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