Friday, October 26, 2012

25 October, 2012 - Garden Tilling, Tree Cutting, Ramp Building

My stepfather is improving with the physical therapy and while we've been hanging around we've found some things to do to occupy our time.

This is my mother on the ladder cleaning leaves out of the downspout in the rain gutter.  Scott is on his way up the ladder to help.

Scott noticed that the wood burning stove in the camper was empty so he decide to fill it up.  He did too!  I didn't get a photo of it when he was finished but he didn't stop until you couldn't shove any more wood into it. 

My stepfather started working up the garden (tilling under the stuff left over after the harvest) before he had his stroke.  I finished it off last Sunday.  He has a Craftsmen rear tine tiller so I got to try it out.  It's a smaller one and was barely adequate for the job.  The primary problem was that the ground was hard so when it was running the tines in reverse it didn't have enough power and when you switched the tines to forward rotation I couldn't hold it back. 

I finally got the job finished but it was a workout for me and the tiller.  I had to stop once and reset the governor spring.  I was sincerely missing my Troy-Built Horse model.

After a meeting at the hospital with the doctors and nursing staff we decided to build a ramp to make it easier for my stepfather to get in and out of the house after he came home. I extended the flat landing area to make it easier to open the front door while using a walker.  I also raised the level up to just under the door.

They had some left-over lumber on hand so I drew up some plans, made a bill of materials and headed for the lumber yard.  Approximately $250.00 later I returned with a loaded truck and went to work. 

Scott helped whenever he had a chance so the job only took twice as long as it should have due to endless searches for my hammer or the square or nails/screws or a pencil or ...

But we finally got it finished and Scott tested it out.

There were some dead trees that needed to be taken down so I started on the easy one first.  I had a rally nasty surprise waiting inside the hollow trunk!  A squirrel carried a rock inside the hollow portion and I hit it with the chain.  I saw sparks flying but by then it was too late.  It nearly ruined a brand new chain. 

They didn't have a saw large enough to cut through the big tree.  I have one with a  24 inch bar but it's in Montana so we bought a Poulan Pro with a 20 inch bar.  It's not my Stihl but it was enough to get the job done.  I tried to get a skip chain for it but they didn't have them here.  I guess I'll stock up on chains when I get back to MT.

I took off one lower limb first.  I was going to take off the other fork as well but the wind was blowing very hard so I just cut down the tree with the bigger limb attached.

I wanted a good, deep notch because the tree had a lot of weight on that side.  (A good recipe for a barber chair.)

It's down, no cars crushed, no smashed signs, no power lines down, and no one hurt.  I call that successful!  Now it's time for clean-up. 

Susan helped with stacking the wood and clean-up.  We piled the wood near the street with "free" sign on it.  A couple of days later it was gone ... hopefully to heat someone's home.

My mother stomping down the small limbs to make room for more in the bed of the truck.  (Have I mentioned that she's in her 70's?)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012 - Vacations, Family, Funerals and Assumptions

This isn't exactly what I anticipated writing on my blog. We've been on vacation since September 23 and expected to be back home by now (October 18). Taking our camper (a converted U-Haul truck), we drove from our home in the northwest corner of Montana to Boulder, Colorado where we met the folks at Paladin Press and picked up some more of my books. From there we went to Kansas to spend a week with my family. After a great visit we headed south to Texas to meet up with some friends there.

While in Texas I received an email from my son to call my mother in Kansas. My youngest sister had died. My sister had heart surgery to replace a valve they'd put in many years ago but the second surgery had gone well and many months had passed without problems. News of her death was a complete surprise and the last thing I expected when I called my mother. We drove the five-hundred miles back to my mother's that day, arriving just before midnight. The funeral was held four days later and we all bid a final farewell to our youngest sibling.

Two hours later, back at my mother's home, my stepfather passed out. An ambulance was called and he was rushed to the hospital. He'd had a stroke. He's been in the hospital since that time as they ran tests then began treatment and physical therapy. He's recovering well but it's going to be awhile before he gets back to normal.

In one short week my mother has had to deal with her daughter's death and her husband's near death from a stroke.

Now everyone has gone home except my wife and I and our two-year-old grandson, Scott. I have one other sister that lives nearby and is in contact quite often.

It is times like these that give us pause to consider the lives we lead and the assumptions we make. We are thankful that we had our earlier visit so that we got to see my sister just prior to her passing. We had no idea that this would be our last opportunity to spend time with her. We assumed that we'd see her again. We were wrong.

Our stepfather's stroke was another unwelcome surprise. Again, there had been no warning signs or signals. One day he was getting along quite well for a man who was on the wrong side of 80. The next day he was laid up in a hospital and couldn't walk, could barely talk, and couldn't write his name. Our assumptions regarding his future and his assumptions regarding his future were both wrong.

This would be the place where a deep thinking person would insert some profound statement putting this all in perspective. However, since it's only me, there are no profound statements … just a few thoughts: Cultivate patience. You may never get a chance to apologize for harsh words or thoughts. Do not put off opportunities to do things for others. The chance to brighten their lives may never come again. Spend your time wisely. Hug your children, your spouse, your parents and your siblings. Finally, life is short and very uncertain so be thankful for every breath you take.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Welcome to Texas?

Got up this morning and was thoroughly enjoying my morning walk/play with my grandson when we met a very grouchy, temperamental, sour tempered resident about twenty feet from the camper.  He's about 3 1/2 to four feet long.

  • These were taken before I ushered him out of the picnic area using a long stick.  Don't know if they're always so grouchy or if he just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.