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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Thanks for the Advice

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

The Opposite of Nostalgia

Today I was thinking about all the problems I have. I still have a bunch of big trees to cut and move. We are having a mosquito plague that beggars description. I still have to get my machinery moved from Miami. I have to get a house down there fixed up and rented. I gave myself a sunburn on one wrist and one leg using the welder. I added all that up, and this was my conclusion: I HATE MIAMI. THANK GOD I’M NOT IN MIAMI. I LOVE IT HERE.

So things could be worse.

I remember what some people said to me when I used to criticize Miami. “If you don’t like it, leave!” Sometimes they said, “Get the f___ out!”

I did! I left! Great advice! Muchos gracias!

People thought I wasn’t serious about leaving. Yeah, okay. They don’t know me very well. I’ve been trying to get out for years.

“Get the f___ out!” Always nice to get polite advice from good friends.

What do I miss about Miami? Still nothing! Nothing, nothing, nothing. Not the traffic. Not the rudeness. Not the ethnic tension. Not the near lack of seasons. Not the perpetually moldy smell of the air. I don’t miss paying ten bucks for a McDonald’s breakfast. I don’t miss having my unpleasant neighbors right up my nose as soon as I walk outside. I don’t miss not being able to shoot without driving for half an hour and paying a fee to be monitored by killjoy range officers. I don’t miss having a tiny, cramped workshop. I don’t miss not being able to talk to people because they’re too lazy and selfish to learn the language of the generous country that saved their lives.

I have two friends left in Miami. Two, after decades of living there. Guess what? They hate it. They hate it so much they want to move all the way to Virginia.

I know other people there, but we have drifted apart. Not including the couple I mentioned above, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be surprised if I called.

Well, I do have my house sitter. He has to stay there for another year because he’s in college. But he hates Miami, too.

Last week a friend had to go to Cudjoe Key to check on a rental house he owned. I let him sleep at my dad’s house in Miami, and he brought me a lot of stuff the movers left behind. I have my Rockstar beverage fridge! I have a guitar amp! My sawzall is here! I have my compressor hose reels! I even have one of my big soup pots, plus my huge pressure cooker!

I still have no steam iron, but that’s okay, because I hate ironing.

Yesterday Amanda and her kids came down for a visit, and I made collards, ham hocks, neckbones, hoe cakes, soup beans, and sliced tomatoes and Vidalias. We also slapped together some oatmeal cookies, from the recipe in my book. It turns out the book is wrong; they’re only supposed to have about 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg in them. Anyway, it was a great feed. First real home-cooked meal I’ve made in months. Sometimes you need a big pot.

My laundry facilities are better than hers, so I told her to use them when she needs them. In return we get some company.

There are some things I had to replace after I moved. Example: my old-man tweezers. When you hit a certain age, hairs sprout all over you. You can either pull them out or watch them take over. I don’t mind buying tweezers, because tweezers are among the products we make a whole lot better than we used to.

It’s a good thing we got out when we did, because my dad’s condition worsened abruptly after our offer was accepted. It would have been a lot harder to move, had we waited. Now he has a big bedroom suite and a living room all to himself. He has a safe place to do his daily walking. His quality of life is much better. He isn’t tempted to drive. Looking after him is way easier here, and when things get worse, we’ll be surrounded by people who are experts at caring for old people. And they speak English.

He has started having false memories. The other day he told someone we had taken his boat to France and Italy, with extra diesel in drums on the deck. I sat there hoping no one would ask me about the trip.

Dementia is very strange. Dealing with a demented person is like walking through a house that has been hit by artillery fire. Some parts are totally sound, and others are just plain missing. Depending on what you talk to my dad about, you may be able to get very reliable input from him, but if you enter one of the damaged areas, the floor collapses under you.

Up here, he’s relatively safe from telemarketers and other swindlers. He doesn’t have to worry about close relations showing up on his doorstep, making wild accusations and demanding money. He’s less likely to be preyed upon by financially shaky, morally flexible middle-aged ladies who have suddenly found themselves drawn to octagenarians.

The weather has changed. I think. The forecast for this week is running seven to ten degrees lower than last week. That should make tree clearing easier. I’m told we will get bug relief after the first cold snap. That will be nice. Mosquitoes hate me, but there are so many here right now, even the outliers that find me tasty are able to cause problems. And because of the heat, sweat has been washing the repellant away.

Weather sites list the mosquito outlook as “EXTREME.” I would go along with that. And it makes sense. There is still standing water from Irma.

I can’t wait for better weather. The outdoor work has to be done.

I’m considering getting weights for the tractor. The guy who sold it to me left a bush hog on it for weight, but the bush hog gets beaten up a lot while I drag it around. It doesn’t lift completely off the ground. It would be a pain to switch weights for the bush hog, but it might be worth it. I would have more maneuverability, and the bush hog could be tucked away in the goat shed to rest.

A 1000-pound set of weights runs about a grand, but there is probably someone around here who has an old set to sell.

I had to weld the bush hog again. The welds I put on with a stick electrode broke when I hit a stump. They were really bad welds anyway. I fired up my generator and used the MIG to replace them, but I’ve had some problems. For one thing, the generator surges for some reason, and that makes the wire feed switch on and off. I may need a new torch cable liner to reduce resistance.

I don’t know what it will cost to get real 220 installed in the garage, but it’s a must-do.

That’s all I have right now. I am still here. I am still very, very, very glad I left. Hope to post more photos in the future.

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.

See What I Saw

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

The Tools Make the Man

Just a quick post to say my pole saw arrived. I already had a little electric pole saw, but I have a lot of big oaks lying on their sides, so I needed something more manly. The best I was willing to buy was a 12″ Echo sold on Home Depot’s website.

The scariest oak on my land is about two feet thick a couple of feet from where it used to emerge from the ground. It landed on two other big trees, plus my chicken house. The other trees won’t let it fall completely. It has one big branch which is bent back like a spring. If that branch comes loose, it will smack anyone under it into the ground and turn them into red mush.

I do not want to pay a tree service thousands of dollars to get rid of my problem trees, but you can’t walk up to a dangerous tree with an ordinary chainsaw and start sawing off huge limbs with internal stresses in them. The pole saw allowed me to nibble away at the tree and make it easier to deal with. I’ll post two photos.

I should have worn a hard hat while I cut this tree. Next time I work on it, I will. At least I had good boots, leather gloves, and eye and ear protection.

The pole saw is a game-changer. The other two saws I have can be used interchangeably for the most part, even though they’re good for different things. Neither one can come close to replacing a pole saw. I was able to cut things safely with the bar ten feet off the ground. You should never use an ordinary chain saw with the bar above shoulder height, but pole saws are made for that kind of thing.

Of course, a limb that falls from ten feet off the ground is a good reason to wear a hard hat. Note to self.

I feel so much better. There’s a chance I won’t be able to finish this oak safely, but I’ll definitely be able to turn it into a much cheaper job, and I’ll be able to handle every other tree I have to deal with. A man who has a tractor and a big diesel truck should not have to pay someone four figures to move a single tree.

My friend Amanda has a tree (or trees) threatening her home, but her family has decided it’s better to spend money protecting a barn full of unwanted animals, including two bunnies rescued from an Easter bunny sale. Maybe the theory is that her kids are young and therefore easy to replace quickly. I would be happy to try to fix the tree, but her mom won’t allow her or her kids to have guests. Frustrating.

I think the chicken house is a goner. Maybe I can fix it.

In other news, I just e-signed a contract to sell my dad’s old yacht, for about 8% more than I expected.

Time to get in the shower and scrape myself. This has been a very good day.

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.

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.

Who Needs Eyebrows?

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Even Trash-Burning has a Learning Curve

I had another challenging day today. I don’t want to list everything I’ve had to cope with, but I can mention a few facts. For example, my dad’s boat is in a marina. The marina’s electrical stuff was submerged during the tropical storm surge. The marina has no power. Someone has to go start every boat’s engines to keep the batteries charged, so the boats have juice to run their bilge pumps…or they’ll sink. And I’m 300 miles away.

Stuff like that.

Also, I set fire to myself. I finally lit up the multi-ton pile of dead wood out in the pasture. I tried lighting the dry leaves on the branches, but they pooped out. I decided to try accelerating the fire with gasoline.

Don’t start with me. I have burned gasoline many times. I have never seen it explode. The way it did today. At me. I had no way of knowing that was going to happen.

I put about half a cup of gas on the pile, and I used one of those long barbecue lighters to light it. I held my hand way out there, to maximize the distance. The pile went WHOOOF, and a big fireball shot out at me.

I lost all the hair on one ankle. I had to drive to the house to see if I had eyebrows. It was pretty stimulating.

Gas doesn’t do that when you set fire to it on the ground. Something about the limbs and leaves got it excited. I suppose they helped the fumes evaporate and form a cloud.

Next time, diesel. That will be tomorrow.

My friend Amanda didn’t have power this morning, so I invited her and her sons to come over and use the washer and dryer, not to mention the pool and shower. That worked out well. Amanda is an old hand at the farming game, and she had good advice regarding the burn pile. Too bad she wasn’t there when I lit it.

She and her kids kept my dad amused while I worked, and her sons piled up a bunch of branches so I could pick them up with the tractor. I don’t think they’re in love with farm work. When I went to see how they were doing, the youngest said, “Can we be done now?”

Amanda and I toured the farm on the golf cart and looked at the trees that still need to be dealt with. Some of them won’t be accessible for days because there is standing water in a few places. It rained like crazy during the storm.

I figure I have 3 trees that need attention soon. They’re lying across fences, and my neighbors will eventually want that fixed. The rest can wait. Who cares if an oak falls over in a pasture? Big deal.

Life is getting straightened out.

I won’t lie. I’ve had a lot of stress and worry. God has given me great tools to deal with these things, but this has been a very special couple of months. It’s as if Satan is extremely angry that I escaped Miami, so he is throwing whatever he can at me. The movers screwed up royally; half of the furniture is still in my garage, and they left a bunch of tools in Miami. My dad took an overdose of blood pressure pills and forgot where he was, so he had to be hospitalized. The house’s main AC died and had to be replaced. Hurricane Irma.

I keep telling people I’m waiting for the earthquake.

Anyway, I generally cope with worry very well, but this has been a new level of aggravation, and things keep coming up to distract me and prevent me from praying.

It will get better. And when it’s over, I won’t be in Miami. I will still be free from the stench of Dade County. Man, that place stinks. I wish I had left in 1970. How different my life would be, had I been raised among better people. But then I was not ready for it. I didn’t deserve it. It would have been wrong to inflict me on Ocala.

Tomorrow the burning and sawing resumes. Pray I don’t roast myself again.

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.

Storm Reprieve

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Irma Moved

Well, this is a good day.

I spent most of the day preparing for the guest invasion. The house was supposed to be full of kids during the storm, and my dad and I needed things, so I bought all sorts of stuff. Then my friend Amanda came by to help. We moved junk around in the garage and the workshop so she and my friend Teri would be able to park indoors, and then I decided to try to move the tractor outside. It takes up two cars’ worth of room.

Starting a Kubota is a real project. There are about ten things you have to adjust. The manual lists the whole procedure, and it lists different versions of it for different tractors. I kept looking for knobs and levers my tractor didn’t have. I still haven’t found everything the manual said to find.

At long last, I got everything adjusted so the tractor’s lawyered-up computer was happy, and it agreed to start. I moved it into the small pasture and left it there with a bag on the seat to keep rain out. There is nothing worse than sitting on a wet tractor seat and having all the water squoosh out into your pants.

Here is Amanda with the tractor. Proof that it moved.

At some point toward the end of this, I realized it was after 5 p.m., meaning the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. update was posted. I checked my phone. Hurricane Irma’s forecast path had moved maybe twenty miles farther west! What a relief! If it keeps on this track, the area where all the stuff that belongs to me and my dad is will only get tropical-storm-force winds. That, I can handle. It won’t rip roofs off, break windows, or sink my dad’s yacht. Probably. A tropical storm is not a very big deal. Not unless it carries a lot of rain. Irma does not.

I have that feeling you get when you know the worst is not going to happen. It’s as if adrenaline is ice, and you feel it melting and running down out of your body, like meltwater running through cracks in a mountain.

I can’t say Irma is behind me. It can still change course. But it appears that God heard me and the other people who prayed. And maybe he heard Jennifer Lawrence, who appeared to blame the storm on people who voted for Trump.

I had been praying for the storm to move east, away from my personal concerns and also those of my friend Leah. I do not want to see her house in the Keys get pummeled. Now things are looking much better for me, but they are worse for her. I think the only option is to pray for it to keep moving west.

I feel like I just got sprung from death row. This storm was set up to cause me very, very serious problems. I hope God will see fit to keep pushing it away.

Thanks, if you prayed for us. Leah still needs prayer, so don’t stop. We will see you on the other side of this.

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.