Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to the Hospital

The morning after making the levee, Dad's nurse at the nursing home called to say Dad had a chest X-ray and there is fluid on his lungs. They were sending him to the Emergency Room.
I got to the ER to find Dad waiting on a hospital bed. He was asking to talk to his cousin Pauline. This had me concerned because she had died years ago. I didn't stay long as I had to get to work. The next morning, I found him in a room on the 5th floor. I stayed a while then headed home and to bed. His doctor called me later that day and stated Dad needed to have the fluid removed from his lung. She stated his left lung had collapsed. The next day they removed the fluid. Since this was Friday, I waited until Monday to ask for the results. Nobody called me Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday the specialist called me to say Dad's lung was full of fluid again and they suspected cancer. Shock. Horror. My mind spun back 40 years ago when I was little and Dad smoked. My mind said no, it couldn't be cancer. In the mean time, each visit with Dad had him talking about stuff that happened 20 or more years ago. I made up my mind to go down to the hospital, Thursday morning April 30th. I made it home from work and bathed. While getting dressed, the Social worker assigned to Dad called and asked to meet with me. I told him I was on my way to find out about Dad's treatment. I got to Dad's room to find him eating lunch and really enjoying it. The Social worker arrived and we went to the end of the hall to talk and be comfortable. He told me his job in Dad's treatment and I told him my concerns about finding out if Dad did, if fact, have cancer. He had me wait and he came back to state if I could wait until 12:30, the Medical Director would answer all my questions.

While I was waiting for the Medical Director, Dad asked to sit up in the recliner. While he sitting there, I was dozing on and off.

Today is Sunday, August 21, 2011. I have tried to finish this post numerous times, but just couldn't find the wantto, to finish it.

While I was waiting for the Medical Director, Dad asked to sit up in the recliner. While he was sitting there, I was dozing on and off. He told me he wanted to get back in bed. I went out and told the nurse, then returned to that comfy chair. Dad made some unnatural movements and I hollered for the nurse. Dad was twitching uncontrollably . I felt ill in the stomach. Three nurses came in to move Dad back to the bed. I left the room out of respect for Dad's and he being in one of those flimsy hospital gowns. I went to the end of the hall with all the windows and sat down, just staring out. After a minute or two the Social Worker came out to make sure I was alright. A few moments after that the Medical Director came out and told me in a calm voice that Dad had just died. His heart just up and stopped at 1:07. What I had seen was the heart pace maker trying to jump start his heart. Thank the Lord, I was there by Dad when he died. He didn't die alone. The date was April 30, 2009. Exactly 161 days after Mom died. About 5 & 1/2 months. So the saying is true about the longer you live together with someone, the closer you die to the date of their death.
Stop back here later and I will have some more time caught up.
hugs, Brandi

Monday, April 20, 2009

Plumbing and Water Levels

We got a lot of rain the middle of April. We got 5 inches. The pond raised over 2 feet. We are still shy about 20 inches from the overflow pipe. We had so much rain, the wet weather spring under the back deck steps started flowing good. This spring runs into the driveway. Right now it misses the pond. But Saturday I tried to shove a water hose up into the spring and I put the other end near the pond. Nothing happened. Then we got the bright idea to go buy some 4 inch drain pipe, dig a trench, and bury it. I put a PVC shower drain in the inlet and secured it with screws. Then I put broke up concrete around it and covered it with some old shingles, then dirt. By this time the spring fizzled out. I had concerns while hoeing the ditch out when I hit gravel. I thought my washing machine grey water line was deeper. I meant to cover it all with clay, but I forgot and pushed the top soil back in the ditch. This ran under where Luke parks his car, so I ran over it to pack it down some and spread it all out there. I thought all was fine and washed some clothes that night. The next morning I saw some standing water where the night before no water was. It was right over the grey water line. It was a little sand covered volcano. Yep, it was grey water. I got a sick feeling in my stomach as I thought about soapy water going into the pond. That is when I got the Big RED Beast out and dug the wet weather spring drain line up and filled it all in with clay. All that time and money gone down the drain instead!

I also have some sewer drain problems. I was all set to work on the line and even dug up the line between the house and the septic tank with the 6520's backhoe. Then I realized the tank just needed pumping out! Then I realized the phone and my computer's ISP connection was dead. Then I realized my phone line didn't run around the septic tank, but over the septic line I just dug up. Again, my stomach felt sick.

The phone line cost $147 to repair. Then I found out my neighbor had environmental splices and could have done it for free. Oh well. I finally got feed up with all my rain water just running past the pond. I took the time one morning after work to make a diversion levee with my 6520. I made it by dumping a bucket load of clay every 7 feet. Then I packed it down. This runs about 100 feet from up in the woods down to the pond on an angle. It catches that wet weather spring and most of the rain run off behind the house. Now I need to spread topsoil on it and it will be part of the yard. Right now it looks rough and red. It also runs under my truck's parking space. So when I park the right rear tire is up higher than the rest.The pond is now full, but I want to close off the end of the overflow pipe and cut out the top to raise the water level about 12 inches. I uploaded some nice photos of the pond filling up from our April showers. You can view them here. Stop back later to see what is different with the pond.
hugs, Brandi

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lawyers Again

Now that my brother is evicted out of my Dad's house, I have the pleasant task of cleaning it up to sell it. Plus, hire an attorney to make sure I don't do something stupid to jeopardize Dad's Medicaid payments to the nursing home. I spoke with the lawyer last week. It cost big bucks just to talk about what I wanted to do. I am glad I did this as I was told I was doing a no-no with Dad's money and to stop it! I was told that I need a small estate affidavit. This affidavit involves the lawyer and more of his high fees, but you can't get money without spending some money. With this affidavit, I can claim half of the house sale proceeds. I need to do this to pay off the loan I took out for Mom's funeral. Otherwise it goes into Dad's estate and according to the lawyer, can't pay off the loan I made for Mom's funeral. This loan is slowly taking my financial nose under water and it hurts to go there!

I signed an agreement with a realtor to sell the house so I would not be bothered with phone calls during the day if I tried to sell it myself. Remember I work nights. While over at the house last weekend, I was approached by two different neighbors that want the house, but want to make payments to me. One neighbor wants to pay me $1500 a month to buy the house in 18 months! But I can't do this as the state (Medicaid) would view this as Dad's income, which would disallow him from Medicaid benefits. So we have to sell outright with one lump sum payment.

I took the Big RED Beast and my zero turn mower over to Dad's house. Christina and I spent two full days just cleaning the front and back yard enough to mow. My adopted brother and his wife, along with his girlfriend had turned the yard and house into a junk yard.

Literally, it was all white trash. I dug two 11 foot deep holes with my backhoe to dump the trash in. I still need to dig one more hole as I haven't started cleaning up Dad's workshop and sheds. The yard beside the sheds is also a white trash jungle. So I will need to bring my Mahindra back at least one more time. All the neighbors are very happy that my brother is out and the place is looking respectable again.

While I have been over working at Dad's house, I have been carrying my Kimber 45 on my hip concealed under a jacket or shirt. Last week I got my Ruger LCP back from Ruger because of a technical glitch. So I carried it in my pocket instead of the big Kimber on my hip. Getting on and off the 6520 all day and doing physical labor had the big Kimber's paddle holster digging into my waist. So I was relieved when the Ruger came back home. I also have my cell phone on my belt and my bluetooth headset in. All this because I don't trust my brother and will not be a victim again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

While burning tree limbs and old firewood at Dad's last Saturday, I got a call from Rebecca. She said she was coming home for the weekend to pick up Sammy, her cat.
Sammy has been staying with me while Rebecca went into the hospital and recovery. I told her to come over to Dad's house first. She stayed a few hours and we talked and she even swept the front and back porches. The next day after visiting with Dad, Rebecca and I went back to swept and mop out the house as it looked and smelled like my brother kept some of his dogs in the house after he moved out.

Rebecca had a job interview with Travis County Health Department, over in Austin, last week. It really looked promising for her to get the position. She found out Monday that Travis County just instituted a hiring freeze. So she continues to look for a job that she can turn into a career. She hasn't worked since working 6 days for the state before she went into the hospital last January. I pray she gets hired soon as I am fronting her bills (minus her rent) until she gets on her feet. That is putting me under each month. So far I have juggled everything around to get everything paid.

I will have to break down and work overtime soon. I hate to do this right now as Dad's place needs more attention to sell it,..........and my place has several big projects for the Big RED Beast. The most urgent project is place the spoils from digging the pond in berms across my property to direct rain run off into the pond. The next big project is to move the remainder of the spoils pile and the top soil pile to the back of the property to fill in low spots. I need to have this done before I buy more Bermuda grass seed. This weekend we are forecast to have major rain storms come through. So this weekend is ruined for any dirt work. Instead I will be troubleshooting why my Hustler Fastrac is not starting without a full charge on the battery. I thought, after 4 years, that the battery may be bad. So I took it to O'reilly Auto Supply to have the battery tested. They said the battery is good. So now I will have to trouble shoot all the safety switches on the mower. Since it is a zero turn mower, it has two neutral switches. The local Hustler mechanic also told me that the starting circuit also includes the PTO switch. So along with these three switches and the ignition switch, I will have to figure out which switch out of 4 is intermittent. So it will be a fun day in the barn while it storms!

I have mowed my place twice this spring. Now the local Red Tailed Hawks are hunting the crawfish that live in the low wet spot on the property.

It sure is a delight to see that swoop down and snatch a snack. This drives Booger up the wall and he runs after the hawk, barking as he stops, as the hawk flys away.

Check out the new photos I uploaded here. Stop back later to see if Dad's house sold.

hug, Brandi

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sunshine and Sneezing

Wow! The sunshine came out for a few days and I started sneezing. The strong winds around here haven't helped either. The wind has been blowing a lot of pollen and that has me sneezing multiple times in a row. Now I am under the weather with sinus allergy crud. Each year I get hit with this crud. Blame it on Texas' weather continually changing. One day it is cold and the next day it is hot, then the following day it is cold again. The strong winds really got me this year. It took 3 days after I got a steroid shot before I started feeling better. I am still dragging and coughing, but with the cough syrup I got today, I am feeling a little better. With seeing the doctor twice this week, I should be feeling better.

Two weeks ago, we went to the Austin Rodeo with Rebecca. Randy Travis was in concert after the Rodeo. It was my first time to make the rodeo in Austin. It is a little smaller than Rodeo Houston. We had a fun time and really laughed hard when the four and six year old kids rode the sheep. It is called Mutton Busting and it is a hoot to watch those little kids hold onto the sheep's wool and try to hang on. One little boy hung on so long, one of the clowns had to grab his belt to pull him off. The kid was still holding on with his hands as the clown was pulling him off!
We did have fun climbing on the road grader that was displayed there. This grader was so big, it pivots in the middle. We didn't find much in exhibits but we did find the monster truck.
We took a few photos of it and moved along. Since this was a Sunday evening after the rodeo, most of the folks had left. We found a tepee erected on the site, along with some Longhorn cattle. Not much of anything else. Nobody was at the Dodge truck display and all the vehicles were locked. Oh well, I didn't want a new truck anyway!

The next day I testified on behalf of HB1301 in the Texas Legislature. Alice Tripp with the Texas State Rifle Association invited me to come and share my testimony with the Texas House Public Safety Committee. Representative Stephen Frost authored the bill. It is my second time to testify for this legislation. Two years ago, I testified before the Senate Committee for its version of the same bill. This year it seemed we had more folks testifying for the bill then against the bill. The Senate bill has already past in the Senate and has moved on to the House of Representatives. The surprise of the day was that Rebecca showed up and waited with Christina and I for me to testify. I had my own cheering section! I always enjoy being in the State Capital and I always get turned around. Rebecca helped me find our way out. We had a long day there as the Committee hearings didn't start until 3:30. We had been there since before 1. I finally got to testify around 8:30 that night.

The following weekend we found ourselves again at Reliant Stadium to see Rodeo Houston again and hear Taylor Swift. We had a little time before the rodeo and we found the Ag Mechanics contestant's projects. There were so many project entries to see, we missed the Grand Entry to the rodeo. After the rodeo we came back and finished out look see at the projects. There were a lot of neat ideas turned into projects for front gates and entrances to ranches. But what really got my attention was the vintage green machines, the old John Deere tractors. There was an old JD crawler there. I think it was a 1948 model. But what took my breath away was one like my Grandpa had, a D Model John Deere. First I heard it, then I saw it. It was just going..."pop, pop, pop,pop". A real Poppin' Johnny.

Grandpa's didn't have spoke wheels. So I think his was a few years younger than the '48 model we saw.  Even as I love the Big RED Beast and Mahindras, the old D models like this one gets me warm inside when I see them. Seeing them gives me a chance to remember my Grandparents and the simple life they lived.

In between all these rodeos and testifying, I had time to install the pond's overflow pipe. I cut a 2 foot wide trench with the Big RED Beast from the stake I had at pond elevation and across the driveway. I tried to keep the trench on an even downward slope, but the final installation with dirt and driveway fill over it gives a slight roller coaster like wave. It goes up and down somewhat, but still keeps the downward slope needed to drain. You can just see the black overflow pipe behind and a little under the pier framework in the photo.
Last weekend we loaded the lawn mower and the 6520 on my goose neck trailer. We had to go clean up Dad's house and yards after finally having my brother evicted. I dug a large hole in the front yard on Saturday and another one on Sunday to bury all the trash that we couldn't burn. I was lucky in that Dad's front yard is loamy sand. The 511 backhoe dug the holes in record time. I was burning a lot of different stuff on Saturday and I guess I got out of hand as I threw an old water hose and a love seat on the fire. A little later we had a visit from a 4WD red truck. Yep, a fire truck pumper came out to put the fire out. I was told not to burn couches and stuff like that as it is illegal unless you live on 5 acres or more. I told the fireman I didn't know that and would take the rest of the big burnable stuff to my place to burn. He didn't call the fire marshall, so I didn't get a ticket. After they watered down my fire, I used the Mahinrda's front loader bucket to scoop up the remains and dumped it in the hole I had dug. The house needs a through cleaning, but at least it has curb appeal now. I have a cash offer on the house already, so I pray it will come through and I can sale it.

Stop back in later to see what else I get into. Check out the few photos I uploaded here.
hugs, Brandi

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rodeo and Livestock Show Time

Wow, March is going to be a busy month. We installed the water pipe through the dam. I have had my reservations about poking a hole in the dam. I have heard horror stories of water leaking along side the pipe and busting the dam wide open and washing it away. I finally decided to dig the ditch for the water pipe. It will run under the driveway out into the pasture. There it will fill a water trough. I plan on adding a float type valve when I get a trough in place. I decided to add an elbow and run the pipe down about 2 feet from where it ran through the dam. This will allow me to get water to the trough when the pond is way low. If that happens I can add a solar powered water pump to the float valve and get water to the trough. I dug the ditch down 5 feet from the crown of the dam. This put it two feet below my driveway. I was teaching myself how to dig a level ditch as I went. I used a 12 foot 2x8 board on its side with a 6 foot level on top to check to see if my eyeballs were right. I kept it fairly level with a slight downhill drop in the water pipe. Just what the doctor ordered!

It took way longer than planned to get the pipe in and the dirt tamped good and tight around the pipe for the length of the dam. We used pointed 1x2s to tamp dirt around the pipe. I added a plastic collar with the pipe going through it. I sealed around the pipe with waterproof silicone. Finally I got enough clay back in the ditch and packed with the front tires of my 6520. For the water side slope of the dam, all I could do was to tamp the dirt down with the 1x2, then I used the backhoe bucket curled up to pack the soil more. I lifted the rear of the tractor up a little with the backhoe and wiggled the swing cylinders a little for more packing action. I must have got carried away with the wiggling, as I popped a relief valve. Or at least I thought that, as fluid was leaking from not one but two relief valves on the backhoe. We spent the next two hours bleeding lines on the stabilizers and the backhoe's boom to get them jacked up and strapped up. We had to use a come-along from the ROPS to crank the boom up and lock it. I felt we needed to do this that night so I could finish filling the rest of the ditch running through the dam and driveway. As we were locking the boom up and wiring the locking lever in place, it started drizzling. This is what I was afraid of. Rain coming and the dam half way filled! I got it filled and put the Big RED Beast to bed. As I lay in bed I thought I might try swapping backhoe's lines to the remote. First thing the next morning I tightened all the lines I bleed and swapped lines to my second remote and low and behold the backhoe worked! I quickly unlocked the ratchet straps and cleaned up the mess of hydraulic fluid everywhere. Then back to filling and packing. I hoed away all the dirt I dumped near the water the night before. Christina went to town to get three bags of concrete. I cut some 2x6s 2 foot long and pounded in 3 small stakes. I made a crude terrace and poured three bags of concrete and added water. This was right at the water line. It was suppose to storm all day, but the good Lord keep the rains away. This gave me time two days later to add more layers of clay. Then I added three 2x4s for terraces and filled them with topsoil and packed them good. This would have to work until more grass sprang up. Until then, the terraces would have to stay. I took numerous photos and my first thought upon seeing them on my computer was...what a Mickey Mouse installation!
The day after we covered the water pipe, we headed to Petco in Humble. I had tracked down a white female ferret there by visiting 3 other Petco stores and getting one store to call Humble's store. We lucked out, as they had 5 ferrets. All of them small like my Phoebe and Sneaky. I picked up the white female and held her. She didn't bite. I said I wanted her. I then had second thoughts about buying a new playmate for Buttons. He had been not playing well alone since Phoebe was put to sleep. I then decided my new little female needed her brother to join her. I held my breath and said I would take the silver and white male also. I held him again and he didn't bite any fingers. Good to know, as one of their brothers did bite and bit hard. At first I name the female, Shadow. As in Phoebe's shadow. As it turned out she was my shadow. I named the male, Dusty. As I learned more about my two new fuzzies over the next two days, I realized these names didn't fit them. So I decided to call my female, Baby Girl. I named the male, Bear, as he acted like a little bear. As it turns out, Bear likes to play in the water dish like a bear does when he is trying to catch Salmon. He really splashes the water out of the bowl!

Christina had won two tickets to the Houston Rodeo. Josh Turner was in concert after the rodeo. I told her if we went early, we could see the Sheep Dog Trials at the Livestock Show arena. It was truly a wonder of God to watch the the dogs work the sheep. They only had whistle cues from their owners during the timed trials. The dog had to herd three sheep into a loading chute and then into a little pen where the owner would open and close the gate. What a sight to see the canines circle the sheep in a run, then stop and crouch to see if the sheep responded right. Overall we spent a wet rainy day at the livestock show. I finally found the sticker I wanted for my truck. It shows a cowgirl kneeling beside her horse in front of a cross. Christina talked me into getting my picture taken in a barrel with a rodeo scene in the back ground. You can see it and other photos I unloaded here.

The rodeo tickets we had put us at the end of the arena over the roping events. These were awesome seats with frozen margaritas. What a deal! We go back on the 20th to see Taylor Swift in concert. Rebecca and I saw Taylor open for George Strait in Las Vegas back in 2007. She was just 17 at the time. So I am really looking forward to seeing her in concert again.

Stop back later to hear about me testifying before the Texas legislature and going to the Austin Rodeo.

hugs, Brandi

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spring Fever

Booger has reminded me that spring is around the corner. He has been scratching himself something fierce like he has fleas. I haven't seen any fleas, so I thought he had mites like his Mama. She had mites that had her loosing hair. Booger was not loosing hair, just scratching. So I got him to the vet for a blood test so I could buy his heart worm medicine again. The vet stated Booger was allergic to fleas. I have heard this before with Luke's cat, Milo. With the cost of the blood test, office visit, medicine and shampoo I got for Booger, it ran over $160. Wow, just a little bit wrong costs a bunch now. I am suppose to wash him every 3-4 days, but the weather is not cooperating. So far he is doing awesome on the pills I feed him everyday inside portions of wieners. It has been nice enough to wrestle with him. He loves it and really gets excited when someone takes the time to go one on one with him. You just have to have long sleeves and gloves on.

The pond's water level is somewhere over 5 feet now. The increase of water into the pond has slowed to almost zero. We have added some cinder blocks in the shallow end for habitat for the smaller fish. I used the Mahindra's backhoe to level a small area to stack them two blocks high. We were planning on strapping these together and sinking them in the deep end. But pricing the tool to strap them here at home had me change my mind. Instead, I have located an old cess pool tank to sink in the deep end. I hope to pick this tank up next weekend. It is about 3 foot in diameter and about 4 feet deep. It has two holes about 6 inches in diameter in the sides. It should work as fish habitat. It will not snag lines and lures like the big oak stump would

We got the posts for the deck set in concrete in the dam and the frame of the deck in. I have mixed emotions on the placement of the deck. The shore side of it overhangs the bulkhead we built to keep the dam away from the cedar tree and our pet graves. I am not concerned over the deck keeping more rain away from the tree, but just the look of it so far seems off. I mean the bulkhead is half an octagon and the deck overhang is just a straight 2x6. So it looks a little odd to me.

The Rye grass is growing well and soon it will be time for mowing it all. It will be a fun learning to mow the curves around the dam with my zero turn Hustler lawnmower. I have been thinking about buying some St. Augustine grass sod to line the upper end of the pond's shore. Since this area really is my back yard, I am thinking it might be better than Bermuda grass there. I still have not figured out how to plant Bermuda grass on the dam without discing the dam. I am thinking of trying dragging some cyclone feet about 6 feet behind my lawnmower after spreading Bermuda grass seed. If that doesn't work, then I will have to buy a harrow to drag behind the lawnmower. Too bad I don't have a smaller Mahindra with disc for landscaping use. That would work for the Bermuda grass planting on the dam.

The Big RED Beast is coming up on her Second birthday with me. I can not believe I have had her two years. It seems like only yesterday I picked up the keys from Travis! I have racked up 425.5 hours on her now. I look forward to each time I get on her. I am always trying to think up new uses for her.

Speaking of Travis, I was shocked to find out he is leaving Top Flight Equipment. He is leaving with their service manager, two parts counter guys, and their small engine mechanic. They will be opening a lawnmower and chain saw outlet in Conroe. Their new company will be called Outdoor Equipment Outlet. This is all a shock to me. I have been dealing with Top Flight and Travis for over 12 years. Travis has sold me my Stihl chainsaw, my Hustler Fastrac lawnmower and of course the Big RED Beast. I can't fathom going to Top Flight without talking to Travis. I will miss him.

Christina and I made the Saxet Gun Show at the Lone Star Convention Center in Conroe today. I was looking for Ruger Mini 14s and Remington R10s. Christina was checking out all the pistols and revolvers as she wants to get one of her own. We did stumble across a Taurus Judge Ultra Lite. It is really lite and fires a 45 Colt and 2 & 1/2 inch .410 shells. Definitely a home defense revolver. Yesterday at sundown, I sat up a firing lane behind the pond's clay pile. I wanted Christina to see the difference between my .45 and .380. She fired 6 shots through my Ruger LCP and the magazine release button fell out! These six rounds were the first fired in the gun since Ruger returned it to me for a hammer safety recall. I am really at a loss of words over this. I mean, what if my life depended on me firing 2 shots and the magazine fell out after one shot? I sure hope Ruger fixes this for me!

Rebecca will leave her Maw maw's house tomorrow to come pick up her truck. I had it here to get the right side mirror replaced, as Rebecca had backed into a pole and broken it. A portion of the powered mirror mount had broken with the mirror. My local garage tried to repair it and told me a replacement assembly cost around $500. I told them I had priced a heated, powered, mirror assembly from the local Dodge dealer for $189, $204 with tax. Ya gotta remember the tax! I paid the Dodge dealer for it the next morning and delivered it to the garage. They installed it for $86. Along with a state inspection, the bill came to $125 dollars. That is a lot for a broken mirror and an inspection. When I picked up the truck last week, I told the service manager I had priced pairs of mirrors for around $500 and I bet that is the price that was quoted to him. Oh how I am looking forward to seeing Rebecca again. I will be asleep, but the interruption is worth it.
So anyway, I added more photos of work on the pond. You can check them out here. I hope to hear from y'all about what is going on it your lives. Stop back later to check out what Booger, the Big RED Beast, and I are doing.
hugs, Brandi

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spring Is Around The Corner

What is it about the end of winter that gives you cabin fever? While I dug the pond, the weather was cold. If I hadn't been racing a rain deadline, I would have been in the warm house. But now with warmer days and sunshine, I have been looking forward to longer, hotter days. These lead me to more physical exercise, that my winter inactivity has changed into a weight gain. Face it, I gain weight in the winter and lose it in the summer. I just need to extend my weight loss season longer and shorten my weight gain season. Hopefully this would curtail fluctuating between 2 different clothing sizes! This last summer and winter's concerns over my Mother kept me from working outside as much as I usually do. Thus a weight gain that has my normal winter "fat" cloths very tight. So I am anxious for spring and summer to literally work my butt off! So far this spring we have had several beautiful sunsets. I know more will come with all the time we will spent at the pond.

I have been spending all my weekends visiting Rebecca in the hospital in Austin. Over the last four weeks, she has slowly stabilized to the meds enough to be released from the hospital on the 17th of February. Just one day shy of a month. Now, she will go stay with my ex Mother in law up in East Texas. My ex Mother in law lives on a 70 acre lake. Last Saturday, Christina and I drug my gooseneck trailer over to Austin to bring Rebecca's truck back to get her right side mirror replaced and to get the truck inspected. A brake lite was out also, but this afternoon I tinkered with it and got it working. I wanted to be back home before dark, but we wound up getting home around 9 P.M. This included a stop in Giddings at Walmart for some extra large cinder blocks. These cinder blocks measure 16x8x12 inches. We are stacking them 2 blocks high in a 6 block pattern with 3 block holes end to end making a large enough "fish" tunnel of 24 inches long for even 3-4 pound catfish. There are 8 "tunnels" in all and all we need to do is obtain some plastic shipping straps and a banding tool to strap the blocks together. We will then use my 6520s backhoe to sling the blocks into the water and sit on the bottom of the pond's deep end. The blocks measure just 31 inches tall and the water in the deep end is over 5 feet now, so we will have to be precise in our sitting with the backhoe or get wet making sure the blocks settle right. The water is cold and I really don't want to go in the water at this time, but want to place the blocks in soon. I am planning on securing one end of a twenty foot chain to my backhoe's bucket and run the chain through the top two openings. then I will secure the other end to one of the bucket's digging teeth. This way I can use a chain and then release the chain by uncurling the bucket. The chain will then slip off the tooth and the other end will be secure to get my chain back without getting wet..............I hope.

Rebecca and my ex stopped by this afternoon to pick up Rebecca's cat, Sammy. Sammy had come home with me a month ago when Rebecca went into the hospital. Sammy has since won her way into our hearts and is always pawing at me, while I am on the computer, to pay attention to her and pet her. She is a fluffy calico tabby. Rebecca calls her Sammy Sosoft.

Speaking of lakes, Lake Marie now has a water level of over five feet deep. About three and one half feet of water has seeped in while we were way behind in rain. The Rye grass I planted at the end of January is about three inches high now. But I still had some areas around the lake erode and silt the water to a muddy grey/green.

I have been pricing Channel and Blue catfish fingerlings the last two weeks. I almost bought twenty five Channel catfish fingerlings last week, but my supervisor talked me into stocking Blue catfish to keep the muddy water to a minimum. The Channel cats were from an out of state fish farm that delivers to a local feed store. Securing the Blue cats will include an hour and one half drive, down south of Houston to Danbury, Texas, home of Danbury Fish Farms. This will be on the third Saturday of March.

Booger is just beside him self over the water in the pond. When I was digging it, he would not come down into the hole to get petted by me. Normally he is right at the side of the Mahindra waiting for attention. Now he is starting to venture down into the pond at the shallow end for a drink. He seems anxious over the deep end with it's three foot high dam and steeper slopes.He knocked some dirt into the deep end the other day and almost jumped in when it hit the water with a splash. Guess he thought it was a squirrel or a stick I threw for him to fetch. The Winter Rye grass I seeded is coming up nice now. I am starting to take regular breaths again after worrying if the rains would wash the seeds away.

I have uploaded a few more photos that you can see here. Stop back later to hear how I will make a combination pier and deck on Lake Marie.

hugs, Brandi

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lake Marie

I took time from digging to give the dam a fine grading and try to flatten the top a little. I was wanting it to rain before I did this, but the rains have not come. My days are sliding together as all I do is focus on the pond. I really was not planning on taking off so much time this early in the year, but the weather is prime for a pond. A tree trimming company has been trimming limbs on the high lines. They came down our street while I was off. Every truck I saw and even the trimmer operator was flagged down by me to ask if they would trim the lines on my property. They trimmed a few, but I have more that they didn't bother with. The boomed trimmer on tracks is an awesome machine. The operator's compartment pivots with the boom, so the operator is always looking straight ahead. The boom itself can stretch up to about 70 feet. I have been hauling so much clay, I have been adding spoils to the pile at a level of about 12 feet. I have one big clay ramp leading up to the pile. I keep forgetting to stop and take a photo of my Mahindra on top of the pile. I am sure it would look awesome. With Christina's help, we surveyed the pond elevation and marked it all around the shoreline every 7 feet with orange paint. Then we lined up the the water hose level to level out and stake the position and elevation of the spillway pipe. It will be a 15 inch diameter culvert running under the dam and my driveway. I will use chicken wire over the inlet until I can get a steel grate made. This should keep the fish in if it floods and fills the pond to capacity.
I posted photos of the water hose level on A bunch of online friends stated the water hose level is a low cost way to find elevations of the pond. Erik, from Kansas asked if I wanted to use his laser level. He sent me a private message to ask for my address. He sent it prepaid by UPS. I tried it out this morning, when I got home from work, but the sun was way to bright. So I went to bed and after spreading topsoil around the pond this afternoon, I got the laser out and started playing with it and learning how to utilize it. I found the max waterline level to the gully (130 feet away) is right at 10 feet difference in elevation. So I now know I can drain the whole pond, if I want to buy and bury 130 feet of pipe. I was planning on a 6 inch drain, but with all the cost of pipe, it may have to be 4 inch pipe. The generous loaning of this laser level is one reason I like the tractor community so much. People bend over backwards to be friendly and lend a hand. Genuine friendliness, going beyond words of encouragement to help out in one way or another. It doesn't matter what color your tractor is either. You can tell you have their respect and attention when you post about some project you did and forget to include photos. That is when someone speaks out by posting...."This Thread Is Totally Worthless Without Pictures".
I went back to work after a week and a half of digging and working on my pond. It has been right at a month since I started my pond. In that one month our area is already behind in rainfall over 3 inches. I know the Lord is holding the rain until I get rye grass seed out and maybe until I get all the piping and valve in. But the first night back at work had me worried. I had been talking with Rebecca that morning. I was worried because she kept repeating herself and talking non stop. She was in the early stages of another bi-polar episode. The last one was way back in 2003 when she was in the first week of her freshman year at the University of Texas. Bless her heart, it caught us all unaware. As the reality set in, it devastated all of us. Luckily back then Rebecca was still on my health insurance. But now she is 23 years old and will hopefully be released from the hospital next week. She will be having weekly appointments with her Doctor that she has seen for the last five years. This Doctor's office visits are $140.00 each. So it looks like I will be forced to work some overtime. Which will cut into finishing the pond and getting seat time on my 6520.
So tomorrow, before I travel back to Austin to visit her, I plan on finish spreading the topsoil and packing it down, then spreading rye grass seed. I bought ten pounds of seed, so I should get enough grass growing to keep erosion in control until I can seed with Bermuda grass seed. We are forecast with rain for Sunday, so I pray it comes and helps the seed germinate. Wish me luck. No, say a few prayers for Rebecca. She will have a difficult time until she gets back on her own and not having one of us parents watching over her. It is very stressful for all of us in that respect. Pray for me that I will get tractor therapy when I need it. Stop back later to see how the grass grows here. Also, check out some of the new photos I uploaded here.
hugs, Brandi

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Typical January Weather

Typical January weather for this part of Texas is 35-40 degrees and raining. This combination gives you a bone chilling cold. But this month hasn't had any rain. Yet. The dam is basically finished and I have been digging the pond down to 10 feet. I screwed up and dug straight down about 2 feet from the dam at the drain end. What was I thinking. I did this for about 15 feet around the dam. I am digging the non dam sides down to 5 feet. When I get finished digging to depth, I will go back and finish these sides from ground level. I will slope them down to 5 feet and give the shore line a more curved shape. I really wanted to purchase a neat laser level to site in the water line. But this is a few hundred dollars I do not need to spend. Instead I bought clear tubing and water hose connections. I installed about two feet of clear tubing on each end of my 100 foot water hose. I clamped one end to a wooden stake driven into the ground and filled the hose with water until I saw water at each end. Then I marked the water level on the stake. Then I just walked around the shoreline with the non staked end and sprayed orange paint in the dirt at the elevation of the water. I did this about every 15 feet. I was surprise to see my eyeball guess was within 6 inches of the paint marks. In aviation I work in hundredths of an inch tolerance. I have always heard in house construction that 1/4 inch tolerance is okay. So I guess in pond building 6 inches will be good enough until I start sitting the overflow and drain pipes.

Murphy seems to always visit me about dark thirty when I am trying to get that last minute of work done. I started hearing a ticking sound at idle. I drove over to my workshop and shut the engine off. I took the engine side cowl off and checked it over. It sounded like the alternator going out. I cranked the engine back up and I grabbed a long screwdriver to listen to the engine. I put the handle to my ear and the blade on the alternator and hydraulic pump. The noise wasn't coming from either one. So I shut down again and checked fan belt tension. That was good. So I thought Murphy was going to have to break it so I could find it. I went back to the pond. I had just turned on the backhoe's lights when all electrical quit. Then the battery light came on, followed by the over temperature light. I stowed the backhoe with the stick I made. I found having a 3 foot long stick with a leather loop works great to raise the backhoe when I am using it as a tractor stop. At first I was using a Mahindra yardstick, but it fell off the back of the 6520 and was ran over by a rear tire. Oops! With the slope down into the pond, the tractor would roll with brakes on and the loader bucket down. So I put the backhoe stabilizers down to stop any accidents. I just reach around and push on the stabilizers levers with the stick and instance firm stopping. I limped to the barn with just the two warning lights on. I raised the loader to the rafters and shut the Big RED Beast down. Opening the hood and side cowl, I saw my problem. A pulley was laying in the bottom of the engine frame. But which pulley. I was sure my alternator froze up and took out the fan belt. I could see dollar signs when I saw no pulley on the hydraulic pump. On closer inspection, I saw that the pulley had broken off the pump gearbox hub and the 4 mounting bolts were still attached.

By the time I figured this out it was 6 o'clock. Rats! Top Flight closed at 5. So I buttoned the Big RED Beast's engine up and called it a day. I was at Top Flight bright and early the next morning. I kinda figured they wouldn't have the pulley, but was praying Mahindra's Houston warehouse would. It took us an hour to ascertain that Mahindra did have two pulleys, but what they had and what I had were different. Gosh, if only the mechanic could talk to the guy on the other end of the phone. I had to take my broken pulley into Houston to see if they matched. The reason the parts manual and my part didn't look the same is the new pulley came with the spline gear hub. So I have an extra spline gear now. Mahindra's parts warehouse is in a maze of business warehouses in Northwest Houston. It took me about 45 minutes to get there. I was surprised to be greeted with my parts order ready to go. After talking a while with Mike in parts, I headed home. After buying 30 more gallons of dyed diesel, I was home just after two. By 3:15 my 65 horsepower Mahindra was purring like a kitten. The rest of the afternoon is a blur now. Man, it sure is hard being accustom to sleeping in the day and being up all day while building my pond! I was getting up at 6 or 7 and working past dark. Each day I was getting up and turning on the TV to get the latest weather forecast. The Lord must have favored me building a pond, because it hasn't rained when it was forecast to rain. I am really sweating it out finishing the digging before all that nice dry clay gets wet. As you can see in the photo below, it is really tight inside the pond for the Big RED Beast to dig, make a pile of clay and get back out. +
It took a lot of careful thought and slow turning to  get the clay out safely. Sometimes it was stressful, but I still had a huge grin on my face. I have always wanted my own pond since I was little when Dad raised Mallard Ducks and Ring Neck pheasants. Dad would clip one wing of the ducks with Mom's pinking scissors to keep them from flying off. I still can see the Mallards flying in circles and always returning to our wet weather duck pond. Oh yeah, I am going to honor my Mom and use here middle name for my pond. But I will not call it Marie's Pond, but I will name it Lake Marie. Now I know it is way to small to be called a lake by any means. But after all, I built it! Booger has been keeping his distance while I am digging in the pond. He was reluctant at first to come see me in the pond. But now he makes regular visits into the pond when he wants attention. Otherwise he is laying in the sun just a few feet from the future shoreline.

Check out the newest photos I uploaded here. Please stop back later to see how Lake Marie is coming along.

hugs, Brandi

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Plans for the New Year

Christmas wasn't too noteworthy. Luke and Rebecca exchanged gifts with me two days before Christmas so they could be up at my ex mother-in-law's lake house Christmas Day. Again, I cooked a large meal, meaning to take a couple of plates to Dad, as he didn't want to come over from the nursing home. I called before his supper time and asked them to hold his, as I was on my way with his Christmas dinner. I was really let down when he was eating ham sandwiches when I arrived. It hurt to see that. Come to find out the aide didn't give Dad a dinner tray, but someone else did when they saw Dad didn't have any dinner! So I bought it home and took it back the next morning. His nurse took the plates and put them in the ice box for later in the day. I really don't know if Dad got to eat the meal I cooked for him or not. I made Christina a ferret cage for her new fuzzy, Dancer. I gave it to her for Christmas. I had around 40 hours in its construction. So add in labor and this cage was expensive!

The Monday after Christmas, Rebecca and I put poinsettias on Mom's grave. then we drove by the lake in the cemetery to see the ducks. I got excited about the ducks and wanted my own. There was a mud duck doing it's diving ritual. Rebecca liked that diving duck and told me to get one of them. Right then I decided to start my pond, for ducks and fishing! The very next day I started digging. I have been putting it off for a while now. I couldn't decide where to put it. For years I wanted to put it in the curve of the driveway with a overflow pipe going under the driveway. Then I cleared the land just down stream from the driveway, near my fence line and thought I might be able to put a larger pond there. But it was always wet there and too close to the deeded easements for rain water runoff. If I could tap into one of those wet weather streams, I would always have a full pond. But I would need written permission from the engineer that originally plotted the easements. I figured that would be worse than pulling teeth. I always thought I would need large amounts of dry weather. Well, that would help for sure. But inside the curve of the driveway it is way higher than down near the wet weather streams.

After much deliberation, I decided to dig my first pond in the smaller spot. Call this the trial pond. I can learn a lot digging it and can always build a bigger pond down on the other side of the driveway. I have wanted to have my own pond for years now. Over 20 years ago I contacted Texas A&M University (TAMU) about pond designing and building. TAMU responded by sending want I requested and detailed information on what fish to stock it with. It will be a big learning curve with all the trees near my pond. I started by taking out about half a dozen trees, then digging out the top soil. This took up the first day. I also trimmed a huge limb from the bent oak tree I want to be able to sit on while fishing. I had to cut one of the two upright limbs as the oak was starting to uproot. Not good when you want the tree to stay alive so you can sit on it and fish! I can just see me getting the pond just right and that bent oak uprooting and splashing into the water. Or taking out the power line to my house!
The removal of the topsoil went real fast. I had a pile taller then the Big RED Beast can dump, so I started rolling up into the pile to dump it. Then I got the lawn chair out and stared at the stripped ground. I had no plans or design. I just took all the information I had gleamed over the years and started digging a dam keyway from scratch. The keyway basically locks the dam in place and doesn't let the water shear the dam and push it sideways. Since my dam will only be three foot high and hold back only two feet of water, I dug my keyway down two feet into the clay with my Backhoe's 24 inch wide bucket and filled it with clay removed from the pond basin. I wasn't sure if the key way needed to be straight or if it could bend a little in direction. I needed to dig it in a slight "s" shape as it had to avoid the cedar tree I love so much. Filling the keyway had no real look to it. Basically I dug a trench and filled it with sticky clay. After the keyway filling came packing. I would load my KMW loader bucket with clay and drive over the keyway. This weight on the front tires really packed the clay in tight

After the keyway was packed, the real fun began. Digging the pond basin. I though most of my digging would be with my backhoe, but the digging started with my loader bucket's cutting edge being parallel to the clay and just trying to cut two or three inches of clay and letting the clay roll over and over in the bucket. This is the way big dozer operators do it and it really worked with my 6520 4WD pushing it. My dam took shape fast, but when packed down, seemed to disappear just as fast. After about half a day of piling clay and packing it, I could definitely see a dam.

After 3 days of construction, I decided to install a bulkhead around the cedar tree. I removed my thumb and backhoe bucket and installed my Danuser hydraulic auger motor and 9 inch auger to dig the 4 post holes in the solid clay. Before I did this, I dug my first post hole, that I would use, in the barn for a walk through door frame support post.
I really got excited how the auger and backhoe worked while digging a hole in the barn up against wall boards. I then dug the four post holes for the bulkhead. Christina gave me a hand sitting the posts and building the bulkhead. It really was great to have her there spoting for me when I got the loader bucket too close to the new bucket while back filling it.

After the bulkhead was up to two and a half feet high, we stopped going higher. I am planning on the dam being 3 feet high, so the top of the dam will be 6 inches higher then the bulkhead. That way rain run off will flow off the top and water the tree. I hope! Next on the agenda was to remove one driveway culvert. The dam had made this culvert useless where it was located. This culvert had 12 feet of black corrugated pipe and 4 feet of concrete culvert. I had crushed concrete over it. The crushed concrete, after 14 years of being ran over, was solid like concrete! It took a while to dig through it. Once we had the culvert removed, we moved it up the driveway and installed it in the ditch near the dam, connected to the other driveway culvert. Now I can pile and pack the dam higher. The existing culvert was just a little short when pulling my 20 foot gooseneck around the curve of the driveway. If I didn't pay attention, I could drop a wheel off the end of that culvert and that could be costly if the Mahindra was on board.

As I dug the pond basin deeper, its narrow width shortcoming was really showing up in that the big Mahindra is a little long to be in that narrow basin curvature. So far I have been careful, but one turn of the wheel to far with a loader bucket full of clay in that curved basin and the ground could come up to meet me real fast. So we are off to a good start with a week of little rain and dodging a really big storm yesterday. Now I get to wait all week before continuing digging, piling, and packing. Check out the new photos I uploaded here. Stop back later to see where the pond spillway goes. Oh yeah...Happy New Year!

hugs, Brandi

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Past Holidays

It has been hard getting ready for the holidays. I haven't been my self and have had a difficult time keeping my focus. This is all from stress over grieving for Mom.  During all of this, I have been thinking of memories of Mom and all the fun holidays we had. One holiday that really sticks out in my mind was Christmas of 1969.
It was the first time in the winter, Dad took us to the farm he was raised on, just outside of Higgins, Texas. We went every summer for vacation. But this was the first Christmas to spend with Grandpa Williams. Grandpa lived on the farm alone, as Grandma passed away in 1967. Funny thing about that Christmas - Santa left all his presents in the trunk of our car! My brother and I couldn't see what was in the trunk! Dad had called Grandpa a week or two before and told him the kids (my brother and I) needed a tree, as in Christmas tree. Now Grandpa wasn't up on latest fads or gimmicks. The fad back then was silver aluminum trees with a multi color disk spinning in front of a light. I guess this was the fore runner to a disco ball. Anyway, Grandpa did what farmers do best, he made do with what he had on hand. On hand was a yard full of juniper bushes my Grandma had planted years ago. Grandpa took a limb out of one and some how supported it enough to hang a dozen or so ornaments on it, along with a small string of lights. It looked like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We loved it.

We had been traveling half the day and night, as it was a 625 mile trip. Dad had to be at his work Christmas party at noon on Christmas Eve, so we left right after that. I will always remember the flat top hill in Oklahoma with the large lighted cross. It sure gets you thinking on a cold night seeing that cross way off in the distance. This is were I got the idea of a lighted cross on my barn. Yes, we were in Texas and traveling to the farm in Texas. But Texas is just so huge and shaped with a pan handle, it is faster to cut across Oklahoma! We often traveled at night during the summer to avoid the heat, but that night we had blankets in the backseat of our '66 Mercury Parklane to snuggle with. When we got to Grandpa's farm, we were only allowed a peak at the tree limb Grandpa had lighted up. Then we were rushed off to bed in the north bedroom. That old farm house was so uninsulated, Mom stuffed towels around the window frame to keep the draft off of my brother and I as we slept on a mattress on the floor. We usually slept in the middle of three bedrooms, but Mom didn't want us sneaking peaks of Santa! We were in the same room with Mom and Dad that night. Mom got us to bed and Dad, well....I really don't remember were Dad was when Mom was trying to get us to sleep! I got my first shotgun that year. A Savage .410 single shot. It could be broke down into 3 parts in half a minute. Two days after Christmas it snowed. We were not snowed in, but the roads down in Dallas were ice, so we got to stay two days longer. For the first time, I got to go quail hunting with my very own shotgun! But this hunt was extra special as we hunted in the snow. Uncle Woody had hunting dogs, but for that cold snowy day, the dogs stayed at the farm house. I will never forget hunting the creek bottom, watching for distinctive quail tracks in the snow. I don't remember us shooting anything worth eating that day, but it was the best hunting day I ever had.

One Thanksgiving in the mid to late 1960s comes to mind also. While Mom cooked turkey day dinner, Dad loaded David and I up in his mattress truck and we went to the local grass strip airport and drove out into a hay field. I was astonished to find out we were going to fill the mattress truck up with hay. I was too small to help, but kept swinging out the door of the truck on mattress ticking. The ticking came in 1 and one half inch wide rolls. It was used to sew the edges of mattresses together. Dad used it in the truck to secure mattresses when they got stacked high. I used it as a swinging rope! Guess who got to sweep out the truck when all the hay was unloaded? yes, you guessed right. I did. Here is a photo of that truck with Mom and our 1966 Rambler American.

The truck had right side and rear doors. We liked to swing out from the side door and jump. It wasn't as scary jumping from the side as from the back. The side didn't have a bumper you could hit! By the time we got the hay in our barn's hayloft, it was time to eat.

We always went over to my Aunt Cora Mae's for Christmas Eve. We didn't exchange gifts with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. We basically went there to take Grandma over there. It was always a big thing, as my Aunt had 4 daughters, 3 of which were married and had their kids there. Most were my age and we raised holy havoc till we were throttled down by one of our parents. When two parents came after us, we knew we were in trouble. It never dawned on me that they opened Santa's gifts on Christmas Eve and we opened gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. I was just in awe of all the presents exchanged on the Eve of our Lord's birth.

Mom always had a party on New Year's Eve. She made Ginger Ale and Sherbet in a large punch bowl. It tasted good and always was cold. But I don't remember ice being in the mix. We never had alcohol in our house or during partys. It was the way Mom and Dad were raised. It was the way I was raised. Since it was New Year's Eve, we had lots of fireworks. My cousins and I popped and popped firecrackers till our eyes closed or we ran out of punks. Once, this happened to my brother and I and my uncle gave me his lite cigarette. Phew, what a stinking smell. I gave it back to him and tried to find more punks from a cousin. While us kids popped fireworks, the elders gathered in our garage for ping pong. Since I am left handed, Dad would sometimes have me join him in doubles. That was a lot of fun. But wow, could my uncles slam that ball back to me. I usually ducked when that happened.

Mom always had me help her prepare for the party. We had a hand cranked grinder that had three or four different rotors that could grate up different sizes of fruits. It had suction cups for feet and my brother always tried to stick them on me. He would chase me around the kitchen and dining room. I got to crank while she pushed the fruit in. When I got older, She had me grate up Apples, Carrots, and Pineapple for a Fruit Salad. I don't remember much more on the food side. Some year's we had so many 42 players, Mom and Dad would have three card tables going with dominoes. Finally I was old enough to learn how to play 42 and everyone else was so old, they either stopped coming to the partys, or didn't care to play. So they just sat and talked. Those were the days. No color TV or satellites, no cell phones or Ipods. No computers and really nothing electronic. But we did have a party line on our phone. I guess a lot of youngsters don't know what a party line is. We listened to AM and the new FM radio. We had a Hi-Fi to play records a wooden cabinet. I still have that cabinet. We turned it into a toy box when Luke was little.

Stop back later to see what my plans for the New Year are.
hugs, Brandi

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

I got in contact with my 401k plan administers and they sent me the forms for a hardship withdrawal. While waiting for the paperwork, Rebecca talked me into keeping Mom's wishes of being buried at Brookside where she and Dad bought 4 burial plots back in 1959. I made an appointment to get Mom a pre-paid funeral plan there. On the Wednesday morning that Christina and I were going to Brookside Funeral home, my truck started hesitating when I went to pass a log truck. I made it to Christina's house and parked the truck. We went on to the funeral home in her truck and picked out a nice service for Mom. But they wanted 10% down to start the process. We left and picked up a fuel filter for my truck. My truck started normally after the filter change, but it soon died and would not start again. I called AAA to hire a wrecker to haul me and my truck to the repair garage. I really wanted to get home and to bed, as it was noon and I wanted to get as many hours sleep as possible for work that night. Finally the wrecker arrived. The young wrecker driver couldn't believe I was an Aircraft Mechanic, much less that I had changed the fuel filter by myself. I told the service manager what was happening and they rented me a wore out Jeep Grand Cherokee for $35 a day. While I was putting my misc. commuting essentials in the Jeep from my truck, I got a call from the Chaplain of the nursing home.

He told me my Mother passed on at 1:20. It was November 19th. I went numb. I called Christina and she told me to drive home slowly. I called Rebecca on the way home and told her Mom was gone. She said she was packing to come home then. I was so relieved to hear that. But I had to concentrate on driving the Jeep as it was wondering all over the road and the rear end sounded like it was going to come apart.

I was so numb, I didn't know what to do. Cristina came over and stayed the evening. Rebecca got home around 11 that night. My cell phone and home phone were ringing off their hooks. I had a message from the funeral home stating we had another appointment at 2 the next afternoon. Then we found out why pre paid funeral plans are worth it. Instead of the $10,300 dollar funeral we picked out, I needed to get $11,403 to bury Mom and there would be no burial service until the funeral home was paid. This just one day after a prepaid quote! I inquired about having the service in the Chapel of the Chimes out in the middle of the cemetery and asked to see it.

It is breath taking for me to look at. This Chapel is just gorgeous. It started life as a church in downtown Houston. In 1905, they tore it down and rebuilt it in the cemetery. Meanwhile, I had a call informing me my truck's fuel pump went out and now it had to have a new assembly of both pumps in the fuel tank. That sat me back $1600 that I was not planning on spending. The next morning, Friday, Rebecca and I went to Mom and Dad's bank and got the loan I needed until my 401k disbursed funds in 2-3 weeks. Then we went to my bank to get a credit denial letter for a loan so my 401k plan would disperse. I think back now and have always gotten credit denial letters from my bank, Wells Fargo, yet Mom and Dad's bank gave a $5,000 loan back in June to get Mom into the nursing home and now they granted me another loan, for $11,403. Wow......I told Dad's banker I will change my bank to Chase and bring both my kids after all this is over. I needed some solitude, so I got some tractor therapy that afternoon.

I took about 3 hours burning 3 large brush piles. In between tending the fires with the Big RED Beast, I started digging a large pine stump that was always in my way while digging bank sand out of the gully. Christina came back over and gave me moral support while getting my tractor therapy. That evening my long time friend, Sara Rook, took us all out for dinner. She stayed to midnight when I drove my Mahindra out to "condense" the fires. I needed to deploy the 511's thumb to re stack logs on the fire. My canopy lights do not illuminate out to the sides as far as my backhoe can swing, so Christina came along and spotted logs for me to pick up with a flash light. It was getting cold, so being close to the fires while adding large logs and stumps and limbs felt good. Saturday morning, I got to sleep late, then Rebecca, Christina and I went dress shopping for something worthy for Mom to wear for her services. It blew me away when we were at the resale shop and Rebecca found a beautiful dress and the owner said it was only a dollar. It had a stain down low, but would be fine for this occasion! Finally, a small break!

The rest of the weekend was a blur. Monday found us getting ready to get Dad and go to the funeral home for the viewing and to meet friends and family. After 2 hours, Dad stated he was ready to leave. So I stayed and Rebecca drove Dad back to the nursing home, then returned. Since Mom was the youngest and last to pass on of her family, there was only one aunt (Mom's sister-in-law) alive and she attended with her son, daughter and grand daughter. Before they arrived, my friends Albert and Tim were keeping me, my other friends, and two cousins laughing in stitches about his family's chaotic get together's. The evening passed way too quickly as flowers and plants arrived. Soon it was time to say goodnight.

Tuesday I had planned to get Dad early for Mom's 2 o'clock service. Dad was almost finished dressing with the help of his nurse and an aide when we arrived. Dad kept looking for stuff after he dressed, but would not tell us what it was. We kept trying to get him to go with us. We finally got him to the door, only to have him get sick and throw up. We changed his shirt and tie, but didn't have a change of dress pants. He threw up again just as we were getting to the cemetery. And again while leaving the Chapel and going to the grave site. Poor Dad had to sit through both services with a small blanket from my truck on his lap. He can not hear well and lost his hearing aid in the nursing home, so Rebecca repeated what his pastor said during the service. Bless his heart. I cried all the way through the service. Thank God for Rebecca and Luke. They attended to Dad and his wheelchair, while Christina made sure I didn't do anything stupid from just being numb. The services were a blur and we were headed home. Rebecca rode back with Luke and they took all the plants home, while Christina and I took Dad back to the nursing home.

When we got back home, I was just a zombie. I kept hearing Rebecca and Christina tell me to eat. Dad's church brought over a feast of food and deserts. I didn't know where to start.

The next day, the day before Thanksgiving, I started making candy and Yum Yum Salad. Thursday I cooked while Rebecca went to get Dad. I was watching the local turkey day parade, in Houston, and cried when I heard a marching band play White Christmas! Christina arrived and helped me set the table. My brother and his wife came over. Rebecca and Dad arrived, but Dad would not get out of the truck. Everyone but I was out in the driveway trying to talk Dad into coming in for dinner. I went out and saw that Dad was pale. He said he wasn't feeling good. I told everyone I was taking Dad home and to go ahead and eat. I knew Luke had to go to work at 4 and Christina at 5. Christina drove while I sat in the back seat of my truck. I had lost it again, crying, in the house while grabbing my purse and keys. After we got Dad back to his room and in bed, we left. I called his nurse to ask her to check on Dad again. He said he just did and that he checked his blood sugar count and it hit 210. This was about 90 over what he called normal for Dad. No wonder Dad didn't feel good! Needless to say, I ate Thanksgiving dinner alone right at dusk!

This last weekend, I replaced the brake pads on Rebecca's truck. I used the loader bucket of the 6520 as a large floor jack and raised Rebecca's truck with my loader bucket under the trailer hitch. Then we put up the lighted cross on the barn and added roof outline lighting.

I have added a few more photos. You can view them here. I plan on adding more around the barn frame work and maybe down the ridge. Stop back later to see how I did the lights.

hugs, Brandi

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Monday, November 3rd, I woke up to a phone call from the nursing home's social worker. She explained Mom had not been eating and told me that we had two choices. One was hospice care and the other was a feeding tube. I, being awoke from a deep sleep, said feeding tube and hung up and dozed off. Then another call came from a nurse explaining I needed to sign some papers the feeding tube procedure. I could come in the next morning to sign. Since I took off work being sick Monday evening, I had to get up and drive down to The Woodlands to sign the papers. Before I left, another call came in. The nurse explained they were calling for an ambulance to take Mom to the hospital. I went back to bed. That evening I got up early and called the hospital to find out what room Mom was in. I was told she was still in the emergency room. I was concerned. I got ready for work early and drove to the emergency room to find Mom kind of delirious. She was kind of chanting and hollering. I calmed her down and went to find a nurse. The nurse informed me they were waiting for an ICU room to open up. Mom's kidneys were shutting down. I called Christina and she came to meet me and Mom. The nurse explained it all again when Christina arrived and stated that we needed to start thinking care and comfort. I felt bad enough now not to go to work. I called in work and told them my Mom was dying. I barely could finish saying that sentence because I was crying so hard. They gave me emergency leave. We stayed with Mom awhile until she was given a sedative and went to sleep. The next morning we went back early enough and waited for the doctor. He said Mom went into septic shock and her kidneys were failing, but they saved her in time and her kidneys would be fine and mentioned long term hospital care after a feeding tube was installed.

Two days later while visiting Mom in ICU, the nurse talked to me and explained that dementia patients have several plateaus and all functions drop between each plateau. What we have been seeing the last few weeks was one of those plateaus. She said Mom would not be getting better and that the family needed to think about just comfort and care. I talked to the nursing home and made arrangements for Dad to come visit Mom, if the worst happened quickly. The nursing home van brought Dad over one afternoon while I slept. I was still recovering from that sinus cold and needed all the rest I could get. Christina was there when Dad arrived. Dad said sweet nothings to his bride of over 59 years. He kissed her all over her face and said "Hi Honey Bunny". Christina said Dad stayed an hour. Way longer then I thought he would. The next day Mom's doctor called (woke me up again) and said to think of just comfort and care for Mom and stated she would be going back to the nursing home. Good I thought. That way Dad could see Mom more. I was surprised to find Mom was back in the same room with Dad. Glory be, thank you Lord for letting Mom be with Dad now.

I decided to get organized with the funeral home. Mom and Dad have 4 plots down in Houston at Brookside Cemetery. Dad bought these in Feb. 1959 for $415 for all four plots. They are now selling for $3995 each, in the immediate area of their plots. Months ago I took Mom and Dad by the local funeral home and cemetery. I asked them if they would like to be buried up here instead of down in Houston and both said Yes. So I was going to sale these 4 plots, but the bad economy has hampered this endeavor. Instead I talked the funeral homes into swapping 2 plots for 2 plots. I also tried to get them to take the third and fourth plots in trade for credit on Mom's funeral expenses. They won't do that. So now I need to find an outlet to borrow about $11,000 for funeral and burial costs. Just to have a simple service at the funeral home costs $7100. Then add a casket and a outer burial container (concrete vault) starting at $595 and $895. All this doesn't include opening and closing the grave, which is another $1200-1400 dollars. This is all above the cost of those 4 plots Dad paid $415 for. So they got you good dollar wise, unless you have an extra acre you are wanting to turn into your own private cemetery.

I plan on calling my 401k plan to see if I can take a catastrophic withdrawal to pay for Mom's funeral and maybe start a pre plan for Dad. Dad is doing well and alert. He has been watching Fox news each time we visit. He is eating hearty and keeps requesting ice cream cones.

This last week Booger was caught by the dog catcher running down the street. Seems his girlfriend up the street is in heat again. The law here in Montgomery County states dogs may run loose in yards, but not in streets. I was lucky that the animal control officer didn't fine me. So for now Booger is in "doggie" jail while hooked onto a cable run that goes across the back yard. I guess I need to take him to the Vet to get fixed. Then maybe he will stop his street side wanderings. Friday morning I came home to see Booger running across the yard chasing a squirrel. Seems his collar broke. Christina had bought him a new RED collar to match everything else that is RED around here! So for now Booger is running around with a RED collar.

The only time I got near the Big RED Beast was yesterday morning. I woke up earlier then planned to visit funeral homes, so I decided it would be a good time to take the lawn mower trailer to Top Flight. I had to crank the 6520 up to raise her loader, so I could pull the trailer out of the barn. I really needed to grade the driveway again after the last heavy rain shower. But Sunday I slept in late and really didn't do anything outside. It was down to 50 degrees and I just decided to be lazy and a couch potato before cleaning up to visit Mom and Dad.

So stop back later to see if Booger gets into more mischief.

Oh yeah, Sneaky learned how to climb into my laundry hamper. Check out his new bachelor pad here!

hugs, Brandi

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back in Class

I mentioned in my last post that my Dad's baby brother and his wife came down to visit Mom and Dad. They stayed the night out by my barn in their RV. We got in two visits with Mom and Dad while they were here. Dad was still in the hospital and pretty out of it, but Uncle Carlos and Dad reminisced about the good old days and all their horses. One new name came up of a horse of Dad's I never heard before. The name of the horse was Grip. Nothing else about this horse was said, but I wonder what this horse did to get that name. When Uncle Carlos and Aunt Wanda left, we took photos and Aunt Wanda wanted to have a photo with this tree.

Years ago when I bought this place, Dad named the tree the "Saddle Tree". The name has stuck till this day. I guess it could also be called a swing tree, as a kid's swing would work well here. But then again, a tree house would go well in it also. This is the tree I used to straighten my backhoe's curl cylinder line on last year.

We also visited Mom in the nursing home. She isn't talking much and when she does, you really have to lean over and listen, as she is talking almost in a whisper. Monday morning we got to visit Mom as she was waiting to eat lunch. She was in the dining room in her wheelchair. She had her seat belt on and didn't have enough strength to keep her head up. She was just slumped over with her forehead on the armrest. It is a scene I don't want to see again. I didn't like seeing my Mom like this. Needless to say my eyes were leaking. We left rather quickly so I could get a nap before work that night while Uncle Carlos and Aunt Wanda got back on the road headed for Louisana.

The following Friday I purchased two small trailer fenders at Tractor Supply Co. in Conroe. I also bought two pieces of metal. I carried these items over to my favorite welding shop. He cut and tack welded the metal to the fenders to create a "wheel well". This will give me a larger area to secure the fenders to the trailer's side boards. I used the Big RED Beast's loader as a power floor jack after hitching the trailer to my truck. It is sweet to not have to drag a jack out. I primed and painted the fenders and screwed them on. At first I went with flat black paint, like the frame, but added two coats of gloss black. Now, I just need to take it down to Top Flight so they can sell it for me. I made the trailer to haul my mower over to Mom and Dad's house to mow their lawn. Now that lawn is overgrown and my brother doesn't care.

I received an insurance check from Dad's home owner's insurance company for Hurricane Ike damage. I tried to get Chase bank to endorse it, but they said I needed to pay 4 past due home equity loan payments first. I told them I wanted to do that with the insurance check and that I would do the repairs myself. They closed door after door in my face. Now I see on television that Chase will fore go foreclosures for 90 days. If that is the case, I might have time to get my attorney to proceed with another eviction hearing to evict my brother so I can sell the house and pay off Mom and Dad's bills. I will find out tomorrow. I had to threaten Chase with legal action to get them to review Dad's power of attorney (POA). One lady from Chase told me they were not suppose to talk to me, only my brother. I told this lady to have her legal department review the POA. Later that day, Chase called me back and told me they found the POA. So wish me luck.

The Sunday my aunt and uncle came to visit, I had planned on taking my two ferrets over to Christina's so I could set off flea and roach bombs. I didn't get to do it then and last Sunday, I took off for Dallas and basic sheetmetal training. I have been doing sheetmetal for thir....well, never mind how many years. After all these years doing sheetmetal, I finally got formal training! I saw the instructor I had last April for taxi and run up class, the last day of the class. He laughed when I told him I was up for the sheetmetal class. Then he added, "Your here for a week of vacation!" Which would be basically true. I have been doing all the things they were teaching us for well, a lot of years! But every class I attend I learn important stuff that keeps the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) out of my hair. With all the FAA house cleaning, if we have a wrong number on our paperwork, we can get fined and are open to having our mechanic's license suspended or revoked. When a pilot has a lightning strike on his plane, he puts it in the log book and puts in the Airline Transport Association (ATA) number code. This code number just gives a general idea where on the aircraft it is located. If we sign off our repairs and put in the wrong ATA code, we are liable for FAA punishment. Seems we have all new young inspectors that are out to make a name for themselves and literally if we don't cross our T's and dot our I's, we can get fined. So (recurrent) training is always a good thing. We had class in the mornings and the afternoons in the sheetmetal shop between the hangars.

While doing our shop class projects we had the view above from the sheetmetal shop. The plane in the photo is in for major overhaul and has it's vertical fin removed. It really is a strange sight, as one doesn't see this very often. The weather in Dallas was very crisp and the air was dry. Very low humidity caused my hair to carry a lot of static. I think my Mahindra tractor jacket contributed to the static as part of the jacket's lining is nylon. So I carried a brush and a bottle of hair spray to tame the stray hairs. Since the class was only 8 hours and my usual shift is 10 hours with about 2 and one half hours for travelling to and from, it really did seem like a vacation as the hotel is only 10 minutes away. I brought my PC with me and plugged into the hotel's ether net. Wow, talk about fast computer speeds! I really need to upgrade from my dial up modem.

Like last April, when I spent a week in Dallas for training, I brought a sinus cold home with me. The first few days in Dallas had winds up to 25 miles per hour. So yesterday I was lucky enough to see my doctor on a Saturday morning. Yes, Saturday morning. He gave me the usual prescriptions for pills and cough syrup, along with a steriod shot. He also talked me into getting a flu shot. I have never had a flu shot,but used to get the flu. Since I have been getting sinus colds and nasal infections, the flu has left me alone. So we will see how that goes. With the heavy acorn crop this year, it looks to be a hard winter here. Anyway, I have been couped up in the house for two days with a congested head and a runny nose. I got to feeling better this afternoon and ventured outside. I decided to plug the battery charger into the 6520. That is all I felt like doing. Sigh. It would have been a perfect weekend to burn my three large brush piles. But that will have to wait a few weeks longer. Next weekend we are headed to the Frio River and Leakey Texas to see Sara's daughter get married. It will be a nice trip as Leakey is in the Hill Country west of San Antonio and the weather is suppose to be great for a road trip.

Mom and Dad are hanging in there. I have not been able to see them since last Sunday, but I talked to them today and told them I didn't want to get them sick. So I will see them in a day or two and above all, I told them I love them. Check back in a week or so to see what all happens at the wedding. I uploaded a handful of photos here.

hugs, Brandi