Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Exhausting Week

I've kind of lost track of how long we've been here on the farm. What I do know is that my body is feeling the pain of out and out physical work. Yesterday, we worked on fixing the tile again by the creek. Yes, we have a small backhoe, but then I had to dig about 6 inches more at the bottom of the trench to match up with the old tile. That is work! but we have it done except for filling the trench.

Then the neighbor stop by with his tractor. He had been cutting some trees that I wanted gone and came by to say hello. He told me that on the way coming across the field, he spotted another hole in the ground where a tile is obviously sucking dirt in. (Actually, some animal chews a hole in the plastic tile and then water draining in takes with it some soil, creating a much bigger hole in the ground. So another tile to fix, but not in the muck.

So this morning the neighbor is up here at the farm yard cutting up some limbs that I drug up here and I stopped by to chat this morning. While visiting with him, I spotted a wet spot in a waterway east of the farm yard about a thousand feet. (the sun angle was just right and the water on the surface reflected it. Another bummer.)

Today was to be a day off, as I'm too sore from yesterday. So we were going to visit my mother to wish her a Happy Birthday, her 99th birthday. For 99 years, she is doing pretty well. She has been blessed with a good heart system, as her four siblings all had heart problems. Not only is she is great health, but the high cholesterol gene apparently didn't get passed onto her children. One thing I've been unfortunate to get is the need for new hips. Mother had two hips replaced years ago. (Three of my sisters have had new hips done in the last 4 years.) My turn is coming.

Another reason that we're not on the road to see mother right now is that is that Sandy had ordered a new computer (with Windows 7). This morning on the Fed-Ex site, they told her that it is out for delivery. So we will wait! We normally see them whiz by early in the morning, but probably not today.

The grass on the lawn is growing like a weed. It was mowed 3 days ago and ought to be mowed again. The other thing that is growing is the rhubarb and asparagus. Sandy told me this morning that our consumption of asparagus isn't fast enough, so she'll start freezing some of it. Perhaps we cut it a little early verses what is sold in the store, but it sure is tender and tasty.

A couple of years ago, we planted about a dozen cedar trees about 18 inches tall. I noticed last night that 4 of them have died, cause unknown. We lost one last year when a young buck deer used it to rub the velvet off of his antlers. I hope he was happy because he really did a number on the tree. (It also died.)

I was hoping that by starting this, the Fed Ex would show up and interrupt me, but no luck. I'll continue to wait.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Digging in the Dirt

I follow a blog by Nick Russell, who religiously posts an update to his blog just a few minutes after midnight, EACH day. Perhaps I should, but there just isn't that much happening in my life. I try to do it more then once per week.

Since we're back on the farm, it has been go go go. A quick trip to see mom at the care center. Saturday we tried to get organized around here. Sunday, we were up early so that we could attend church at our old home church in Marion. What a joy to see so many friendly faces.

After church, it was lunch at the Subway, nothing special, just a foot long special for $5, which we divide in half. It was then on to Best Buy where we looked at TVs. What a pain. Since we gave away our digital converter to our daughter Beth when her's failed, we are dependent upon getting a new TV. We bought one which met our low power requirements, but it has a world of short comings. It has poor tuner sensitivity, no channel-signal strength indicator, and unstable volume. Since SAM's CLUB says we have 3 months to evaluate it, our intention is return it, but only after we find a replacement. We didn't find anything at Best Buy that even came close.

It was then to Walmart for groceries before heading to the farm, with a stop at the Amana Care Center to visit with my mother.

Monday was all business. We headed into Williams burg to talk about with our farm supply store about weed herbicides, then to both of the local TV shops, and the post office to open up our local box again. Nothing big, just details.

Back at the farm, we got serious about getting out a tractor, fuel it up, etc. We then used the tractor to pull some big limbs out of the field and onto the yard. (I hired a wood cutter with a high lift boom to cut off some major lower limbs from two oak trees that were crowding out into the field. He did a good job and then I found out that my big tractor isn't so big. I could barely pull a pair of limbs up the hill, but we made it in second. That job done, we hooked onto the hay rack and played "Pick up sticks" again. No matter what you do with tree branches, when you're done, there are a number of loose ends that had to be gathered up for burning.

Since I gave up on picking up sticks on Monday, we finished the job Tuesday morning. In the PM, we mounted our back hoe on the tractor so that I can fix two tile problems in the field. One problem has water coming out into the field and the other spot is a hole in the tile that allowed dirt to wash into the tile.

Today was "get down and dirty" day with the back-hoe. The problem with water coming out into the field was from tree roots about 5 feet from the tile outlet. I didn't have my thinking cap on and made two extra digs before zeroing in on the real problem. Right now we have a new opening for the tile into the creek and it works great. I just need to get a metal tube so that I can cover it up. The other problem was a hole in the tile allowing dirt to wash into it. We were fortunate that Williams Brother's Pipeline folks responded to our call and they were out to mark where the pipeline is in the field. It is about 25 feet from the tile line and the pipeline is being used for natural gas transmission. Obviously, we don't want to get close to it.

Tonight, I'm tired. The backhoe does make it easier to fix the tile, but getting on and off of the tractor, and getting into the dug hole does tire one out. Also pushing and pulling on the backhoe levers is like doing isometrics, tiring. I will sleep well tonight!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Back on the Farm

We were intending to fuel up on Monday, but didn't find a station with the required price below of what we have been seeing. We did see one station at $2.95, but we were too late to stop and I never turn around. Then we left the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and the next stations in a small town were all $3.10 for diesel, so again, we pushed on. (The gauge was not on the RED line, just getting too close.) We ended up missing our turn in Manhattan and thus had to do a loop through a construction zone, which is always fun with a big rig. Then Sandy spotted a big Shell station to the right, so instead of turning left, we turned right at the light. When we pulled into the station, it had just enough room for a big rig and the price was $2.95 for diesel. Okay, we can handle that. (By this time, we were desperate, with the gauge now in the middle of the RED band.) It really was "fuel at any price!"

With that problem solved, we headed east and learned just how strong the crosswind was. We quickly decided that we were in no hurry and knew that a little town 20 miles up the road had a city park with 3 RV sites, with 50 amps.(and free) It was on a four lane road, we took our time and we parked for the day at 12:30 pm. A bit early, but at least we were safe and off the road. On Thursday, we were up early so that we could continue driving east in Kansas and Missouri before the expected southern winds returned. Of course once we hit I-35 at Cameron, MO, we were ready for the the wind to blow us north to Des Moines.

At Des Moines, we took the short south loop around the city and quickly learned what the wind was really like, not good for driving east. So we stopped at the Altoona Walmart for groceries, fuel and obtained permission to park over night. Fuel was $2.95 at Murphy's.

Friday was again an early morning drive as we headed east on busy I-80 towards the farm. It was a real joy to get off of the highway by 10 AM knowing that we were parking it for 3 weeks. We found everything in good order on the farm other than the lawn grass is about 2 weeks past mowing. We parked the motorhome and later went for the mower, which to my amazement, started. Shortly after our arrival, a pair of turkey vultures checked out the trees to our north. But then they moved on.
At 12:30, a turkey hen and a gobbler stopped by to look the lawn over. They spent about 5 minutes moving across the lawn, the hen picking up food and the gobbler trailing the hen by about 10 feet.

This morning the turkeys returned. Again, the hen was feeding and the gobbler following along behind, once spreading his tail feathers as if to say, "I'm ready". The hen ignored him.

Friday afternoon we went to see my mother in the care center in Amana, where they were having a birthday party for all of those with April birthdays. Mother will be 99 years old and is doing well other than she can't hear much of anything.

This morning we've done most of our inside things, like setting up a couple of appointments for next week. Shortly I need to get outside and mow the lawn before it is too thick for my little mower. Yesterday afternoon, it was windy and in the 80s. Today we have more sunshine, but it is going to be windy and in the lower 60s. Maybe Arizona isn't too bad. But is nice walking on the carpet of grass when I get out of the motorhome.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Greensburg Kansas City Park

We are parked in the Greensburg, Kansas city park and loving it. We have 15 Amp electric, grass to park on and it is free. Not too bad. We had a couple of reasons to come here. First of all, we wanted to see how the city has recovered from the devastating tornado that ripped up the town 3 years ago. Secondly, we had read about the rebuilt church, so what better to do than attend services there on Sunday.

We've driven around town 3 or 4 times and it is both amazing and sometimes depressing. Two years ago when we stopped, there were few rebuilt homes. As you looked across the landscape, it was streets, avenues and mostly a few tree stumps with few if any limbs. Today, there are lots of homes. Plus the other most notable thing is that all of the churches have been rebuilt. The church is built, but much of the exterior landscaping is left to be done. There are 6 churches and we only noticed 2 or 3 that had posted names outside. It all takes time.

We stopped at the hand dug deep well, which is eventually going to be the site of their museum. In the meantime, the well is covered over and the small building is a museum/historical display of the effects of the tornado. The landscape is difficult to describe, there was so much utter destruction. One feature of the town is that it has the widest streets every where that we have seen. If you're going the wrong way, it is no problem to do a U-turn on any street, not just main street.

A park neighbor just outside of the park stopped by this afternoon and we visited with him about the storm and how the people have recovered. He made some interesting comments, like a typical tornado is fast moving, it hits and is gone. The tornado that destroyed the town was a very slow moving one, typically beating on a house for one to two minutes. He with his wife were in a small closet under the staircase going up to the second floor. The winds lifted the house off of the foundation twice that he can remember. Interestingly, most of the people that were injured were in the basement. The storm came over, blew away the house and then rained debris down upon them, which caused most of the injuries.

He had nothing but praise for FEMA and other federal agencies. One of the services brought in a huge tent and served gourmet meals for some time for the entire town. He admitted that there is the usual bickering and frustrations between people. The town has made a decision that all buildings need to be in accordance with a level of "Green" construction. Obviously, if being green is not your thing, it upsets people.

Tomorrow we had north east again. We' planning to visit a Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. I'm not sure if we'll see much, as one article indicated that they were burning the area. We can call them tomorrow. There is a city park where we're headed, but sadly, it isn't free. We'll probably still stay there.


Friday, April 9, 2010

We're in Kansas, heading north

It is Friday and we're in Kansas on a beautiful sunny day. Plus we drove a hundred miles and had a great tail wind. To top the day off, we're now parked in the Meade, KS City Park, on grass with minimum electric and it is free. We can handle that.

(Update: The Meade Parks department just came around and turned my power off and padlocked the box. I guess we're back on battery power for the night.)

Yesterday morning, we had breakfast with friends of ours in the little town of Brownfield, TX. Besides having friends there, what made our day was that Brownfield has a city owned RV parking lot, with water and 50/30/20 Amp hookups, and all for free. With services like that, one can only say great things about the town.

We stopped last night at another little city RV parking lot (Dumas, TX). It had 50 amp hookups, with a dump station and a hydrant near the fence line. The only problem was that the water was still turned off (winter rates). Of course, it was also free. Tomorrow we're headed for Greensburg, KS for our mail package and we'll spend a couple of days there, either in the city park, or around a small Kansas State fishing lake. (Of course, free!)

I think you get the message, we love patronizing small town city parks. I should mention also that Greensburg, KS was nearly wiped off of the map 3 years ago with a massive tornado. We were through there two years ago and they had cleaned up all of the demolished houses etc. It was a strange site, seeing all of the massive tree trunks with no limbs standing like isolated sentries throughout the town.

Relatives tell me that the weather is fine in Iowa, so while we're not rushing north, we're also not wasting too much time. My siblings have reported that our mother has gone downhill very much in the last few weeks, so perhaps our return to her presence will up lift her spirits. She is only going to celebrate her 99th birthday on the 29th of this month. Sadly, she has had to give up walking this winter.

Perhaps we should have made a faster trip north so that we could have seen our daughters in Wisconsin. Our eldest daughter, and family is visiting Beth, our younger daughter. Julie's eldest daughter Emily is on a Spring Break trip to Europe, where a group of young people from their former church is on a mission help project in an east European country, the likes I could never spell, let along pronounce. I sense that I'm a bit like my dad, when I comment "Isn't she a bit young to be doing world traveling on her own? She is only 15!" Grand children grow up so fast!

The sun is shining, the wind has laid down, and I'm ready for a nice spring walk. More on another day.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hunkered down on a Ridge Line

As previously reported, we came into the Valley of Fires campground on Sunday as the spring New Mexico winds were making their presence known. The winds continued yesterday and again today. The forecast is that they shall possibly lay down tonight. That will be a blessing.

This campground is on a ridge line in the middle of an ancient lava field (the lava covered the desert floor on both sides of this ridge line. From where we're parked, we can see the base of the mountains about 20 miles west of here. Looking out the other side of the motorhome, we can see the town of Carrizozo (5 miles East) and then the entire mountain side behind Carrizozo, probably another 10 miles. Of course, the wind whistles as it passes over. We're pointed mostly south and the winds are from the south, so we can exit the motorhome by pushing the door open. No problem closing it.

A week ago, Sandy finished sewing the sunscreens for our front windows. However, it was too windy then, so we didn't mount the screens and the matching magnets on the inside. As you can imagine, the winds are not any better today. But I was determined to see if our design will work, so this morning, I taped four magnets on the inside of the window and then I took the screen outside (in the wind). It was a bit difficult, but we finally got the screen positioned over the magnets to temporally hold it. Then with Sandy's help, we moved the magnets to the desired locations in the four corners. We are happy to report that the screen is holding tight to the wind. Our next task is to remount the interior magnets with double sided tape between the magnet and the glass so we can pull the screen off and have the magnets remain in position.

The magnets I purchased via eBay are 1" in diameter and 3/8 of an inch thick. In a nutshell, they are deadly. One careless move and they seem to jump to each other, readily pinching anything in between. Yes, we have the scars to show it.

Yesterday, we walked the one trail from the campground that ventures into the lava field. Plus I walked the rest of the campground area. So today with the continuing winds, we're just plain going to sit tight and read or surf. We have electric, so no danger of running the batteries down.

Our life style changes when we're plugged into an electric power pole. Suddenly, we have unlimited surfing time, we have the refrigerator on electric, the water heater on continuous electric and if need be at night, we have an electric heater to keep the interior temperature comfortable. And we're really living when I can turn on the electric mattress heating pad. There are a few benefits to having electric at our campsite.

Our plan is to leave here tomorrow, pass through Roswell, NM and continue on to Brownfield, TX. We've toured Roswell before and we're meeting friends in Brownfield. Plus it has a free city park (with electric). From there, we'll head north, into cold country. So turn up the heat please!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

We've seen the Trinity bomb site

We finally gave up relaxing with full hookups and hit the road again on Friday. We were up by 5:30 AM so that we could get most of our driving in before the winds pick up here in New Mexico. They have had winds up to 40 or 50 mph with gusts going upwards towards 60 or 70. As they say, it is not good traveling for high sided vehicles (such as our motorhome.)

We spent last night in the friendly confines of the Walmart parking lot here in Socorro, NM. We were only one of 12 rigs that spent the night here. Today, all are gone except for two of us that went touring.

Our touring was to see the site where the first atomic bomb exploded, which is about 40 miles southeast of town. We were up at a reasonable early time. We arrived at the entry gate line at 8:30 or so and headed in after a 20 minute wait in line. From the gate, it is another 20 miles to the test site.

While we thought we were early, the parking lot they have set up was nearly half full. We immediately decided that it would be best to see the farm house first, especially since there was not a line to get on the bus. The farm house is 3 miles from ground zero and is where they assembled the bomb core material. It was nothing fancy and the blast blew out the windows and severely depressed the roof. But 40 years later, they finally woke up and made it a historical site and redid the house so that it looks exactly like it did in 1945.

Of course a farm boy has to look at the farm related items, like the windmill and the pump jack. I think each blade on the mill was about 4 or 5 feet long (it was laying on the ground). The pump jack was connected to the pump rod via a rocking horse beam, about 8 by 16 inches and 12 feet long. The original rancher used the ranch house as the headquarters for a ranching operation with about 20,000 sheep and a 1000 cows. I have no idea what they found to eat, as there certainly wasn't much around the house.

From the house site, we caught a bus back to the ground zero site and ran into lots more people. Or should we say, "People everywhere". The actual bomb site has been reworked some to remove as much hazardous waste as possible. The crater (about 4 feet deep) was filled in to prevent any radioactive dust from moving about. They have 3 fences around ground zero to control the entry. the inner fence is a 6 foot chain link fence encompassing about an 800 foot circle. then they had a second fence out about another 200 feet or so and finally there was a barbed wire fence encompassing about 40 acres or more.

The only historical item to see was one of the concrete pillars that had been pretty well trimmed down to nearly ground level. (I'm sure the upper part was radioactive and was removed.)

What was interesting to me was that while they had some really high tech equipment, especially for the photos and shock wave measurements, the actual assembly was just plain old man power. I don't know how much the core material weighed, but it looked like it was an arm load for one man to carry it into the house. The clean-room assembly area was the house master bedroom with plastic sheets taped over the window openings. At the doorway, painted on the door trim was a sign, "Clean the dust off of your shoes before entering".

For the rest of the day, we're relaxing in our friendly Walmart parking lot. Tomorrow morning, we'll attend Easter services at the local mission church and then head out somewhere.