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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Miami is a Festering Rathole

Friday, September 29th, 2017

My Chicken House has Been Liberated

People were giving me suggestions on moving the big oak that fell on my chicken house. Here’s a photo showing what has happened to it.

I used the pole saw to clean up the top of the oak as much as I could, and then I sawed through the base. After that, I put a strap on the trunk and pulled on it until it fell off the maple the oak was trying to kill.

I am sick of oaks. They’re worthless, and they choke out better trees.

Now I have to start moving wood to the side of the county road, where it will be picked up free of charge. The problem with this plan is that my property has a ditch paralleling the road. To put the wood down, I have to drive the tractor along the side of the ditch. It leans over. Supposedly, you can lean a tractor 20 degrees without killing yourself, but I am new at this, so I don’t like any lean at all. I keep the front end loader low, but it still feels unsafe.

The pole saw made all this possible. A regular chainsaw is a vastly inferior tool. My advice to anyone who has to clear up fallen crap is to get a pole saw, even if you can’t get a regular chainsaw to go with it. The pole saw will do most of what the chainsaw will do, but the chainsaw will only do a little of what the pole saw can do.

I cut 12″ limbs with the 12″ pole saw with no problems. It was slow, but it beat getting up next to them and being killed when they broke free.

Things are looking up, and I’m still FREE OF MIAMI!

Man, I hate Miami. What a miserable city. I pity every decent person who lives there. I miss nothing, nothing, nothing about Miami. Moving out of Miami is like being healed of cancer.

My house sitter keeps telling me all the godly people he knows are moving out, and he thinks disaster will come when enough of them leave. Whatever. I can’t save the world. I’m just glad I’m in a better place, among much better people.

I’m Home!

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

This Place Rocks

Things are settling down here. I am learning new things in prayer, and I am trying to apply them. The unexpected financial drains are easing, the hurricane cleanup is getting easier, and I am starting to feel at home on the tractors.

Speaking of feeling at home, Ocala is suiting me better and better. It’s the craziest thing; I wanted some acreage, and I have it. I wanted tools and machinery, and I have them. I wanted to be around people whose mindset was more like mine, and I’m among them.

Back in Coral Gables, I used to get up and throw on Carhartt work pants and sneakers, grab my carry piece and my folding knife, and go about my day. I do those same things here, but because this isn’t Coral Gables, these things don’t make me weird. No one says, “Wow, you have a truck.” Everyone dresses pretty much like I do. I’m amassing a collection of ball caps (because you can’t wear bluetooth hearing protectors with a cowboy hat), and now I look like every other ball-cap-wearing Southerner in the county. The only thing missing is a can of Skoal, making a round bulge in a back pocket.

Come to think of it, people don’t seem to dip snuff here. Good for them. The spit is disgusting, and when you get Skoal cancer, they remove your face from the nose to the neck.

It’s very strange, being able to go outside without feeling I’m under scrutiny. Most of the time, people can’t see me when I’m outdoors here. I don’t have to worry about Jehovah’s Witnesses, blacktop gypsies, or fake Omaha Steaks drivers. The only leaf blower I ever hear is my own. I never hear a three-minute ear-splitting blast from a roach coach horn. I never hear the sound of my neighbors dragging their lawn waste onto my property.

If it weren’t for the ravenous bugs, I would be able to relax completely here. Irma produced a mosquito tsunami, and it will be a while before it subsides. Today I surrendered and Off’d myself before leaving the house.

Yesterday I went outside and shot 50 or so rounds without alerting anyone, calling the Sheriff, or asking my neighbors’ permission. It feels so natural. It’s how things worked when I lived in Kentucky. I hate suburban life.

Now that my feet are starting to touch bottom, it won’t be long before I start visiting churches. The feeling of fitting in will surely increase. I won’t drink the prosperity Kool-Aid, but I’m sure I’ll meet people who think it’s perfectly normal to wake up on a Monday morning and spend three hours in prayer.

Wow, I just got a big break. I received two offers on my dad’s yacht. I have been dying to get rid of it. We tied a lot of cash up when we bought this house, and we need to dump the excess baggage. On top of that, we could use the slip rent. I was starting to think the boat would never sell.

We offered it for a certain price, and nothing happened. We put it up for sale near the beginning of August, and nothing happens in Miami in August. We got one bad offer. Then Irma hit. She tore up the boat’s ancient canvas and messed up the tuna door, and we had no hull insurance. My dad didn’t carry it, and when I found that out, I decided not to renew it. We were going to be rid of it in a few weeks. What were the odds a storm would come through?

I thought we were going to get around $20000 less than the figure I originally wanted, but today the broker called and said someone is offering $2900 more than what I expected to clear. I said, “Take it. Take it. Take it.” I am not going to be greedy. I want that boat gone, I want the slip rented, and I want to sell it for a 1031 exchange next year. Or maybe I’ll just continue renting it, if the rent is good. I don’t think it will be.

I have that feeling you get when a big weight is taken off your shoulders. Shaky and drained. Thank you, God. That boat had become a curse.

Why did the boat sell all of a sudden? I think I know. The other day, I got a miracle healing. I wrote about it. It wasn’t a big healing. I blistered my finger, and the blister disappeared overnight. The way I prayed for that healing was unusual. First of all, it was very fervent, because I hate burns. Second, I kept praising and thanking God “because it’s done.” I kept this up for a very long time.

It worked for my finger, so I did it with the boat, today and yesterday. I also did it with the house we’re trying to sell. After prayer today, I expected to hear news about the boat. And I did.

I also ask for the following things for the people on my prayer list: I ask God to send people and spirits to pay us, to give things to us, to do our work for us, to give us advice, and to fight our battles. Today the broker said he had personally fixed up the boat’s batteries so he could get the generator and starboard engine running (an unpleasant job), and he wants to rent the slip for us with no commission. He isn’t required to do any of those things.

Now, will God come through on the rental house? If so, I will be too happy to live. That house has been an anchor around my neck. I never wanted it. My sister ruined it and forced us to take it over. My dad, frankly, was extremely unpleasant while I was getting it repaired. The contractors were liars and idiots. I want to see that house sell. NOW.

Oh, man. My cell phone just dinged. The pole saw I ordered is ready at Home Depot. I was about to go anyway, for mailbox letters, malathion, and maybe hydraulic fluid. This is perfect. That saw will bring down strongholds. There are things I just could not cut with a regular chainsaw.

I am giddy. Time to hop in the SUV (because the truck needs an alignment), cruise to Home Depot, pick up my goodies, and relax.

I’ve been cursed, and I’ve been blessed. Blessed is better. I hope my testimony will help you find relief.

Pro-Abortion…for Bugs

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Mosquitoes Must Pay

This week’s big farm challenge–big NEW farm challenge, along with the ones I was already handling–is mosquito control.

I have a pond. I will guess that it’s a hundred feet long. It’s dry most of the time, so presumably, no fish. When it rains a lot, the pond fills up. It slowly drains into the surrounding soil. I am told this is a “detention pond,” not a “retention pond.” A retention pond holds water permanently, and it will have a device that lets overflow run out.

Because I have no fish, I have nothing but frogs and bugs to eat mosquito wrigglers.

After Irma, the pond filled up, and it kept filling for days. It taught me new things about flooding. Flood waters don’t stop rising when the rain stops. Not everywhere. Crazy.

I don’t know how long the pond will have water in it, but based on what I’ve seen, I’ll bet it will be wet for another month. In the meantime, I have a lot of mosquitoes. What do I do?

I looked up products made for killing mosquitoes in ponds. They sell tablets full of a bacterium that kills mosquitoes. Treating a giant pond with these tablets would be very expensive. Generally, they’re used in tiny suburban koi ponds, although I had success when I threw a bunch in a neighbor’s green pool.

The tablets won’t work. What about malathion?

I considered dumping a whole jug of malathion in the pond. It’s supposed to be very safe for human beings. They say our blood neutralizes it. But what if science is wrong? I have well water, and I suppose my neighbors do, too. I don’t want to be the guy who gave them deformed children and tumors.

Fish are not worth discussing. I could dump some minnows in there, but they would only live until the pond dries up again.

Here’s what I’m thinking about using: vegetable oil. Mosquito wrigglers can’t breathe in ponds covered with oil. A gallon of cheap oil should cover the pond nicely. I’m told it will also kill the other bugs, which I’m supposed to like, but I don’t like them, so I don’t care. Also, how likely am I to have important water insects in a pond all by itself, a quarter of a mile from the next pond? I doubt I have anything resembling a real ecosystem. My pond was created by guys with backhoes, not the good Lord or the random forces of nature.

There are three negatives to the Ocala area: bugs, bad soil, and weeds. The soil tends to be sandy, so it’s not ideal for anything except constructing shooting berms. The woods here tend to produce more annoying weeds and thorns than they do farther north, so if you want to enjoy your wooded property, it’s best to get out there and clear the crap out. The bugs are beyond description. There are gigantic banana spiders all over the place, and their webs are thick and tough. We have huge acid-spraying walking sticks wandering around. Termites are ferocious here. Fire ants are everywhere. And we have a whole lot of really big mosquitoes.

At least we don’t have roaches. Well, we do have roaches. We have the biggest roaches this side of Africa. But they don’t have any interest in coming indoors. Also, I think the other bugs are murdering them wholesale. I haven’t seen many of them.

I really hate the banana spiders. I would say a typical specimen has a three-inch leg span, and the body is like a small grape, which means there is a lot in there to squish out if you kill one. Banana spiders put their webs between tall objects such as trees, which means they put them in places where you are likely to walk. Then you get a faceful of sticky web, possibly containing an angry spider the size of a mouse. And they bite, supposedly.

I plan to get some oil and see if I can kill the mosquitoes. Malathion is tempting, I have to admit, but it’s a little too bold for me at this juncture.

Over the next couple of weeks, the weather is supposed to get cooler, and the dry season should start soon. I am told the bugs will succumb.

Hurry up, fall. Bring death to my little enemies.

Irmageddon Relief

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

The Government IS Good for Something

I got some good news today. The Florida Bar is extending the September CLE (Continuing Legal Education) deadline for certain people, and the city of Ocala is going to pick up my dead trees.

This is big. CLE is a complete farce, but it’s time-consuming. So far, I’ve endured 17 hours of thinly veiled advertisements masquerading as educational materials. Lawyers who want to raise their profiles create boring lectures and distribute them for nothing, and a software company called Rocket Matter has joined in, filling the Bar’s site up with free “edvertisements.” You can pay for CLE which is somewhat less tedious, but there is no reason to do that, unless boredom is something you just can’t endure. Real CLE is expensive, and it’s generally just as useless as free CLE.

Quality CLE can be very helpful when you have a specific need to fill, but when you’re just trying to make the Bar happy, it’s like setting the tables at an abandoned restaurant. The Bar probably thinks it impresses the public, but the public has no idea CLE exists, so mainly, it functions as a way to raise profiles and make money for CLE providers.

A suspicious person would bet that the Bar’s bigwigs have personal connections to the CLE industry, and that they have hidden incentives to keep it running, but I have no evidence of that, apart from my basic knowledge of human nature and politics. Maybe nobody is in cahoots with anyone, but if that’s true, it would be pretty remarkable, given the way government entities operate. Maybe CLE providers never take anyone from the Bar to dinner or let them play on their golf courses or fly them off to highly informative seminars held at resorts or in Las Vegas. I have no idea, but after half a century on this planet, I can’t help but wonder.

Technically, the Bar is not a government entity, but the state Supreme Court is in charge of it, and the state oversees it, so…whatever.

By the way, whether CLE is a farce depends on whom you ask it and under which circumstances. If you ask a lawyer in his office or a courthouse elevator or on the golf course, he will scowl and tell you it’s a farce. If you ask him in front of a TV camera or at some kind of public appearance, he’ll tell you it’s the backbone of legal professionalism and an essential structure that holds up our sacred art.

I have to do 13 or 16 more hours of CLE, depending on which official Bar publication I believe, and the deadline is a week from now. That’s too much. Fortunately, the Bar has decided to let Irma victims have another month. Whee. See you in October.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the CLE I’ve done so far this cycle: computers and the Internet virtually guarantee that any lawyer who isn’t an IT expert will be sued and lose at some point during the next decade. The pitfalls are too numerous, and we are just too stupid to avoid them (We’re not doctors). Nearly anything a lawyer does with data opens the door to a lawsuit. You’re only safe if you do everything on paper.

I won’t check, but because I know how the world works, I can tell you that somewhere out there, there are lawyers who specialize in suing other lawyers who screw up with data. The smell of rotting flesh will always attract bugs and vultures. Computers opened a wound on the legal profession, and the leeches and bats will flock to it to suck, just as they suck on the pharmaceutical industry, police departments, and anyone who manufactures anything.

Rocket Matter is some sort of practice-related software. It helps attorneys keep their practices running smoothly. I’ll give them credit. Their free lectures scared me a great deal. I don’t see what I can do to protect myself, though, short of refraining from practicing. Which happens to be the road I took.

As for the city and the dead trees, the announcement takes a load (literally) off my mind. I have been cutting and burning trees for a while now, and I expected it to go on for months. Now the city’s website says they’ll haul wood if we put it by the road. Fantastic. Yesterday I realized I was developing a mountain of ash, and it made me aware that my cut-and-burn strategy had a serious flaw. What do you do with tons of wood ashes? Now I won’t have to find out.

I will still have to cut and move trees, but I won’t have to burn them, and I won’t have to store them within my fences. Bonus: I won’t have to mow the swale by the highway, because it will be covered.

Now if someone will just volunteer to move my machine tools up here from Miami…

Feets of Strength

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Tennis Shoes Just not Cutting It

Today’s big news: I got myself some new boots.

I’ve been here a month, and I’ve been doing a ton of outdoor work. I came here in a new pair of Nike tennis shoes, and that’s what I wore up until today. I had to retire them. They were not up to the job.

After Irma, there was standing water on parts of my property for…well, there may still be some. There are still twigs and branches everywhere, and they reach out to scrape my ankles when I walk. I’ve used chainsaws a lot, and they shot wood chips into the tops of my tennis shoes. From there, the chips found their way all the way down to the toes.

I have a few pairs of boots, but I wanted work boots. I had motorcycle boots (actually uniform boots), hunting boots, and some kind of Timberland insulated boots. I sprang for something new: Danner 8″ work boots with some kind of uber-plastic protectors in the toes. When you cut wood with a chain saw, it falls, and I did not want crushed toes.

The boots I bought are waterproof, with lots of Gore-tex. They have plenty of padding. They’re roomy enough for thick wool socks which keep my feet dry. I am in love.

I’ve always liked tools. I like getting the right tool for the right job. Sometimes the wrong tool takes three days and makes you miserable, and the right tool takes fifteen minutes and doesn’t raise one bead of sweat. Shoes are tools. I had the wrong tools for the job, and they were a major hindrance.

Today Amazon brought the boots, and I put them on as soon as I saw the box. I went out and started hacking up a fifty-foot live oak that was lying on its side in the big pasture. It was wonderful. Nothing hit my ankles. My footing was solid. When I needed to kick things, the impact didn’t come through the thin sole of a tennis shoe. Nothing dropped into my socks and migrated down to my toes.

I could have worn the Timberland boots. I’m pretty sure I haven’t worn them since law school. Once I experienced Danner boots, I could not go back. Timberland boots are not very good. People don’t know that, because they haven’t tried anything better.

I got my first pair of Timberlands when I went to Columbia University. I was a Florida kid, and on October 10, I believe it was, we got 8 inches of snow. I figured it would be like that all winter. I bought a down jacket, wool socks, and Timberlands. They were the classic Timberlands. Reddish leather, about 7″ high, with plastic collars around the tops (probably to save Timberland money on leather).

I kept those boots for a few years, but they eventually rotted, and the soles fell off. I had another pair of Timberlands made largely of fabric, and they didn’t last, either. I got the last pair in the Nineties, and I’ve probably worn them fewer than 10 times. They’re stiff, like wood. They keep the cold and damp out, but then I haven’t worn them enough to get them to leak.

Danners feel like big running shoes. Total comfort. They are truly waterproof. They come with various levels of insulation. They never seem to wear out. You will pay at least $150 for a decent pair, but that’s only about 7% more than Timberlands, and you will get a completely different level of quality.

Timberlands are crap. Trust me. It’s no wonder rappers like them, because rappers are the same people who buy Beats headphones instead of Sennheisers. If Dr. Dre endorsed horse manure, rappers would cram horse manure in their ears.

Here’s something neat about Ocala: you can get real work clothes. You can walk into a store and be surrounded by Carhartt. I won’t have to buy my stuff online any more. Danners can’t be found around here, but pants, shirts, jackets, and overalls will not be a problem.

I didn’t realize how much my feet hindered me until I started cutting wood in real boots. Suddenly, I didn’t even think about my feet. I didn’t worry about where I stepped. I didn’t feel things attacking my ankles. Really nice.

As for the tree-cutting, I learned new things. I learned that Spanish moss will stop a chainsaw. All the trees here are covered with moss. I have stopped my small saw three times by catching moss in it. Very annoying.

I also learned that chainsaws have a sacrificial tab the chain hits when it comes off. I made some kind of booboo while fixing the moss problem, and my chain came loose. It stopped instantly, and when I looked at it, I saw that a little detachable metal tab had been bent. Neat feature. Chainsaws are a lot better than they used to be. Very impressive.

I spent about two hours dismantling the tree. I would say I got about 15% of it done, but it was a very critical 15%. You can’t just go up to the base of an 18″-thick horizontal oak and start hacking at it. The tree is resting on its branches, and God only knows which way they’ll throw it when I cut them. I started at the top and methodically cut everything that didn’t have tension on it and moved it away. Before long, I was able to cut off one of the tree’s three main branches. The tree is defeated now. I made it much more accessible and predictable.

I’m waiting for a pole saw with a 12″ bar to arrive. There are some things I should not cut with a regular saw. Some are too high, and some are too scary. A pole saw will allow me to cut things higher than my head, and it will also let me stay seven or eight feet away when I cut things that look dangerous. The 12″ bar isn’t very big, but most pole saws are 8″ or 10″, so compared to them, it’s a monster. I should be able to cut things 10″ thick, and that will cover just about everything I need a pole saw for.

What I’m doing is a lot of work, but I enjoy it because I have good tools. I throw the saws into a gas-powered golf cart, ride to the tree I have to cut, and have at it. I can keep water and other tools in the cart’s dump bed. I wear good polarized safety glasses, and I have a Worktunes bluetooth hearing protector playing Christian music in my ear the whole time. If I had to do this work with a crappy little Poulan saw and haul everything in an SUV or a pickup, and I didn’t have Julie True singing in my ear, it would be a very bad experience.

I’m very glad I didn’t buy the first saw I saw in a store after Irma, because the first saws I saw were cheap. I’m also glad I got two saws instead of one. Today one saw got bound in a limb, and I used the other saw to rescue it. A four-foot pry bar was useless. If I hadn’t had two saws, I would have been in a pickle.

The little Jonsered is nimble and powerful. The big Echo is a light saber. Point it at a limb, and it falls off.

I need to get a hard hat. No one wears a hard hat while using a chainsaw. No one except a professional who isn’t a total idiot. I plan not to dress like a total idiot, even if it makes me look odd. Most people who use chainsaws are ignorant, and they wear jeans, tennis shoes, and baseball caps. A lot of people don’t use hearing protection. Whatever. I want to keep my hearing, and I don’t want skull fractures from falling wood.

I’ve thought about getting chainsaw chaps. They’re made from kevlar. The kevlar comes loose when you hit it with the blade, and it chokes the sprocket, stopping the saw. Interesting thing: it doesn’t work with electric saws. They have too much torque. Anyway, today I had moments when I was able to see the wisdom of wearing chaps.

I have some plastic wedges on the way. I could not buy them locally. They prevent saws from getting pinched the way mine did today. It’s amazing how stores let the ignorant shape their inventory choices. No chaps. No wedges. These are things every chainsaw seller should stock.

It’s about time to learn how to sharpen a saw. The Jonsered seems to be cutting a little finer and slower than at first. I already have a couple of files for the job. I should pick up some extra chains. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks or a month, the weather will permit me to wear long pants and a long shirt. Also, the bugs need to die. The wet weather has turned this area into an entomological playground.

Time to take my precious boots off and get in the shower. Maybe I should leave them on.

In a couple of months, I should have this farm looking normal. I’m sad to lose so many trees. The damage didn’t look too bad right after the storm, but then I found out trees continue to fall for days. I must have twenty big trees that didn’t make it. Anyway, I will get them cleared. Maybe I’ll get my band saw up here and turn some of the trees into lumber. The live oaks are useless, but water oaks have wood like red oak, and I may have lost some hickorys or pecans.

I will never lack for firewood or barbecue wood. That’s for sure.

Sorry I don’t have a bunch of photos. I was just too caught up in the work. Here’s a shot from yesterday. It’s the small pasture, after I cleared a bunch of crap.

I will leave you with a shot of my boots. Throw out your Timberlands and pick some up. You will not regret it.

The Curse of Ethanol

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Farm Life has its Challenges

Nothing really terrible has happened to me in several days. I’m wondering if something is wrong.

I’m still working on clearing tropical storm mess from my land. I refuse to call it “hurricane debris,” because I don’t want to play into the irresponsible hype we get from the ratings-crazy press. Marion County did not get hit by a hurricane. It received tropical-storm-force winds from the periphery of a hurricane. If it weren’t for the fact that there are so many rotten trees here, there would have been almost no damage at all.

This county is full of oaks that are rotten in the middle. I did not know this before I moved here. I didn’t know I had highly dubious trees on my property. Now I know, but a number of trees are already resting on my fences.

People here claim water oaks are the big problem. They rot very well. They say live oaks don’t fall in storms. I think that’s wrong, though, because I’ve been looking at leaves when I collect branches, and it sure looks like I have a lot of live oak leaves.

In Miami, live oaks did very well when Andrew hit. It seems they didn’t do as well here. I don’t understand that, because here we have soil. In Miami, the dirt is a few inches thick, and beneath that, it’s oolite, which is solid coral rock. I don’t know how roots can hold onto that. Anyway, I have a bunch of trees to get rid of.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with the larger trees. Some of these boogers are a couple of feet thick, and they’re propped up at odd angles. I don’t want to be crushed when they shift as the saw cuts through. I do not want to hire a tree service. That’s big money. If I do have to hire one, I want to limit their work as much as I can. I can move the trees myself. I just need someone to put them on the ground.

I suppose it’s time to go online and learn about cutting trees.

If you’ve never cut a tree before, you probably think it’s simple, but it’s not. Say you have a tree sixty feet tall, and you want to cut it at the base. That means it can hit anything within sixty feet when it falls. What if there are things within that distance, which you don’t want hit? What if it’s already leaning toward your house? What if it starts falling when you cut it, in a way that puts your life in danger? Can you outrun a falling tree?

Here’s another big issue: saw pinching. If you have a broken tree which is more or less horizontal, when you cut it, it will sag at the cut. That means the kerf will close on your saw, possibly with tons of force. How do you prevent that? Maybe I need wedges. The tractor has been useful, because I’ve been able to hold trees up and saw off the free ends, but that won’t work with really big lumber.

My second chainsaw–the big one–arrived a couple of days ago. I haven’t run it yet. The little one has whizzed through everything I’ve cut so far. Sooner or later, I’ll have to run the big one.

Now that I’ve lifted the big saw, I see why people like little saws. You would have to be nuts to use a big saw on everything. It’s just too heavy and awkward.

I’m going to go out and light the burn pile again today. It’s gigantic now. I’m toying with the idea of throwing a gallon of diesel on it first. I got myself a big jug of charcoal lighter fluid. It may be sufficient, and when it’s empty, I can refill it with diesel, which should be cheaper.

People have informed me that I need to use more oil in my saws than the manual suggests. Evidently, the EPA has decided to ruin all of our small engines in exchange for a tiny decrease in pollution. The manual says to add oil at a ratio of 1:50, but people are telling me to go 1:40, so I will do that.

Yeah, I care about pollution. I care about as much as our government does, which is to say, very little. The government passes crippling legislation that makes money for greenies and still allows a whole lot of environmental damage. I’m not going to screw up my equipment so I can abide by useless feel-good legislation that accomplishes nothing.

Still wondering what the government does with the monumental amount of CO2 ethanol fermentation produces.

I bought regular gas for my small engines, and I have learned that this was a mistake. Regular gas is full of ethanol, which ruins carbs. I wish to God we would give up the ethanol farce. When I was saw shopping, I saw cans of premixed fuel at the store, but I thought it was for sissies who didn’t want to use funnels. I learned that the real benefit is that it’s ethanol-free.

There are gas stations here that sell ethanol-free gas, so I think the best move is to fill a big can and mix it with oil.

In other news, I fixed my bush hog. The previous owner hit a stump with it and tore a corner of the apron loose from the deck. He popped two welds. He says I should keep the bush hog attached to the tractor because it counterbalances the brush forks, so the bush hog will have to remain attached until I become aware of a better solution. Weights, maybe. The bush hog seems to take a considerable beating while I move the tractor around, and it makes thumping sounds. I thought (incorrectly) that the apron was banging against the deck, so I decided to weld it.

I had some obstacles to overcome before I could weld. Mainly, I had no 240 receptacle for either welder (TIG or MIG). The TIG will run on 110, and it also does stick, so that was an option. Also, I now have a small generator that will pump out 20 amps at 240, and that will be enough for MIG.

I decided to try stick, and I also ordered an adaptor to hook the MIG up to the generator, on the assumption that my stick efforts would fail.

I got myself some E7018 electrodes from Home Depot, and I started grinding off the old welds and trying to realign the apron and deck. I didn’t realize the apron had been bent in addition to being snapped off. Short of heating the apron with a huge torch, there is no way to straighten it. It was bent so the top of the apron, where the old weld was, moved inward just enough to make the deck shelter the old weld, making it very hard to grind out.

Anyway, I got it ground, and I put a Strong Hand clamp on the bush hog to hold everything together. Then I set the TIG up for stick, using settings I got from the web: AC and 85 amps.

Right away, I flashed myself. I thought the welder’s foot pedal controlled the stick stinger, so I put the stinger down on the bush hog while I got ready to weld. When I picked it up, the tip contacted metal, and I got an arc. It was very brief, but I have no idea how much arc flash is too much, so I was concerned. I didn’t have any problems, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.

When I started welding, I stuck the electrode about a thousand times, and the arc kept crapping out. People are telling me to go DC next time. The welds are incredibly bad, but they are strong enough to hold until I can redo them. I plan to grind them out and try stick again before giving up and MIGing them.

I thought I didn’t need the generator, but I decided to keep it when I realized it gave me mobility. With a generator, I can run big power tools all over the farm. I can use the rotary hammer, the welders, and maybe even the plasma cutter, if it’s set low enough. I can use air tools. To me, that’s worth the $500 cost of the generator.

If you’re in a storm area, here’s a tip: even if you don’t buy a generator ahead of time, buy and set up the wiring doodads that make it work. You can buy all sorts of generators in Ocala right now, but good luck finding the plugs and receptacles to connect them to anything. My generator has a ridiculous RV receptacle for 240, so nothing useful will plug into it. Get yourself generator-ready now, and you may have cold beer the next time your power goes out.

When I use the generator, I’ll have to put very small amounts of gas in it so I can run it dry. I don’t want ethanol eating my generator so it won’t run when I need it.

Man, I hate ethanol. What a disgusting, greed-motivated boondoggle.

Time to get out there and burn some trees. Maybe I’ll post a photo.

Burning Man East

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Work is More Fun Than Play

I am almost too wiped out to blog. That’s saying a lot, since I write for recreation.

Yesterday God gave me a miracle. I found a decent small chainsaw in the Ocala area, available for store pickup. This week, that’s about as easy as finding a bar of soap in a room full of Bernie Sanders supporters.

I was checking various sites to see how fast I could get a small saw. I have a big saw coming Monday, but I’ve learned that big saws are not for small saw work. Big saws are heavy and awkward. Little saws won’t cut big trees as well, but they’re easier to use on limbs and so on. I have an abundance of big trunks and small limbs to deal with.

I may as well pass on what I learned, since someone else may find it useful.

There are apparently three levels of chainsaws. First, there are really expensive chainsaws you should only buy if you plan to use a saw every day at your job. Forget those. Then there are solid saws that cost considerably less. Then there is crap from China. You don’t want crap from China.

Yesterday I visited Rural King, which is like Tractor Supply’s mother, and they had some good saws, but the small saws they were selling were dubious. They had Poulans, which everyone on the web seems to hate.

I don’t know anything about the high-end saws, but I learned a few things about the second tier.

A lot of people like Stihl, which is German. Are they actually the best, or is it that closet-Nazi chic that makes BMW buyers so gullible? I don’t know.

Another popular brand is Husqvarna. This Swedish company makes lots of stuff. They used to make motorcycles. I don’t know if they make them today. The problem with Husqvarna is that some of their lower-end saws are…crap from China. Or at least crap that isn’t from Sweden. Evidently, you have to be careful and check the labels.

Echo is the Japanese company that ruined life on earth by inventing the leaf blower. That’s the word on the street, anyway. They make very nice saws. You can get them at Home Depot, unless you’re me and you need one to clear away tropical storm debris. It’s surprising that Home Depot sells something nice.

Here’s another brand: Jonsered. It’s Swedish. The main reason it’s Swedish is that it’s really Husqvarna. If you buy one, you will actually see the word “Husqvarna” on either the saw or stuff that came with it. Jonsered is sold at Tractor Supply. I don’t know who else sells them.

Why Husqvarna has a separate brand selling the same things is not clear to me. Maybe some of their saws simply identify as Jonsered.

I was fooling around on the Tractor Supply website, and it unexpectedly told me I could pick up a Jonsered CS 2240 locally. I figured it was a mistake, but it was worth a shot. I ordered it, and the order went through. I figured I would get an email the next morning, telling me the saw didn’t really exist. I assumed someone at the store would sell it to his beer buddy and tell me to get lost. Miraculously, I received an email saying the saw was ready for pickup.

The CS 2240 is a 40 cc saw with a 16″ blade, which means it’s light and handy. It sounded like just what I needed. My neighbors have pretty much cleared their yards, and I’ve been so busy and tool-deprived, I’m way behind. I had to get something to get me started. I can’t cut big oaks with this, but I can do 80% of the cutting I need to do.

Today I got the saw running, and I moved a huge amount of wood to the burn pile using the tractor. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t fun. I love hydraulics. They turn people into superheroes. Remember Ridley fighting the queen Alien in Aliens? That’s me on the tractor.

The saw was wonderful. The last gas chainsaw my family unit possessed was a used McCulloch, I think. Back in the Seventies. It ran okay, but it was nothing like the Jonsered. The Jonsered zips through hard oak like nobody’s business. It was a pleasure to use. It made me wonder what the big saw will be like. I’ve never used a big saw on hardwood.

I had to quit because I know nothing about small engines. I followed the manual as well as I could, but I flooded the saw and could not get it to function. The only reason I’m tired tonight is that I pulled the saw’s start cord about 3000 times. After I quit, I went on the web to find out what I had done wrong.

I found an authoritative-sounding video that said I had to take the spark plug out and dry it off, and that I had to empty the excess fuel through the plug hole. Bummer. Then I found a small engine repair guy with a much better video. I’m going to tell you what I found out.

When you start a chainsaw cold, you have to use the choke to cut back on air. You also have to squoosh the chainsaw’s priming diaphragm to get fuel to the carb or whatever. If you do either of these things a little bit too much, the saw’s cylinder fills up, and then you will be completely unable to start the saw by following the worthless manual.

To make the saw run, you have to get rid of the excess fuel. Here’s how you do it. You start it while holding the throttle wide open. You may have to yank the cord a number of times, but eventually you will blow the fuel out, and the saw will run. Forget taking the plug out. Forget waiting for the saw to dry.

Wish I had known that today. I had no idea what was happening, thanks to the manual.

It makes sense. When you flood a carbureted car, the solution is to floor it while you turn the engine over.

I have to burn my trash wood. I’m nervous about it. I’ve never done it before. I picture my face on the news, over the words “DIY ARSONIST.” I can’t believe it’s safe to burn wood near wooded areas, but apparently it is. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because campfires are pretty common, and we still have forests.

I have what must be a few tons of wood waiting to be burned. I need to get it going because the burn area needs to be emptied so I can get rid of more wood.

I don’t see how green wood is supposed to burn, but I’ll light it and see what it does.

The bigger downed trees are intimidating. Today I looked at one that has branches maybe forty feet long and ten inches thick. One big branch points up at a 45-degree angle. If I saw that sucker where it joins the trunk, I have no idea what it will do. It may slide toward me and smear me across the ground like peanut butter. I have to decide what I can do safely and what I can’t. The Jonsered is intimidating. The big Echo I have coming will be a whole different level.

I’ve used a bigger saw in the past. A long time ago, I did part-time work for a tree service. But I wasn’t the boss. I had someone with years of experience telling me what not to do. Now it’s just me.

I’m trying to be intelligent. For example, I lift trees with the tractor so the parts I saw off will bend down, not up, when the saw goes through. If a tree bends in a V at the cut, it will pinch the saw, and then you’re done until you can get it out. I also put the tractor’s forks under heavy stuff before I cut it, so it will drop gently onto the front end loader. Today I cut a piece of wood that had to weigh 400 pounds. I can’t put that on the loader. It has to want to be there.

I am too tired to post photos.

It’s pretty cool, having a tractor, a chainsaw, and a golf cart. The tractor is useless for carrying things, so I put them in the cart’s dump bed and take the cart to where I’m cutting. Then I move the tractor there and get to work. There is nothing like having good tools. Work isn’t unpleasant when you have what you need to git ‘er done.

A friend is coming by tomorrow. I think I’ll just cram some more brush on the pile and let her rip. I don’t have to wear out the chainsaw every day. It’s going to be a while before the downed trees are gone.

Thank God I’m not in Miami. I would rather be here sweating on a tractor than doing just about anything there.

Reverse Looting

Monday, September 11th, 2017

I Hate Miami More Than Ever

I am using my most precious commodity, electricity, to let you know how I’m doing.

Irma came through last night. As always, the predictions were overblown. We got considerable wind, but it was no hurricane. Not here. I lost a number of big trees, but the house and workshop are fine. We have no power, so that means no water.

My friend Amanda brought her three boys, and we all survived.

This morning I started clearing the mess. I didn’t have a chainsaw. There was a big tree across the driveway, and there was nothing I could do. I had to drive around it.

I went out on the golf cart to check out the neighborhood, and I met a neighbor, running around on his 4-wheeler with his daughter on the back. Right away, that picture is promising. It got better. He’s an ex-Marine from North Carolina. He said his house was the one with the Marine Corps and American flags out front. Okay!

He said he had a tractor, if I needed help. I said I had a tractor but no chainsaw. He said, “I have a chainsaw.” Just like that. Doesn’t know me from Adam’s housecat.

We exchanged contact info.

Amanda had to ferry her dogs and sons back to the farm where she lives, and when she came for the dog, we sat down and discussed God for a while. She told me some of the horrible things that had happened to her. Example: her parents refused to pay her prep school tuition, so her diploma was withheld for two years. She went to a crappy college, and she then applied to Harvard, where she was accepted. Her brother sat her down and said she needed to stay on the farm and look after her mom, who insists on living on the farm and telling everyone what to do even though she is indigent. The local college was good enough. Mind you, her brother is an attorney, not a mentally retarded person who bags groceries.

Anyway, we had a long and productive talk, and then I got up and went to the front of the house. I could not see the big downed tree. I went to take a look. Someone had cut it in pieces and moved them off the driveway. Yes, while my former neighbors in Miami were breaking in stores to steal $300 sneakers, my new neighbors were sneaking onto my property to clear away hurricane debris.

I texted one of them and asked who did what so I could thank them. I offered to help with whatever they were doing, but they were already shutting down. Figures. I would like to be known here for something other than stealing newspapers.

I didn’t steal newspapers. Not exactly.

There are two newspaper boxes out by the road. Ours is the bottom one. When we first came here, I took the paper from the wrong box, and I had to apologize profusely. Then a few days later, I had another newspaper problem.

I bought hurricane food. By this I mean junk food. Things you can eat without preparation. Yesterday morning, while I was getting ready for the storm, I found out my dad had been raiding the food. Great. I had to drive out and look for more. I found one gas station that was open, and I bought six double Snickers bars. Best I could do.

When I was on the way back in, I stopped by the mailbox. I grabbed the bag containing our paper. The paper boy had put it in the bag with the open side facing in, so when I pulled the bag, the paper fell out on the wet ground. I picked it up and went in the house, where I saw my dad…reading the newspaper. He had taken the neighbors’ paper again, and now the only replacement I had was wet.

I had to text them again, apologize, and let them know my dad was demented. They were very nice about it. I told them to take our newspaper at will, pretty much. This is the history I am now trying to live down.

I have learned to use the tractor. I have a few photos. I moved debris a few hundred yards, from the yard to the burn pile. Yes, I have a burn pile. I figured out what the forky thing on the front end loader is for. It’s for grabbing brush and dumping it. Yes, I just happened to move to a property that really needed a tractor with an attachment for moving trees and brush, and lo and behold, the tractor was there waiting for me.

I love using the tractor. Farm work doesn’t pay well, but on the other hand, it’s much more pleasant than office work. I have always enjoyed it. Now I’m pretty much obligated to do it, every week.

I’ll upload some photos of the tractor and burn pile.

This move has been very bad in some ways and very good in others, but whatever happens here, you could not pay me enough to get me to move back to Miami What a craphole. Excuse my language.

I’m off. If the power comes back on, you will hear more from me.

Getting Ready for Company

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

One More Day

I am still awaiting the winds of Hurricane Irma.

Today was uneventful. I bought two more flashlights, some rope, a can of WD-40, work gloves, a barbecue lighter, and lithium grease. Stuff I clearly needed. I drove around my yard picking up fallen branches and tossed them in the truck, and then I drove out to the burn area in the big pasture and dropped them there. I moved the big tractor out to the pasture and left it there so my friend Amanda will be able to put her SUV in the workshop during the storm.

The fallen branches are not from wind. There has been no wind. Ocala is a lightning magnet, and I am surrounded by tall trees that get hit a lot. Branches die and fall. Then I get to pick them up and burn them. I’m doing this so our moderate winds won’t blow them into the house.

I will not complain about that. I have a farm. I have a pickup truck. I have a burn pile. This is the kind of stuff I used to dream about. I keep thinking about Psalm 37:4: “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

The storm track still looks pretty good for me. Miami’s somewhat-upsetting forecast has not panned out. It’s supposed to be blowing pretty good in Miami now, and I just checked and saw a figure of 9 mph. Gusts to 11, I think it said. Sooner or later, there will be wind, but I see it this way: if the forecast is wildly pessimistic at 6 p.m., it will probably be wildly pessimistic throughout the storm. If they’re predicting 74, maybe Miami will get 45.

I’m still not happy with the weather gurus. My dad’s dementia makes him forget what he knows about the forecast. The TV agitators get him wound up over and over, and I have to keep explaining what’s really happening. The hurricane is on every channel, so it’s inescapable. He has always spent several hours a day glued to the tube, and that habit is not going to change. He will be hearing about extinction-level Irma until two days after it’s over. So will I.

The ninnies who keep exaggerating the storm’s consequences should have to come here and comfort him, along with every other dementia patient they’ve upset. I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. Other people are making the same complaint.

Whatever happens will be over with in two days. I look forward to that.

I really, truly do not want to do without air conditioning and running water. There are certain minimum standards I expect my habitat to meet. I remember the times I’ve spent sitting indoors, watching drops of sweat fall off my nose, wondering when the power was coming back on. I do not want to go through that again.

I hope my tractor isn’t lonely out there.

Dividends

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

I always repeat something my mother told me. She said you’re very lucky if you have one good friend. I have several good friends, so I guess I’m pretty blessed.

This weekend I had to go to Miami to retrieve various things the movers didn’t bring. I also had to get my pickup truck started and bring it back to Ocala. I was not looking forward to the trip. Miami is boiling hot this time of year; it feels like the sun has turned inside out. Also, I just generally don’t want to be in Miami. I foresaw a great deal of miserable, sweaty work, combined with suffering simply from being in a rotten place full of rude people who can’t drive.

A week or so back, I was talking to my old friend Alonzo. I met him back during my Trinity Church days. We were both armorbearers. I told him about my upcoming trip. He said he was off this weekend, and he insisted on going with me. He and his family live in Orlando. He’s one of the hardest-working people I know. He has five kids, from four years old to fourteen. He never gets to sit down. But he spent his free weekend driving 300 miles to help me retrieve things from a place he hates.

He used to live in Miami. It was not a good experience. The year before he moved to Orlando, he applied for 47 jobs and got no offers. When he decided to move to Orlando, he applied for 6 jobs in the area, and he got 6 offers. He’s black, and he does not speak Spanish. Sorry to say it, but neither of those qualities is helpful in a city where Cubans do most of the hiring. He has a good job now, and so does his wife. They live in a house, not a cheesy apartment. They have two nice vehicles.

He says visiting Miami makes him feel miserable. He doesn’t even like to go there to visit family.

Anyway, he said he was going to help me get my junk, and my law school friend Amanda donated her weekend to looking after my dad. She brought her three boys to the house, and they stayed here. She cooked and generally fretted over my dad. She brought food. When I returned this evening, there were brownies and praline pecans waiting. That’s Amanda for you.

My friend Travis is watching my dad’s house while we get it ready to rent. This is advantageous to him, because he gets free housing while he attends the University of Miami, but it’s a huge help to me. No one is going to break in with him there, and he can help me with long-distance problems that pop up.

I picked Alonzo up on Saturday morning, and off we went. We had a funny conversation as we got closer to Miami. We kept noticing the rudeness of the drivers increasing. Aloud, we wondered what acts of rudeness would welcome us to Dade County. We knew it was coming. It always does. You leave town, you relax, and then when you drive back, the tension increases, and suddenly people are cutting you off in traffic or tailgating or being nasty to you when you stop to get gas. I guess everyone says the same thing we do: “Welcome to Miami!”

He kept correcting me when I used the word “home” to refer to Miami, and I thanked him for that. Miami has never been my home, and it damned sure isn’t now.

Excuse my emotion.

When we got to the house, Travis had arranged the remaining junk as well as possible, so the house looked less like the scene of a tornado. I appreciated that. He wasn’t home, but Alonzo helped me with everything I needed to do. He helped me put two new batteries in the truck. He helped me remove all the valuable items from my dad’s yacht, which is important now that we’re selling it. He put boxes together. He organized the whole affair.

The next day, Travis, Alonzo and I spent several unpleasant hours packing things and putting them in my truck and my dad’s SUV. The sun was so hot, stepping out of the glare and into the shade felt like walking into an air-conditioned house. Sweat ran off of all of us. They never complained. Not once. They grabbed the heaviest things before I could.

We got two scuba tanks, an 80-cubic-foot C25 tank, a 125-cubic-foot argon tank, over a dozen big toolboxes, numerous rifles, heavy ammunition, cast iron cookware, stainless pots, lots of power tools, a 3-foot pipe wrench, and other things I can’t even remember. A compressor. A refrigerated air dryer. A huge phase converter in a steel cabinet.

We didn’t get to the house in Ocala until nearly 7 p.m. When I got there, Amanda and Alonzo flew into action. Amanda carried the C25 tank and the refrigerated air dryer. That startled me. Alonzo carried the compressor. I was busy myself, so I couldn’t stop them. I would turn around, and there they would be, lugging my belongings.

Loading the vehicles took several hours. Unloading probably took fifteen minutes. Even my dad got into the act.

When we were done, Alonzo’s wife showed up in their SUV with their 5 kids. They poured in. The whole house lit up. Alonzo’s kids and Amanda’s kids got along great. I showed them the pool and told them they were welcome any time their parents saw fit to bring them.

I saw my goddaughter Gabriella hugging Amanda’s son Sean like he was the greatest thing she had ever seen. She hugs everyone. I don’t know what has come over her. It hasn’t been that long since she bit me at my old church.

Everyone had to clear out in a very short time because of the hour. Alonzo and crew had to get back to Orlando, and I’m sure Amanda was ready to go home.

The house was in better shape than when I left it. Most of my crucial junk was here where I needed it. Not bad.

Alonzo insists he’s going to make another run with me. I can get a U-Haul and a hitch for the truck, and he wants to start on a Friday night and drive back on a Sunday. This is the guy who hates Miami more than I do. Maybe.

When you invest in people, it pays off. You may not be able to get a return from the people you wish would return your feelings, but God will send you people who will reciprocate. He will choose them for you, to replace the dysfunctional relatives, selfish spouses, and so on.

The Bible says we should seek to accumulate treasure in heaven. That means people. When you make a good Christian friend on earth, you create a treasure that will be with you forever in heaven. Paying off, eternally.

It’s nice to have people visit, especially when they’re real friends and not superficial business acquaintances. It warms the place up. I know of a few more who will come eventually.

The house seemed somewhat cold and lifeless when I first got here. There were a lot of disturbing, unpleasant problems to contend with, and there were only two of us, banging around in a big empty place. I started to wonder if God had really guided me here. Maybe I had chosen the house myself, in selfishness or recklessness. Things keep happening to suggest that his hand is in this move. I’m very grateful for that.

I better get in the shower. I have to mow tomorrow. And who knows what else I’ll have to do? I really hope Irma doesn’t hit Miami. I can’t even guess how I would deal with that.

God will fix it. He always does.

Make sure you invest in people. People are the only wealth you can take with you.

Who was that Masked Man?

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

The Lawn Ranger Rides Again

Here is a quick one for you. I finished the small pasture.

He Maketh me to Drive in Circles in Green Pastures

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The New Adventures of Tractor Boy

I received a pleasant reminder tonight. You can’t enjoy living in Ocala unless you go outside.

For the last ten days or so, I’ve been living like a cockroach, shunning the light and sitting indoors, working on an endless stream of unexpected problems. I kept wanting to go out to the shop and enjoy it, but I put it off. Always busy or tired.

Tonight I got a little time to myself, and I went out to look things over. The other day I managed to get the garden tractor running, and I butchered the yard, but it wasn’t very relaxing. I was nervous about running into things, and I didn’t know how to run the machine, and then, of course, it started raining. Tonight was a little different.

The property has one side which is woods and another side which is pasture. The pasture is getting overgrown, and it makes me nervous. I don’t know anything about farming, but I know you don’t want three-foot-high grass and weeds in a pasture, and I don’t know how a bush hog will feel about cutting it when it gets too tall. There is also a small pasture behind the house, and it was getting tall, too.

I decided to mow the “road”(grass track) that runs from the house end of the property to the end of the pasture, down by the highway. After some confusion and false starts, I got the John Deere running and took off.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to mow foot-high grass with a garden tractor, but I was not ready to risk death on the farm tractor, and I figured I could get away with cutting a narrow swath. We have a twenty-foot-wide circular burn area in the big pasture, and I decided to mow around that, too, so I wouldn’t have to walk through a jungle to burn limbs.

When we bought this land, I thought mowing was one of the major down sides. Boy, was I wrong. It’s very relaxing, and it puts you in contact with the nature you paid for. I spend about two hours zipping around in my Rural King hat and my Gun Muffler ear protectors. I didn’t stop until it was too dark to mow safely. The tractor has headlights, and I actually used them.

It’s very satisfing, seeing a scary overgrowth of weeds and grass lie down in an orderly, sheared carpet of green. You can walk in mowed grass. You don’t have to worry as much about snakes and other critters surprising you. You can see where to put your foot when you walk. When you mow, you show that someone is in control and that he cares.

I learned a number of things. First of all, when you mow in a spiral, you want the grass to shoot out of the outer side of the tractor. You don’t want to shoot it into an area you’ll have to mow on your next pass. If you do that, you keep piling mown grass up in the center of your spiral, and the mower has to deal with it over and over. It kills your speed.

I also learned that evenings are the best time to mow. Either that or early in the morning. The sun is just too brutal in the middle of the day. You have to be stupid to mow at noon.

The mower gets things done a lot faster than I expected. It really cooks. I’m sure it would be even faster if the grass were lower.

I don’t plan to mow the whole pasture with a garden tractor, but I can clear the road, and that allows me to get to the far end and out the gate onto the swale by the highway. I’m responsible for that swale, so I need a path a garden tractor can handle. I do hope I don’t get pancaked by a semi while I’m mowing it.

It’s scary using the garden tractor. I have come to realize that it sounds disturbed even when you use it correctly, and that has helped. It’s hard to get used to the fact that it has no clutch. You just ram it into gear, whether it likes it or not. Also, you turn on the PTO without a clutch, while the engine is running. That feels wrong, but the manual says it’s right.

I’m nearly sure I dinged one blade when I mowed the front yard, but I have no way to get under the tractor to change it. I need a set of ramps, as I understand it.

I did everything I wanted to in the big pasture, but I left maybe three-quarters of an acre in the little pasture. It was just too dark and too late. I don’t want to drive into a hole or a stump I can’t see. I’m definitely an amateur, leaving it that way, but I can knock it off in half an hour tomorrow.

When I was a kid, my dad got a push mower and figured I would use it. It had powered front wheels, so really, you just steered it. We both lost interest, and I forgot all about it. I didn’t like it much. I was lazy, and it wasn’t fun to use. A tractor is different. It’s a pleasure to use. I thought people were nuts when they said they liked mowing, but now I get it. Mowing is fine. Pushing a heavy machine that takes two hours to finish half an acre is what’s not fun.

Maybe I shouldn’t mow the little pasture. I’m told I may be able to sell hay. You find someone who makes round bales, and he mows in exchange for part of the proceeds. I suppose the little pasture has some potential. Thing is, it makes a very nice extension to the back yard. I don’t think it’s worth it to give up foot access to it for a few dollars.

Hay could get me a tax exemption next year, so letting the big pasture grow is probably a good move.

I look forward to the cooler months. I moved at the worst possible time. It’s boiling hot during the day. Mid-90’s. A month from now, I should start to see some relief. I was here in March, and it was wonderful. There will be cold days, but let’s be serious. Forty degrees is not cold. I lived in New York and Kentucky, and I know what it’s like to have two weeks of temperatures at or below zero, with thick snow everywhere. Northern Florida cold is a joke. It will be uncomfortable some times, but come on. While I’m complaining about forty degrees, people up north will be wondering which six-foot-deep pile of snow is their car.

I should have posted some photos. No one would have been impressed, though. Because the grass was so high, it was not an elegant cut. This was not maintenance mowing. This was desperation mowing, to get the height reduced at all costs before it was too late. If I want to make it pretty, I’ll have to wait until next time.

Anyway, I’m glad I got to mow a little. I feel that God used this to remind me that things are going to be okay here. If I sit in the house and look at the computer all day, life will be depressing and empty, but if I take advantage of the things that drew me here in the first place, I’ll enjoy myself. Moving here and sitting in the house is like moving to Miami and staying on shore. The only thing Miami has going for it is the ocean, and if you don’t make use of it, all you have is a rude, sweaty city with terrible traffic, high prices, and no culture.

Pray I don’t destroy my machinery while I’m learning to use it.

By the way, I checked, and they do make gun racks for golf carts. Does my golf cart really need a gun rack? Who cares? That’s not the point. Gun racks are fun, and they make a statement. That statement is, “I am all about conservative overkill.” I almost feel like getting a Confederate flag, just to make it worse. But that would be disingenuous. I gave up on the stars and bars years ago, because of slavery.

In any case, it will be good to have a .22 or the 16-gauge with me out there. We have rattlesnakes, possums, coons, and coyotes. I don’t want to kill possums. They’re harmless, obsequious creatures. But it looks like one is pooping on my front walk regularly. Coons…I hate. The first time you pick up trash after a coon, all your thoughts of cuteness and charm will evaporate. As for rattlesnakes, they should all be killed. Let the greenies whine. Rattlesnakes do horrible things to people. Google and see what a snake bite looks like after the poison has done its work.

Maybe I’ll get to shoot a little soon. This place is perfect for practicing with the .17 HMR and scope.

That’s all for tonight. Time to shower and look forward to another day.

My Pal Edgar

Monday, August 28th, 2017

New Life, New Friends

Rural life continues to amuse and enthrall.

Right now, two guys are putting a new AC unit in the house. Assuming there are no catastrophes in the next 24 hours, I will be sleeping without a fan buffeting me tonight. In other words, I will be SLEEPING.

The phone and Internet company is fun to deal with, as people on the web predicted. I have Centurylink, and saying so is a lot like saying I drive a brand new 1976 Camaro (notice I didn’t say 1970). I have a DSL modem and wifi. Primitive. So far, it’s working too well to cancel but not well enough to really enjoy.

When I signed up for service, Centurylink sent me joyous emails celebrating our new romance and promising ecstasy. Then they didn’t send a tech. They mailed me a box containing a modem. I looked around the house and finally found the only jack that works with a DSL modem, and I plugged it in. I plugged a cordless phone base into another phone jack, and I was in business. Only I wasn’t. I had DSL hum. Because DSL and voice operate on a single line, you need a filter to remove the DSL noise from the phone signal. Remember? Remember that from 1997?

I never use the land line except to answer calls from scammers, so I put off fixing it until today. That’s not entirely true. I contacted Centurylink over the web and complained that I had no phone filters, and they promised they would be all over it. Then they sent emails asking how I liked the service. The big problem here is that there was no service. They did nothing, unless emailing me counts. This is even worse than a participation trophy; to get a participation trophy, you have to show up.

Centurylink does another big favor for its customers. They publish their phone numbers without asking. Without warning anyone. To get an unlisted number, you have to pay seven dollars per month. Obviously, they know you’re going to get scam calls, and they want you to receive a bunch and then call and beg to pay the seven dollars. The big snag with that plan is that by the time they agree to stop publishing your number, everyone in the universe has it, so you’re paying seven dollars for nothing. After giving everyone you know your number, you have to have it changed. Thank God that’s free.

I called today about the DSL hum and the scammers, and I believe I had to speak to four different departments. The first guy was in “customer service,” although he made it very clear that the one thing his job did not permit him to do was to provide anything resembling “service” to anyone who could conceivably be described by the word “customer.” I think he was more like a receptionist than anything else.

I’m exaggerating. He did manage to get my line unpublished, which is like trying to put the steam back in a tea kettle.

I used Nomorobo to stop scammers in Miami, and as the Nomorobo site asked, while I was talking to Centurylink, I said Centurylink needed to start supporting Nomorobo. The CSR asked me what it was. I explained that it was a service that intercepted calls and only passed on calls that were legitimate. He said it sounded great, and that he needed to try it on his home line. Which is apparently not supplied by Centurylink. Okay.

Regarding the hum, I spent a very long time talking to a number of people, and the last one told me Centurylink doesn’t provide filters. She said I should go to Best Buy. Of course, this is 2017, so Best Buy does not sell DSL filters. They don’t sell sundials or Betamax players, either.

I was told to plug the phone base into the modem, and that the modem’s built-in filter would kill the hum. I tried that, and now I have a phone base in an inconvenient place, plus DSL hum.

I have filters on the way from Amazon, so maybe that will help. I am inclined to dump the land line. In the past, I never understood people who didn’t have land lines, but that’s because I lived in an area where the service was bad. Here, in the backward rural South, I can’t get a good Internet connection or decent TV, but the phone service rocks. It even provides a better Internet hookup than the wired account.

DirecTV…don’t get me started. I would rather be Super Creepy Rob Lowe than have DirecTV. In fact, I did watch some people swim the other day, so maybe I am Super Creepy Rob Lowe.

I have no idea which DirecTV package my dad has. I am too busy to check and fool with it. You can’t just look on the web and get a quick answer. Figuring out which channels you have is like choosing insurance. “I have Discovery but not Discovery HD…I have HBO…no, wait, it’s HBO East…” Whatever package it is, it doesn’t matter, because if the receivers screw up, they will think you have the base package until you reset them.

I tried to find stuff to watch. With Xfinity, this was simple. I’ll describe how it works with DirecTV.

1. Use tiny channel +/- button to go through 9000 channels.
2. Get frustrated and try to enter a channel directly.
3. Get message from DirecTV saying you don’t have that channel, but you can pay extra and get it.
4. Get sent back to channel 1 so you can start over.

I am not kidding. It really works like that.

I have a list of channels, but the list doesn’t say which channels WORK and which ones send you back to channel 1.

I’m not stupid. I know what’s going on. They sell you an affordable package that makes your life a living hell, hoping you will upgrade immediately. They hope you will prefer finding topless women easily to putting braces on your son’s teeth.

My take goes like this: if you’re already punishing me before I give you more money, why should I reward you?

Fortunately, I don’t care at all about TV, and my dad watches about 5 channels, so they’re SOL, which stands for “Satellite Out of Luck” or something like that.

The first day they hooked the TV up, I made the mistake of searching for content while the TV was tuned to Ellen Degeneres. Every time I got sent back to home plate, I saw more of a person who hates everyone like me and is crusading to rid the planet of us. When you struggle with DirecTV, it’s best to start on a channel you don’t find unbearable.

I don’t think I’ve watched a single show yet. I can’t remember watching any. I’ve seen bits of this and that, but when it comes to finding things I like and watching from beginning to end, the pain is not worth the gain. DirecTV is the Nicorette of TV. It will help you get off of TV and back into real life.

I have been hoping to find a fixed wireless company up here. They should exist. Fixed wireless means you get cell-quality Internet, because it works off of cell towers. Cell coverage is very good here, so fixed wireless should be available, but it’s a new thing, so I haven’t found a provider. I saw a sign on a telephone pole advertising great Internet speed, and I’m hoping it’s fixed wireless. I plan to call.

What else is happening? Let’s see. Some kind of animal is leaving poops in inconvenient places. I asked the AC guy if he knew what it was, but he was stumped. Probably not something he expected to be asked.

It’s a gelatinous poop about 1-1/4″ long and 1/2″ thick, shaped like a Good ‘n’ Plenty. This animal likes to poop on bricks, so that means it poops where I walk. I want to identify it and kill it.

I’m enjoying the insect life here. Take a gander at the creature I found stuck to the front door. This could be one four-inch-long bug, or it may be two passionate bugs having a tryst. I can’t tell. It clung to the same spot on the door frame for two days, and finally, I tried to scare it off. I waved my hands at it and made threatening noises, and it merely looked annoyed.

I got a stick to pry it off the door, and instead of fleeing in terror, it resisted. Finally, I got the end of the stick under it and flung it onto the porch. It left, slowly, leaving behind a huge pile of bug poo which had accumulated beneath it during its stay on the doorframe.

My friend Amanda brought her kids over to swim on Saturday (cue Rob Lowe), and we saw the same bug, or a friend, clinging to the swimming pool coping. I warned her not to mess with it, because it would harm her self-esteem, but she went over to drive it off, and she succeeded in making it move about ten inches. When she returned to the near side of the pool, she informed us all: “Its name is Edgar.”

This is all I know.

I should have stomped on it, but when a bug gets to a certain size, it starts to seem like an animal. I mean, bugs are animals, but I’m saying that stepping on Edgar would be like stepping on a terrier. And he might resent it.

When I say Edgar is four inches long, I am not including the antennas and accessories. We have…had…grasshoppers bigger than Edgar in Miami, but they weren’t as assertive.

Things are starting to fall in line, and if they continue doing so, I will mow the yard this week. I can start the garden tractor, and I got myself a straw hat for shade. If I survive, I may get crazy and take a shot at bush-hogging the pasture.

I wish I could write more. I have not even scratched the surface of the Ocala experience. I have not, for example, mentioned my visit to Rural King. But I still have a lot of dragons to slay, so I can’t blog all day. I have to watch some episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. Don’t ask why. It’s an assignment.

Look, stop whining. Are you not entertained?

Even More

I have some background on Edgar. He is a two-striped walking stick, also known as a spitting devil. If you bother Edgar badly enough, he will spit poison in your eyes, and he can nail you from up to 15 inches away. Isn’t that nice? Glad I learned that the easy way. Now I feel better about stomping on these things. It’s them or me.

Wait till you hear about the object on Edgar’s back. It’s his husband. Edgar is a girl. Male walking sticks find females, and they attach themselves to their backs. Even if the females are below breeding age, the males attach and hang on until they grow up. That’s what I call patience. Isn’t that what Mohammed did?

“Husband” may be too kind a term. Edgar’s mate makes him do all the work and carry him around, and the mate does nothing at all. In reality, he is Edgar’s pimp.

If I find the brick-pooping creature, I will let you know as soon as I can.

This is my Stop

Monday, August 21st, 2017

The Armed Compound is a Reality

Today I’m trying something new: golf cart blogging. I’m in the woods east of my house, sitting in my E-Z-GO, drinking an Arizona Watermelon cocktail. I have the laptop with me, and I’m using my phone as a router.

I’m typing during the eclipse, which is on the way out now. I did not make any effort to observe it, but when I walked out of my dad’s hospital, I noticed that the sun was casting thousands of crescent-shaped lights on the sidwalk. To see an eclipse, you look down, not up.

Traditionally, eclipses have been considered bad omens, and lunar eclipses have been considered particularly ominous for Israel. I don’t know if it amounts to anything. I have not seen a correlation. I find eclipses themselves kind of dull, but it’s neat to see how the world becomes darker while staying sunny. I remember seeing that when I was a kid.

My dad is in the hospital because he refused to wait for me to give him his prescriptions two days ago. I already wrote about this. We were leaving a hotel in Kissimmee, and I asked him to wait by the car while I got the birds. They were in travel cages in my room. He wanted to take his pills, and I told him he needed to let me get them for him. When I got back to the car, he had a bag of bottles in his hands, and he was taking things. I had to pull the bag out of his fingers to get him to stop.

The next morning, in the new house, he came to my bedroom and said he didn’t know where he was.

I thought he had had a stroke, but it looks like he took the wrong dose of one drug and slowed his heart rate down to the point where it affected his thinking. I learn new lessons all the time, and now I’ve learned I have to keep his prescriptions in a special place.

The day we left Miami, he insisted he was not going to give up driving. He said he was perfectly able to find his way around the neighborhood. He was adamant. He was angry. He got in the car and tried to go to a Wendy’s about a mile and a half away. I didn’t see him again for several hours.

I used a phone app to track him, and I saw that he was several miles north of Coral Gables, driving in random directions, as if he were using dice to choose his way. I ended up chasing him down with the app. I found him near Northwest 79th Street, which is about 12 miles from where he should have been. Instead of leaving reasonably early and taking a leisurely drive to Ocala, we ended up leaving late and checking into the hotel in Kissimmee at about 1 a.m., and needless to say, a lot of loose ends down south remained loose.

I took the car keys, and I figured things would be okay, and then came the pill incident.

The movers didn’t finish putting everything where it should be. As Miami’s final slap in the face, the moving company sent three Cubans who did not speak any English. The job called for six, at least one of whom could communicate. They finally left at about midnight, promising to come back in a few days. Will I see them again? Search me.

I have one friend in Ocala, and she has been a godsend. When I texted her about my dad’s hospital stay, she drove to the hospital on her day off to visit him and see if he was okay. This gave me time to buy towels and some other things we needed. When I caught up with her at the hospital, she showed me where the Wal-Mart was, and I loaded up on waste baskets and so on.

Her ex-husband is a lawyer. Well, that’s not true. He used to be a lawyer. He stole a lot of money from two clients, and he is currently a guest of the state, awaiting final sentencing. Long story. She and I kept each other laughing with tales of our dysfunctional families. For example, we discussed the time her 350-pound great aunt got in the bathtub against everyone’s advice and got stuck there, and then insisted my friend lift her out.

The ex-husband is a strange case. The videotape of one of his hearings is online, and I decided to watch it. The judge asked him about his education level, and he said, “nineteenth grade.” What can you say about that? You’re talking to the person who decides how much time you get, and you decide to make a joke? I would not have made that choice. It may explain why the judge denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. He could be looking at 10 years or more.

The house, shop, and grounds are wonderful. The shop is going to be big enough for all my tools, and it’s already set up with a security system, a powered garage door on one end, and a chain-driven roll-up door on the other. It has a nice porch outside, with a swing and 4 plastic Adirondack chairs. When I experience failure and frustration with my tools, I can go out there, sit in one of the chairs, and sulk in the shade.

I have endless room to store my junk, so for the first time in years, I will not have to worry about clutter. I can’t get over that.

The area is like medicine to me. The people are polite. Nearly everyone speaks English. I see Trump stickers all over the place. The traffic is a joke. The landscape is very pretty. I can’t wait for the August heat to die down so I can enjoy Marion County even more.

I have some stress related to my dad’s little surprises, as well as the movers’ interesting business methods, but other than that, I have peace here. I’m trying to get used to the fact that everyone isn’t angry at me, the way they are in Miami. I was right about that place. It wasn’t me; it was Miami.

My friend Travis called and said he had a dream about me. He’s house sitting for me. He said he dreamed an angry hag tried to get into the house. At first, he didn’t know who it was, but it turned out to be my sister. That makes sense. She has been used against me all my life. Whatever it is that drives her is probably not pleased that I’m out here living among Christians.

Travis has had prophetic dreams before, so this one could be legit. He’s very concerned because so many of his strong Christian friends have left Miami. He thinks something bad is going to happen. Of course, something bad has already happened. It became Miami. How much worse could it get?

I guess I should fire up the Mach 5 and get back to the barn. In a month or two, I should be able to blog out here in 70-degree weather. That will be something. Maybe I’ll have some rifle targets to show you.

Expect more move-related posts. This adventure is just starting.

The Liberation of A. MacMoofing

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

GANGWAY!

If you want to have a thrilling experience that will leave you gasping, don’t buy a wingsuit and jump off Mount Everest. Hire movers to move your grand piano.

Today I watched movers turn my piano on its side and roll it outdoors. It’s like watching nurses play catch with your newborn child. Anyway, they seem to know what they’re doing.

Of course, the movers are doing more than I required in the original estimate. I’m handling everything myself, so it was not possible to get every possession packed. The cost went up a few hundred dollars, and it may go up more tomorrow. C’est la vie. That’s what money is for.

I still can’t get used to the idea that I’m leaving this miserable city. Day after tomorrow, I will be in MY house, in northern Florida. I won’t be a tourist or a guest. I’ll be a resident.

It’s frustrating, trying to do things in the right order. My tools are on a truck right now, so all the things I wanted to do with tools this week are not possible. I needed tools to prepare some things for the move! I had to rely on the movers and their pathetic tools. My lathe has a wooden tool shelf on it, and the shelf has to be removed for the trip north. The shelf uses special bolts. They’re not original to the lathe. I keep the originals in one of my rolling tool chests. Guess when I remembered that? After they started moving my tools into the truck. Thank God they hadn’t taken the chest yet.

Whoops. I have to get up and let them pack crystal. I’ll be back.

I have started to think there is no intelligent, efficient way to move. My obligations in South Florida are a bit screwed up, and there is nothing I can do about it. People are just going to have to show me a little patience. Or drive 300 miles to see me if they want a confrontation. By the time they get there, I should already have the security alligators trained.

I had to move in the most cloudless, blistering, glaring August in history. I hate to say anything that might make a global warming nut puff up and crow, but the sun is about an inch from the ground today. I actually had to walk around it to get to the car. It’s one of those Augusts when the sun follows you in the house. You sit in the air-conditioned shade and feel the sun’s heat and glare through the walls. Even when you close your eyes, you want sunglasses.

I feel like Miami is angry at me for leaving, and I suppose it is. There are big, filthy spirits assigned to various geographical areas, and I’m sure the ones that run Miami enjoy the suffering I endure here. I think they’re turning it up to punish me for going AWOL. It seems like people are ruder and more crass than ever this week. More people turning in front of me without turn signals. More people running yield signs simply because Carlos the Random Miamian and his leased Range Rover are more important than I am. More traffic backups. Papa John’s sent me a guy who could not say three words of English. I’m so busy I debase myself by ordering Papa John’s, and they rub it in by sending me an illegal who can’t say, “Twenty dollars and forty-two cents.”

That is some bad pizza, by the way. Really revolting. The cheese is fake (look up the ingredients), and they put about half an ounce of each topping on the pie. Flour and tomatoes are nearly free, so of course, that’s what Papa John’s sells you. Anything even slightly costly they dole out in tiny amounts more suitable for snorting than eating. They might as well chop the toppings into lines and serve them on a mirror.

At some point tomorrow, my dad’s TV will be packed. I do not look forward to that. He is not good at dealing with minor inconveniences. He was already bored with 800 channels. Now he will have…0 channels. That means he will be 800 divided by 0 times as bored. And we won’t have cable until next week. I may check into a motel by myself and claim I was abducted by aliens.

The flying saucer kind, not the lawn-mowing kind. Although for all I know, Salvadorans are already sneaking over Neptune’s border.

I found out I can use my cell phone to stream Youtube to my TV in Ocala. That’s really something. I can barely send a text message here, and the Internet is slower than Morse code in Ocala, but the phone service up there is so good I’ll be able to watch Youtube. Explain that to me. The phone should be lightning fast in Miami, and it’s not. The Internet should be faster than 1.5 MBPS in Ocala, but it’s not. The cell service in Ocala should be pretty slow…but it’s not. Whatever. As long as I can watch my machining channels with breakfast, life will be good.

Who am I kidding? Life will be magnificent. I’m not going to be in Miami! If I get bored, I’ll hop on my golf cart and tour the grounds with my AK-47. I’ll go lift something with my tractor. I’ll go for a drive! You can do that in Marion County! You can drive for pleasure! Unless you count riding my motorcycles at night, I haven’t done that since maybe 1990. Maybe I’ll just go to McDonald’s and ORDER IN ENGLISH!!!!

“I want two McMuffins.” “Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh…joo Juan A. MacMoofings?”

I’m going to change my name to A. MacMoofing.

Water. I should drink some water. I’ve been drinking it all day, and if you will excuse me for being indelicate, it’s all intake and no output. Too much work. Too much heat. I think it’s affecting my brain. I need to pump some water into it.

I guess I’ve wound down enough. Time to stop writing.

I may be able to write something tomorrow, and then again, I may not. If this is the last blog entry I ever write from this county, let me take the high road and say I will always try to remember my experiences here without heaving. No promises.