Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pain Medication

I had my spinal surgery on July 10th.  At first, they sent me home with tramidol but that didn't cut it.  A revisit to the doc's a week later and they upped my meds to something more powerful.

Pain is nothing to fool with, but stop taking them ASAP.  I was taking only half doses of Oxycodone, oxycontin, meloxicam, and carisprodol and stopped completely a couple of days ago.  I feel sicker than a dog right now and have for the past few days.  Pam  thinks its withdrawal from the pain meds.

So the blog would be all about boring Italian Spaghetti Westerns, which I won't bore you with.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gravel Scoop

I was scanning Craig's List the other day and I found something I didn't know existed.  A gravel scoop.

Bessie has been an awesome tractor, especially considering it is only two years younger than me.  I've been using the manure bucket as a bulldozer blade of sorts to scrape gravel out of a stream bed for fill in the driveway.  One of the problems, of course, is that the gravel is wet and so very heavy.  This results in hydraulic fluid leaks.

A gravel scoop attaches to the aft end of the tractor to the three point hitch.  It can be pulled or pushed.

It has a spring loaded release lever so it can be dumped.

Since I'm still recovering from spinal surgery, I haven't attempted to mount it on Bessie yet.  But here is a video of how it works - 

It should make life a lot easier, especially digging dry gravel out of a gravely spot on our property.  It might also come in handy for digging drainage ditches, burying pipes,  and so on.   Another toy!

Starry Starry Night...

Tonight was crystal clear here in Bleecker.

Yep.  That's it for tonight.   Just the one photo.  But ain't it a nice one?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Health Update

I'm not one to prattle on and on about my aches and pains, mainly because I'm prone to whacking my head on stuff all the time and it would get tiresome for you all.  But I haven't updated the blog for a few days and I thought some of you might be wondering what's going on, which is not much.

I got whacked upside the head with a tree last August, a fight that I came out on the losing end.  I fractured C6 and C7 vertebrae, requiring a couple of days  in the hospital and the wearing of a neck brace for  a couple of months.  When my doctor back then recommended a nerve conductivity test, I asked if it could wait until after the 1st of the year because that's when I'd finally be covered by insurance.  His response was to get up and walk out of the room.

Well, everything was going along well until a couple of months ago when I lost 90% of the use of my right arm.  I had a slew of tests done and my new neurologist recommended an operation to clean things up in my neck and to fuse a couple of vertebrae together.  I had that done two weeks ago, but it was more than a couple of vertebrae, it was C2 through C7.  It was worse than he thought.

I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, having lived with lower back issues for most of my adult life, but this one is different.  The pain is getting worse over time, not better.  So yesterday Pam drove me to see the neurologist's PA.   She checked  out the incision and xrays.  She was amazed at all the work I had done, and at the low level of pain medication prescribed and upped them all, saying that I've been under-dosed.

Not a pretty sight, eh?

I was up until 4 AM last night, waiting for something to kick in so I could sleep.  I finally fell asleep, but back up at 7 AM to check Al Gore's internets and to re-dose.  I don't think these pills are doing much better than the old ones.

So, bottom line, I'm not doing much to blog about.  I can't drive, and Pam has extrapolated that to include Bessie the Tractor, even though the doctor did not include tractors in the written instructions.  I can't  lift more than five pounds, which covers the majority of our primary Bleecker crop.  Rocks.

So that's been Bleecker Mountain Life lately.  Eating (which is difficult because I can't swallow), sleeping (next to impossible), and correcting people's misguided political views on Facebook (which is surprisingly difficult).  But, on the bright side, this is now my breakfast.

I remember watching "the Jetsons" as a kid and thinking how cool it would be to simply take a pill for a meal.  Its finally come true

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Going Solar

When building a conventional home, the almost universal practice is to attach to the grid.  You get a pretty reliable source of electricity, albeit at a moderate price for the privilege.

Building in the mountains of upstate New York, the choice isn't always so apparent.  Downed power lines are fairly common after storms in the mountains, and seeing as how Bleecker has a population of about 550 people, we're about the last to get power restored.

We didn't buy an existing home.  We're building from scratch.  Combining my knowledge of 12 volt boat electric systems with my desire to be independent, our choice is fairly obvious.  Go solar, go off grid, and be independent.

I'm a fairly technical guy and somewhat mechanically savvy, but that doesn't translate into being an expert in solar electricity generation.  So like most things I do, I ease into it.  I read all I can, and then experiement.  First, I bought a 15 watt solar battery charger from to charge our RV's house batteries.  It didn't seem up to the task, and so I bought a second one which seemed to do better.  And then I received a flyer from Harbor Freight.  Where I paid $110 for each 15 watt solar panel from Amazon, I could buy 45 watts worth for $150 from Harbor Freight, complete with a flimsy PVC frame and solar regulator.  I went for it.

It wasn't easy to assemble, what with me having had spinal surgery and all, but I got it together.

The kit from Harbor Freight came with everything to stack three 15 watt panels together, which made things easier than figuring it all out on my own.

The instructions came with precise measurements to allow for one's latitude and angle to aim the panels towards the sun.  I figured just pointing things in the general direction would work just about as well...

and it  did.  Late in the afternoon, the panels were cranking 15 volts into the battery I snagged out of the dump truck.

The kit even came with a couple of 12 volt fluorescent lights, which I hung from nearby trees. This might be handy for barbecuing at night.

Pam worked on organizing our storage trailer today and in so doing found an LED anchor light from our friend Michael H of  BIBI Electronics in Fiji.  The amount of light that this produces is amazing.

Right now, I'm in the learning stages of solar power production.  The panels we have purchased so far are amorphous silicon and intended to maintain a charge on a starting battery.  This will be fine for lights in the outhouse, but not for powering a small home where deep cycle batteries will be necessary.  Amorphous works well in varied light conditions such as cloudy days though.  For full time residence in Bleecker, I may opt for a combination of amorphous and crystalline cells, which work best on clear days.   Time and testing will tell.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our New Toys

There is nothing that I like better than the radiant heat of a wood stove.  So, I have become a sort of collector of wood burning stoves. When an old friend, a musician who played at our Friday Night Open Mic Nights at our coffee house announced that he had an old stove free for the taking, I was there.

Now, just to be clear, I am a fan of old stuff in general.  I love antiques.  I often wonder about the stories they could tell.  For example, at one point, this was a new stove, and the pride and joy of whomever originally bought it.  Wouldn't they be pleased that someone (that someone being me) wanted to make good use of it and enjoy it as they did?  

Sure, it is covered in rust, but things made in the old days were made to last.  A half hour with a wire brush on a drill and it will be ready for a new coat of paint, and as good as new.

So Pam and I hied ourselves to our friend Pete's house and wrangled it into the horse trailer, which took much wrangling.  Yesterday, knowing that I'm handicapacitated, Earl and buddy Bill used Earl's tractor to fetch it from the horse trailer and into our storage trailer.

  As you can see, it is a cooking stove.  It has griddles.  And it is all cast iron and very heavy.

 It is a "Quaker" model.  I'll have to google that.  To the left of the stove in the pic below is a frame that it sits on.  I'm guessing that the frame was nickel plated at some point.  Depending on how it cleans up, and whether it winds up in our house or in our barn, I may get that plated again.

 Since Earl and Bill were on a roll, I suggested that they fetch the Vermont Castings Resolute that we bought last year and stored in Earl's garage.  Vermont Castings made top notch wood stoves back in the day (1970s), melting down old engine blocks from automobiles for their castings.  Engine blocks were engineered to  withstand high temperatures.  Properly cared for, these stoves will last forever.

As you can see, Earl is waving "hello" as he passes by.

Our collection of "stuff" is growing.  If and when we ever actually get around to building a place to live, we're well equipped to at least stay warm.

Yesterday, I also assembled a 45 watt solar array.  What it will power, I'm not sure yet, but the new battery I bought for the dump truck last year is a likely candidate.  I love not only antiques, but new technology as well.  Who is to say that they're mutually incompatible?

And since we seem to have an abundance of rocks, we're thinking that many of our outbuildings will be made of rock, such as the pumphouse for the well, and certainly the foundation for the barn.  Why buy things like cinder blocks when rocks are free for the taking?

But... a lot depends on my health.  Last year, two months of the summer was spent in a neck brace from the man  versus tree fiasco.  The tree won.  This year, at least one month will be in a neck brace in a man versus broken neck one year late fiasco.  After my visit to the podiatrist yesterday, a couple of months may be spent in a foot cast in 2015.  

Seriously... how do these people expect me to get anything done here?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pam's New Toy

Before my accident last year, I used to clean up the weeds and brush on our property and the Unabomber Cabin with a hand scythe.  It took awhile, but I enjoyed the exercise.  Now that I'm laid up again, I can no longer do it.  Pam gave it a go but pronounced it too difficult.   So we hied ourselves off to our favorite store, Tractor Supply, and bought a Cub Cadet weed whacker/brush cutter.  It came with both a weed whacker head and a brush cutting blade, good for up to 1/2" brush.

They had this available in both 2 and 4 cycle models.  I opted for the 2 cycle, both because it was less expensive and lighter.  I have other devices that require mixing oil and gasoline so its no big deal to me.

Here's Pam first starting it...

and her first whack at weed whacking.   She liked it, so much that she did both sides of the 1/4 mile long driveway.

As I'm writing this, she put on the brush cutting head and is cutting all around the Unabomber Cabin, which I did when we first got here in mid-May and hasn't been done since.

What a gal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What To Read... So Little Time...

I'm laid up for a month, maybe more.  As an active guy, what do I do?  Too many books, too little time...

Keeping Myself Company

So its back in the neck brace for me, for at least the next month.  No driving, no stooping (ha!  try that one),  no picking up anything heavier than five pounds.  So what's to do all day?  Well, when Pamela is home, we often take the dogs over to our property so they can run and exercise.  I sit in the screen house and drink beer, sometimes wandering over to the garden to see how its doing.  Its doing quite well actually.  We have cucumbers growing like crazy, and right behind them will be tomatoes.

What about when Pam is working or off running errands?  Well, I usually try to solve the world's problems on Facebook by explaining to everyone why their political opinions are wrong.  I'm having limited success in this.  Well, no success actually.  I'll have to work harder at it.

I have books to read.  I'm mostly through "Lamb:  The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore.  It chronicles Jesus' life from birth through his early 30s when the regular gospels pick up.  Following that will be "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard P. Feynman based on the recommendation of my old high school buddy Bob Mayo.

I also work on my photography a bit, looking for something new to learn.

I guess it is important to be comfortable with being with yourself as company.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Around the Unabomber Cabin, In Photos

On our old blog, which chronicled our travels on our trawler Drift Away, I would sometimes just stand  on the flybridge for an hour or so and photograph whatever came by.  I thought I'd try that here, but no one came by.  Apparently, I'd have to go looking.

Carrying a camera is good practice.  At first glance, there was nothing worth photographing.  But the camera makes you look.  These are the results, all taken within 20 feet of our cabin door.

Spooky the Kitten is starting to explore the outdoors.

This will be a good berry season.

Ruby, checking up on me.

Not great photographs, but good practice.

I just ordered an infrared filter for my camera.  It filters out visible light, leaving what the human eye cannot see.  From what I've seen online, it renders some surrealistic photos.  It should be fun to toy around with.

In my health news, today is slightly better than yesterday.  A tiny bit more range of motion, a little less of a sore throat.  Tomorrow should be better still.  I'm very happy with the results of the cervical operation so far.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Know You're All Concerned About Chevy The Dog...

Chevy is holding his own. His gums are slightly pinkish and he's moving around. The antibiotics he's on might be working. He's lost weight though. He's gone from a muscular 80 pound intimidating pitbull to a 70 pound weakling, but still looks good.

As for me, I'm OK.   The neurosurgeon would not install springs instead of spacers in my neck, claiming that I would tire of being a bobblehead.  I guess he never heard of the phrase that the customer is always right.

The surgery on the back of my neck was, for some reason, gotten to from the front. My throat is swollen so much so that I have a difficult time swallowing anything but liquids, or very soft food severely masticated and washed down with something liquid. I almost choked on a bagel in the hospital and couldn't eat a hot dog last night. I'm reluctant to eat anything alone in case I choke.  I mean, what if I was eating a bagel and came across  an article about Rick Perry and Sean Hannity patroling the Rio Grande with a machine gun, looking for illegal immigrant children?  I might choke even without the operation side effect.

I think machine gunning children is a bit extreme.  A good spanking and sending them to bed without their supper should do it.

I had to sleep sitting up last night so that I wouldn't accumulate too much spit before swallowing it. Yeah, I know, too much information.  Sleeping sitting up isn't as difficult as you think if you have a neck brace.

The RN got me a prescription for steroids to reduce swelling in my throat. I'm concerned that a possible side effect is that I'll have to work as a WWE wrestler.

You can see that the guy above on the left must have had the same neck operation, because he's gagging on trying to swallow whatever it is he ate.  The guy on the right is probably yelling something about call 911 and eat your vitamins.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dave News

Hi to all our readers. I know you must be wondering how Dave is doing so I am here to tell y'all that he is doing great!

Surgery took about three hours. I was beginning to get worried, but my best friend was sitting with me and keeping me SANE.  Just as I felt like I was about to not stay sane the doctor came out to give me news, and the news was good. The surgery was to put new spacers between his discs, not replace the discs as we had thought.  He had planned on doing from C4 down to C7. When he opened Dave up, he saw a lot more degeneration than he anticipated and ended up putting spacers in all the way from C2 on down to C7. I bet he regained the couple inches he had lost in height! C7 was also still fractured, or maybe refractured from being yanked by Olivia? Due to the extra work, his doc felt he should keep Dave an extra night. I came home to check on all the critters tonight and will bring our patient home tomorrow. He can fill you in on all the good stuff from there, but I felt I owed you guys an update. Wait till he gives you the tale of his room mate, lol... now there was a funny guy!

good night to all! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trees Down

Pam and I spent all day Wednesday running around for medical appointments.  One now needs a slew of tests before surgery.  EKGs, blood tests, MRIs, CTScans, physicals, etc.  We visited friends in Albany and stayed for burgers and slaw and then made our way back to Bleecker.  We could see the ominous clouds in the distance as we drove west.  Would we make it to the Unabomber Cabin and be able to let the dogs out before it hit?  Nope.  About ten miles away, we got hammered with the mother of all storms.  The wind whipped the trees and the heavy rain pelted horizontally.  I slowed to just 30 MPH.  Trees have a tendency to fall here in the mountains, and trust me on this one, I'm sensitive to falling trees.

We were only a hundred yards from our Unabomber driveway when there it was.  A tree was right across the road.  Pam, being a pioneer kind of woman, jumped out of the car and into the rain and cleared away the loose debris, and then bent branches back so I could drive under it.

Today, we took Chevy to the vet's office for a follow-up visit.  In the four miles from the Unabomber Driveway to Benson, there were eight downed trees.   One was right at the head of our driveway to our property.

Thankfully, the town is right on top of this stuff and sent out crews to clear things up.

Interestingly, all the trees that fell, fell from west to east.  Except ours, which fell east to west.

In dog news, Chevy is holding his own.  He's stable.  I was concerned though, because Gertie, our cat, had similar symptoms.  Several vets were consulted, one of which did exploratory surgery, and no definative diagnosis was every made.  She died a skeleton of herself.  Well, Chevy went from an 80 plus pound hunk of a pit bull...

 to 70 pounds, and doesn't look good.  He looks thin, drawn, and he's lethargic.  Could this be something contracted during our cruise down the eastern seaboard?  Eating raw oysters?   I was worried about Ruby and we took her to the vet as well, and her blood work came back normal, which is a huge relief for me.

I'm headed to the hospital on Thursday for surgery on my upper spine.  The neurosurgeon will be replacing my compressed discs with springs so I can be a bobblehead.   No.  Just kidding.  He said he will be using "legos" which are some kind of artificial discs.

I'll be in the hospital for a couple of days, so no blog updates.

You're welcome.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gettin' the Tractor Stuck. Again.

We've had a lot of rain here on Bleecker Mountain.  I comes down in buckets sometimes, which washes away parts of our driveways.  Our property's driveway is fairly flat and only a small part of that vanished, but the steep downhill driveway to the Unabomber Cabin was a disaster.  We could navigate it in the all-wheel-drive Kia, but a regular car could not.

On Saturday, I dug up some stone from the pit and fixed our property's driveway.  It took five loads, but it smoothed out nicely.  Then I loaded up the manure bucket with stone and drove a mile to the Unabomber Cabin to patch that up.

It was an uneventful trip.  I parked Bessie the Tractor at the top of the driveway and shoveled stone into the places where it washed out, which is a more efficient use of stone that dumping it and spreading it with the back blade.

I had finished spreading the stone, but there were still big boulders sticking up from frost heaves last winter and spring.   My Irish Grandma's voice spoke to me.  "Be the job big or small, do it well or not at all."

OK.  Let's see if the back blade can pop out these boulders.

For those of you ignorant about tractors, the majority have a three point hitch on the stern where you can attach all kinds of implements.  I have a tow bar, a post hole digger, and a back blade.  The back blade is like a snow plow, but you have to angle it manually, and  your only control is to raise and  lower it.

So I attacked the big rocks at the bottom of the driveway, and popped them out one by one.  I either picked them up and tossed them aside, or if too big rolled them.  I  did this to the worst of it, and then I got to the top.  I snagged onto a huge boulder, about the size of a woodstove, and pulled it out.  It was almost perfectly round, but try as I might, I couldn't budge it.  So I drove Bessie up the driveway, turned her around, and attacked the boulder from above.

I dropped the bucket to just above ground level, and pushed the boulder in front of me.  I couldn't see the boulder because the tractor's bow was in the way.  But I slowly nudged it towards the starboard side of the driveway right to the edge where it dropped off.  Then I heard a KLANG behind me.  I looked, and there was the boulder between Bessie and the back blade.  I must have hit a bump and the bucket bounced over the boulder.  I looked ahead, and I was on the edge of the drop off.

I put Bessie in reverse and her big, cast iron weighted tires with chains just spun.   I put Bessie in forward, but could only move about a foot before I had to stop so I didn't drop off the edge.  I went back and forth a half dozen times, trying to work Bessie's bow downhill, and then it happened.  Bessie's right front tire dropped off the edge, down about two feet into a hole.  I was stuck.

Do you remember Brian?  He's the guy who came last January to tow the Kia, which was stuck in our driveway last January.  He got the Kia out when a tow truck driver said it wasn't possible.  Well, while I was hooking up Judi's small ATV to Bessie's stern to try to tow it, along comes Brian on his ATV.

"You ain't gonna tow that tractor out with an ATV.  I'll fetch my truck."

Ten minutes later, Brian and his friend Rich were there.  They couldn't tow it out, even with the big Ford 4x4.  Not only was the right tire in a ditch, but it was flat.  I couldn't start Bessie because the gravity feed gas tank was at such an angle that it wouldn't feed gas.  To top it all off, the front bucket was hooked over a boulder the size of a Volkswagen.

Brian managed to back up the tractor just enough that I could start it.  I immediately raised the front bucket and back blade as high as they would go.  Brian then got in front of Bessie and pulled it sideways.  After some tugging, Bessie was free.  I drove it down the driveway and parked it.  Sunday would be a day for fixing the flat and finishing the driveway.

In true Drift Away fashion, we all retired to the Unabomber Cabin for victory beers all around.  We then drove the half mile to Brian's hunting camp for another victory beer, and then another half a mile to our property for a final victory beer.

Poor Bessie.  For a 1952 Ferguson TO-30, she can sure take a pounding.  You would think that at 62 years old, she'd want to be turned out to pasture.  Nope.  Not Bessie.  She's not about to be shown up by an imbecile like me.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Trip To the Emergency Dog Hospital

Out of our three dogs, Chevy has been bullet proof.  He's healthy, happy, and fit as a fiddle.  So it was with some alarm when he was lethargic when we got up this morning.  We opened the door for the dogs to go out and Chevy didn't go with Ruby and Olivia.  He didn't eat.  He just laid there.  Pam, the vet tech, looked him over and checked his gums and ears.  White.  Chevy was extremely anemic.  She called Matt Long, our vet, who had the 4th of July weekend off.  His answering service picked up.  Within minutes, Matt was on the phone.  Pam described the symptoms, and Matt said to get him to an emergency hospital, either South Glens Falls or Latham.  We chose South Glens Falls.

I won't bore you with the details, but these are the highlights.

  • We arrived at 10:30 AM and were there until an astounding 4 PM
  • They ran a myriad of tests, but not the most basic one they should have.  A stool test for parasites.
  • Chevy's red cell counts were low (20) and his white cell count was high
  • They tried to rack up the bill with unnecessary tests.
  • The veterinarian was young and just out of school and had no "bedside manner".
  • The vet wanted to keep Chevy in the hospital and give him blood transfusions.
  • Pam called Matt, whose bullshit meter was pegged, and said to get him out of there.
  • The bill was $767, and the vet had no idea what was going on with Chevy.
So Chevy has perked up a bit.  We'll watch him closely.  If he goes downhill over the weekend, we'll take him to Matt's home for treatment.  Otherwise, we'll take him to Matt's office on Monday to be checked out.

It was a long, long day, and expensive.  But Chevy is family, and  as such deserves proper care.  He had a tough life until we got him.  We suspect he was a bait dog in a dog fighting ring.  He seems to appreciate being with a loving family.  He loves us to death.  The least we can do is love him back.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Horse Camping In Lake Luzerne, In Photos

Pam and I, along with our dogs Olivia, Ruby, and Chevy, and Jeremiah the horse, spent five days camping at the state campground in Lake Luzerne.  The first day (Wednesday) started raining right after we got there and set up.  Perfect timing.

Olivia was bored though.

Our solar panel charging the RV batteries.

Sandals to cowgirl boots.  That's my gal.

Kim and  her horse.

Pam getting on Jeremiah, who is raring to go.

There is fungus among us.

Campground stalls.

Kim and Otter.

It was really cold in the morning.  Down in the 50s!  I think I could see my breath.


Fly mask.


Left to right- Pam, Kim, Renee', Steve.

Steve is a farrier.

Judi and Bill came to visit and brought Timmy the Nose Licking Dog.

Bill and Timmy.

Tyler, one of the Allen boys, with his horse, which he bought with his own money.  All the Allen boys are hard working kids.

Yes, Artie's wrists are crossed.

We had a great five days.  Camping is pretty much like how we live anyway, except without internet.