long ago.

Thirteen more days until I head back to get The Clan! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More Farm Exploring: Unusual Finds

I did some more exploring this morning and found some cool stuff.

Along the fence line that seperates the horse corral and farm house, I found a manual water pump hiding in a cedar tree.

As I was walking in front of the barn, I found one lonely little mushroom. It is the only one like this that I have seen on the whole farm. Anybody know what type? If it was edible, it wouldn't have gotten me very far...

Over near the old abandoned car was a taller object I hadn't noticed before. I tend to stay away from the tall grass areas now that so many folks have warned me about snakes. I believe this aparatus is used to move bales of hay. Can you see it to the left of the car?

Grandpa used to deliver bottles of milk to folks' doorsteps for a company called Gold Spot Dairy. I believe he worked for them for three decades but I'm not sure now. Anyway, here is one of the old dairy trucks with the truck removed. All that is left is the old "ice box" portion that used to sit on the back of the truck.

This big leafy green vine looking thing was at the base of the water pump hiding cedar tree and all by itself in the middle of the front yard. Not sure what it is. Looks kinda like something grown in a garden?

Some readers suggested I plug any and all foundation holes with expanding spray I did. It continued to expand LONG after I thought it was done. I could have used half the amount that I used...oh well.

And finally, at the end of a long rain, I caught a rainbow on camera from the front yard:

Now that I've taken a picture of said rainbow, I'm gonna go play with my shotgun to get that girlie feeling off me.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I was on Wranglerstar Radio!

Woo Hoo! How cool was that! I'm hyped up now after getting to talk to Cody over at Wranglerstar Radio. I came across a notification that he was making his first attempt at a radio show tonight and anybody was allowed to call in. Pretty trusting without a call screener, LoL. Watch out...people like me might call in!

Cody has a YouTube Channel and goes by the name Wranglerstar. If you haven't checked out his stuff yet...well, what are you waiting for?  I took a few minutes to thank Cody for all the time he has given to educate the public about living independently and with a purpose. I watched his beginning bright-eyed enthusiasm meander into "Why am I doing these videos" and emerge into the video masterpieces he now churns out at a high rate. (me=jealous!)

I captured the audio from our conversation and made it into a viewable video for my YouTube Channel but you should be able to hear his whole show on Blog Talk Radio.


It's funny, I didn't want to talk much when I first started doing YouTube videos so I did a lot of captions. One viewer actually commented "Don't be afraid to talk to us." Then I get on the phone with Cody and I can't shut up!


Snake by Farm House - Friend or Foe?

I was using the tractor to move some piles of old, rusted metal that were dumped next to the farm house for some reason. When the grass in the front yard was mowed a few weeks ago, this area had to be avoided due to all the  large metal objects.

Twin bed spring frame, sections of corrugated sheet metal, and a grinding wheel were about all I could make out so far in the junk pile. I was using a chain to drag piece by piece to a junk pile in front of the barn. Eventually, I'll load up all this rusted junk and take it to the dump. Of course, I'll need a flatbed trailer and I'll need to figure out where the dump IS but...all in due time.

I was about 20 minutes into cleaning out this pile of junk when I met Mr Snake. I was on the tractor and perched nearly dead center on top of the shrinking pile, amidst the tall grass when I saw him come slithering out, heading in my direction. I quickly shifted from reverse to forward and jumped out of there so I could get my eyes on him.

After circling around the pile several times, I found him and took a (admittingly poor) picture:

He appeared green-ish in color with a lighter colored belly
He was a little too close to the house for my liking. I had just filled some foundation holes with expanding foam a few hours earlier. Until I am sure there are no more unapproved entry points to the house, I sent this snake to snake heaven.

You're looking at the belly side

I'd say he had a solid seafoam green-ish body with a much lighter underbelly. No obvious markings.  Anybody able to identify the genus and/or species? Is it the Rough Green Snake?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Great News!

Random pic day: Wifey in middle modeling
Quick Update:

After jumping through SEVERAL hoops, I finally got a physical address established for the old farm! The Post Office no longer handles it here, some governmental agency for 911 emergencies delegates home numbers. And I got one, woo hoo!

This moves me forward with a giant LEAP towards getting paperwork done for a doublewide modular home. I have been verbally approved by a home builder but they couldn't run the actual paperwork until I could tell them the address that the home would be sitting on. For some reason, they wouldn't accept "west of town four miles, south on the blacktop to the red farmhouse." Hmm, whatever.

Starting tomorrow, the home builder will run the paperwork and call me with my exact interest rate, monthly payment, etc. If they are true to their word (and they literally were ex-car salesmen) then I should know all the details by the end of the day tomorrow or possibly Wednesday.

More great news! The home builder said he thinks he can wrap the price of a storm shelter INTO the mortgage! I'll check the prices and make sure it is reasonably priced but this means I don't have to come up with several thousands more dollars to put it in right away. In-ground shelter! Woo-hoo! Shelter = Wifey happy happy happy!

I was joking with the salesman about how I wish the furnishings came with the home. They always make those models look so nice. That's when he shared with me that his corporate team had decided to offer the furnishings to buyers after the big EF5 took so many peoples belongings away from them in the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma a short time ago. Corporate said, if folks need a shelter and furnishings then we'll sell them the whole package.

What? I'm just sayin'...
How cool would it be to see the look on Wifey's face if we came pulling up on the first day of arrival and she walked in to her new house and it was fully furnished? Obviously I wouldn't do everything, like, our bed is the coolest bed ever! It stays. But all the decor and lamps, dishes, rugs, coffee tables and stuff. I think it would instantly WOW her and put her at ease that if we don't get everything unloaded right away, we could still sit down and relax on nice, new furniture.

Anyway, just wanted to share the good news. I'm sure some of you will say for me to check out the prices on everything before I wrap it into my mortgage. Don't worry, I will. I sold cars for four months. I've seen many tricks. My dad is a Used Car Sales Manager right now. Hi Dad!

Oh, and not so sure the existing septic is big enough. I need to have a professional come out and inspect it I guess. My cousin installed the well pump last year. I need to get with him and ask if it will handle my big family of eight. We'll also be wiring in our own electric box but the pole is nearby.

Meeting with family next weekend (hopefully) to go over legal details about me living on the property. Pretty sure I'll be similar to a renter or something along those lines.  Family is excited that I'll be here to take care of the place. I'm excited to be living on such a beautiful piece of land.

Some days things just don't work out.  Lately...not so much.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Critter in the House

Looked just like this little guy
Well, how should I put this...? I was in the bathroom of the farm house using the latrine after having drank too many Dr Peppers. I'm used to seeing the black beetles in the corner with their little legs pointed up to the ceiling. However, I'm NOT used to seeing a little mouse dart past my foot.

Startled at first, of course, this is my first sighting of the little guy. I had seen his little brown rice grains (read: poop) in the cabinets under the sink. I've been here three full weeks and hadn't seen him yet and had already written him off.

Last Christmas, when we came to visit family, a visit to the farm barn revealed sounds of a mouse party in the tack room of the barn. A closer look showed that the room was so crammed full of peoples belongings that there was no WAY anyone was getting in there. This had become a nice refuge for a gang of field mice. It was just half cleaned out a week ago and a dried up, no longer occupied, skunk pelt was found in there.

Anyway, I didn't hear any noise in there upon moving to the farm and Aunt D informed me that the field mice mostly come inside during the cold winter months. Well, I thought, that spares me from that critter at least through the summer. WRONG! Perhaps he came inside because it has been raining all day? Or he's uber stealthy. Either way, game on!

Once I got my britches zippered up, I gave chase. He darted under my bed and I haven't been able to flush him out. So, as soon as my last load of Wonderwash laundry is done, I'll be heading off to Walmart for some mouse traps...and I DON'T mean the old board game.



Quick Back Home Report

I reported that the AC belt snapped yesterday on the family Suburban. Well, upon further inspection, the AC compressor is bad too. I'm looking at $800+ in repairs right during a time when we desperately need to be saving up for the big move (which is in 17 days!).

On top of that, Wifey is now stuck with a vehicle that has no air in the hot desert summer month of July. The girls are NONE to happy about it either. My neighbor can fix it but he can't evacuate the freon. I know of no other alternative than to send Wifey to a shop and pay to have it evacuated. Then our neighbor can do the repair.

Should I Buy a Bottle Fed Calf?

The cattle that roam our family farm.
Maybe I'm off but $25 seems awful cheap to me for a baby calf. A coworker of mine at the hospital, who has lived in the area all of her life, has told me that there is a fella that comes up from Texas once a month and sells his excess baby calves for $25.

I believe she said you could get male or female, guess it depends on what he brings. I don't recall what age she said they were but she did say they would need to be bottle fed at first.

Wanting nothing more than to dive right in to the homestead life, I'm thinking this might be a great learning opportunity for the whole family. Of course, not knowing much about raising cattle, I did what any other Gen X dad would do to learn something...I went to YouTube.

I say this half joking because obviously your best knowledge will come from experienced people in the field. Asking local farmers and feed store employees are the best sources. But for people like me who are moving from city to country, we may not know exactly where to start or who to ask. YouTube has turned out to be a terrific avenue for seeking information and it is accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection. It can be accessed 24 hours a day and you can even leave questions in comments or read comments other folks have posted to learn just a little more. If you don't know how to do something in your new environment, try searching YouTube and see what you can find. 

Not THAT kind of "calf raising"!
But using YouTube can be tricky. My first search for "how to raise a calf" didn't turn out too well.  Unless, that is, I wanted to workout my calf in "calf raises." Grrr. No, that's not what I asked for. Let's try again.

This time I found a video by Du-Brook Dairy narrated by Kelly Dugan. She says to feed the calf milk once a day after the age of 50 days old. Then at 70 days, it gets weened. Once weened, the calf gets a "medicated crumble" for about two weeks.

Thanks to I was able to figure out what a "medicated crumble" was and how to use it. Realizing that there are numerous types of medicated crumble, this particular page details Corid 2.5%. From what I can tell, this is a feed to be given either for suspected health issues or as a preventative. Instructions are listed for dose according to animal weight. Interesting!

Since Kelly didn't say what to feed BEFORE 50 days old, I kept searching for information. Dr. Guy Jodarski (Veterinarian) suggests feeding one gallon of whole milk day and night to Holsteen sized cattle, Jersey sized cattle get three quarts day and night. Wow, that'll get pricey. I bought a gallon of milk just a few days ago and it was $4.49/gallon. That means we'll be paying $9 each day for each calf in the beginning.
He also mentions giving them a few ounces of kelp for grain each day which helps with rumen development.

Steve Frank's method of straddling a calf
Steve Frank gives a delightful, information packed video on "How to Milk a Cow by Hand and Start a Calf Bottle Feeding." Part two of the video is here. He talks about what to do if the cow pees or poops during milking. How he cleans his cow and treats for worms.

Dehorning is something I haven't figured out yet. It appears to be necessary in herds but seems like not so necessary if raising one or two on a small farm. Dr. Mark Hardesty, DVM, explains how the process of cauterizing works. There is also dehorning paste. The purpose appears to be to both protect the cattle from each other and to protect the caretakers as well. Also called disbudding, it should be done sooner rather than later in life.

If you want to brand or mark your cattle, an Allflex video offers a few alternatives such as visual ear applicator or digital EID tags. These allow the owner to track herds with traditional visual ear tags or computer software. There is also heat branding and freeze branding.

That's all I've had time to research for today. I'm sure there are internet friends out there that can add some really good advice based on the experience they have learned by raising their own cattle. Hopefully, somebody is going to assure me that I don't need to spend $9 a day on milk for two months???

So, how 'bout it? Will you share some of your experience with me?


PS, I've updated The Clan page if you want to see pictures of my gorgeous girls.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Video Posted and No Air Conditioning

My YouTube Channel Page
I just wanted to post a quick note that I have posted a new introductory video on YouTube. It explains a little more about what we're doing and includes pictures of the whole family.

I'm trying to make these videos as professional as I can but it's not so easy. My HP Pavillion dv6 laptop REALLY gets bogged down when I'm processing video clips. Once Wifey gets here (less than 3 weeks!), I'm hoping maybe her Mac will do a little better (IF she can part with it for five minutes).

Demonstrating charging my cell phone with the radio.
I also posted a video response to James regarding my ETON crank-powered, solar powered NOAA emergency weather radio. If you don't have a way to recharge your cell phone, rechargeable batteries, etc...this little guy is under $30 and does wonders. For the best price, buy it from Amazon like I did and have it shipped free straight to your house.

I also HIGHLY recommend getting Amazon's Prime membership. It will get you FREE 2-day shipping on anything Amazon ships. It also gets you TONS of MOVIES for FREE. Any time we watch something on the television (we disconnected our cable about six years ago), we watch either NetFlix or Amazon.

Sign up for a FREE 30 Day Trial at Amazon using this link. Try the movies and FREE 2-Day shipping to see what you think. Cancel within 30 days if you don't like it. Nothing to lose there. Wifey is watching Covert Affairs right now and LOVES it...and it's FREE to watch with Prime. Anyway, now that I sound like a commercial...

Ye old rusted box blade of yesteryear
One of the tractor implements that I pulled to the front of the barn was a box blade. I got it attached to the Ford 8N after cleaning it up and I have found at least ONE perfect use for it so far. It is terrific at scraping up all the cow manure which is scattered about the farm because the cattle are allowed to free range.

The watering area for the cows will garner me a good pile of manure for our upcoming gardening season. It's a WIN-WIN situation! I get to drive a cool tractor AND collect a bunch of free manure for our garden. Ding!


Back Home Report

Wifey unhappily reported that the AC belt snapped on our family Suburban today. Of course, it happens right in the middle of a hot Arizona summer. Not being there to fix the problem and soothe her nerves sets me back a bit as well. Luckily, we have a good neighbor (Thanks Ronnie!) that is a mechanic on the side and has agreed to put a new belt on either tonight or tomorrow. I can't say enough about the importance of a strong community.

Broken A/C belt
Unfortunately, this caused a cancellation of a fun-filled afternoon with Grandma. She and the girls had planned a fun day at the bowling alley. Sorry Grandma!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Suck-a-thon and Hello Cousin!

Thursday July 11, 2013

Shock popped out
Today started out pretty good. I didn't have to be at work until 12:30 in the afternoon so I had all morning to play around at the farm (FINALLY!). I started with my normal routine: watching YouTube vids from my favorite subscriptions while eating scrambled eggs and oatmeal made on the old Munsey two burner stove.

I followed breakfast with the (now traditional) bug SUCK-A-THON. This is the joyous part of my country-living morning where I turn on the old shop vac and suck up all the critters that made it in the house since my last cleaning. I don't know how these flipping beetles get in but they are all over the house. The good news is that they are all dead...or at least on their backs about to die. The bad news is that there are usually a dozen or more and I haven't figured out how they're getting in the house. Ten minutes later and the inside of the house is a critter-free zone.

A quick shower and I'm headed out the door to spray down the outside of the house. Uncle J left me a bottle that hooks onto the garden hose and he claims it works wonders. The bottle touts that it kills one hundred types of bugs. Guess we'll see. Out to the barn and back to fetch the garden hose, I am now armed with a watery dose of bug killer.

The backside of the farm house is where the show really happens. Not only does it start off with half a dozen grasshoppers, a handful of black beetles and a good number of spiders all clinging to the back REALLY picks up when I start hosing the ground where the house foundation meets the earth. Then it's like a critter dash as they all start racing up the back wall of the house.

Spider # 1,284
At one point, I count 10 spiders on the back wall at the same time. I'm telling myself it is going to take a while to combat these things to keep them from getting IN the house. The last thing I want is for one of my little girls to get bit by a brown recluse or something and be in extreme pain. Since this house (and it's critters) have been out here for so long, it won't be something I can solve overnight. Turns out, folks I'll meet later in the day tell me they spray their garden and house every other day. EVERY OTHER DAY?!? I'm not hip on spraying chemicals on the garden but the point I'm making here is that the bug issue is THAT bad that you have to fight them constantly out here.

Anyway, I'll post the video I made as I completed this bug suck-a-thon on my YouTube Channel.  If you know of any better way to fight these all means, let me know. I'll be adding guinea and chickens at some point so that should help.

As I'm about to hop in the Orange Jeep to head to Walmart for a much anticipated grocery run, I notice something that looks like a shock absorber hanging down from the bottom of my Jeep.  I walk around to the drive's side and there it stabilizer shock had lost a locking nut and bolt that attached it to the frame. We are T minus two hours and counting before I have to be at work. " only HALF day off..."

I changed into my lay-on-the-ground shirt and mess with the shock for a bit. It has expanded to the point where I can't snug it back up into it's proper location. I had also not unpacked most of my tools yet either. I would need to find an appropriate bolt to reattach the shock and find the right size socket, socket wrench, ball ping hammer, etc.  After googling to see where the closest auto parts store is, I was delighted that it was only eight miles away. At the parts store in Arizona that I frequented, they let you borrow tools if you need them. This was certainly the case today. I hoped I would be able to limp the Jeep to the store nice and slow.

Mr Parts Store Owner called around and found that I needed a special bolt...tapered on both ends. He didn't have it, of course, but recommended I go visit Mr Alignment Shop two blocks down the street. I think the whole town is only about six blocks...

Off I go, limping the 'ol Jeep down Main Street, nice and easy. I pull in to the alignment shop and hop out to find a young kid handing tools to an older gentlemen half buried under a car.  I popped inside the front of the store to find three town folks relaxing and chatting about local news. I began my good 'ol boy story: Mr Parts Store Owner sent me down here 'cause he doesn't have the right part. Said ya'll might be able to fix me up?" Mrs Alignment Shop announces that we need to find Mr Alignment Shop to answer that question.
Local attire: boots n shorts

Now we're back out front where I started. The following Ma and Pa banter begins.

"This boy's here for a shock bolt. Says Mr Parts Store sent him"
"Alright. Just a minute"

He inches out from under the car and waddles over to me. His overalls are as dirty as you would expect a working man's clothes to be and he inquires about my problem. Now, I'm bearing in mind that my two hours of leisure time is slowing slipping away from me. Back in the big city, it would take HOURS to get a car problem fixed. Usually, when I would need to buy new tires or get a brake job, I would plan AT LEAST half my day around the ordeal. I had established a route of mechanics and tire shops that were near shopping centers that I could window shop at or were across the street from an  iHop Pancake House where I could sit for hours eating some grub and sipping ice cold fountain Dr. Peppers (with free refills, of course).

But I'm in the country now. Would you believe that Mr Alignment Shop not only had the hard to find bolt (because he saves them every time he changes out an old one) but he shimmied up under my Jeep and had her fixed within fifteen minutes! His 45 years of alignment experience, which he informed me of, also led his keen eye to notice that the steering shock on the other side was about to become unbolted too. In fact, he pulled the "locking nut" off with his bare hands and showed it to me. "Whoever put these on didn't know what they were a doin', " he says.

As he tightened the opposite side, I made small talk and watched him work. It is amazing to me how graceful a man can do his work when he knows his trade well. I mentioned who my cousins were in town that were about his age (Cousin big D and Cousin little D, brothers). Sure enough, he knew them. It is one of THOSE kind of small towns. Everybody knows everybody else. That's when he said something that made me smile.

Small town street traffic
"I hate to tell you this" he says, as he's ratcheting up the last nut "...but...we're related." "How's that?" I ask.  "My momma was second cousin to your cousins' daddy," he tells me. I can't explain the feeling that gave me. I had lived 21 years in Arizona and not met a new family member (albeit a distant one but family nonetheless). Here I am in week three of living back home and I've already met a new cousin. I made sure to shake his hand when he was done and asked how much I owed him. He whacked me on the back and said "Bah, that's an old bolt. Stop by and chat some time and I'll tell you all you want to know about your 'ol cousins." With a wink, he waddled back into the garage and climbed up under the same car.

Un-be-lievable. Was that a blessing? Am I just over-analyzing this thing? Or is that just how small towns work? Either way, as I pulled away and waved to Mrs Alignment Shop, I had one big stupid grin on my face.

I made it to Walmart, ran back to the farm to change into my work scrubs and got to work on time. There was a time in my life where it seemed like every time I had a small mechanical problem, a hickup in our finances, or any other of a dozen of life's little set backs and they always turned into some big HUGE fiasco. Lately...not so much.

Life is good.



New Farm Rules

18) when doing your cost analysis of how much cheaper it will be to live in the country...don't forget to add in the GALLONS of bug spray you'll be using each week.


Back Home Report

Today on July 11 (7-11), the corner stores named 7-eleven in Arizona gave away FREE Slurpees. Wifey and the girls enjoyed them tremendously.

My boss confirmed the days I needed off to go back to Arizona and pick everyone up. He is VERY understanding of the situation. Most bosses would choke if you dared ask them for time off during your first month of employment. Not  at my hospital. I even have coworkers offering to donate PTO to me so that I'll get paid for the days I am gone. Amazing!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Verizon, Where for Art Thou?

Let the record show I have been a happy Verizon Wireless customer for over 15 years. I can remember back in the day when cell phone bills could catch you off guard to the tune of $800 if you did not pay attention to your usage.

I have kept every cell phone I have had going all the way back to my original Motorola flip phone. You know, the blocky square phone with the big floppy plastic antenna?
Anyway, now that I have moved outside of town I seem to be having constant connection issues with Verizon. For some reason out on the farm around 10 p.m. all of my text messages will stop going out. I still get incoming messages but all the outgoing lock up. Incoming voice calls will sometimes go straight to voicemail. The only way I know that someone called me is when the voicemail icon pops up and I listen to the message.

So I called Verizon and told them about the problem. My Droid  Incredible 4G is brand new. It replaced my Droid Incredible version 2 that I got in August of 2012. I really liked my Incredible 2 but it locked up on me two weeks before I moved to Oklahoma. Still under warranty, Verizon sent me a replacement free of charge and that is how I acquired my new Droid Incredible 4G.

After calling Verizon about the issues I'm having,  it appears that the only solution (for now) is to buy an external antenna for the farmhouse. A good Wilson brand runs $250 and is sold at Walmart. As much as I like electronic gadgets, I find this is unacceptable.

In the meantime, verizon says it is working on a solution and is also attempting to determine if they have a cell phone with a better internal antenna. If they ever return my call (to tell me they have found a better phone) then I suppose I will try it . But I really don't like switching equipment very often. The more advanced the smart phones become, the longer the learning curve becomes on how to use them.

One very helpful Verizon tech researched my situation and told me the nearest cell tower is about 15 miles southeast of me. He is the one that recommended the external antenna and advised me to aim it in the southeastern direction. The odd thing is that my phone always shows that I have a good strong signal when I'm at the farm. So it is a little confusing.

Folks around town are telling me that Verizon is not very good out here. They recommend I switch to AT&T or something local. After being with Verizon for so many years I really do not want to switch companies. I am kind of a loyal customer in that respect. I feel my cell phone bill is reasonable and so is their customer service. Most of all I like the unlimited data package that I get.

So, do we have any Verizon employees or experts in the audience? Is there a fix to my problem? I'd really like to stay onboard but my job at the hospital requires me to be instantly available at any given time. I cannot risk a hospital emergency not making it through to my phone because of coverage issues.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tornado Alley...Getting Prepared

Warner Bros & Paramount Pictures
One of the first things Wifey was concerned about when we decided to move to Oklahoma was the tornadoes. Our decision to move occurred just days before the massive EF5 Tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma just a few short weeks ago. That's when she declared:

"I'm not moving over there with the girls unless you have a tornado shelter in place."

Having grown up in Edmond and northern OKC, I lived with the threat of tornadoes for my first 21 years of life. We never once had a tornado shelter that I'm aware of. I always assumed I'd be hunkering down in the bathtub if one came my way. I'd seen their destruction but I don't recall too many coming close to the house. Maybe a few...

My high school, Edmond Memorial (when there was only ONE high school in Edmond), had the football field hit by one but I don't recall it doing too much damage. I guess when you grow up with a threat like that, it just kind of becomes part of life. Since Wifey grew up in Arizona, she wasn't having any of this tornado nonsense.

Handy cell phone apps use GPS
And I agree. Especially now that I have a family. Whatever we end up living in, we'll have a shelter nearby. In the meantime, I'm working on tornado AWARENESS. I want to know WHEN that sucker is getting close to my neck of the woods. So, I've begun to set up a personal notification network.

First, the cell phone. A quick check on the Google Apps and I have several decent options of apps to choose from. The American Red Cross has several highly recommended apps such as:  First Aid, Hurricane, Earthquake, Wildfire & Tornado. I started with the Tornado app and followed the directions.

ARC's Tornado app allows you to add your location and several others that you want to monitor. It claims it will notify you of nearby tornado warnings, tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings and watches. For each location you set to be monitored, this app will send you alerts from the National Weather Service / NOAA.  If it sends a tornado warning, the traditional tornado SIREN will also sound on your phone. Installed and activated!

Hopefully, you're not one of those people that constantly has a dying phone battery. You need to get in the habit of having chargers at home, in your vehicle, and at work. I have my phone plugged in all night while sleeping and anytime I drive somewhere. I also plug it in at work when sitting stationary for long periods of time. Aside from that, I carry a backup battery charger that I bought off of Amazon called the XPal Backup. I reviewed it on my Gear Review page and HIGHLY recommend it. It is a battery pack that you can plug into your cell phone and it will charge your cell phone back to full battery multiple times. My XPal will charge my phone more than two times on a single charge. I plug it in regularly to make sure it stays fully charged. It has a handy "test" button that allows you to check the battery level at any time.

If you REALLY want to go the extra mile, you can buy a portable solar panel that will charge your batteries when all else fails. I bought a cheap mini panel and it stopped working after one month. I can recommend the Goal Zero Solar Panel. It is lightweight and very effective. It is on my Amazon wishlist. I also have a hand-crank NOAA radio with a built-in solar charging panel. This cool little gadget can also charge your cell phone and laptop with either the hand-crank or solar panel. For under $30, its a MUST HAVE. It is also on my Gear Review page.

My XPal, BaoFang Ham radio & fav beverage
Another line of defense I have been using is my newly acquired BaoFang UV-5F handheld ham radio. I picked two of them up for about $30 each on Amazon with intentions to use them for communication with Wifey when cell phone service is down. I won't go into the wide world of ham radio here but suffice it to say, these little babies can reach a LONG way. I keep mine on its charger dock and tuned to the NOAA local weather channel. You may have heard it in the background in one of my YouTube videos. I tend to just leave it on for background noise. I can't stand the FM radio these days. It is just ALL commercials.

Hand-crank & solar powered NOAA radio

I may attempt to break into the world of home weather stations to monitor the weather conditions myself. I'm just not sure it is really necessary anymore with all the electronic gadgets (ham radio, smartphone, etc). But the idea intrigues me to know what is coming just by reading the signs of Mother Nature.

So this is the beginning of my tornado preparedness. If any of you have any other helpful advice, I'm sure Wifey would love me to learn it from you. Besides, nothing is more important to me than family safety. Which reminds me...where did I leave my loaded Glock...



New Farm Critter

King Snake - found this fella in front of the farm on the blacktop. Turns out he EATS the poisonous snakes, among other things. He's a keeper. More details on the Critter page.


Spider #872  - these spindley little amber colored (and always dead) spiders have been the most abundant upon arrival here at the farm. I've never seen one alive and I'm starting to wonder if these are OLD spiders that have died and withered up. They always appear so...whispy? Like, completely brittle and harmless. I haven't attempted to classify it yet but they are in EVERY cabinet, sink, nook, and cranny of this old farmhouse. This particular spider fell off the bottom of my Pringles can as I pulled it out of the over-sink cabinet.

Back Home Report

The days are ticking by...three weeks remaining until Uhaul day! Wifey took a break from packing up the house and treated the girlies to a day at the mall. We are a HUGE Disneyland family and almost always stop by The Disney Store. Today, they had dolls from the movie Brave for only $3 each. Well, of course, each girlie from Team Bravo needed her own.

L to R: Boo, Sis & Monster with Flower in front.

Do you see the smile on Sis's face? That's the smile that melts my heart <3 All of their smiles are precious. Boo has the traditional "cheese, I just SCORED." Monster's smile shows she couldn't BE happier. Flower's is like "OMG! Did you see this doll in my hand!" Miss them tremendously...

Found out a co-worker's hubby has a private recording studio in his house. Someday I'll get some good audio of Sis singing and show you how good she is. Anyway, it turns out this hubby needs someone to sing in his studio so he can learn how to adjust the controls for vocals. I quickly volunteered Sis and when I told her, she was pretty excited.

I'll have to check in with Macky and The Queen tomorrow. As I write this, it is after midnight and (hopefully) they are all in bed. There's a new Rick Riordan book out that Macky would probably love to add to her personal library (over 100 books). The Queen is probably hanging out with her neighbor friends as much as possible before the big move.

Come on July 31st! Our M-Day (Moving Day).

New Farm Rules

#16) Don't leave the house while talking on your cell phone. You will forget something important! Learned here.

#17) Just because there are no speed limits signs on backcountry roads doesn't mean you can drive as fast as you want (66 in a 55). However, having a Jeep with six containers full of fuming, noxious gasoline might help you convince Mr. Sheriff to let you move along to your barn...before you both pass out. Thanks for the warning Mr. Sheriff!