I know it has been awhile, but I'm back. Frankly, our situation gets a little tricky at times and defeating discouragement is a constant battle. It is true that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but it is spiritual and it is internal. Anyway, it doesn't make for the best of blog entries, so I tend to bypass. Now, don't think that if you dont' see a new post that we are down. It's probably just a lack of discipline working as well.
It looks like the oil well is not going to be right in our front yard. That is great news! There will still be one somewhere, but the rep from the company seems very concerned with disrupting our lives as little as possible. Praise God for that. Also, it won't be happening until the fall. There is a geologist running around doing a lot of tests. Yesterday, he had some trouble in the thick stands of tallow trees in the deep woods next to the horse pasture. He offered me daily what it would take me a week of subbing to earn just to drive around with him in the Gator and knock them down. Wow! That's almost a week's worth of subbing. I though about calling in and canceling my sub jobs for the rest of the week, but I knew that wouldn't be right. So, we decided that if Anna could run over trees, then she would. By way of a test, we took him around in the Gator to see if it could handle the job, and sadly it could not. What we finally decide was that he would do what he could on his own and if he still had work to do on Monday that I would escort him around with a chainsaw and help him out. He should be calling me today. That will be good money and good exercise if it works out. I was about to offer him a horse and take him around mounted. A horse can go just about anywhere.
After showing around the geologist. Anna and I got back to what we were attempting to do. That lovely job was to fix the septic tank. I had made a gamble and was waiting until the excess water leached out and then all I would have to do is patch up the hole with some concrete. I lost my gamble, becuase it rained all Sunday and most of Monday. Swell, we had to pump it. Most of our job consisted of sitting on the septic tank in a lawn chair dangling an electric pump into the inspection port. I watched the sunset and Anna read a Thoene novel. How redneck are we?
We finally got it well-drained and we mixed up some concrete, but the dirt hole on the outside of the septic system kept filling with water. I ended up applying mixed concrete around the ingress hole as best as I could, but also just dumped a bunch of concrete into the hole. The water should mix with the concrete and form a decent barrier. If it's not perfect, then I will redo it in the summer when it is dry.
I have to say how faithful God is. We are still struggling with knowing exactly what to do, but He has provided me with plenty of work this week and possibly some good money for next week. Things are going well, but even when they seem to not be, God is still good.
21 January 2011
Today is the day that we will learn what the oil company intends to do. Dad will be meeting with them in a couple of hours, but I will be at work. Yesterday, we looked around to see if we could find where the well had been in the past, but there is no telling. That was at least 25 years ago. We also put out hay. It was interesting watching his technique. You think you have it down to a science and them someone comes and shows you something. For instance, I did not know that you could tip a roll over with the fork on the back of the tractor. I didn’t think it would go high enough. You see, all the rolls must be put out on their ends like a donut. This enables us to pull the hay wrap off. I was always dropping the hay, then coming around and spearing it, lifting it way high into the air and then dropping it off. This is kind of fun, I admit, but all I have to do apparently is to poke it just a little bit, then back up. I also saw Dad drop the hay from the spear in such a way that it will land on its side like a kolache, although this is a tricky maneuver and he met with slightly less success. (excuse the food references it’s breakfast time) This is an important move when you are dropping the hay from the New Hay Field to the Savanna over the fence. You have to go back around and pick the rolls up, and if you can do that without having to tip them, then you have saved time. I’m actually excited about the next time that I put out hay.
This will be four days from now. We have decided to put out hay every four days instead of three. This is back to the ratio of 1 roll per day. Of course, I could go back to 2 every two days, but that may be harder on the roads, I’ll have to do the math later today.
I’m off to work. I need to seek my certification, but I really resist the notion of becoming a professional teacher. That is not why I moved out here, but I will let it rest in God’s hands and be obedient to whatever He wants.
20 January 2011
No job today, so I will do work around the house and some administrative stuff. I also need to put out hay, but haven’t decided whether to take it from the New Hay Field, way out there, or from the closer and easier Hay Storage Place. I will probably try to get as much as I can from the New Hay Field before shutting that operation down.
Dad is coming in today and we will make a trip to the courthouse for legal records regarding the oil well. Other than that, I am not sure what we will do. I know Dad wants to load some hay to take back to Normangee. I have a job tomorrow, so I will not be able to meet with the guy, but Dad will ask all the right questions.
Yesterday, after I got home, I tried to fix a problem with our septic system. Apparently, the hookup guy did not think it necessary to concrete over the hole that takes the intake pipe. There is a rubber diaphragm there, but it still will take on standing rainwater and make the tank level go high. Did I mention that the hook up guy was one Jason Crow? I guess that’s the price of doing it yourself, but when I think of what I might have paid a professional, I’m still glad I did it myself (with help from our ever present Belgian Cowboy). Water is collecting in a ground hole outside the intake port, so I tried pumping that out with my shopvac, but it was taking too long to drain into that hole, so I am going to try to let the leach field take the water for the next couple of days, then I will pump out the rest with a gasoline-powered pump. Tricky business, that. As nasty as the water at the top of the septic tank is the stuff below the water is worse. I would really like to avoid messing with that. I will give it until Saturday and monitor it closely.
19 January 2011
I have pretty much made my peace with the oil well. The worst thing that can happen is that we put up with the increased traffic for a couple of months, they find oil or gas, and then put a pump in. In that case, when we decide to build a house, we will just find a different spot. Or, we can even move the mobile home. That is what it is designed for.
So, there is nothing I can do about it. The oil guy is coming out on Friday and if I am not working, I will meet with him. If I am, then Dad will take care of it. I am sure he will represent our interests well.
Yesterday, we took a trip to Clear Lake and closed our checking account. We also made a brief stop at the house. Everything looks good. I am tired of making that drive, though. Of course, it is more annoying when we are going down to check on a house that we don’t want. It may be easier when we are just visiting friends.
I don’t know much else. The sun is shining again and I will put hay out tomorrow. I may start taking hay from the Hay Storage Place close to the house. Bobcat Woods is getting pretty muddy and we are in the wettest part of the year. That way the roads will last a little longer.
I don’t know much else. I could regale all of you with what chores, errands, and tasks that I plan to do, but I always seem to do something like fix the toilet, so I guess that I will tell you what genius ranching thing I have done after I have done it.
All right, I have a job today, so I am off.
13 January 2011
Oftentimes, while plagued by thoughts regarding money, or calf crop, or resources to make the ranch what I envision it to be, I looked out the front window and enjoyed our view. “At least, we are living here in the country, and I look out my window and see grass and horses,” I would say. The thought comforted me. I learned last night that the oil company who owns the mineral rights on this land will be putting in a drilling rig right in that view. For about three months there will be thousands of vehicles coming and going. There will be no privacy, no peace. There will be noise and headache. If they find oil or gas, then there will be a permanent well, an eyesore serviced by whomever at the company’s will.
Our peaceful life in the country has now been stolen from us. That’s all we had, God. They drilled here 25 years ago and decide to come back within months after swe move here. How is that not God’s will? Why would God will such a thing? I am completely discouraged. Nothing has turned out like I had hoped. Furthermore, I can’t do anything about it. The thought even occurred to me that we should move back to Clear Lake, but what can I do there that will pay the mortgage?
Anna, bless her heart, pulled up some scriptures. The one that strikes home is to “trust in The Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will set your paths straight.” Ugh. My understanding is the first two paragraphs of this blog entry. It makes no sense. Yet, by faith, I acknowledge Him in this way. I do it here publicly for everyone to see. I acknowledge that my hopes, aspirations, and vision are subject to His. For whatever reason, God is the one who has brought the oil company back here at this time. God will make our paths straight. “Straight” means along with His will. My understanding is not good enough here. I have to rely on Him.
So, I will go about my business. I will substitute teach. I will put out hay. I will fix fence. God has put me in a place where I have absolutely no control over my circumstances. There is no illusion of control. Were I an accountant, or an engineer, I would have long fooled myself into thinking that I could save enough money to do what I want; that the bills that I pay are because of my hard work. Not here, not now. I am completely in God’s hands. I can work as hard as I want to and it won’t make the oil company go away, it won’t make the house sell, it won’t make the cows have calves. I will work because that is my part, but it won’t make a difference. God has us right where He wants us. All we can or even should do is obey what He has told us to do today.
Pray for us, when you think of it. Thank you.
12 January 2011
My two and a half week stint subbing at the alternative school in Liberty is over. For awhile I thought it was going to work into a full time job, but the funding didn’t materialize. It makes me debate finding a full time thing, but I’m going to ride out the substitute teaching a little longer and see if it can still work. Of course, the house selling is the main issue. We have had several showings in the last couple of days and one of them is actually a second showing. That’s good news. We hope to hear something soon.
The trick now is to develop and follow a schedule for ranching. I managed to get up early this morning and get cleaned up, read my devotional, etc. and I am waiting for a sub call or to start working here. I am so behind on financial statements and email, that that is what I will probably focus on. As I write this, Sarge has wandered past my window, so I suppose that I will feed when I finish here.
We had a dismounted reenactment in Galveston this weekend. It is an all powerful reminder of why I am in the cavalry. I missed my horse. The battle was pretty fun, if short. Talking with my friends out there was the high point and I stayed up pretty late both nights. Monday, we just relaxed.
Yesterday, we took a trip to Beaumont and got groceries and some items for the house. I also put out hay and the road through Bobcat Woods is getting scary. The tractor really goes up on an angle at a couple of spots. Roots growing across the ruts are the main culprit, so next time I go out there on Friday, I will bring an axe and a shovel and try to level it out.
I created a spreadsheet that keeps track of how many rolls are in each field. My goal has been to quickly transfer as many rolls of hay as possible to the hay storage area close to home. This will make it easier to put hay out and also it will tear up the roads less. We now have almost as much hay in the storage area as we do at the New Hay Field. I just added another formula that predicts that by 17 February, the New Hay Field will be empty. That’s not too bad. Another twelve trips and we’ll have it.
07 January 2011
Today is my last day at my extended sub job at the alternative school in Liberty. There is a chance they may extend, but it doesn’t look promising. It is in God’s hands. It’s hard to say that a lot of the times, but it’s true whether we acknowledge it or not. It’s definitely easier if we do acknowledge the truth of it. So, if I get some stability, then great! If not, then I get to spend more time on the farm. I can’t lose.
I rolled cartridges last night for a dismounted reenactment this weekend. Anna even helped me package them. I look forward to this weekend. I will miss Anna a lot, but it will still be fun.
We burned some trash last night. It was pretty redneck, but we actually enjoyed it very much. It was comfortable in my shirtsleeves outside, so we got some chairs, the camera and our books and sat there and watched the burn barrel. I got up several times to stir the trash to make sure everything got burned down. Anna calls this playing in the fire, but it is clear to me that it needs to be done. I’m sure that there is also a purpose for kicking water up on to the side of the barrel and watching it flash boil, I just haven’t figured out what that purpose is yet.
We put out hay last night and it was basic night ops. We didn’t get started until around 4:30 and then we realized that we needed gas in the Gator. So, we took a quick trip to town, got a snack and some gas and finally left on the tractor around 5:15. We got back to the house around 7:45 after dropping all the vehicles off. Driving in the dark on a tractor is harder than you might think. There are lights, pretty good ones actually, and they work fine when you are not carrying a load, but if you have a roll of hay on the front, then all that light is reflected back into your eyes. The only option is to lift the roll up high, but you have to go way slower so you don’t risk tumping over since the center of gravity is way off. I messed with it awhile, but finally had to get Anna to lead the way on the Gator. I could barely see her above the hay, but she did a good job of leading me through the tallow trees.
We put out two rolls of hay and Anna took pictures of the sunset. It was really gorgeous and the pictures turned out well. After we had put out a couple of rolls we took another two to the Old Hay Field and parked the tractor. Dad is out there today and grabbing 5 rolls for Normangee, so we brought him some so to make it easier on him.
When we parked the tractor we shut down the Gator too. Of course, we could hear the road noise from 770 and 105, but the view of the stars was amazing. It was very clear and you could see a lot of them. Those moments are what makes not having any money seem more worthwhile.
04 January 2011
Okay, the Blog is back from its Christmas vacation. It was a fairly busy couple of weeks and I’m sure that I have forgotten all but the most momentous of occurrences. But, I suppose it will make for more interesting writing if I leave out the unmomentous.
The day after Christmas is when my cousins descend upon Batson. They usually expect some kind of project to do, and I would hate to let them down. The main thing I have been trying to accomplish is to move hay from the New Hay Field to the Hay Storage Place. This is rather tedious, since I can only move three rolls on my truck going through town and that is a lot of gates. With cousins (and their kids) I figure this could be a good deal easier. Not easy, mind you, but easier. The other difficult part of this is that the tractor is just slow. The job worked out like this. Nathan and his son Duncan worked the hay field end of it while my cousin Shannon’s husband Mike rode with me in the truck. This sounds like an easy job, but it is not. In fact, if you ever get roped into doing an agricultural job with someone, try to drive. If you can’t drive, try to get someone else to go with you and then take the middle spot or the back seat. In the course of a couple of days, Mike and Duncan probably opened or closed two dozen gates, easy. You may recall the old Michael Martin Murphy song, “Cowboy Logic”. He spoke the truth in that except it’s not always the real Cowboy that sits in the middle, just the one with the most seniority. Anyway, I won’t bore you with all of the details, but due to the truck and trailer having trouble going through a particular mud patch and the rerouting of 15 rolls of hay to the neighbor instead of to hay storage, the tractor crew didn’t ever get to just hang out in the Hay Field waiting for the truck crew to get back. We were all moving most of the time. I guess the real adventure came when Mike and I got to the Hay Storage place with the first load of three rolls on the trailer and no frontloading tractor to offload them. We anticipated this. The smaller Kubota tractor could easily pull them off and I had picked up a chain. Easy. Until we got to the last roll. That is to say the roll that was on the front of the trailer. The chain wasn’t quite long enough to reach, so we began yet another Army style Leadership Reaction Course. We pushed, we pulled, we rolled, and we finally hooked on to the side of the roll to get it the extra distance we needed and in doing so, Mike got to ride the bucking tractor with one wheel off the ground. That’s always fun. I also tried to invent a new sport that I doubt you will see in the rodeo anytime soon. Hay Bale riding! I was standing on the roll closest to the truck while Mike was pulling on the middle one with the tractor. Instead of just sliding off, the roll started to tip. I quickly thought (probably too quickly) that if I could jump on to that bale as it tipped over, I could grab the chain and not have to pick it up and rehook it from the ground. Well, I rode the bale as it tipped, but quickly gave up grabbing anything, but the bale itself. Fun, but not something I would recommend.
Mike got another nice ride during our other chore. We had to clear some brush and limbs from the tractor path through the woods. Mike got to ride the hay spear to the top of its reach to get to some of the higher branches. The man has a lot of trust.
Not much else of note happened other than people raving about a new cake Anna made for us. Hey, we’re country people and cakes are newsworthy. This thing was amazing. It had pudding and chocolate bars in the mix itself, caramel, cream cheese icing, and cheesecake. I’m not saying it was rich, but when we moved it you could hear change rattling in its pocket.
I decided that putting out two rolls of hay every other day is not quite enough. The main risk is that if the cows run out, then they will start pushing against fences trying to find more. I’d rather them waste a little then leave the pasture, so I am now putting down 4 rolls every third day. I did the math in my head on the long tractor trip and that means that cows and horses are getting 1 1/3 rolls of hay every day. There also needs to be enough hay down so that event the weak ones have a place to eat without getting pushed off.
On New Year’s Day, Anna’s folks came over and we took a ride. They were on the Gator while Anna and I rode. Scout was feeling his oats and gave Anna a little trouble. He didn’t buck or run off, but he kept trying to go back to the house. Anna just doesn’t have the experience or confidence yet to make a horse mind, so we switched out and I gave him a couple of lessons. I’m still proud of her, though. She was going to ride him back part way toward the end, but I still didn’t like the way he was acting. Also, when he was being difficult with her, she kept her head (and her balance). She didn’t yell or raise her voice. In fact, it took me a while to realize that she was more distressed than she looked. Anyway, like they say, it just takes wet saddle blankets.
I tried to level the house yesterday and discovered that several of the middle support beams along the marriage line of the two halves were never put in. I called the seller and hopefully they’ll make it right. I also hope they will just level it while they are here fixing it. Then, I can watch their technique. I don’t want to have to pay for that every 6 months.
I’m getting back in the groove with my fairly steady sub job. I have rigged up an old laptop to take in with me to get some work done. Maybe it won’t be so long before the next blog.