Me and Scout

Me and Scout

28 March 2011

28 March 2011, 1317, Monday, Liberty Middle School Library

I know that you all have been curious to hear about the success of the burn box and have been wanting to see pictures.  Alas, I have been a bit under the weather, which has hampered me a bit.  Okay, enough with the lame excuses.
Since I am not telling you about how our mobile home burned down, or the pasture burned up, it is safe to say that the burn box was a success.  In fact, it was quite successful.  The piece of tin that is propped up for an opening also functioned as a flu, feeding a steady supply of oxygen into the fire.  This fire got hot.  Because the wood and brush that we fed into it was necessarily small, it burned very quickly.  The bottom line is that we had a well-contained, fast-burning burn pile that answers safety and legal concerns.  We had to have someone man that fire consistently, which turned out to be Anna.  She was amused by this considering the fact that she was the one who almost burned the ranch down back in October.  As a further safety precaution, we periodically wet down the outside borders of the box.  Of course, it was also fun to just spray the tin with water and watch it steam.  Good Stuff!!

We also managed to take a couple of loads of tin and old farm implements off.  This is really satisfying because it raises some cash and also cleans the place up.  We made a lot of progress during the visit.  My hat's off to a great crew.  Not to mention that we also had some great visits and enjoyed playing games (and eating queso).
Everything rocked along as usual until Tuesday.  I did not get a job that day, so I decided to ride Sarge.  I had ridden him on Friday morning and he did really well.  He gave a couple of hops once or twice, but for the most part did exactly what I asked of him and also showed me that he can turn quick.  He's got a good lope and a smooth trot.  Tuesday was different.  I don't know if it was that the wind was blowing hard or his back was maybe sore, or if he just plain didn't want to me to ride, but I couldn't get on him.  Whenever I put weight on the saddle as if to get up he balked.  I put my foot in the stirrup once and stepped up and he jumped away and got away from me, bolting at a dead run.  Anna was working over by the horse barn, so I hollered out to her that I was okay.  It can be a little upsetting to see the horse your husband is supposed to be riding gallop by with no rider and a crazed look in his eye.
Not to be deterred, I figured that I would at least keep messing with him on the ground to help him calm him down.  I caught him, led him around a bit, and started over.  Finally, I stepped up high in the stirrup, thinking that if it goes well, I'll just swing in to the saddle.  This kind of noncommittal attitude is not the way to ride a horse.  Once on, I can ride him if he starts to buck.  It's that moment before getting seated that's touch and go.  I was already pretty tense and he probably keyed in on that as well.  Sure enough, he shied...hard.  I slipped out of the stirrup and landed hard on my right foot, twisting my knee pretty badly.  I heard and felt a little 'pop'.  I hobbled clear a couple of steps and sank to the ground as Sarge took off toward the barn again.  "I'm okay!" I yelled to Anna, calling myself a liar at the same time.  I put some weight on my leg and it held, so I hobbled over to Anna and she saw that 'okay' may not be the exact right word.
After that, I was done with riding for the day.  I managed to catch him easily enough and get him unsaddled, iced my knee over lunch and then we did our other work.  Progressively, my knee has greatly improved.  It is still stiff and sore, but I can move around without a perceptible limp.  I am very grateful for God's protection and preservation throughout the whole incident.  I intend to do a little research on some tricks I can use to help him.  I shy away from the 'horse whispering' kind of stuff, but I'm willing to try in this case.  My commanding sergeant in my reenacting unit has some ideas that I will try.  If that doesn't work, we'll just do it the old fashioned way and snub him up to another horse.
Not much else happening.  We have spent some time mowing.  Anna has been doing the short and tedious work on the Kubota while I hit the bigger fields with the John Deere.  We are still needing the house to sell pretty badly, so if you think about keep that in your prayers.  However, we are continuing to learn the difference between taking appropriate action and worrying.  It is so easy to not take any action and say, "I'm casting cares on God", but that is not right.  It's much easier still to scramble around taking a bunch of action and worrying about things out of our control when God really is taking care of things for us.  A very fine line indeed.  We struggle with it, but the lesson is worth it.  Anna supposed that by the time we do sell the house, we will be so at peace that it will be anticlimactic.
Speaking of Anna, I was giving her a hard time the other day for the way she talks to the horses.  Growing up, I learned the traditional approach to speaking to a horse, which is to use low, reassuring tones.  However, Anna grew up around dogs and cats.  People speak to dogs and cats differently.  I've never heard her actually say "cootchie, cootchie, coo", but she doesn't talk like John Wayne either.  It tickles me to hear her call Sarge after taking laps around the barn without me as if she would call a dog.  "Here, Sarge!"  I pointed this out to her.  The result is even more amusing.  "Heeere, Saarge," she says slowly and in a false and deep bass.  It's as if she recorded her voice and played it back at half speed.

18 March 2011

18 March 2011, 0719, Friday, Home Patch

I can’t believe Spring Break is almost over.  Wednesday, we went out to Clear Lake to mow, plant some plants and fix some little things.  We were actually pretty successful.  I have a request out for kids to mow on a weekly basis.  It will be cheaper in the long run than going down there every week.  We got home pretty late, though.
Yesterday, I got up and rode Sarge again.  He did pretty good and I worked him into a lope.  He still fidgets a bit when I first get on, but he’s getting better.  It is also a bit of a production getting him saddled.  He shied away from me at one point and I didn’t have him tied.  I had to follow him around a bit to get close enough to grab the reins, but he never ran away from me.  This is only going to work out if I ride him a lot more frequently than I do.  I will probably start feeding in the afternoon and riding after work.
Mike and Shannon and their kids came in Wednesday night even later than us.  We finally got started on our project around lunch time and then Nathan and Denise and their crew came in.  (These are all cousins from Austin area, for those of you who don’t recognize the names).  We had six kids from ages infant to 14.  We put them to work and they did good, but our crew kept getting smaller.  In the army, we have learned that you can’t get a lot done on a travel day, which was what this was for a lot of people.  Furthermore, those of us that didn’t travel got in pretty late the night before.
Our project is to clean up the area around the horse barn.  There are stacks of old tin and usable tin; old wood and salvageable wood; brush, metal, and a huge cattle guard with trees growing through it.  There is also a giant tree that has been down since hurricane Rita.  It is astonishing how fast progress can be made when you have a lot of people.  It is also astonishing what happens when you get a bunch of smart engineers on a problem.
The burn ban is still in effect and I expect it will be indefinitely.  The rule is that you can burn stuff as long as the fire is covered so sparks don’t fly out.  Nathan and Mike had the idea and constructed a burn box.  They put some t-posts in, wired some tin to it, and laid some tin on top with one tin up at an angle facing the wind.  This should meet the law’s requirements and we should be able to burn brush in it.  We are testing it out today.  Of course, a picture will be posted of it in use.  My only stipulation on its construction was that it be not too close to the house, but close enough to be reached by the water hose.  That could prove important.
The puppies are still a delight.  I will miss them when they are gone, but they must be gone.  Put the word out!  They are still in the cute phase.  I am positive that they were indoor dogs at one time because they are almost completely house broken.  Whenever we take them outside, the first thing they do is go to the bathroom.  In a week, they have only gone to the bathroom in the house about four times and that is only because we have been forced to leave them inside for extended periods.  So, take the puppies.  It is becoming part of our greeting to people.  “Hello, I’m Jason, this is my wife, Anna.  Are you interested in a house in Clear Lake or some puppies?”  We are thinking about throwing them into the yard and making the whole thing a package deal.  You want the puppies, you have to buy the house.  You want the house, the puppies will be in the yard after you close.
Dad is coming in today and bringing the flat bed.  We will be hauling off some heavy old farm equipment, but I will probably keep the cousins on the same job they were doing yesterday.  I’ll let you know.

16 March 2011

16 March 2011, 0828, Wednesday, Home Patch

We have upwards of 13 calves now.  It is tricky trying to find, count, and match them to their cows when you are busy trying to catch and kill your dog.  I keep hoping that they will eventually learn to come when they are called, but so far it has not happened.  Belle and I are in a general spat right now.  I am losing patience with her.  A lot of this revolves around the puppies.

Sunday night, we were coming back from a calf cruise and we saw five puppies about 6 weeks old in the old field.  That’s not close to anything, really.  I still am not sure how they got way back there.  We had left Belle and Dixie locked up in the trailer, but Tye was with us and he managed to run three of them off, but we managed to catch two of them.  We drove up and down 105 a bit and asked a couple of neighbors if they knew anything and then we posted a note down at the gas station.  We haven’t heard anything yet.  So, we now have two extra puppies that we are trying to find a decent home for.  There is no way we can take them now.  Belle is not taking it well.  She will not accept their presence and is starting to get fresh with me as well.  She is locked in the room right now, because she is ignoring me.  I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do with her.  She needs additional training, but with everything else going on, that isn’t very practical.  She’ll probably get better when we find a new home for the pups, but that’s not the point.
It’s the third day of spring break and I have not accomplished near what I was hoping to.  I guess that’s no surprise.  We have spent more time on the puppies than what was planned, but there is also some recuperation from subbing.  I didn’t know how exhausted I was.  Yesterday, I did manage to ride Sarge.  He needs more attention as well, but he is a good horse.  He gave me a little bit of trouble when I rode past the barn and didn’t stop, but he never offered to buck.  I will probably start feeding in the afternoon and riding when I get home from work.
I did promise the story of rat tractor and antler tire.  The tractor just refused to start one day.  I realized that I had left the lights on, so I tried jumping it.  No joy.  I drug it over to the house to hook up an all night battery charger to let it charge all night, although I didn’t have much hope.  The voltmeter said that the battery was pushing 13 volts, but Dad figured it was worth a shot.  So, I pull the tractor right up to the house, or at least Anna did, with me steering.  I untied, jumped in the truck and drove off to get the charger from Grandmother.  Thump, thump, down the camp road.  It sounded like a flat.  I hopped out and took a look.  Sticking out of my back right tire was a deer antler.  I knew this antler well.  I had been carrying it along with me for years.  I had offered it to Smokey as a chew toy, and had designs on the shank for a knife handle.  In the move, it had come out of a box so I tossed it in the yard.  Now, it is easy to look back on this and say, “Of course he ran over it,” but in the real world, you think you are going to remember it.  In any event, I got the truck back, put a charge on the tractor, and waited for the morning.
The next day, the tractor still didn’t start.  Anna had pointed out that Dixie seemed to be pretty obsessed with the tractor itself and that it was possible that a rat had gotten in there.  Seemed reasonable.  When we finally checked under the hood, there sure enough was a big rat’s nest.  Dad called the mechanic and he managed to get the thing fixed with minimal cost.
The tire was not a real problem either.  They used the warranty to cover it, so all it cost me was the warranty on the new tire.  They were pretty excited about the whole thing down at the tire shop in Beaumont.  I decided that it might be some fun if I left the antler in the tire.  I know they would be talking about me, but I figured they would appreciate it.  The guy who actually did the work said he was keeping it.  To each his own.
Today, we are off to the house in Clear Lake to mow.  We are really in a quandary and need your prayers for direction.  Someone in the neighborhood with a similar house eventually sold it for about $20,000 less than what they were asking, and $17,000 less than what we are asking.  Should we hold out somehow, or take the brutal hit and dramatically lower the price?  There is no way to know.  We can’t see the future, but God can.  The tough part is hearing clearly what God is saying.  That’s where we need prayer.
Well, I had better go.  Please nag me about the blog, pray for our situation, and give these puppies a good home.

09 March 2011

09 March 2011, 0633, Wednesday, Home Patch
Here is a good summary of what is going on in a spiritual sense.  Anna wrote this and I am very proud of her.  I will post some run of the mill stories when I have an opportunity, but this is important and may even be useful to some of you some day.

Romans 14:17 (Amplified Bible)
17[After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Rigteouness, peace and joy are like stair steps.  Righteousness is the top step, then peace and joy is the bottom.  If you don't have joy, hop up a step and check your peace.  Do you have it?  If not, then that's probably why you don't have joy.  If you don't have peace, you aren't going to have joy-step up.  Check your righteousness.  What about it aren't you believing?  Have you gotten into works, things you're trying to help God with?   Of course, this only applies if you righteousness to start out with, by choosing Jesus to be your righteousness for you. 

Recently, I've been very frustrated that our house hasn't sold yet.  You can imagine all that would go along with that-paying the mortgage for a house you aren't living in, having to go back to mow, do more painting, make repairs, lowering the price of your house, and for me, having to go back to work.  I couldn't and still don't understand why God just doesn't sell the house.  He can do anything, regardless of the housing market.  He's God!  He created Jupiter!  So, this is a wildernes time for us. 

I've been reading Exodus, Numbers and am now on Deuteronomy.   Good text for us to relate to right now.  The Israelites were taken out of Egypt, taken across the Red Sea on dry ground, complained, given the 10 commandments at the same time Aaron made a gold calf,  given manna, complained, given meat, complained, their clothes didn't wear out, their feet didn't swell.  God said they were a stiff-necked people.  It's amazing how much grace and mercy he still showed on them.  Many died because of the complaining.  In Deut.1:35 he called the complainers "an evil generation."  Now that's something to really consider-God is clear on how He feels about complaining!  Deut. 1:27 says that these forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.  In that context, why did they complain?  Altough, being in a wilderness situation ourselves, it's easier to understand.  It's hard to be thankful when it seems like the One who put you in the place where you are experiencing problems is God, what do you do?  Your emotions are raw, you are confused, hurt, and things are uncertain. Trust can be a four letter word.   The scriptures you normally can meditate on and tell yourself over and over don't seem to be working.  God is where your help comes from.  But if it doesn't seem help is coming-then what?  You know the scriptures and God are right, but connecting them to your situation doesn't always compute.  That's confusing.  I got overwhelmed by something financial the other night and Jason got me some tissue because I was crying.  At one point, I couldn't find the tissue and I started panicking.   At that moment, it felt like the tissue was the only thing I had control of and I couldn't even find that!  Needless to say, I felt silly about it afterwards.  It's weird sometimes how you freak out-it's not always predictable.

At this point in our journey, it seems like we are on the other side of the mountain, but not yet to the edge of Canaan.  Or maybe, we're still on the last loop of the mountain,  as far as the house getting sold is concerned.  Did you know that it took 38 years for the Israelites to travel from Kadesh Barnea to the Valley of Zered.  Look at your bible maps, that wasn't very far apart.  I was trying to imagine what their trip was like.  How long they spent at each location.  Since the whole trip could have taken less than two weeks, it was an interesting thought.  Imagine, after the tabernacle was constructed, what the process was-tearing down, putting back up.  Certain people carried certain things, did certain things for the tablernacle.  The tribes were broken up into groups of threes.  Each group had to wait for their turn when it was time to make camp.  There were over 600,000 of them-not counting women, girls, boys 19 and under and the Levites!  How long did it take for group 4 to wait to make camp, and what if they only traveled a few hundred yards?!  It would be tedious to bring the tabernacle knowing you hadn't gone very far.  Talk about waiting and frustration!  They were very faithful, when God said go, they went, when He said stay, they stayed.  Cloud by day, fire by night.  Except for when they got freaked out about the inhabitants of Canaan and we all know what happened there.  

I think we're dealing with the frustration and waiting better. Deuteronomy 8:16 says that God wanted to humble and test the Israelites, to do good to them in the end.  We've definitely been humbled and tested, and we know that God is doing whatever He's doing and it's for our good, even thought we can't imagine how that will turn out to be.  We still don't like that the house haven't sold yet.  It really is rediculous how perfect a house has to be for the buyers today.  A few years past, even when Jason bought our house, a buyer would have to do their own painting and repairs if they didn't like something.  Thanks to the house fix-it-to-sell shows, buyers have no imagintion, as Jason calls it, and they can ask for a lot because they know the market is bad.  I saw a movie where the wife was a realtor and she said the house was originally over a million dollars but it had been reduced by $700,000.  The buyers just kind of looked at her and said they would wait because they think it would come down some more!!!

Something I noticed in the chapter 8 was that God said that they would destroy their enemies little by litle.  (Duet 7:22)  I guess this gave them time to gain confidence after each victory and also relect on Who was giving them their victories.  Also, it gave them time to rest in between.  God is big on rest!  We haven't been constantly discouraged-it comes in waves and seems to be coming less often now.  Or maybe, we're reacting to it less strongly.

I like Deut 9:6 where it says:  "Therefore understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people."  And " have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you."  (D 9:24)  He's still giving these rebellious, complaining, stiff-necked people the land!!!  Wow, talk about grace.  It's not because of their works, but because of God and His purposes. Ephesians 2:8 (Amplified Bible)  8"For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved ([a]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;".

We're still waiting.  God is giving Jason work, which we're thankful for and I have a job still in Houston, although I wonder if that's considered going back to Egpyt.  Maybe that part doesn't apply to me.  Doors have been closed in Beaumont, except maybe one that I need to check on today.  Everything here at the ranch is going pretty good.  We haven't had the chance or money to do a lot of clearing, repairs or additions.  We are watching to cows start to have babies, which is neat.  Everything is getting green again which is great.   I have vegetable seeds growing like weeds.  I don't have a garden yet to put them in so I'll be figuring that out.   Things are mostly fruitful except for one area-the house.  If I could be a fly on God's desk to see what is taking place and why the timing needed to work out this way.

To see more about what's happening here or to catch up, Jason has a blog.  He makes putting hay out sounds interesting.  This last time, there was a black widow on one of the rolls that I was taking the strings off of (to keep the roll together).  I poked my knife right through it!  Ha ha-take that!

Pray for us, our house to sell and for the land to continue being fruitful and for safe birth of the calves.  Thank you!

05 March 2011

04 March 2011, 0801, Friday, Liberty Middle School Library

I’ve been pretty busy.  I’ve had a sub job almost every day for the last three weeks and it looks like it will keep up for awhile.  It has been rough sometimes since most of my jobs are at the 6-8th level, but I found that actually telling them stories from Iraq or the movies helps keep them under control.  I’ve been here so consistently, that I am actually getting to know them.  That helps a lot.
But since this is not a blog about substitute teaching, (that blog would be called “Sub” does not mean subhuman) I will talk about the ranch.

The biggest news is that we are finally having calves.  My intent was to upload a bunch of pictures, but it’s been so hectic that I haven’t gotten them all sorted out.  We have about 6 now.  The first one fell on the day of or right after the day that they were supposed to based on the cow management program.  I’m impressed by that.  Others have been coming pretty regularly.  Yesterday, on the way home, Anna told me that there was a cow on the camp road.  Actually, she said “road”.  I had a mini-heart attack and then she told me that she meant the camp road.  When I got home, I changed clothes and we got in the gator to look for her.  Never found her, but I caught Rebel and led him back to the barn to saddle up.  It felt good to ride as I hadn’t done it in awhile.  I caught up with Anna in the Savanna and she gave me another mini-heart attack by saying that she saw a cow with stuff hanging out of her.  I thought it may be a prolapsed uterus, but it was just her amniotic sack.  She was about to give birth.  It is possible that I worry too much.  Anyway, we came up to her and me being on the horse and having the dogs with us made for a mess.  There was another new calf and cow there and the dogs, who had been good up until now started barking at the calf.  I knew how to handle this.  If I could catch one of them in the act, they would not single out a calf ever again.  (Maybe I’ll tell the story of the spinning dog on another occasion.)  I began the chase with this objective in mind.  It did not go well.  With three dogs, I couldn’t catch one of them.  We ended up chasing the poor cow and calf halfway across the Savanna.  I actually got them off once by riding past and calling them.  That was at first.  Then I made the mistake of turning around and passing them again.  That was when the rodeo really began.  People talk about herding cats, but herding dogs is almost as tough.  The old cow finally stopped when her calf tripped and fell to the ground.  I dismounted, hoping to still catch a dog.  I threw Anna the reins and I managed to catch Dixie, who was by the way, the least to blame.  I shoved her head to the ground and began to scold her.  I looked up just in time to see the cow take a run at me.  I guess she had had enough and she figured that since she couldn’t catch a dog, she might have better luck with this fool on foot.  I scrambled up into the gator and had to grab Rebel to lead him out of the way.  Anna was on her own, I guess.  In any event, the cow calmed down and the dogs were beat even if it wasn’t by me.
We tied them up in the back of the gator and went off to check on the cow that was about to calve.  She was grazing happily and seemed actually a ways off from birth.  We’ll have to check on her soon.  As infuriating as the whole episode was, I have to take my hat off to my horse.  I was reining him all over the place.  Left, right, spin your back around.  Not once, did I even think about what to do.  It was like I had four legs.  He never got excited and barely broke a sweat.  He’s a good ol’ horse.
Coming soon will be some more pictures of calves, the story of the antler tire, and rat tractor.  I appreciate those who have nagged me about the blog’s absence.  Please keep it up.  It is you who are keeping me writing.  Thanks!