Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Saga of the Master Bath

Our home is an ongoing saga of transformation. Unfortunately, that transformation has been hard-earned and has not been quick in arrival. A case in point is the master bathroom which started its transformation shortly after we moved in several years ago when Jessica started tearing off the floral wallpaper. It sat in that state for some time, then in August of this year, we finally got all the drywall modifications completed and the texture sprayed. Since then, I hinted about the next phase in a post on this blog in September, and posted this picture:

This was the beginning of the process of installing granite countertops in the same master bath. Ironically, the hardest part of the whole project turned out to be finding the right drill bit (it is a diamond bit 1 1/4" hole saw bit - pictured below on the drill) and then drilling the two holes for the sinks through the granite tile. Here's a picture from that project that documents the little clay dams I used to retain a little pool of cooling water around the drill site while I patiently (for like an hour per hole) drilled away without exerting too much pressure. The little notched piece of wood was the "template" I used to steady the drill bit as I started the holes (to keep the bit from walking.)

In the end, I think it all turned out worthwhile and we are happy with the final product (even though it took two years plus to accomplish.) Here is the finished product:

With the sink mocked up with the new faucet on the freshly grouted tile:

And finally, with the new Ikea mirrors installed, and a matching towel bar:

By the way, stay tuned to Jessica's blog - surely she will soon get this place all decorated up and post some before/after pictures which really are quite dramatic (I think.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oreo The Bull

The bull in the post below is now an official resident of our little ranch. He was delivered earlier today and we decided to call him "Oreo." The other cattle were VERY excited to have a new friend and they have been chasing each other around all day long. He is still a rather small bull, and it looks like he hasn't had a lot of good grass down where he is at, but you can see that he has the potential to be a really nice looking bull.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A lot of Bull

In the ongoing saga of how to get my virgin cattle impregnated (our only bulls are too young and we are wasting precious time by not getting these cattle bred) I have made the decision that my neighbor who promised me that we could bring our heifers over to his place in August for insemination via his borrowed bull is never going to get around to letting me do that. I's actually really frustrating. It was late spring when I abandoned my aritificial insemination plans in order to wait for the free August breeding from this bull and here it is almost into January and these cattle aren't bred yet! For pete's sake we should have calves on the ground about now and we have nothing!

So, since it looks like the neighbor is falling through, I have decided to hit Jessica up with plan C. Here are the basics of plan C:
  1. Buy a $500 (or less depending on my haggling skills) registered bull off craigslist that is at least 14 months old (and hopefully proven fertile)
  2. Turn him out with "the ladies"
  3. Once he has a chance to do his thing with both the heifers (virgin cows) and the mama cow and possibly after a summer getting fat on our grass and growing additional horn length, sell him for $500 (or more depending on my haggling skills)
  4. By the time the cows drop their calves and are ready for rebreeding, Boots (our little longhorn calf) will be ready to step up into the role of herdsire and the whole saga of being short of bull will be forever over.
At this point, the plan seems flawless to me. Of course, I'm sure Jessica will have some input into this, but really, I'm thinking this could work. By the way, here's the $500 bull I'm currently looking at to fill the role of interim herd sire

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hello bacon!

Piggy Smalls was a good pig. However, he has been getting teste lately and we discovered why. While we had been informed by his previous owners that he "used to be" a boar, we found today during the butchering process that he was still half a boar. Apparently one of his testes had not dropped down and was not removed during his neutering procedure. That may account for his boarish appearance and nasty temperament.

Piggy Smalls last moments:

Getting prepped for butchery:

The kids came home in time for a quick anatomy lesson with specific attention to the inner workings of the heart.

Thanks a ton to my dad who came out to help with the slaughter/butchering. It is a big job and would have been very difficult without his help. The meat is now "aging" in ice water in preparation of Christmas Eve feasting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Offer I Can't Refuse

Autotrader is currently running ads promoting a new program where they will make you a guaranteed offer to purchase your vehicle sight-unseen over the internet. Since liquidating my pickup truck is part of our "scaling back" plan I figured I would give them a shot. Since the truck is a "work truck" with minor damage all over (inside and out) I knew I wasn't going to be getting a huge offer from these guys, but give me a break! This is an actual screen-shot of their offer:

One hundred and nineteen dollars!?!? I could (literally) sell this truck to the scrap yard for the weight of the steel and get two or three times as much as this! What a joke! And it took me half an hour to fill out their stupid forms too.

I now am officially offering to match autotrader's offer on any vehicle because their prices are officially moronic.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reminiscing about Christmas Dinner

Here's a shot we all love from last spring:

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's 43 degrees outside and...

...this is where Sterling and Ginger asked me if they could spend the night:

All they have for covers is their jackets. I would have let them except for they would have had to walk past the cattle at night in the dark when they figured out it was a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update: Dog, Cattle, Suburban

Some of you may be aware that our livestock guard dog Justin got his world ROCKED the other day. It all started with a girl...
Our friends have another livestock guard dog (female) and wanted her to be bred by Justin. She is in heat, so they brought her over to our place for a visit. Justin has been very happy with that arrangement, but she has a powerful attractive quality and is bringing in big dogs from all over the county. I didn't even know we had so many dogs around here. Anyway, the other day when we came home from partying with the Allreds I found Justin half dead and freezing out in the mud. I brought him in and set up a pen in the garage with a heater, washed him up, treated him with some 1st aid supplies and gave him warm milk to drink. He was NOT looking good that night and it broke my heart but I was expecting to be burying him the next morning.

These pictures are from the first night. Notice the two teeth marks on the opposite side of his leg from the big gash? I could see his tendons in his leg and he is lucky it is just the skin that was ripped. The next day, we saw a big pit-bull-looking dog that I think was the perpetrator. Those ones on his leg make the cut under his eye look like nothing at all.
Anyway, as of today, he is doing great and is limping around tripod style. We really like this dog. This was his first night spent indoors and he actually held his bodily functions until we let him out of the garage for a potty break - no training and he is housebroke!

I thought this was a fun picture of Winter and Sterling playing in the hay while we fed the cattle and goats.
About our Suburban - the other day while we were hauling Jessica's harp around between performances, the Suburban made some funny sounds and was acting like the E-brake was on and grinding while driving. I thought I could hear noises when I put it in gear too, so I figured the transmission must be full of loose pinball machine parts and ready for the junkyard. We parked it (which, in turn led to the damage to Jessica's harp which you can read about here: Harp Tragedy) and had a auto shop come pick it up. The good news is that they couldn't get the problem to replicate. I asked them to go ahead and drop the pan off the transmission to change the fluid and look for loose/broken parts and it came back with a clean bill of health! At this point, I am thinking a rock or something got stuck in a brake caliper or something and that we are in the clear! Hooray! We were feeling blessed that a $1,500 transmission repair bill wouldn't throw us into bankruptcy, but now we feel even more blessed to be able to apply that $1,500 to something more effective for our family plan.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fun w/ my truck

I wrote this post at 2:00am on the 5th - I was just finally able to get my reports that were due to Corporate. Something about my VPN not hooking up....

Anyway, earlier that day, I snapped a couple of fun shots:

This is what is left of a ton of decomposed granite that will be serving as the underlayment for our new granite paver patio. Notice that it the outer 4" or so is frozen - it was a real pain getting that part broken to get the stuff unloaded.

This is what filled the truck as soon as the granite was out of it. All those branches are the results of my newest hobby - trimming trees! I don't know what it is, but I really have to say that I love to cut branches off trees (no surprise there) to sculpt them into new and better looking versions of their old selves (the surprising part.) Anyway, if you are going to be around on new Years Eve, come on by because this stuff will all be flaming high.

Is this a Jed Clampett load or what?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Original Thought?

Believe it or not, we are pert near (that's Texas slang for "just about") ten years into this brand new century. Time really flies, and it is amazing how fast technology, too, has changed in those few short years. What I want to know, however (aside from the reason why not a single politician nor environmentalist has proposed synchronized traffic lights to cut greenhouse gases, reduce dependency on foreign oil, reduce the need for add'l road construction, etc) is why it is, in this brand spankin' new century of rapidly advancing technology, that we can't figure out a way to harness that technology to communicate better with our politicians. Bear with me here as a simple farmer lays a communication brainstorm into "the cloud."

What if there was a or something... where any regular Joe from anywhere, USA could post a suggestion for viewing by the entire world. Then....any John Doe and any of his friends could view said suggestion and give it a thumbs up, or thumbs down (or rate it according to some other system.) Suggestions with the highest ratings would be automatically sorted into a summary page with the most highly favored suggestions for the country. Politicians could make their own assessments of the suggestions and go from there. What have we got to lose? How insignificant would the costs of such a program be? How great are the potential benefits? Let's harness the power of the masses in such a way as was never imagined by the founders of this great country - let's take advantage of Al Gore's invention here!

Heck, my cousin Bill could prolly have the code for a basic version of this website written and published to the "ennernet" (as the locals call it) within an hour or two. All he lacks is the official URL and Obama's blessing in a national speech.

Here are my basic plans for the site:
  1. There would really need to be some sort of login system - something as simple as Ebay's or Craigslist's would be fine I think...but if you really wanted to go nuts, it could incorporate some sort of requirement for a social security number matching the name you submit or something
  2. There could be different categorizations for each suggestion (like environmental reform suggestions, health care reform suggestions, legal reform suggestions, etc) On top of the categorized suggestions, there could be a category for "most popular suggestions" or something similar to aggregate the best of the best of all categories.
  3. People could "lobby" for their suggestions on popular TV shows, advertisements, Twitter, etc.
  4. There would have to be a moderator of course to weed out non-productive suggestions, but there would have to be some accountability on that (like publishing the deleted suggestions on a separate list)
Wouldn't it be great to throw something like this out there and just see what our collective wisdom allows to rise to the top? The only reason (I think) a system like this doesn't already exist is that there is no money in it. We have the capability, why not use it?

Disclaimer: My motives for desiring such a system are selfish and stem from a prideful suspicion that I myself, a lowly farmer actually may have a suggestion or two that this country could benefit from, but which are lost in the volume of mail that my representatives receive and is likely never even viewed by them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Driving Back From Abilene

Here's the view from Abilene this morning:

Luckily it wasn't affecting the road and there was no ice - I am safe and sound at home now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Newsflash: Farmer Ridicules CNN

In a surprising turn of events, a local farmer from rural Leonard, TX is heaping ridicule on the mighty CNN for a seemingly insignificant oversight. After reading this article on some out-of-place icebergs, the barely literate farmer claims, "I guess CNN could use some farmers in *they're* editing room."

What set this farmer off were such seemingly simple sentences as these:
"The currents that have taken the icebergs so far north mean that their now doomed to melt in warmer waters. NIWA estimate that the bigger icebergs will last between six and eight weeks depending on where they go." (bold text added by the editor)

In other news, Piggy Smalls is scheduled for an afternoon flight at 2:00 EST to celebrate his pre-Christmas roasting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The cows & goats & kids (same ol, same ol)

The other day at Dairy Queen, the kids were super excited to see pictures on the wall of all their friends and of their T-ball team from the year before. The local DQ is the team sponsor.
Today, while Jessica entertained a whole gaggle of women for a baby shower in the house, we spent most of the day outside pruning trees. Once we were done, we called the cows/goats over for a snack on the leaves from the removed branches.
The goats (especially) seemed very appreciative of the snack.
Later, we headed up and gave the cows a bale of hay and the kids took the opportunity to get a real close look at the cattle. I don't think they have ever been this brave about it before. In the picture below, you can tell Sterling is not quite comfortable with that cow right behind him, but he makes a genuine effort at a smile.

This little guy is not eating hay yet, but he wanted to see what is going on in the hay ring.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Video Worth Watching


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Photo Updates

I haven't really been inspired with any insights to share, so here are some random photos from my cell phone that I have taken over the last week or so...

The little bull formerly known as "socks" is now officially "boots" (thanks Nancy). Here he is hanging with mama and the little bottle calf Sammy. Note that even though Sammy is probably something like 6 months older, it is evident (from their comparable sizes) that the milk straight out of mama is mo' betta for calf growth.
Sammy = black calf born in mid-May
Boots = white calf with brown boots born in mid-Sept

In this shot (destined for the classics file) unkigiash introduces his girlfriend and his dog to his steer.

Yes...Jack is excited to see Justin....but no, it is all good clean fun - no funky business. The interaction between the two dogs could be compared to an 80 year old man with a 2 year old kid crawling all over him and pulling on his nose hair. He took it well, but seemed dumbfounded by the impetuousness of the young whipper snapper while simultaneously enduring it and yearning for some peace and quiet.
Jack = Unkigiashes dog
Justin = Our livestock guard dog

A view of southwest TX or S. NM or something....somewhere between Dallas and Phoenix. Unfortunately, out of the whole trip, this is the most scenic portion. I came to the conclusion during the drive that the USA should just give that entire portion of the country back to Mexico.

What is there to say about this? We were headed out (on a 45 minute trip to G-ma's house) and Ginger refused to leave her worms...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Unkigiash Visits!

He is here in TX, and hath brunged baggage!


This is his friend Kristen or Christin or something. They are here to party for the weekend and they brought their dog too.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A little something for those with debt and Netflix

Disclaimer - this is something I stumbled upon in my files which I obviously copied from somewhere probably here:

Then think about this fact. If you cancel a $20 monthly bill and instead apply that $20 to your credit card bill (that has a balance of $5,000, a 12% interest rate, and a $100 minimum payment), you’d turn 302 payments of $100 a pop into 55 payments of $120 a pop (I used the minimum payment calculator to get this number). Your credit card balance would disappear in about four and a half years instead of twenty five years, just by getting rid of that Netflix account.

WOW! Gives you a new appreciation for keeping those little monthly recurring expenses low doesn't it. This applies to more than just CC debt (think about car loans, home loans, student debt, etc - although these tyopes of loans typically have lower interest rates and thereby would demonstrate a less drastic effect) and Netflix isn't the only culprit in the game of little monthly recurring expenses (think about cell phones, extra bandwidth for your internet service, cable TV, etc.)

Anyway - just some food for thought.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fiscal Policy

While going through some old paperwork today, I was surprised to be reminded of the full extent of the foolishness of my former ways. I had forgotten both the quantity and the gravity of stupid financial decisions I used to make. As I went through old statements and receipts, I found too many over-the-limit fees, finance charges, late fees, etc. It really was surprising because Jessica and I have basically been running without any of that sort of thing for so long. We do use credit cards, but we pay them off every month. I am a regular follower of the folks over at the "Get Rich Slowly" blog and the author there is always talking about avoiding those types of stupid charges and I don't really ever give it much thought, so it was kind of interesting to look back at the old statements and see that I too used to be a victim of poor financial management.
Looking back, I can't really recall any sort of magical moment that changed me other than getting married to Jessica. She was absolutely mortified at the debt she "inherited" when we were married. I had racked up about 10 or 14 thousand dollars (pathetic that I can't even remember how much it was) in student loans. I can't think of anything else that might have triggered the change. My wife was my financial salvation. Until today, I have taken that for granted with an attitude that "we" have had good luck with maintaining our finances. Turns out, I just have a good leader to follow and she does a great job of keeping on top of all the bills. She is a fantastic money-manager.
Thanks Jessica!

For those of you who don't have a handy Jessica around to whip you into shape, the Get Rich Slowly blog has all the info & techniques you'll need to get started on your own. Not to steal GRS's thunder, but I summarize their formula as follows:
  • Retreat from "consumerism"
  • Eliminate debt
  • Develop and follow a budget
  • Save up a rainy-day fund
  • Save up for big purchases (rather than going into debt to buy)
We're still working on getting a real solid handle on a some of these so I am not trying to hold us up as the shining example or anything (we still have debt, we still have an addiction to consumerism (although it is a bit easier to fight since we live so far from the centers of it,) our rainy day fund is currently anemic, etc.) but I can see the logic in the techniques and aspire to someday have complete control over our finances.

Monday, October 5, 2009


It has been a rough day. As I sit here nursing the wounds left over from a stabbing to the back by a long-time employee and friend which may well contribute to costing me my job, I am trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on things. I guess the good news is that a new opportunity seems to have put itself in my way right at the right time. I guess that is the good thing about life - it always seems to find a way to mix things up and keep it interesting. I re-read the above, I can see that I have failed miserably at keeping this positive. Here's another attempt. My wonderful family loves me, the weather is real nice these days and I still have my freedom.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I have always told folks that we haven't seen a lot of snakes out here...surprisingly few as a matter of fact. I don't know what it is about the last few weeks, but they seem to have come out. We killed a 4-foot long black snake in the lawn last week and found this little garter snake (who bites and throws a fit like he is some sort of pit viper) tonight when we dumped a mosquito-infested stock tank. The kids seem to be having fun with the snakes though.

In other news, I finished modifying this little trailer. It was a free boat trailer (for a Hobie Cat catamaran) I picked up off craigslist. I don't think I have any pictures of the original trailer, but you can imagine: the original had carpet covered boat runners, about five feet of additional tongue length, a winch mounted on the tongue on a big tall mast, no gate, no side rails, no floor, no lights, etc. I was thinking about keeping the trailer until I realized that it is not wide enough to even get our 4-wheeler or our riding lawnmower in. What use is a trailer like that? Anyway, it is going back on Craigslist - this time for sale for a couple o hunert bucks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Real Cowgirl

Charly (unkygiash's jersey steer) was standing around eating so I threw Winter on his back and to my surprise, he could have cared less. Winter was pretty stoked.

Since Charly was so cool about it, we decided to try out the saddle. It was great! It got too dark to take any pictures, but we saddled him up, threw on a halter and walked Winter around the yard a bit. He is still learning to walk on a lead rope, so it was a bit of a tugging match, but he didn't seem to care much at all about the rider on his back and hey, it was his first day under the saddle. Maybe with a bit of work....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Socks" the Bull

I figure with coloration like this little guy has, you can't help but call him "socks" right? Or am I wrong? If you have a better (more bullish) name suggestion, let it be known ASAP.

Aspiration: Cattleman

This may be no secret, but I have long aspired to be a cattleman. As of just a few moments ago, I hit a milestone...
On my way into town, I noticed a tiny brown/white speck in the field. I drove the truck over, and sure enough, it is our first calf! It looks to be a little bull.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Puttin' up hay for the winter

I found a decent deal for hay today (less than $2/bale) and it was in Leonard! It actually turned out to be pretty decent hay that was baled pretty good. (usually $2/bale hay is loosely baled weeds) Anyway, I bought $65-worth which was enough to fill up the truck pretty good. We probably could have stacked another 10-15 on there without too much trouble, but I only had $65 in cash and what's the point in loading it till you are afraid to go around a corner?

The kids came with (of course) and had a blast running around the guys farm and playing with his kids. Before we left home on this trip, they got a lecture on:
1. Go to the bathroom before leaving home so you don't have to do it at their house
2. No asking/begging for snacks/food
Unfortunately, that lecture was both well needed and even more unfortunately, unheeded. Instead of coming home to the ice cream dessert we had planned, the kids got to come home and go straight to bed. They broke both rules (in style, I might add)
Maybe having to return the chips they were given and losing ice cream privileges on top of that will teach them a lesson, but sadly, I imagine we'll be contending with more of the same the very next time. Man, I can't take these kids anywhere!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The haps

Where I spent the vast majority of my day:What is this all about? It's top secret - to be revealed at a later date...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Acorn Pancakes

Sterling brought a big acorn home from school today and somehow we got on the topic of eating it...which led to a Google search on whether or not they are edible or not...which led to gathering additional acorns from the front yard for pancakes.

It didn't take long to gather up this small mess of acorns (fresh off the low-hanging branches of the tree!)

We then cracked and schucked them, and then ran them through our manual garlic press. After running water over them for some time without getting rid of the bitter tannin taste, we relented and ran them through the blender after all. I was horrified when it looked like ALL the acorn was running out through our dishrag sieve, but when all was said and done, it left a very fine "meal" in the dishrag and this quantity of acorns yeilded just over the 1/2 cup called for in the recipe. Not wanting to waste it, we went ahead and used them all anyway.

It was a little disconcerting that the quantity of acorn meal was matched by a similar quantity of plain-jane flour, and then again by another equal measure of corn meal, but we went ahead with the recipe as planned. In retrospect, based on the time we spent preparing the acorns, I am glad we were able to cop out and only use a 1/3 ration of acorns. I should also mention that this recipe made us a total of only 7.5 pancakes. You will certainly want to double it for a family meal, but it was just right for the three of us (Jessica and Ginger are taking care of G-Gma tonight.)

The result was a success - heavy, filling, and delicious - just the way we like em.

Here's the recipe we followed:

ACORN PANCAKES from Sharon Hendricks
Break an egg into a bowl. Add:
1 teaspoon salad oil
1 teaspoon of honey or sugar
1/2 cup of ground and leached acorns
1/2 cup of corn meal
1/2 cup of whole wheat or white flour
2 teaspoons of double action baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
Beat all together. If the batter is too thick to pour, thin it with milk. Pour pancakes into a hot, greased griddle and cook slowly until brown on both sides.
Serve with butter and syrup or wild blackberry jam. Delicious!!

1. Pick up several cupfuls of acorns. All kinds of oaks have edible acorns. Some have more tannin than others, but leaching will remove the tannin from all of them.
2. Shell the acorns with a nutcracker, a hammer, or a rock.
3. Grind them. If you are in the woods, smash them, a few at a time on a hard boulder with a smaller stone, Indian style. Do this until all the acorns are ground into a crumbly paste. If you are at home, it's faster and easier to use your mom's blender. Put the shelled acorns in the blender, fill it up with water, and grind at high speed for a minute or two. You will get a thick, cream-colored goo. It looks yummy, but tastes terrible.
4. Leach (wash) them. Line a big sieve with a dish towel and pour in the ground acorns. Hold the sieve under a faucet and slowly pour water through, stirring with one hand, for about five minutes. A lot of creamy stuff will come out. This is the tannin. When the water runs clear, stop and taste a little. When the meal is not bitter, you have washed it enough.
Or, in camp, tie the meal up in a towel and swish it in several bucketfuls of clean drinking water, until it passes the taste test.
5. Squeeze out as much water as you can, with your hands.
6. Use the ground acorn mash right away, because it turns dark when it is left around. Or store in plastic for freezing if you want to make the pancakes later.