Wednesday, April 30, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well

Last night's rounds of storms were predicted to be worse than the previous night's.

Considering this is what happened on the other side of the county, I was preparing to spend the entire night in my storm shelter, or as my friend, Gina, dubbed it:  the Tomb of Doom.
The back flooding issue has, hopefully, been rectified. 
I have a 4" ventilation stack on the bunker, but I wondered if it was sufficient for a long 12 hr stretch.  Online research uncovered a 1960's era experiment on the matter.  Remember, this is the time of the Cuban missile crisis when atomic bunkers were popping up everywhere, a time before guidelines were adopted for the use of animals in experiments, a time where an Air Force serviceman was just a guinea pig. 
It appears that without an intake and exhaust stack, I don't have enough air circulation in my shelter for an overnight sojourn.  Apparently.... it wouldn't be a good idea to fall asleep in there...
Knowledge is good.
Having an invitation to overnight next door in a big sturdy brick house is better.
The little piggy who lives in the straw house gathered up her posse and spent a very uneventful night at a house where they serve homemade strawberry ice cream.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Storm Shelter Drill

One reason I love trail running is that it allows me uninterrupted time to live in my head... to come up with more projects and tasks to further complicate my life.

Example:  Monday morning.  Dire storm predictions were looming for the next 56 hours.  I was eager to test my new storm shelter.  The horses, who eschew the safety of the open bay in the barn when the noise of pounding rain on the metal roof gets too loud, would be safe thanks to Dr. P's mustangs.  Yes, I have wandered off in search of them during bad lightning storms to find that the savvy mustangs take the herd out of the open, away from single tall trees, to low level copses of trees. 

The donkeys sometimes have different ideas.

 But, the oxen... those morons have zero sense.
The thought of emerging from my bunker to find 6000 lbs of barbecue under a tree was troubling me.  My endorphin saturated brain came up with a plan on the last lap around the farm.
I shall take them to Auburn University Vet School to board for a few days.
God, I'm brilliant.

And insane-- they go hand in hand. 
Mack needs to swallow magnetic boluses to safeguard his rumen from punctures from any metal he may accidentally ingest and Tommy's allergies are acting up (yes, really). 
Only one client suffered a rescheduling.  Her daughter is an equine veterinarian, so Mrs. Collins is a sympathetic soul. 
I even left my truck and trailer parked at the vet school and ran back home.  After a good run in the morning, a killer workout with Ike, a long day at work, I was out of steam for the 4 mile run home.  I made the mistake of running in my trail shoes, I felt every pounding step on the pavement. 
With the smell of paint still strong inside the storm shelter, I planned to hop in just before the heavy rains rolled in.  I could sleep until 1 AM, according to the radar.  According to the pounding pain in my left foot, I could not sleep at all. 
2 AM, Cole, Jinx and I were settled in our bunker.

I positioned my laptop on the cooler and we watched a documentary for an hour, the thunder and heavy rain were muffled, it was very serene.  Until I discovered an indoor waterfall started filling up the bunker.  The heavy rain was causing pooling outside the trap door.
It got worse, but we stayed inside because it was even worse outside.  By the time the rain subsided, the water was right up to the top of my sleeping platform.
I finally got to sleep a couple hours at 6 AM. 
How to fix this wee little problem before the second round of bad weather arrives at 2 PM today?  If only my brain weren't so tired!
A friend told me yesterday that I shouldn't worry so much, that I should have faith in God.  Here is my rebuttal.  I thank Providence for: putting a sturdy vet school facility 4 miles from here, for my bunker and for the power of creativity. 
Best illustrated by this story...
The Mississippi River begins to flood.  Residents evacuate.  One man decides to stay, "God will protect me", he says to the neighbor who offers him a ride on his 4 wheeler.  The flood waters rise, the man is now stranded on the second floor when rescuers arrive in a boat.  "God will protect me", he says again.  He's on his roof when the National Guard helicopter tries to save him.  He declines the help.  Once drowned, he arrived at the Pearly Gates and bemoans to St. Peter that God failed him.  Peter tells him:  "he sent you a 4 wheeler, a boat and a helicopter, what more did you want?". 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Houston, we have a problem

The weather forecast for Monday night through Wednesday is grim:  flooding rain and threats of tornadoes.  There's a lot of waterfront property in Loachapoka these days.

In the nick of time, I have finished my storm shelter.  All I can say is that I hope to never truly need it.

A month of fixing, painting, digging, more digging and on Saturday, she was planted.

Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pill and put your helmet on. 

Commencing countdown, engines on.

Two of the three space cadets tested out their new bunker.  Cozy.  The shelter is chained down to concrete piers, buried with more rebar and concrete along the sides... we shouldn't get sucked up into a vortex. 
The third cadet is recovering nicely from surgery.  He's been released from his crate and can wander freely around the house, reclaiming his couch and his spot in bed.
In lieu of enjoying a relaxing Sunday playing in the gardens,
I devised a way to frustrate myself for 5 hours.  When the railroad ties were recently replaced, many fell down the steep embankment and were not collected.  (Now, I know why.) I envisioned my driveway delineated by sunken railroad ties.  More digging, just up my alley.
Angus was enlisted to help snake the ties.
Fail. They were too snarled in the woods for him to pull out.  Besides, we were getting much, too much help from the other horses who were being total pests.
Next brilliant idea:  get the truck stuck.  10 minutes to realize those railroad ties would not come willingly.  30 minutes to lay a road of limbs for the truck to free itself.
Project abandoned.
Comic relief provided by Morel who jumped into the cab while I was busy hooking up to my trailer.  How did she know that I needed my frown to be turned upside down? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mr. Bean Rides Again

Introductions are in order.

Dearest friends, this is Pink Swan, my first peony to bloom at the Parker Plantation.  I've left a trail of peonies across Lee County over the past 20 years. 

Now for my Mr. Bean reference.
I know my manner of living worries my loved ones.  True, if I had a TV to occupy my time, I'd have far less opportunities to injure myself.  But, I don't plan to croak from a massive cholesterol induced coronary on the couch.  If you hear that the oxen have trampled me to smithereens, then you can know that I died doing something I love and somebody had better get their butt down here to take care of Cole and company!
Be thankful I'm not as driven as the people I admire and wish to emulate.  Then you'd have something to worry about.

Dean Karnazes, running phenom, best-selling author, has run marathons in every continent, yes that includes Antarctica.  He'd give any parent a full head of gray hair.

#421 is Nikki Kimball, a woman my age who wins most ultra marathons she runs.  The picture is from this month's Marathon des Sables in the Sahara.  The toughest foot race on Earth: 156 miles in 100'F temperatures, divided into 6 stages, runners pack all their own supplies (food, sleeping bag, ect), the organizers only provide water and tents. Nikki won the race, of course.  In the picture, she was encouraging her main competitor to pass the slow pokes. 
She lives in Montana and runs with her pointers... remind you of anyone?
She took a bad fall during a run with her dog, leaving her with a deep gash in her leg... similarities are astounding, aren't they?  She ran the Marathon des Sables with this injury, more worried that if the organizers knew of it they'd disqualify her. 
When Cole and I do our Northwest trip this Winter, I will make it a point to join one of her Nordic skiing adventures.  I'm hoping some of that craziness rubs off on me!
Have skis, will travel.
Recent injuries have made me realize that I need to treat this ageing body with more compassion.  I have officially dropped out of my Brazilian jiu jitsu class (with much chagrin), but I'm thinking of joining the kick boxing group -- see, I'm progressing!
I'm not 'that' old yet, but a lifetime of manual labor and years of doing my own stunts have put some serious miles on my odometer.
As a kid, whenever we'd fall out of trees, wreck our bikes trying to fly off loading docks, try to take an inflatable dingy down waterfalls, do spectacular Super Grover moves off a horse's back, fall off the back of speeding snowmobiles, thought it was a good idea to try out the competition ski jump at night with regular skis... I can go on but I would be in breach of the confidentiality agreement my cousins.  We weren't concerned about maiming ourselves, it was keeping mum and never telling our parents.
But, here's the good news.  After a week of lazing around, waiting for that crunching feeling to leave my neck, I went for a wee 5 mile run yesterday.  No pain. I'm baaaaack!  Mr. Bean rides again, baby!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Joyeuses Paques!

That's how we say Happy Easter in Quebec!

Jinx isn't amused by my French Canadian traditions.  Never mind Easter Egg Hunts, we prefer rabbit hunting.  Alas, Cole is still crate-bound, doctor's orders.

In these parts, the Easter Bunny delivers a delicious home cooked meal right to your door.  No hopping about through the pasture, she's efficient, she arrives in a golf cart.

Wrapping up yet another fabulous weekend.  Third weekend in row off work!  The Big Boss (me) mandated that her best employee (me) get four weekends off in a row to get some projects finished. 
My doctor had mandated even more time off work for me due to my neck sprain and back twist from my fall last Tuesday.  How am I supposed to pay for those X-rays if I'm not at work?  His recommendations:  pain killers, muscle relaxers, absolutely no jiu jitsu, no running, no heavy lifting.  Take away all my fun!  My solution:  no meds, I drink milk to soothe myself, lots of it lately.  I sleep like a baby, in spite of getting up a couple times at night.  OK, the radiographs convinced me, we'll quit Brazilian jiu jitsu, my neck is too damaged for chokeholds. No running until I can trot down the drive without feeling like the jarring will make my head pop off.  Heavy lifting replaced by light lifting.

See, I'm using a small bucket to bilge out the tiger trap.  I'm also standing atop an inverted feed bucket.  The spring I hit fills the hole within a few hours.  Today, I had to bilge out 4 feet of water, over and over again to dig footers to cement in the chains that will be used to keep the storm shelter from floating up to the surface.  It's become a much bigger project than planned.  But, if you're going to go all the way, you way as well go overboard.

Sunday coffee time spent playing with my mock-up of the shelter.  Paper clip legs and rubber band for a chain. Oh fine, I was procrastinating.

I reached 2000% of my daily requirement for iron.

I used the grinder to blast the inside of the tank to prep for painting.  The mask stopped some of the rust dust, but not all.
JD Weld was puttied over the welder's welds, in case he missed a spot.  Then I put two heavy coats of primer on the inside surfaces.  Hopefully, she'll be sea worthy by next weekend.  The suspense is killing me:  will she be my safety capsule or the S.S. Minnow?

Most of my projects require fine tuning in the R & D Department (Research and Development, not Retarded and Demented, thank you very much).

My success with the chicken sweater was short lived. 

After one week of haute couture, Poppy seemed to quit laying.  She waddled like a Sumo wrestler towards me for treats one morning.  I picked her up and two eggs fell out from her T-shirt.  The tailor needs to fine tune her suits.  Upon cutting her out of the shirt, a full back of feathers sprung out.  7 days to regrowth.  1 day for the bullies to pluck her bald again.

This ain't over! 

Officially, I'm not speaking the bully hens anymore.  Unofficially, they still get my homemade peach butter.  It's chicken cocaine.  I made a heck of a lot, the taste is acceptable, but the brownish color nauseates me. 

I'm also waging war against the chipmunks in the yard.  I have disassembled the insulation under the hood of my truck 3 times, I spent 2 hours vacuuming out all the leaves, twigs and acorns stuffed into the hood's recesses. 

My latest stroke of brilliance was to stuff the hood's crevices with moth balls.  You bet it works: a month free of vagrant rodents.  Unfortunately, one must drive with the windows down because a hot engine releases noxious fumes from the moth balls.  What's the half-life on those anyway?

Since I can't gush about any great running adventures, I'll regale you with my sighting of two new birds to my yard.

Whaddya mean, you don't know what it is?  That is as close and zoomed in as I could get still my beating heart:

a scarlet tanager (courtesy of Google).  Blindingly gorgeous.
Who else showed up Sunday morning?  I won't annoy you with an even worse cellphone picture. 

A red-headed woodpecker (Google again).  We have downy and red-bellied woodpeckers here at the farm, but this one's new to me. 
Now if I could just see an albatross--that would make my century!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rain, rain, go away...

It doesn't appear that 'moderate' is a term to be applied to Alabama weather anymore.  Gentle rains have been replaced with torrents... like 6" in one weekend.
A client's country driveway was underwater.

Where's there's a paycheck, there's a way!

Running through muddy fields for weeks on end is an exercise in character building.  Instead of starting at 1 in the morning, I've taken to pre-dawn runs in order to welcome the new day.  Rewarding to see the raccoons scurrying as the birds and squirrels wake up.  Just as much fun to scare the wits out of the newspaper delivery man in the dark.  We've met like this a couple time before, but he still throws his car in reverse until he's sure that I'm not the Grim Reaper.

All the rain has made everything grow.

Perhaps the vegetable garden could stand less nuclear cow manure.  The mustard stalks are freaking me out.

I swear Tommy and Mack are still growing too. 

I need scaffolding to reach his topline with the fly spray.

All week, I'd pestered every welder in the phone book, none interested in repairing my future storm shelter.  Friday afternoon, this angel flittered down onto the farm and patched all the holes in my tank. 

Mr. James Moore rocks.  You can't see the dear man because he's inside the tank.

Shelter project was green lighted again. 

True to promise, Geovani showed up on Saturday to help me dig.

We dug side by side until we figured out is was more efficient to take turns in the hole.
6 hours later we were 4' deep and +6' long in spite of an unusually high water table.
Geovani said he'd try to return next weekend as long as I had more fun projects to do.  Uh, yeah.
Instead of using my truck (which would be far too easy and dull), we can employ the services of Angus to snake lumber out of the woods to build edging for my driveway.  Fun times ahead.
Getting back to the storm shelter project...
Coated every exterior surface of it with coal tar epoxy.  Industrial goop-- was hard to buy.  Safety Data sheet was a mile long.
What was the warning about contact with skin again?
Stand back.  Genius at work:  combining a sunburn with tar epoxy and gasoline.
Mommy's Little Helper had to rub herself on the fresh paint.  As punishment, she was given her first clipper job and hoof trim.
Ever have one of those weekends were everything is so perfect?
This was a winner, right down to the hoof trimming on Sunday morning.
 My new rasps had arrived.  What a difference a sharp tool makes!  Like grating cheddar versus parmesan. 
Still riding high on the weekend, I took Tommy's sudden onset of explosive diarrhea in strides on Tuesday morning (no panic, really).  This is why I love my camo PJ's, the splattered poop blended right in.  Dr. Edmundson is a very patient and understanding woman.  Tommy was prescribed hay.  100 acres of lush grass is too much for that glutton's wee little tummy.  Fibrous hay should slow down his express lane digestive tract.
Mack was taking chances standing so close to the projectile factory.
 By late Tuesday afternoon, he was still dehydrated, but on the mend. 
I then switched gears and spent two hours covering everything that might be damaged by the record late below freezing night ahead.
Every tarp, every feed bag,
every bucket, towels, blanket, sheet,
even the bath mat was utilized to safeguard all the tender hostas, roses, blooming irises and budding peonies. 
Winter, be gone!
Gracie here was carrying all the tarps out of the old house when she got tangles up and fell backwards down the stairs.  My ankle is still annoyed with me, but my brain bucket survived the impact on the 4x4 at the bottom of the stairs.  I tucked my neck in as I fell, just as I had been taught in my jiu jitsu class. Ha, ha, I shall live to fight another day, "Cato, where are you?".
Tonight's harvest.
Doesn't get any better than this...