Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

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Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

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Who are you? Who am I? That all depends

Wednesday was a big day.  We are currently framing a 2000 sq foot addition and three stall garage.  I came home physically and mentally exhausted.   Wife is out of town for a couple of days, so about 6:30 in the evening, I decided to run to town to fill up with gas and grab something to drink.  (A quart of chocolate milk.) 😉   I hadn’t  gotten cleaned up, so I looked a little rough around the edges.

I have been buying  gas at this same  store for several years.  I am on a first name basis with several of the ladies I see in the mornings.   Since it was 6:30 in the evening, a couple of guys I’ve only seen once or twice were manning the registers.  As I walked up to the counter I said “How’s it going?” and even though I made eye contact with both of them, neither of them said a thing.

They just stared at me.

I put my check on the counter, asked what I owed them.

I was already just a little put off by their demeanor,  normally wouldn’t have given it another thought, but the guy who “seemed to be” in charge,  had an air of arrogance and condensation about him.    He bent over, put his elbow on the counter, looked at my check, looked at me and said, “Who are you?”  with what I perceived  as a low grade sarcastic  tone in his voice.  (My name is on the check.)

Several thoughts  went through my mind at this point…

What are you talking about???? I’ve been buying gas here for four years.  Your people skills suck.  I am tired and not in the mood for some condescending, dweeb giving me crap after a long day at work.   I’ve  spent more time in this store than you have and frankly, you should be more professional.  Wonder if the manager who hired you knows what kind of jerk you are when she’s not in the store.

None of that came out.

Instead, I snapped “Who are you?”  

(That is so not me.)

It was at this point he face flushed,  step back, shook his head and realized I wasn’t in the mood.

I pulled out my wallet and showed him my ID.

When one of my younger cousins gets a little upset,  his sentences become short.  He bites his words off.

I could feel myself starting to sound like my cuz.

I continued,  You know, the girls in the morning,  are not nearly this testy to deal with.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said.

He mumbled something about me being the second person today who had said something similar.

Hummm….. ya think…

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I know it can be hard and draining to work with the public.

I do it myself on a daily basis.

In all fairness to him, he was only doing his job. (verifying me)

I’m seriously wondering if some of his attitude toward me was because of how I looked.

What I didn’t care for was how he initially attempted to intimidate me, because that is definitely what I was picking up.

A sense of humor can go along ways when dealing with people.

The tough guy stuff,  not so much.

Wife has a little ditty on our kitchen cupboard blackboard currently, that says,

Be careful what you tolerate. 

You are teaching people how to treat you.

He asked me a question, I ask myself on occasion…Just who am I?  Who is this person I occasionally see in the mirror? Am I the same person I was 25 years ago? (and the answer to that would be a resounding no)   The question is a great question.  The rub is in who’s asking, and why?

Have any good interactions with someone lately?  What made it memorable?  Would love to hear your thoughts.  DM

Aspirations

Got a call this morning from a guy named Dave.   Dave sells post and beam construction houses and is looking for a local crew to sub out part of a project.  Before coming to Iowa, he was in the military jumping out of air planes.  After that he worked  for a spell building million dollar log homes in Colorado.  Spent some time living off the grid out west.  Finally settled down and started a family.  Now he’s in Iowa.  His body is shot.  Got my name from the guy I’d gotten honey bees from last year.

I was telling my crew about the conversation at break.

Jason made the comment he’d love to start general contracting  larger projects.

I told him my aspiration, is to learn the art of consistently growing large onions. (I still haven’t figured it out.)

Learn how to consistently grow large onions and get a few laying hens. (again) 😉

Ones that lay large brown eggs.

Nothing like stepping outside in the morning before heading to work, heading over to the chicken house for breakfast.   Eggs that are still warm.  Chop up a large onion,  saute in butter.  Maybe  cook up a little bacon or ham,  Couple of eggs over easy....and coffee….dark roast.

Now that is a thing of beauty. 🙂

.

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Fell into my life calling quite by accident. Been doing it for 40 plus years.  Intended to go to college after a working for a year for my dad.  At the end of that first year, I realized I loved construction. I loved what I was doing, and if I stayed with it long enough, it held out the possibility of making a decent income.  I love working with my hands.  Love using applied math to calculate roof pitches, stairs stringers,  estimates, etc.   I stick framed a  high-end  house roof  back in the 1990’s that had 27 hips and valley’s.  Two story, 12/ 12 pitch.  Yep.  Been there done that.  General contracted enough houses (5) to get that out of my system too.  I can give you several reasons why I would never/ ever general contract a house again. Sub out parts of it, absolutely. General the whole thing.  Nada.

I’m all about stress management.

Love it when the phone doesn’t ring.

 

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Came across the following  30 years ago and it continues to inform my choices:

“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil…for the Lord gives to his beloved sleep (or gives to his beloved in his sleep”)

(A Jewish scripture.  Psalm 127:2)

I’ve written on this topic multiple times. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

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If you were having coffee with me today,  how would you  answer that question on goals and aspirations (currently)?

I’m genuinely interested. DM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family reunion talent show update

Saturday night was the long-awaited talent show at my wife’s family reunion in Grand Island Nebraska.

Read this first  to know the context of what follows.

Three fourth’s the way through the program it was my turn.

While I had the normal pre-performance jitters,  I was actually pretty calm and relaxed until I had the floor.

As I stood in front of the group,  I got choked up.

A wave of emotion  hit me out of nowhere,  and my voice started to break.

 

100% happy/ positive good stuff going on inside..but  wow…

Took me 20 seconds to compose myself.

(Talk about a hook to get people’s attention) 😉

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It all started back in July of 2015 when I watched a little girl, (I’m guessing she was about 4)  sing a solo in front of 90 people, most of whom she didn’t know.

The next morning when I complimented her on her performance, she  asked me a question that has followed me around for 3 years…”Why hadn’t I signed up for the talent show?”

Her question caught be  off guard, and whenever I thought of it, it felt like God (or the universe if you prefer) was gently asking me that question.

Why not? Why hadn’t I put myself out there?…And the bigger question,  not just at a family talent show but in a hundred other situations in life as a whole.

What am I afraid of?

The truth was, is,  I fear of making a fool of myself.  I fear I have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

These kind of thoughts  normally keeps me safely in my seat,  hidden in the middle of the audience.

But in the weeks leading up to this family reunion, that question continued to challenge me.   I realized I did have something (possibly several somethings ) I could share) Maybe my “talent”, didn’t  fit into the standard box at a talent show..(sing, play a musical instrument, or dance) but that’s OK.

I opted to tell a short story.

Yea, I took several of yours advice and told a story.  Condensed something that normally takes me 30 minutes to tell into 3 minutes, so it was a little abbreviated, but that’s OK.

I pushed past my insecurities and fears and did it.

To use a biblical word picture,  I heard a voice calling me to step out of the boat, and  walk on water.…

What

a

rush.

Picture of Mary and I afterwards.

 

 

 

Moving off the farm

Picture of dad milking by hand/ early 1970’s

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Tomorrow is a BIG day.

We are moving my parents off the family farm.

I was nine years old when we moved to the farm.  Had never been around farm life before that, except for a few early memories of my grandparents farm (I was 4 when they moved to town.)

Growing up on a  120 acre working family farm shaped me in ways I will probably never fully appreciate.  Dad bought 20 Holstein milk cows when I turned 12.  Expressed purpose was to give us some spending money. (And keep us out of mischief.)  Milking is a two times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year activity.  Up close and personal with the whole cycle of life.   Learned about delivering babies, afterbirth, still birth, cesarean births,  the art of milking a first time heifer whose utters are on fire with mastitis.  Learned how to deflect the back hoof of an animal ten times my body weight, that wanted to kick the crap out of me, because she didn’t  like what I was doing to her.

Manure.  Could write a book on the topic.  Sometimes you just have to block out the fact, you are getting splattered with e-coli.

Doing chores… Climbing into a dimly lit haymow in the dead of winter, afraid one of the banshees from Darby O’Gill would appear at any second.

Winter mornings so stink’n cold my fingers felt like they were on fire.

I learned it was not a good idea to engage the power-take-off on the manure spreader with a 20 mile wind to my back.

I remember side raking hay,  singing along to the radio, in the middle of August listening to Band on the run.

Last month, I worked alongside a young man vacuuming hallways.  He  lasted three days. Told my son that his wrist was bothering him.  Said he had pulled an all nighter playing video games, and wondered if he could knock off an hour early. I felt sorry for him.  He doesn’t know any different.

Baling hay in the summer is still one of my favorite memories.  My job of choice was  in the hay-mow.  Our barn could hold 300 tons of hay if we packed it to the top.   (10,000 bales X 60# = 60,000# divided by 2000# = 300 tons) Over the course of a season, I would have handled every one of those bales at least once.    In mid July, in Iowa, the temperature gets into the upper 90’s, so it had to be 100/ 110 degrees in the mow.   We never gave it a second thought.   It was just a part of getting the crops in.  Working in those conditions shaped my attitude about the weather.

When our kids were still home, out of financial need, we started a small commercial cleaning business on the side. The older ones went with us in the evening and weekends as we emptied trash cans, scrubbed toilets, vacuumed and mopped the floors.  I wished we could do more to incorporate the chores of my youth, but we were living in town and a dairy cow was not an option….

Final story.  Look at that picture of my dad milking again.  See that fuzzy cat on the left getting  milk straight from the cow?    Come to find out, she (Fuzzy)  was a prize winning show cat. Had blue ribbons to prove it.   She used to hang around the lumberyard where my dad worked.  He thought she was a stray, so he took pity on her and brought her home. Year later, lady who lived close to the lumberyard happened to be visiting our farm, noticed the cat and mentioned she used to have a cat like that.  We never let on.

If you were a cat, would you rather spend your days  eating dry cat food or having a front row seat by the family cow?

You can take the boy (or girl) off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy (or girl)… thinking too about my fellow farm kid, MJ as I wrote this post.

You get extra credit if you can tell me the breed of the milk cow in that photo.

Later! DM

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Update 12 hours later…just got home.  Lots of great help. Went without a hitch.  Here are a couple of action photos:

Dad loading up the family picture 

The moving crew

 

Bikers

I got to get this out…

Yesterday afternoon, I ran to town to meet  someone who was going to buy four pieces of cast iron cookware we had listed. When I got to the end of our gravel road,  a dozen crotch rockets flew past, like  a swarm of angry bees.  Another half a dozen  bikers passed me once I got on the road.  They had to be going 80 to 100 MPH, (or more)

My first thought was, I hope those guys know there is a 70 MPH corner coming up two miles ahead.   

One of the bikes had a girl riding passenger.

A dozen other thoughts flashed through my mind.

 

My dad talks about the human brain not  maturing until  the age of 25.  Watching 18 bikes weaving in and out of heavy 2 lane traffic going 20 (to 50?) miles above the speed limit might be an example of that.

As I approached the corner a minute later,  I could see something was amiss.  A car in the North bound lane had pulled over and was flashing their lights in my direction.  (translation = SLOW DOWN)

Several bikes had pulled over, people walking on the shoulder.

Debris in the ditch.

Traffic was moving fast and thick, did not seem wise for me to stop, so I continued on to my appointment.

30 minutes later  on my return trip, there were still 2 ambulances, and multiple law enforcement vehicles on the scene.

There was nothing on our 10 PM local news channel  last night about the accident or again this morning,  so I think someone got very, very lucky.

DM

 

 

Speak Life

Quick story from this morning….

Number one son and I were in Muscatine the last couple of days doing repairs on a turn of the century house.  Place had been converted into a group home and was in need of some TLC.   First thing that struck me when we got to the job was the  neighborhood.  Lots of large older homes, that in their day would have been something to see.  Second thing that struck me was the couple next door. The two of them, ( I’m guessing, mid 70’s) were hard at it.  She had a dew-rag on her head, and he had one of those floppy safari hats.   Their house sat back further from the street than the rest of the houses on the block and it  (the house) looked like it could be on the cover of a magazine.  A part of me wanted to tell them how nice their place looked, but I didn’t want to come across as some nut-case, so I kept my thoughts to myself.

This morning on the way back to Muscatine, the guy on the radio was talking about the power of our words.  Our words have the power to  build up, and tear down, and to look for opportunities to encourage.

So, that little thought was rolling around in my head  as I was finishing up.  I spotted the neighbor lady bringing a garbage can out to the street, so I thought, what the heck. I told her good morning.   Then I told her  how much I had admired the way they kept their place up.  She in turn complimented me on how nice the newly painted front and back porch looked on the house we were working on.  We  talked for 30 seconds, but that’s all it took.

That little ditty they taught you when you were a kid about “sticks and stones can break your bones, but word can never harm you.”

That’s a bunch of BS.  (BS stands for Bad Stuff in German.)

I have a  friend who will occasionally say to me “Speak life.” 

I like it.

I think it’s a spin off from the phrase “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

Do I do this perfectly?  Nada.

Especially at home.

Well, I better call it a day. Later! DM