Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blogging & a micro-update

I haven't been blogging lately. I guess I have been kinda feeling like blogging is too narcissistic (even though deep down inside, there is also a part of me in there thinking about how much I enjoy reading other people's blogs to see what they are up to.) So anyway, I guess I'll just get over it and do a quick update:

  1. We move to Holland in a couple weeks to start on my MBA program at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University. It is going to be a big change for us (duh) and we are, of course, most concerned with the kids and their transition. I hope we can make it a good experience that they can look back on fondly throughout their lives. For me, I am looking forward to getting back into my studies, but I am nervous about the mathematics portion (a subject in which I am woefully under-trained, and which seems to me to be an impregnable fortress. Just today I was taking some online "review" courses and that almost-forgotten feeling of a tightening chest, frozen-over brain, and desolation of spirit took over once again. I realize it sounds like I am overstating this, but in reality, I find it hard to describe the feelings I get when I am forced to do this math stuff. Anybody ever read JK Rowling's description of a dementor? It is something like that. The good news is that I passed the review course today with an acceptable score, but if there is one thing that frightens me for the upcoming year, it is a return to mathematics.
  2. I took a motorcycle training course and passed the DMV tests to get my motorcycle endorsement on my license. (Getting the endorsement is literally 10X more expensive in Holland.) We plan to purchase a motorcycle for commuting to school - a 30-40 minute drive?
  3. This Monday I start what will be my last week of work for Varsity. I've worked for them since February 1, 2002 and while they certainly could have treated me better as an employee, there is going to be a part of me that misses that job (I'm sure that part of me will go away quickly though)
  4. The kids are growing up fast. At 8, 7 and 5 years old, Winter, Sterling and Ginger have pretty much lost their babiness (Winter and Sterling have actually had pimples already!) and we certainly miss the little ones that they were, but we are enjoying getting to know them as individuals. Winter is a great friend to all and Sterling is always ready to jump in and help out where he can see a need. Ginger is super sweet and loves her toy horses and stuffed animals.
Since we did so much selling/storing of "stuff" when we moved out of our house, it should be pretty easy to move out here and make the transition to Holland. Jessica (as always) has been working steadily away and making behind-the-scene plans and progress to make things easier when the deadline comes. We still have to sell a few vehicles and my tractor, but we are getting there. Another couple weeks of "holding pattern" and we'll be off.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some Artwork from Winter

The Creeping Caterpillar

The Alien

Monday, October 4, 2010

....more construction

Saturday was very productive. We actually took the kitchen from a major construction area back to where it is actually usable as a kitchen and the living room is cleared of all clutter and is usable as a living room. Nice!

Cabinet doors and drawers back from paint, installed and knobs/handles installed:
Starting in with the "gold" paint:

Dad gettin' jiggy with the plumbing on the new kitchen faucet:

Starting to look like the final vision; granite, painted cabinets, gold paint (still needs the tile backsplash started)
New sink is in, new tile backspash started and new faucet installed:

Mom appears to be somewhat excited to be to the point where she was able to start painting (the ceiling) on Saturday night. Also note that the refrigerator is back where it belongs and that also is something to be very happy about:
Skip forward to today and dad is putting all the backsplash tiles in place:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The ugly stages of construction

These pictures are from the 27th. I am a few days behind (the granite countertops actually went in yesterday)

Luis surveys the texture that is going onto the wall:
Divert your eyes from the disaster in the background and feast your eyes on the new blue.
Utter destruction
Dad's back is obviously feeling much better, but he is still taking it easy
The tile removal was so difficult, we just took off the drywall entirely - we're down to the studs
Winter is sawing the drywall flush for the new install - and happy to finally have a job where she can help

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The 'Rents

Had a busy Saturday:

Luis and I set up all the cabinet drawers/doors in the basement of mom's office building in a storage unit and got the primer sprayed.

Back at home, the ladies made a mess of the living room...

...and set up an air curtain around the kitchen to keep the primer fumes out of the house.

When Luis and I finished up with the primer on the doors, we headed back to the house and started spraying the cabinets. (Note the fan system that blows air out of the curtained-off kitchen to create a negative air pressure situation - it worked great and there were NO paint fumes problems in the house....although the neighborhood had a bit of a stink going on)

This is the "second" curtain inside the kitchen to keep the blue paint overspray (from the island) from settling on the freshly painted white cabinets. Yeah, things were getting kinda cramped in there. Maybe we should have painted the blue color first and then just covered the island...
After spraying the house, Luis and I headed back to mom's office building to spray the final coat on the cabinets (the stools and the cabinets for the "island" are getting a steely blue color)

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Beans Runneth Over

I just sent this email out to the Ashurst family:

Well, we are scheduled to fly out on December 30th. It will (I'm sure) be major fiasco with a huge load of luggage and three unruly kids. Last time we flew, each seat back had it's own entertainment package with video games, movies, TV shows etc. That was much better than the standard "movie" that they used to show. The kids all sat around and watched whatever they wanted and it really helped to keep them off our backs. I hope this flight will be equally equipped - it is a long ride.

I asked my wife about the Der/Die situation and she reports that the country is simply referred to in the singular as "Nederland." So, I guess that solves the controversy. They speak "Dutch" and I have already picked up quite a bit of it, but I have a very long way to go yet. We have "Rosetta Stone" and the kids all work on it regularly. I need to get started. The bad news (if you can call it that) is that I will be attending school in English and virtually everyone there speaks English and prefers to simply speak English than to listen to me bumbling with my poor dutch. What that translates to is that I have a hard time finding people to practice on. I'm sure living there will help though and I expect to improve my skills greatly.

I'll be attending the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University (to get an MBA degree - sorry Jim - I know you hate all those moron MBAs :) and while we have not yet signed a contract on a place to live, it looks like we'll be living in Zoetermeer. That will put me at about 30 minutes commute on bicycle or 1 hour by public transportation to the school. Zoetermeer is where quite a few of Jessica's family live and it is much more "suburban" than Rotterdam so we think it will be better for the family there.

I do not plan to work and I do not have any work lined up. The program I am in is only one year long and due to the short time frame, the curriculum is reported to be extremely rigorous. I don't anticipate having enough time to work at all. Jessica may try to get a job or part time job, but since she is a Dutch citizen, there will be no problem with any paperwork. We'll mostly be living on our savings. Once I graduate, we will be looking for a job wherever that may take us and we may end up staying in Holland; at which point I would have to go through some sort of authorization process. I don't think that it will be too difficult with Jessica being a citizen. On the other hand, if we do want to stay in Holland and work there, I will really need to kick in the afterburners on learning the language because that will (of course) be a crucial skill.

We are very sad to be leaving the ranch. It is actually already sold and we have, as of the last couple of weeks, been imposing ourselves on the hospitality of my parents. They don't really have room for 5 more, but they have been extremely generous in letting us stay with them during the transition phase. This week they were visiting my sister in DC so we "paid a bit of rent" by getting them a new Bosch dishwasher and had it installed for when they arrived last night. We're actually hoping to save a little by living here with them and not paying rent, but at the same time, we do realize that we are a major imposition on them.

As a part of the moving process, we actually sold the vast majority of our possessions and it was surprisingly liberating. A couple of things that did pull on the heart strings though: I sold my truck, gave away my dog and a huge pile of steel stock from my shop and I sold all my cattle. Those are the things that really hurt (for me anyway.) We will, of course miss our place in the country a lot - we had a lot of good times out there - but we are excited to be moving on to the next step. The show must go on.

Honestly, yes, selling the ranch is a bit of a relief as well. There is a lot of work involved in maintaining that place and we didn't really even maintain it all that well. Things have been CRAZY busy over the last couple of months as we have tried to decide what few things to store while we are gone, what will come with us and what to sell. Then, of course, we had to implement those plans. We are just now getting settled down (I sold my truck on Saturday and my utility trailer today.) All that is left is to sell my tractor and one more car and then we should be set for the next few months before the next big transition (to Holland.)

I actually just informed my boss that we would be leaving in three months, so keep your fingers crossed that he doesn't get trigger happy and start filling out that pink slip prematurely. It would not be the end of the world, but it certainly would hurt a bit to lose our paycheck for the last few months.

Anyway, since I want their money, I'd better get back to work.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I never thought I would have been able to say this. In fact, if you told me ten years ago (or even just five) that I would be able to say this, I would have said you were crazy. Yet, here I am and forevermore I can claim that I sold my cattle to help fund my education.

Speaking of real funding though, our house "closed" today. Supposing we wake up tomorrow with some funds in our bank account (as we expect to do) the chapter of our lives entitled Country Life In Texas will have come to an abrupt ending. We're pleased with the sale and we are pleased with the new direction of our lives. We will, however, (and despite the heat, chiggers and poison ivy) forever have fond memories of this place. It has been great. Great for us, and great for the kids.

This new chapter in our lives is called "Terrorizing and otherwise disrupting the peaceful life of my parents in the city." Hopefully they (my parents) can make it through the next few months - it will certainly be a trial for them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

El Gato Prieto

Summer left suddenly and I did not mourn it today. This morning 10 yards of dirt/sand mix were delivered by a friend of mine to back fill around our foundation (a lender-required repair) and Luis and I spent hour after hour hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt. It was hot and sweaty, but at 80 or 90 degrees, it was so very much more pleasant than the work we were doing out there in the 107 degree heat just a few days earlier.

The second best part of the day (aside from the cooler weather) was that the guy who sold/delivered the dirt was interested in all our garage sale leftovers so I offered them all to him (along with the trampoline.) In return, he offered to bring over his "gato prieto" for me to use for a few hours. Behold the gato prieto in all its glory!

And...the glory shot!

So anyway, check one off the bucket list. I have now operated a bobcat (or as Luis calls it, the black cat or the gato prieto.)

The bad news is that there is still a yard or two of dirt in the front yard, the bobcat is gone, the job is done, and now I have a problem.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mystery Cat

A couple of weeks ago upon our return from a trip to San Antonio, we noticed that our black/white cat was missing. It wasn't unexpected since we seem to go through cats fairly regularly around here. What was interesting though was that the disappearance of the cat seemed to coincide with an atrocious smell emanating from the general area of the chicken coop. We searched all around the chicken coop to no avail and I had pretty much decided that whatever was dead and decaying must have been under it.

While working out there today to replace some siding on the coop (as required by the bank?) we found the source of the odiferocity (yes, I realize that is not a real word.) But before we go there, let's take a step back.

I love Ginger. She is 4 years old now and is a real precious little angel. She loves to go out and play with the animals on the back porch, search around the bushes for eggs, catch crickets, watch spiders, etc. Here's a few of her other endearing traits/habits:
  • Whenever she is playing around me, she uses her highly sophisticated play voice and calls me "Joe"
  • She dances to church music (in church) and pretty much to any other music available
  • She loves her "widow wanky" (translation: little blanky) more than life itself. In fact, she often refers to it as an individual (imagine her searching through the house calling out, "where are you widow wanky?) Still though, she loves me so much, she offers, "do you want to smell my widow wanky." (apparently, this is a great honor and privilege)
  • She almost always just says, "ouch" and shakes it off - even when she really gets hurt
  • She went through a phase where she was always talking about her "vampire eyes" and affirmed to all her ability to use them to see in the dark.
  • She used to sit next to me in my office with a "computer" (made from a piece of paper), an old mouse, and an old cellphone to imitate me while I worked - some of the conversations she had on that phone were priceless
  • Overall, she is super soft and affectionate (more than any of our other kids have been) yyet she is as tough as a hardened criminal. I think that's a good combination
So I mentioned how Ginger likes to play with the animals (mostly the cats) on the back porch. I've seen her put them in cages, tie ropes around their necks for leashes, etc. Normally the cats are pretty cool with it and it seems like they enjoy the arrangement. Well, I guess one day (right before we went to San Antonio) she must have tied a rope onto that black/white cat and for some reason, she left it on him. Cause today we found that cat out about 10' away from the chicken coop with the rope caught in the bushes. I guess he probably died of thirst. Poor little kitty. I probably won't ever tell Ginger what she has done.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Back when we were certifying as foster parents, our "qualification" paperwork required a lot of responses regarding any "losses" that we may have felt over the years. The concept of a "loss" was new to me at the time and though I feel a bit lame saying it, I really had to stretch to think of any loss that I had experienced in my life that had left sufficient impression to warrant documentation (I guess I am lucky.) In fact, thinking back at what I must have listed, the only item I can actually recall at this particular moment is the passing of two of my grandparents.

I feel compelled to return from an inadvertent blog hiatus today to record an old and atrophied, seldom-used and mostly forgotten feeling that has gradually settled on me in the way a silent cloud of ash first dusts, then coats, then covers. It is loss.

A faithful friend of 3 years is gone. Gone forever I'd guess. Justin, the livestock guard dog and the best dog we've ever had (by a long shot) went today to a new home with some lady who promised him a good home in the country East of Dallas. Now, I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is. At least that is what they say. What do I say? I loved that dog. Today, this ranch/house is no longer our home. That's all I have to say about that.

In other news, I have to give props to Jessica. As I walk around this house (which is rapidly becoming more and more empty as each and every day progresses) I realize how much work this woman has been doing. I mean, this move (which was feared by me to be the worst of any move thus far in our short lives) is rapidly becoming a 2-3 hour job. Over the last month or so, she has worked tirelessly to sell/donate/clean/organize/consolidate and pack our things to a uber-condensed version of our former clutter. It really is amazing - this girl is a worker, and I do love her - even more than the a lot's hard to describe....I am gonna stop now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ford 601 Workmaster

I sometimes tell folks (with respect to my tractor) that owning this particular old tractor involves an hour or so in the shop spent tinkering with it for every hour spent in the field operating it. In all honesty, I haven't really tracked anything like that, but it sure seems like it - especially these days. As of today, the tractor is in my shop with the following parts laying around in various stages of restoration:

  • all sheetmetal (I actually haven't had the sheetmetal on it in a year or so....)
  • The head (it's actually at the machine shop being resurfaced)
  • Exhaust/intake manifold (that's right - it is a single piece!)
  • the gas tank (with the fuel level sender removed for rehab)
  • The water pump and fan
  • Carburetor
  • All the gauges
  • A partially fabricated battery hold-down bracket (to replace the existing baling wire solution that came with the tractor when I obtained it)
I placed an internet order the other day for about $150 in new parts/pieces/gaskets and as soon as that stuff arrives, and as soon as I get the head back from the shop, I'll go about the process of putting it all back together again, crossing my fingers that it works right. The added bonus here is that all of this is taking place in 100+degree weather with a liberal smattering of humidity. Actually, they say we might see mid-90s this weekend, so that is something to look forward to.

In the meantime, in case you are looking for some additional reading on this tractor project and some insight into how one learns to work on a tractor with no manual and no experience, here are a few links to some threads I have been running on a tractor-enthusiast's forum with various pictures of various aspects of my tractor problems:

One thing I have to say about all this - it sure is nice to have a shop to do this in (rather than doing it out in the wind, rain (if it were to rain anyway), dirt and sun. I do thank my lucky stars.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Redneck Investing

I was talking to my cousin the other day and bragging to him about how I own part of Tata Motors so I decided to check in on my investments...

...steel yourself against the shock you are bound to experience after witnessing the magnitude of this portfolio!
Sorry about the small image - the original is legible, but Blogger seems to have "adjusted" this one for me : (

Turns out those two shares of Tata have done quite well. Tomorrow marks the period of one year of ownership of the Indian Auto Manufacturer and they've done quite well in that time. Even more impressive, that fraction of a share of Magna has really been a cash cow. If only I would have invested some more in these guys back then. I suspected it was a low-point in the market and my suspicions have been confirmed by a 75% increase in value over a one-year period.

The lowly farmer is now accepting offers to become a wealth manager. Send in your requests (and money) fast - space is going quickly. I charge only 5% per year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Texas Blackberries

What a surprise! I was out cleaning up the fenceline in the pastures with Ginger and Winter this evening and saw a bit of red down in the grass. At first I thought they were wild raspberries. Then I saw the black ones and the memories came flooding back of picking bucket-full after bucket-full of wild Washington blackberries with the family and eating blackberry jam sandwiches until blackberry was more of a drudgery than a delight (what a shame! And what an ungrateful kid was I to fail to recognize that blessing!)
Anyway, this pitiful little bowl was the full extent of the 'ripe' ones that we could find before it got dark (of course we had to eat some straight off the vine too, so there were actually a few more than this.) The good news is that there were quite a few more red ones on the bushes, so we should be able to go back and get some more in a few days. Strange that I have never seen these on our property before...maybe the wet spring weather of the previous few years has affected the growing season?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Farmer Joe's B-day Recommendation of the Day

OK, this is a limited-time offer folks. You have until the end of today only to buy this:

For the princely sum of $2.99 you get a

Digital Blue Disney Mix Micro Blue Chrome MP3 Player

At that price, wouldn't the 8 year old girl in your family have a very merry christmas and a happy birthday? Buy one here today only:

One caveat: You must buy your own SD card and load your own MP3 files on it

The good news? I can send you free MP3 files of my kids singing original compositions consisting of scriptures sung by kids and relatives and recorded in a completely unprofessional manner - all completely free of charge!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Photos

A friend and I went out pig-hunting tonight. We were stymied when we discovered the land was already being hunted when we arrived, but we stuck around till after dark anyway. Despite my better judgement, Sterling trapped me into coming with us when he actually sat still in a corner for 5 minutes (a feat I didn't think he could accomplish) This photo documents the success of the hunt. Somebodies daddy cares enough about him to bring him a sleeping bag...

A rabbit came up to within about 5 feet from Sterling and that was the highlight of the hunt. As you can see below - he was very excited about that.
We stopped in to visit unkigiash on the way home from Florida. Ginger refused to pose with him. Dapper haircut though huh? He's livin' large right on the bayou in a cozy little 3 bedroom home.
We actually ran into the Allreds on the way home from FL. They had to stop for a potty-break as William demonstrates below. :)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Tonight we combined one of Jessica's chores (getting rid of some boxes) with a bit of fun for the kids. A "cold front" is moving through, so Saturday's 60 degree weather is gone and it is downright cold outside. This mini-bonfire warmed us up a bit.

While the kids were getting warmed up, I gassed up the tractor, mounted my new bale spike and went and moved a big round bale out to the cows. Wow! It was much easier than rolling it to them by hand! I think I like this new system.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

General Farm Work Saturday

Fantastic T-shirt weather and I was able to get a lot done.
  1. Planted another 50 lbs of rye grass seed (I planted 50 lbs the other day right before the snow storm) out in the pasture.
  2. Finished the wood floor trim in our family room
  3. Installed the wheel on the tractor
  4. Removed the tainted oil from the tractor (the gas tank had used gravity to empty itself into the oil - see the results below)
  5. Installed a manual fuel shut-off valve on the gas line (to prevent a recurrence of number 4 above)
  6. Welded up the hay-ring where the cattle had broken and then bent it up - then I hauled it up to the cattle and put it over a round bale
  7. Finished my homemade 3-pt round bale mover thingymabobber

This is the "oil" that came out of my engine today. Yikes. I am hoping the grey color is not my cylinder walls and bearings ground into a fine powder...

This is the grey schmeg dripping out where the oil filter was

See the farm jack that is holding up the tractor? Not the jackstand under the rear axle, the farm jack just to the front of the rear axle. As I jacked it up, the jack went into the ground more than the tractor went up. By the time I got it to stop sinking, it had gone under ground.

Ginger found the hole from the jack and was very intrigued by it. Here she samples the depth.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Girls Bowl

Wii Bowling - It's not about winning the game, it is about:

1. Cool poses on one leg

2. Hip shades and coordinated outfits

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ice-Road Truckin'

My dad likes to watch this show where the truck out supplies to oil rigs in big semi-trucks over the frozen sea-ice. I decided to try some of my own ice-road trucking this morning with disastrous results:

You see, with the overnight temperatures at something like 26 degrees, the top of the ground (which is completely saturated from recent major rains) was frozen. I figured, I could haul some round bales up to the upper pasture where the cattle are at by driving OVER the frozen ground. I hitched up to the trailer (see below) and immediately hit a snag - the trailer was totally frozen into the ground.

Those bales are somewhere around 1,200 to 1,500 pounds each
(by the way, how do you like my new trailer?)

I guess it should have served as fair warning, but I rocked it back and forth for a few minutes until it popped loose and I was able to pull it all the way up to the upper pasture. As we went, I could tell trouble was coming...
You see, the gate was closed, so I was going to have to stop and park to get out and open it before trying to get going again. Sure enough, after I opened the gate, I couldn't get going again. So I backed up a bit and tried again, nope. Backed up a bit more, nope. Again and again until I was really stuck with no more room to back up.
I called Jessica and asked her to bring out the suburban (assuring her that it would not get stuck.) Unfortunately, the Suburban is (or should I say was?) in an extremely rare state of having just been washed. Unfortunately, the temperature was climbing and things were melting. Unfortunately, she got stuck.
Long story short, I pushed her out (then stood helplessly as she showered me with a roostertail of mud as she drove off), then unhooked the trailer where it sat and spent another 30 minutes getting my truck unstuck before heading inside in cold muddy dejection, having failed miserably in my attempt to get the hay unloaded. Will someone please slap me the next time I try to buy a 2WD truck?

Friday, January 29, 2010


Just a photographical update on the longhorn situation with an emphasis on the new bull:

Pre-Bid Meeting

Ever wonder what a pre-bid meeting for the City of Arlington Janitorial Services bid looks like? Behold!The funny thing was there was a very large man of african american heritage sitting in the back who kept falling asleep. OK, that part wasn't really so funny, but when he would start snoring loud enough that everyone turned around to look at him...yep...that was pretty funny.

For today's bonus round: If all the contract terms are clearly spelled out in writing, and any verbally disseminated information is non-binding, what is the point of a pre-bid meeting where they read through the bid documents? I would think, that if a vendor can't figure out how to read the specs in a bid, the city would be glad to know it and would promptly DQ them. Am I too much of a cynic?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Dad

Dad & I just came in from a wrench-o-thon in the shop (involving the removal of the transmission & engine from our 'parts' car) and I feel great. It is so cool to work on stuff like this with family. I really wish all of us (brothers & father) could get together a little more often. Maybe some day....
Tomorrow a guy is coming to pick up the engine and now I can get the transmission installed in our other metro, and get the parts carcass removed from my shop (where it has been sitting for months).

Friday, January 22, 2010

A compliment

Received today from my (former) boss in the course of discussion about my personal growth:

"The rough edges get ground off as we tumble through life. Then you reach my age and they all pop out again."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The News (Hey!!!)

I arranged with a guy from Craigslist to deliver four of the big round bales of hay to our house this past Friday. He later called to report his tractor would be broken and that he would have to deliver them on Sunday. At that time, we were nearly out of hay, so I said that would be fine and to call me when he was ready to come out. Well, he called my while I was in church to tell me he was in Leonard and ready to deliver the hay. What that meant is that I had to tell him to just drop them in the field (as opposed to showing him exactly where I wanted them placed.)

In other news...
...I have no way to move these round bales (which weigh over 1,000 lbs each dry) so last night I finally decided to do a backlogged project and weld up a hay spike that would fit the three point hitch/lift on the back of my tractor. I started welding and hit a point where I really needed the use of a cutting torch to finish it (which I don't have) so I quit that project (temporarily) and decided to try to see if I could just use straps to strap a bale to the front-end-loader on the tractor to see if I could move one that way. I aired up the tires, (one of the tires is so trashed from UV rays it is literally falling apart, but it will hold air for an hour or so) and jump-charged the battery (the alternator is strong enough to keep the tractor running, but too weak to keep the battery charged) and it ran for a few seconds before shutting off. I couldn't get it restarted and on a whim, I checked the fuel level (it had at least 4 gallons of gas in it the last time I parked it) and discovered it was empty. What that means is that the gas has drained down into the oil pan (again) and that the tractor is completely unusable at this time. I wrote the night off as a total loss and went to bed.

In other news...
I woke up at 4:00am this morning and drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma to check on my employee there, deliver some tools to him, etc. On the way, I decided to check the Tulsa craigslist to see what the hay situation looked like. Bingo! They had lots of hay up there for cheap, so I called a guy and we set up a tentative meeting for this afternoon to get some hay. Here's the thought; if the bales are in my truck, I can push them out by hand right in the spot where I want them. So, you see, a round bale (or two) in the truck is worth 4 on the ground - at least when you don't have any way of moving them... After work, I drove over to this dude's place and he loaded two bales (I guess they are rolls really...) in the back of my truck with his front-end-loader.

Exhibit A - One dirty, beatup old pickup with 2 roundbales in the back

Note how the bales (which are 5 foot in diameter and 4 feet long are loaded that the rolling side is NOT positioned to roll out the tailgate for easy unloading. It was a compromise we had to make in order to get them to both fit in the 8 foot bed of the truck.

Can I just take a moment to say that for all the problems my truck has, there is certainly a very satisfying feeling to be able to load it down like this and then proceed to drive something like 300 miles with it and have it act like it was made for carrying this sort of load (which it was.) I was cruising up fairly significant Oklahoma hills at 70 mph on cruise control and this truck didn't even downshift or lose any speed. It just plain handles it. There's the best argument for diesel I guess.

In other news...I made it home tonight at 9:30pm and proceeded to spend about an hour going through the following process (which has apparently become my official modus operandi for round bale logistics:)
  1. Get truck stuck in mud
  2. Say some quick prayers and then sling a lot of mud getting unstuck while tearing up the pasture and increasing dramatically the chances for getting stuck again in the future
  3. Spend 5 minutes repositioning truck for the optimal angle and location so that when the round bales come out, they are in the right place.
  4. Spend 5 minutes positioning straps to various stationary objects in a vain attempt to pull the bales out.
  5. Resort to brute strength and back-injury risk level 10 and push them out by hand in a brutal battle for progress that comes inch by inch (or less) with each herniating push
Like I said, it took about an hour, but in the end, one of the bales is strategically located and is locked away behind bars to prevent the cattle from spoiling it prematurely, while the other is successfully placed in the cattle pen in a round bale ring (it prevents the cattle from pulling the bale all to pieces and trampling/spoiling it.)

In other is now nearly midnight and though I have been going strong for approximately 20 hours non-stop, I am now typing this for your viewing pleasure because the "medication" I took to keep me awake and safe during the drive home has not worn off yet. Tomorrow is going to come at me with a vengeance - I can feel it.

In other news...the cattle are all stoked to be grubbin' on some tasty new hay (all of them except for the little longhorn bull calf who was smart enough to be standing under one of the round bales when it came out of the back of the truck and proceeded to roll over him - he got up quick and seemed to be fine, but I imagine he'll be feeling that one in the morning.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Duck Hunting

It is 6:25am and I am sitting here waiting on some duck hunters to show up so I can collect their contract/liability waivers and then show them out to the hunting area. These guys are a little late and were plannng on getting here around 6:00am. Just a few thoughts:

  1. These guys are hard core! They are coming out in the middle of what will likely go down as the coldest weather of the year and they said they are planning to bring a sledgehammer to break through the ice (if needed) so they can sit around in the cold and shoot a few skinny little mud ducks.
  2. I am cool getting up at 6:00am to wait for them because 'early to be early to rise' fits in nicely with my "new years resolution(s)"
It is now 6:42am and I just came in from collecting contracts and $$ and showing them where to go. It is COLD out there! The cattle have frost on their hides and my fingers are having a hard time typing this even though I was wearing gloves and I was only out there for a few minutes.

I give the hunters a guarantee that if they don't shoot at any ducks, they don't have to pay. It is a fun guarantee to give because they are always asking about it when they first come out to hunt, but I have NEVER had to refund anyone their money. The fact is that the ducks come in to this lake every morning and if a hunter is dedicated enough to come out here and set up before first light, it would be hard to find a way to not end up shooting at some duck.

This year there has been about half the quantity of ducks there was last year, but from what the hunters are telling me, having any ducks at all this year is really something extraordinary. It may be the pricing (I only charge $50 per hunter per day) or it may be that the guys who belong to the high-dollar hunting clubs aren't getting the chance to shoot any duck at their club lakes, but I only posted one craigslist ad and from it: I booked out the entire season, developed a large list of backup hunters, and keep getting requests for next year to lease the place out "for the season."

In summary, it is real nice to make a couple hundred dollars before 9:00am (which is when they usually head out of here) and it is also kind of fun for me to meet all these different hunters and watch how differently they all operate. Last week the guys that came out didn't bring a retrieval dog and they were using our boat to retrieve their ducks and decoys. The problem was that there was a stiff wind and they looked like they were performing a comedy routine out there trying to get that boat to go against the wind. They finally gave up and used a lead line to manually pull the boat all the way around the lake. This week the hunters actually came out with a portable blind made of hay and I think these guys (or at least one of them) must know what they are doing. They were talking about the direction of the wind and ice-breaking like they do this all the time. I have a feeling the ducks are going to be in trouble this morning.

It is now 6:51am and if today is anything like the last few weeks, we should be hearing the first gunshot(s) within 10-15 minutes.

It is 7:07am and they just took their first shots. Good times!