Thursday, August 11, 2011

Economy: What in the wide world of sports is going on?

What the heck is going on?  For years we were told that Americans didn't save enough.  We spent too much money on liabilities.  Too bad that our entire economic empire was built on that kind of frivolous spending.  Now we hear the talking heads say that the way to jump start the economy is to get people spending again!  Seems a little paradoxical to this guy.

I'm a little worried about recent events.  Sure we've seen people flee investments for cash before.  I'm not sure it'sever been like this though.  The best I can do is read up on history and talk with those who have lived through it.  Seems the wise move is to sit tight and hold onto your money right now.  No problem.  The wife and I paid off all of our debt (except the mortgage) earlier this year.  We're alright.  What concerns me is my job.

You see.....I'm a fundraiser.  I ask people to share their hard-earned money with not much in return other than a sense of civic pride.  I believe in my organization.  100%   Our constituents believe in us too.  However, when things are tough, charitable giving is usually the first thing that a family or business cuts.  Understandable.  Been there, done that.

A person's self-perceived wealth is most times based on the performance of their investments, their job and the news headlines.  Even if a person is safely employed, the other two factors are ruining it for me right now!  It's going to be a hard sell to convince folks to consider charitable donations in an environment like this.....much less trying to get them to increase over last year's giving.

I don't say any of this thinking that I would lose my job.  We're going to have a good campaign, the volunteers are going to be great, as always and we're going to raise a lot of money for a great organization.  I say it on more of a personal level.  I have set some pretty lofty goals for myself.  Maybe it's natural, but I'm starting to doubt just how attainable those goals might be.

Back 'er Down real world comparison:  It's kind of like when you have the big daddy deer in your cross-hairs and just before you pull the trigger, buck fever strikes and you start shaking.  You want to shoot it.  It's right there.  You're just too amped up to keep still and make the shot. (you knew I wouldn't do a serious blog without hicking it up just a little)


But there is good news!  We have an awesome team!  There are dedicated folks, both employees and volunteers, who are going to come together and get us to the goal.  We also have generous supporters.  I know they will step up to the plate when the time comes.  In a time where I have a little bit of personal uncertainty  knowing that those folks are there helps me sleep at night.

How cool would it be if I somehow incorporated 500 square inches of hunter's orange into my suit?  Ehhh.  Maybe not ;)

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back To School!

At the local Wal-Mart an 8 pack of Crayola crayons cost me 96 cents.  A 24 pack of Crayola crayons was 40 cents.  Only in America.  It's time to go back to school and the cash registers are ringing.  After buying the assorted supplies for my Kindergartner I was surprised that things haven't really changed all that much.

We're at the end of the first week of Kindergarten and I proud to report that it was a great week!!

Edit and Update:  This was a draft blog that I had planned to expand on.  However, I hit the publish button instead of the save button.  didn't even realize it!  LOL!  Well, since Trey commented, I figure that I'll just leave it.  If you like the outdoors, Browning firearms, antique furniture, the Atlanta Braves, or the Georgia Southern Eagles, check out Trey's blog.  It's a good one!   http://treyluckie.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Climbing Out of a Funk

Clearance rack blueberry bush
Been feeling kind of blah lately.  Not sure why.  Maybe it's the heat.  The wife says it might be because the garden is done.  Either way I have to snap out of it.  It's a drag.  No patience with the kiddos, no patience at work and I find myself just being a general grump lately.  That ain't me.  The peeps around me deserve better.

I started running again.  Before son #2 was born, I was a regular runner, nearly every morning.  Once he came along I got out of the habit.  A baby will do that to a household.  He's 2 1/2 now though.  I don't have an excuse, except that I was just being a useless slob.  My short term goal is to run/walk every morning.  Even weekends, even rainy days.  I remember feeling so good when I was doing that a few years ago.  It gave me more stamina through the day.  It helped clear my sinuses.  If kept me from packing on 20 extra lbs.  Remind me again...... why did I stop?  #FoRealDough

Garden is done, but we're still planting!  I found some blackberry and blueberry bushes on a clearance rack at Lowes.  $3 each.  They actually looked pretty healthy too.  We planted two of each and have our fingers crossed that we can keep them watered enough through the brutal South GA summer.  We also planted 5 peach trees.  These gems were volunteers that my Dad dug up out of his trash pile.  He and Mom put up some peaches last year and low and behold the pits put on some pretty impressive trees right there in the trash pile.  Nature is funny like that.  We potted them in the spring and they had began to get root bound, so it was time to get them in the dirt.

I'd like to go camping with the oldest boy, but finding the time and fighting the heat/rain is making that difficult.  I'd love to go to the river, but it's so low I'd be dragging the boat........ not to mention I'm not sure it's clean after a questionable fish kill.  Guess I need to treat it like the running.  I just need to step up and do it!  In other news, I'm thinking about taking up photography.  Auctioneering school is still on the bucket list, but taking awesome pictures seems to be a little more realistic goal right now.

Exercise and outdoor activities.........that will bring a man out of a funk don't you think?

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Monday, July 4, 2011

Feeling Better About the World

After 10 days of not wearing shoes, napping and generally going at whatever pace I wanted................. it's back to work today.  Our family enjoyed a week at the beach and with the way the 4th of July fell this year, we had a good three days to get home, unpack and get some stuff done at the Ponderosa too.  that was a welcomed treat.  Coming home from vacation, unpacking that night and going to work the next morning is a huge drag.

We vacationed with the wife's family to a small and relatively underdeveloped South Carolina barrier island called Edisto Island.  Neat place with a lot of history, one grocery store, one gas station a hand-full of restaurants and shops and 4 million rental houses.  Very family oriented.  I'm not a big fan of the beach really.  I prefer fresh water adventures.  The wife and kids enjoy it though, so it's worth every penny.  We did rent a house with a pool this year.  Also......worth every penny!

As I typically do each year, I took a 2 day vacation from the vacation and came home to take care of some chores.  This time it was cutting grass.  If you've read any of my garden updates this year you would know that we were very dry this spring.  I pretty much called it quits on the garden just before we left for vacation.  Well, we have received as much rain in the last week as we did in the previous five months.  In fact Wednesday afternoon we got right at 4 inches.  Insane.  Garden is over but the grass is looking great!  Maybe this will give the pine seedlings the chance to get down a good root entering their 3rd year.

So the title of the blog......  I did come across a few things during my vacation that has me feeling better about the world.  Sometimes I watch the news, read certain publications and I just get down in the dumps.  There is hope though.  Here are a three reasons why:

1.  My kids set up a watermelon stand this weekend.  Through no prodding by me, my oldest said that he wanted to set up a watermelon stand and sell them for $1 each.  Great teaching opportunity I thought.  We have already established that "you get money by working."  This was a chance to teach that you can also get money by selling something that you "created."  Under the direction of the oldest, the boys did everything themselves.  The planned how they would set up, made a sign and even decorated.  After some help from Daddy in getting loaded and some stern words about staying out of the road, they were off.  Not a lot of traffic in our area, LOL.  They were troopers though.  Stayed with it for a good while.  We finally had a generous visitor who bought the only 4 watermelons we had left.  The kiddos were fired up to have money in their pockets.  A trip to the store will soon follow.  Why it makes me feel better about the world - I seem to be making some headway in showing the boys that you have to work to get paid.

2.  Cars 2 is in theaters now.  Cars is one of my all-time favorite movies.......animated or not.  Pixar does a good job of making kids movies that the parents can actually enjoy as well.  For those of you who do not have kids.............. that's a big deal!  Naturally I was excited to see the sequel.  This would be the oldest son's first trip to a movie theater too.  The theater we chose was really nice.  Very clean, modern amenities and free popcorn!  Maybe that's customary now.  I have no idea since I've not been to a movie is 5 years or more.  It was a small popcorn, but still roughly the size of a gallon tea pitcher.  Of course the one pack of  M&Ms and two bottled waters were $10.50.  Glad to see some things haven't changed.  Davis really enjoyed it and even kept quiet.  That was a shocker.  Despite being a social commentary on alternative energy, the movie was great.  I enjoyed it for what it was.  It was a movie about talking cars that had races all over the world and a redneck tow truck has some interesting adventures along the way.  What's not to love about that plot?!?!  Why it makes me feel better about the world - Even with the social commentary about "big oil" and alternative energy, the movie still had room to provide a plot about friendship, cooperation and respecting others.  Good reminders for children and adults alike.

3.  My garden wasn't the only one that sucked this year.  They say misery loves company.  I guess that's the case here.  In talking with others from my area, Wilt Virus was very bad on tomatoes all over the region.  The lack of rain was universally troublesome.  Some folks burnt up, others drowned.  It was neat to read and converse with other gardeners across the country this year.  Maybe a few of our ideas can translate the some of our starkly different climates.  We got food in the freezer and on the shelf.  I should absolutely not complain.  Why it makes me feel better about the world - I'm not the only one........ and there are countless resources from which I can learn.

Writers block is starting to set in once again.  I do have a few drafts in the hopper, so I'll be good for a while.  However, the garden updates have really kept me writing regularly.  Honestly though, writing solely on that was starting to get a little boring to me.  Glad to have a little break from it.  Suggestions for topics?  I'd appreciate them.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Garden Update June 28

That picture to the left is of a dead garden.  With the exception of sweet potatoes and a few watermelons the 2011 is done.  I have to admit that I was disappointed in the results.  Maybe my expectations were too high after we had such a good yield last year.  This year certainly paled in comparison.  Just too hot and dry.  I owe my coworkers and neighbor an apology.  I talked a big game in the spring about all the wonderful veggies that I was going to be delivering in early summer.  LOL, that didn't quite pan out.

It wasn't a total loss.  We did get plenty for our family and my parents.  Rough estimates: 75 quarts of snap beans, 200 ears of corn, 200 tomatoes, 160lbs of potatoes, 50 squash, 50 cucumbers and 3 watermelons (maybe 2 more)  That is certainly not a failure, but last year we got about 400 tomatoes, and 15 watermelons.

My share of the corn bounty.  Shucked, cleaned
and bagged outside; then quickly to the freezer

A couple of proud watermelon farmers

Preparing tomatoes for the freezer.

Super-ultra-mega-watt-electric fence

The one really bright spot of this year's garden was the electric fence.  We didn't have any deer invasions at all.  That was exciting since we've fought those boogers so hard over the last few years.  As I wrote in a previous blog, the best part of the fence setup was that the only cost I had was the charger itself.  Everything else was free thanks to some friends and family who were just going to toss the batteries, wire, t-posts, insulators and corner posts.

All in all it was a good gardening season.  I got the opportunity to deal with a terrible weather pattern and I learned from it.  I experienced a bout of tomato wilt virus and I learned from it.  I made the mistake of over-promising to my friends and neighbors and I learned from it.  I've always considered gardening and family to go hand in hand.  This year was no different.  I was able to yet again learn from my father who is nothing less than a walking talking encyclopedia when it comes to that subject.  I was able to get my kids out in the garden to dig around and actually see where their food comes from.  In that regard, it was a great gardening season.  Now, we'll take a break until late August when we'll plant a small Fall garden.  I'm even considering some winter crops too.  We'll see what comes ;)

Y'all take it easy,

Alex




Monday, June 20, 2011

The Great Song Blog Extravaganza!

A long long time ago I had the idea to write a blog that included song titles or at least memorable verses from songs in every sentence.  It's taken me almost two months to complete this Godzilla-sized task.  That was aided by the fact that I absolutely love Sneaking Around  and embedding links into my blogs.  I've never really been one to Walk the Line so I might just insert more than one link per sentence .  It's plain to see that my musical interests are very diverse, so buckle up and get your mouse ready.  Caution:  All of these are legit links to YouTube vids, but some of the lyrics might be "abrasive" for some folks ;)  It's gonna be hard to follow sometimes, but I want you to.  Enjoy the Great Song Blog Extravaganza and please Remember the Time that you first read it.

In my time of writing and pursuing a "Back 'er Down" type lifestyle I found my thrill covering numerous topics.  I've often opined on my life as a Father because ultimately That's My Job.  I've written about the Tricky dangers in couponing and how you have to be careful not to get too obsessed.  Many of my entries have been about my garden.  I searched the world over with a bout of writers block and the garden series was just the fix.  I hope that I did a good job of expressing my spiritual belief of how great our God is.  It certainly helped keep me on track in The Walk with God.  Thought I struggle mightily, I try my best because Jesus is alright with me.

Though I complained, I give it my best, and nothing's gonna keep me down.  We hardly had any rain this spring, but the garden still had a decent yield.   Other people have trash that they toss it and leave it, so I pull up quick to retrieve it so that I can use it for something else.  Then there were the entries about the various tractors that I own and with which I tinker.  They represent what I am striving to be.  They're simple machines that work, work, work, don't complain and serve without fail.

The Number One thing that I've learned is that I'm not really doing things that others from My Generation do. I want to save money, but I also want a Fast Car.  I want to vacation more often, but I also want to remain debt free.  I don't want to be a guy in which cash rules everything around me.  I enjoy gardening and working outside, but I also want to take it easy.  I want to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids, but I want to have some Pickin' and Grinin' time too.  At the end of the day you might think have multiple personalities.  Maybe I'm the cult of personality.  Maybe I'm just insane in the membrane.  Good thing that I Got a Woman who loves and understands me ;)  Sometimes I get emotional.  I'm blessed to have an awesome family to Stand with me.

Well, there it is.  A blog full of conjunctions and at least one song tie in every sentence. Got any tunes stuck in your head?  I can't believe that I actually made it to the End of the Line, but I did.  Run and tell that.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Update June 14

Had a helper this weekend.
First let me start with a big thank you to a few folks.  My blog traffic has exploded as of late!  It all started when Angela over at Food Storage and Survival graciously used my syrup making entry as a guest post on her site.  The referrals really started pouring in after that feature.  Then I started noticing visits from Farm Life Lessons and Blissful in the Boonies becoming more regular.  Then I see a whopping 245 referrals this week alone from  Subsistence Pattern.  Whoa Nellie!  It's all probably from some web bot or something for all I know.  Maybe there are a few actual readers in there somewhere.   Thanks to those fine bloggers for listing me in their rolls.  Just in case those numbers include some real people....let me say...... I am humbled that anyone would really want to read what a random guy like me has to say.  I welcome those who have come across my little corner in the blogosphere.  Hopefully you get a little something useful out of my musings.

On to the garden update.  It's still dry.  I'll spare you that portion because I'm sounding like a broken record this spring.  It's starting to get hot too.  That's nothing new really.  Happens this time every year in South GA.  We did have a warmer May than usual, but now it's June and 100 degree days are the norm.  That signals the end of most gardening.  Even with good water most gardens just give up in the sweltering heat like that.

Some looked good, some not so much.
Freeze the good ones, cream the ugly ones.
Our home's staple veggie, snap beans, have been in abundance yet again this year.  As of this writing we have 47 quarts put away.  My Father has probably 10-15 more as well.  I figure we can get one more picking yielding 8-10 more quarts before they finally peter out.  They're rapidly nearing their end.  Our Squash ans cucumbers have continued to do decent.  After questionable beginnings I've been able to harvest 40 or so cukes.  One oddity is the single cucumber plant that I put in a half 55 gallon drum.  They taste like garbage.  So bitter that I can't eat them.  The plant is beautiful, but the cucumbers have all gone straight to compost. The issue now is to figure out why.  It is a different variety, but I wonder if it's the barrel.  I have a tomato plant in the other half of that particular barrel so that will be a good test in a week or so.

We broke about 15 ears of corn Saturday with mixed results.  Some looked nice while others had about half of the kernels aborted.  We froze the good looking ears whole and creamed the rest.  This Saturday is looking like the peak corn harvesting day.  This week I'll be really putting the water to it in hopes of giving a nice boost in the late stages of maturing.

I haven't talked deer in a while.  Ever since "super-mega-killowatt-death-fence-3000" zapped one curious visitor earlier in May, we have had no more intruders.  I hope this post doesn't jinx me, but after four years of trying every home remedy known to man, it seems like the electric fence is the winner.  Add the fact that my only cost was the charger itself and.......... well...... that's cool ;)

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Friday, June 3, 2011

Garden Update June 3

This is what a patch of well watered corn and beans looks like.
It rained about 1/2 inch on March 27, 1/4 inch on April 27 and another 1/4 on May 14.  Nothing since.  It's dry.  Compounding the misery is the fact that so far this year we have had 21 days of temps over 90 degrees (99 when I ran out for lunch earlier.)  At this point last year we had 7.  A wise man once told me though, "we can control a lot of things, but the weather ain't one."  I no longer water grass.  I have given up.  All focus is on the garden.  I was thinking about the grass about a month ago.  I hated to let it go, but I thought about what actually makes a lawn look good.  I concluded that it is an even color and an even height when cut.  From that I concluded that brown and dead is an even color and an even height.  I'm done with watering grass.  (EDIT:  As of 10:00PM EST on 6/3 its raining and raining hard!  Thank you Lord!)

The garden is getting roughly 3 hours or watering time each night.  It's doing okay, but only okay.  We're up to about 35 quarts of snap beans that have been put away.  The consistent performer of my garden is getting it done again this year.  The squash are still hanging in there.  The watermelons are struggling.  Even though I doubled the size of the patch, I will be lucky to get half as many melons this year.  The corn looks healthy but the ears don't quite look as fat as they should.  I'm hopeful that the sprinkler water will at least allow them to make something.  Our sweet potatoes are running like mad.  They happen to be in the largest fall path of the water.  That's been really good to them.  The cucumbers finally took off!  I was beginning to wonder, but I've gotten 11 so far.  There are more in the vine too, so it looks like I will indeed be able to enjoy my favorite vegetable through the summer.  Of course I have a bumper crop of sand spurs too.  Anyone know how we might burn those little suckers for fuel or something?  Geez.  What a pain!  Literally.

So that leaves the tomatoes.  I was hopeful for a great crop.  We went in furrow with horse manure, put bone meal in as we planted and even watered them in as we planted too.  They looked great for quite some time.

Most of the tomato plants look like this......
...but many look like this.
Then it hit.  Tomato Wilt Virus.  I started with 72 plants and I'm now down to 40 something.  What a bummer.  It seems like I'm yanking one or two more every day lately.  As far as I have read there is nothing I can do for it except try to keep the thrips out and yank the infected plants as soon as I see the symptoms.  If anyone happens to read this and you have some remedy, please share it!  I would like to at least figure out how to prevent it next year.

It's not all bad though.  I try to find the positive in most everything.  Here are some good pictures:

Very healthy squash.  Squash could grow in a bed of glass.
One of the few watermelons that are going to make it.
At least we'll have one for the beach
Sweet potatoes.  Kids love them and they're easy to store.
Let's hope they make.
I planted one cucumber plant in a 1/2 55 gallon drum as an experiment.
It took off!  Lots of blooms but not a lot of cukes yet.
Amongst the snap beans we had a volunteer pepper plant pop up.
Funny how nature works sometimes.  Wondering if it's a bell pepper or jalapeƱo.
We'll know soon enough.
Still plugging along.  We are losing tomatoes, but if those that are left make we'll still have plenty to enjoy, can, freeze and share.  The hard work is just beginning.  Even though the potatoes are behind us, we're picking beans every few days.  The corn is coming soon too.  That will be a solid two days of picking and processing.  Looking forward to it though.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Gave All

Billy Ray Cyrus always got a bad wrap because of his hair.  I think he was unfairly labeled for the commercial success of Achy Breaky Heart.  He's actually a very talented artist.

He certainly nailed it with this one.  Thanks to those who "Gave All."


Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Backing 'er waaaay down today!

Yesterday was was a day in which "back 'er down" was nowhere to be seen.  After an event for work I finally got in bed around 2 AM.  I was greeted by the kiddos at 6 AM.  We left for family pictures around 9 AM.  Drove to South Carolina for a couple of hours and took some great pics with the wife's family.  Loaded up again with the oldest son and beat it back to Statesboro, GA for a birthday party at 1:30 PM.  We bowled, played laser tag, played arcade games, etc for over three hours.  Took it to the house, got a quick shower and pulled out again at 6 PM.  went back to South Carolina to drop off the oldest son.  (Wife and little one had stayed.)  Hung out and ate dinner and headed for home once again.  Finally got showered and in bed around 11 PM.  Geez Louise!  What a day!

Today though is going to be way slower.  In fact it will be one of the laziest of the year.  For a race fan like myself today is the biggest racing day of the year.  At 8 AM the Grand Prix of Monaco will go green.  This is the most prestigious race on the Formula 1 calendar.  Around Noon the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be on the tube.  Finally later in the afternoon NASCAR's longest race, the Coca Cola 600 will cap off the evening.  This guy is watching them all!  I'm not sure that I'll actually do anything constructive at all today.  I might go outside and pick beans between Monaco and Indy, but I'm not going to get really motivated about it.

Y'all take it easy,   (I sure am!)

Alex

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garden Update May 24

Two empty rows to the left of that pole were the tater beds.
The pole is actually a raised sprinkler to get above the corn.
I'm starting to sound like a broken record when I talk about no rain.  Actually I feel bad for moaning about it when I see flooding happening along the Mississippi River.  We've totaled about a 1/2 inch of rain in the last 10 weeks.  Dry.  On top of that the last three days have been over 100 degrees too.  Sandspurs love no rain and 100 degree days.  Other stuff.....not so much.  I've been letting the water sprinklers rip though.  That's kept everything steady.  We are actually harvesting things now and the results are pretty decent!  So far we've put up 10 quarts of snapbeans, given away about five more and eaten some as well.  The squash are putting off like gangbusters.  I knew they would.  I believe you could make squash in bed of shattered glass.  The tomatoes are doing decent but these last few days have been tough on them.  Of the 72 plants we set, only 5 have died so far. Not too bad.  All of the plants have fruit, so as long as nothing funky happens we'll be picking maters soon too.  About half of the corn is tassling and it looks pretty decent too.  Sweet potatoes are looking healthy and starting to drop and run.  The sugarcane is struggling bad.  No water.  Gotta have water to make cane.  Same with the watermelons, though they aren't too terrible.  Just not as healthy as I'd like right now.  There is still time before the 4th of July though :)  The cucumbers are struggling as well.  They are the biggest mystery to me.  The first year I planted a garden I made bunches of cukes.  The last three years have been absolutely paltry.  The only think I can guess is that they loved the area where the sandspurs were.  If nothing comes this year, I'll plant them in that spot again next year and just pick carefully.  There is one about three inches on the vine.  I'm nursing that so that I can have at least one this year.

This weekend was spent digging potatoes.  What a crop!  I estimated that we ended up with around 160-170 pounds.  I filled my storage rack and still had an entire queen sized bed sheet full to give away to friends, neighbors and coworkers.  Taters for all!  I hope the sweet potatoes do that well.

From the opposite end.  Freshly hoed tomato plants

What made really made the day special was to work in the garden with the boys.  Despite the heat they were there with me.  We had a great system in which my five-year-old would pull the plant, I would dig and my two-year-old would pile them in the middle of the rows.  Keep in mind now.......this wasn't my plan....it was their plan.  On top of that, the two-year-old had a fit to make sure that every one was in a container of some sort be it a plastic bag, bucket, box or even his pants pockets.  It was interesting that they never once complained that it was too hot.  It was bright and 101 degrees at the peak.  I made sure that they had plenty of water and sunscreen (wish I had put sunscreen on myself...ouch) but they never once complained about any discomfort.  They were out there working because it was an opportunity to hang with Dad.  I'm sure being able to root around in the dirt had something to do with it too, but they were as well behaved and attentive as I've ever seen them.  They were happy.  Despite being hot, nasty and tired they were happy.  I could learn a lot from that...........

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Refurbishing a Tractor Part 3 - The Before and After Pictures

The final installment of my three blogs documenting the process of refurbishing a Ford Jubilee for the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro.  Part 1 gave a brief  description of the cleanup and all of the wacky things that were wrong.  Part 2 expanded on that and gave a little talk about the cleanup process and the mechanical repairs.  We finally got to the point of painting.  the first order of business was attempting to salvage the sheet metal.  You can buy and entire hood and side legs for this tractor for about $1000.  However, that was my total budget for this project.  That meant getting out the grinder, hammer and giving it what I call "violent encouragement."  There were areas that had been welded back together and other areas that had rotted away.  It wasn't pretty and it didn't really fit back together properly.  Dad and I aren't really very talented body work guys.  We could have taken it to a body shop, but again......budget.  We did a lot of banging and bending until we got it in place and somewhat straight.  When we started the tractor did not have a grille.  We found one, but the original mounting tabs had long rusted away.  We needed something so I went digging.  When we moved my youngest son to a bed, I disassembled his crib and kept some of the parts.  (see my May 15 garden update for the potato drying rack that I made from the base)  I dug through and found two brackets that worked perfectly!  A shot-coat of ford medium grey paint and they were good to go!  I would like to have done a $3000 restoration, but then folks would have felt guilty for using it.  By putting $1000 into it it gets it looking decent, running great and ready to work.  It's going to get dinged and scratched.  It's going to have things break again.  That's okay.  That's what it's for.  It's meant to work.  so now the before and after pictures..........the old Ford came a LONG way!

Front Before
Front After
Rear Before
Rear After
Left Side Before
Left Side After
Right Side Before
Right Side After
I had a blast refurbishing a Ford for the first time.  can't say that I'm ready to give up on my trusty John Deere's, but it was fun to learn the nuances and differences with another brand.  We returned the tractor to its home Saturday.  I was a little sad, but happy that I could get my baby back in the shop out of the elements.  Next project...... making my Dad's lifelong dream a reality.  We're restoring a 1949 John Deere M like the one my Grandfather bought new when Dad was a kid.  He says it might be his last project.  I hope not, but if it is, I'm going to make the most of it.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Update May 15

Still no real measurable rainfall.  I did get about 1/4 inch on Saturday night, but that still take us to only about a half inch cumulatively in the last 6 weeks.  It's dry, but early last week I started running the sprinklers full bore.  I watered for 3 hours each evening and 2 hours the next morning every other day.  It made a difference.  Today I was able to pick a five gallon bucket full of snap beans and the blooms that I noticed as I picked are numerous.  I'll be picking beans again mid week and likely next weekend too.  It's great!!  We also dug some more potatoes.  We focused mainly on the dying plants today.  I'm very pleased with the crop so far.  we've been able to keep the potato bugs at bay.  Last year's killer were mole crickets.  Two applications of granular Sevin knocked those back easily.  The potato crop is as healthy as good as we've had this year.  We have small tomatoes on the bush and watermelons on the vine.  Several corn stalks are starting to tossle.  Cucumbers are struggling but some are starting to drop and run.  same with the sweet potatoes.  For a plot that is deathly dry it's actually yielding.  What if I had had some rain?  Would have been my best garden ever...that's what.  There is still time.  If it's God's will the rain will come.  I took several pics and I figured that I would make that the bulk of this weeks's update:


It's hard to tell what's in that picture, but it's deer tracks.  More specifically the digging done by a deer who got the piss shocked out of it after trying to enter the garden.  After two months of chirping, the fence charger finally got some use.  Hopefully it gets some more use.  I suspect the watermelons will be very inviting.


Speaking of watermelons....we have a few on the vine!  This one is about the size of my thumb, but it's a start.  This is where watering becomes critical or they will all get bullet-nosed.  I'll define that term in a later blog.  I'm sure I'll have an example ;)


Saturday morning was spent staking tomato plants.  I put baskets around the ones that get the most sprinkler water and used bamboo stakes for the rest.  That's The Murph in the background.  He was helping ;)


This is my "engineered" potato drying rack.  It is the base of my youngest sons old crib.  I covered it in screen and suspended it from the rafters in my shop.  Perfect for letting the taters get air from all sides.  Already had the base and the chain.  Total cost was $3.49 for the screen.  I do hit my head on it all the time though.  Doh!


Sunday's bounty.  Cooked a pot of beans and bagged 4 quarts for the freezer.


The day ended with a true home cooked meal.  Veggies from the garden and deer tenderloin.  The deer was on the money.  I recently learned about marinading it in milk for 24 hours to help tenderize it.  Worked like a champ!  The kids loved this meal because they helped harvest it and because it tasted good.  not usually a deer fan, the wife even liked it.

It was a great weekend.  It started out hot and humid and ended cooler and breezy.  We got a little rain.  The kids got dirty with me in the garden.  Murphy dug his first potatoes.  Mama Bear ate deer meat.  Davis is riding his bike without training wheels.  The Ford tractor is almost done.  Wow!  Hope next week is as bountiful and fruitful!

Y'all take it easy,

Alex



Friday, May 13, 2011

The Great Solar Experiment

Six 15-watt solar panels along the side of my shop
It's been about a year since I bought a solar panel array.  I was eager to begin experimenting with them, but alas.  Life got in the way.  Well, I'm happy to say that I finally got around to it!  I know very little about solar power, but I have read a lot about it thanks to some really wonderful DIY projects and documentations online.  The equipment that I have isn't really top of the line.  I felt like it was just right for experimentation though.  Solid stuff at a reasonable price.  If everything works out I may upgrade in the future.  For now I'm using two 45 watt kits from Harbor Freight.  I was able to snag them for $129 and $99 respectively thanks to the outstanding coupons that HF offers regularly.  Some of their stuff is cheaply made, but for light duty stuff and price Harbor Freight is pretty awesome.

First things first.  Where to put them?  The house is out of the question, so somewhere at my shop was on the top of the list.  I had reservations about putting them on the roof as I'm not even sure that this whole deal will pan out.  I know that to maximize the gain that I needed to get the most sunlight.  That would mean putting them in an unsecured area and having to run wires back to the shop.  More wire = energy loss.  I wasn't interested in moving them around either.  I decided on mounting them at an angle on the west side of my shop.  They will not get full sunlight all day, but they will be right on from around Noon or 1:00 until sunset.  Good enough for me at this point.  How I was going to secure them presented yet another challenge.  I finally found some random brackets at Lowe's that could be easily anchored into the brick and cradle the panels at an angle.  Rubber coated tabs were used, two to the panel, at the top just in case a ferocious wind were to come at the wrong angle.  All of the wiring ran behind the panels and into a small two inch hole back into the shop.  I filled the gap with some silicone and the outside was done.

MacGyver type power source consisting
of two deep cycle marine batteries and a
750 watt inverter.
I setup a battery bank and the charge controller inside the shop.  Not sure if I'll keep everything as it is, but it is out of the way.  It also allows a place where it's out of the reach of little boys who might be curious.  Right now I'm working off of two deep cycle marine batteries that are parallel wired.  I've been using this setup for a couple of years for tailgating and camping.  The basket that holds them features a 750 watt inverter on the side.  We were able to easily run a TV, converter box, powered antenna and a fan off of it for 6 hours during some of our tailgating adventures.  It should be able to run some florescent lights and the occasional drill and saw with ease.  This will also be the spot where I recharge my alternating batteries for running the electric fence around the garden.

The challenge at this point is to try and figure the best (and safest) way to work a switch mechanism.  We need the power to the grid to be off when running on the batteries.  Likewise we need the batteries, panels and inverter to be cut off when we have a need to run the shop off of regular electricity.  I have an idea about how to do it through the breaker box, but I need to do some more studying.

This has been a long time coming and I have had a lot of fun with it.  It's more of a science experiment than any real foray into solar power.  However, if I can figure through some things I might be interested in going to the next level.  Once I get everything figured out I'll post another update.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance

Image: Wilson Info Clipart
http://www.wilsoninfo.com/index.html  
I've noticed something interesting about the Pledge of Allegiance over time.  Let me first say that yes..... I have seen the Red Skelton video and I am versed on the history of the phrase "under God."  What I've noticed is the difference in delivery of that portion and how it varies between certain groups.
In 1996 I had the opportunity to participate in an American Legion program called Boys State.  The program is a week long exercise in which rising high school seniors run a mock government at the city, county and state level.  I loved the program so much that I continued on serving as a counselor for 8 of the past 15 years.  (I hope to get back on board at some point, but my own kids complicate it a bit)  It was there that I first heard the pledge of Allegiance recited with "one nation under God" spoken as a whole, continuous, complete verse.  I had always heard and been taught that it was broken into two verses:  "one nation ................................ under God.  No pause for the members of the American Legion!

Fast forward 15 years.  After joining our local Kiwanis Club I hear the same delivery from this group of men and women.  No pause.  I wonder is it an age difference?  Were children of the 40s and 50s taught to recite without the pause?  We also have a LOT of veterans who are Kiwanians.  Maybe it's something that they share as servicemen and servicewomen?

Nothing earth shattering.  Just thought it was interesting.  I recite it without the pause.  Any time that I'm in a group of younger folks or non-veterans I get odd looks.  There's always one or two others in the group who do the same though.  I think it's pretty cool.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Internet is a Heck of a Tool!

Earlier this afternoon I had a visit from a from gentleman from Minnesota.  That's right.  A good natured fellow named Jim made his way all the way down to Southeast Georgia for some old rusty farm implements (we like to call them treasures.)  Jim and I got hooked up through another gentleman, Larry, via an antique tractor Web site called Yesterday's Tractor.  Granted....he was in Georgia on other business, but still.  The dude came From Minnesota to buy a couple of sets of old harrows!  Pretty impressive.  I'm very thankful that he did and it was a pleasure being able to chat with him for a few minutes about the passion that we share.

That got me to thinking about how the internet has changed so much in terms of meeting people.  I'm not talking about dating or any of that stuff.  Just normal interests that used to be shared locally are now shared nationwide and even worldwide.  Facebook is only the beginning.  I've been able to reconnect to friends whom I would otherwise never have seen again.  I even reconnected with a high school classmate who is now in Hawaii.  I might not come back either if I were in Hawaii.  There are also relationships that I've formed with folks that I have never met.  I share the antique tractor hobby with folks from as far as New Zealand thanks to online forums.  Craigslist and eBay have brought buyers and sellers of just about anything together on a computer screen.  Thanks to a Kurt Busch fan site I have formed cyber friendships with folks from Missouri, Wyoming, Washington, Deleware, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, California and even Canada.  I do at least have the opportunity to possibly meet some of these folks at a race one day.  Hey guys and gals.  Hope you're reading tonight :)

Then there is this Back 'er Down blog and the few folks who read here.  My stats show that there are folks from all over though most don't really comment.  They're span bots for all I know, LOL.  I'm getting nothing like some of the professional bloggers, but I do get my fair share of traffic for a novice :)  It's still pretty amazing that are a few folks like to read what I spew.  The world of blogging has opened my eyes to a lot of like minded writers.  I became a fan of a lot of different writers and it gave me the comfort to start writing about various topics.  It actually feels pretty good just to write.  No pressure to gain readership.  No worries about deadlines or space constraints.  I just blab about whatever I'm thinking about or whatever I think needs to be said.  It's pretty cool.  The internet gave me those folks and the internet gave me that opportunity.  I may be singing a different tune when Skynet becomes self aware and the machines take over, but for now....it's cool.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden Update May 8

Dry, but hanging in there.....
In my last update I mentioned that it had been a month since it rained.  We got 1/4 inch the next afternoon.  Nothing since.  About a quarter if an inch of rain in the last six weeks.  That's it.  The interesting part is that middle and northern GA is getting slammed regularly.  The mighty Missisip is overflowing.  In Kansas though, they're in a bad drought.  Thank goodness for sprinklers.  Everything is pretty much being maintained with the sprinkler water.  Nothing is experiencing any really good growth.  We picked a mess of small squash and some potatoes yesterday.  Sent the squash home with Dad and the potatoes will be included in Mamma Bear's Mothers Day feast that the boys and I will cook later this evening.

Corn is up about 3' or so.  Everything looks good except the tomatoes and cucumbers.  They aren't dying, they just aren't really doing anything.  Sandy soil and only 1/4 inch of rain over the last 7 weeks will do that.  I'll just have to nurse it along until we get some of that.  No need to moan.  We can control a lot of things.  The weather ain't one of them.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex
Squash will grow regardless of conditions

Watermelons doing surprisingly well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Regal Fever and the Best Known Cure

Image: http://www.americarclassics.com/ 
Oh boy did I have Regal Fever!  For the past two weeks.  It was bad.  Not a "Back 'er Down" type of move AT ALL!  Thankfully I'm over it now thanks to a good conversation with my Dad.  We never even focused on the car, but the message was still there.  Funny how it all works out sometimes

It all started when I was a teenager.  My first car was a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass.  It was a great car that served me well all the way through college.  (There was a six month span where I blew the transmission out of the olds and drove a 1973 Dodge pickup....The Orange Monster....That's a whole other blog)  While working in downtown Savannah the car was stolen.  Broad daylight.  Hot-wired.  Recovered three weeks later.  Completely stripped.  I never got closure for that whole situation.  So here I sit 10 years later.  I've paid the bills and I have some money.  I got a little giddy at the prospect of getting another Cutlass.  Then I just started getting greedy.  I figured that if I was going Cutlass shopping I should just go ahead and look for it's smoking hot older sister, a T-Type Buick Regal.  I found several, but I found one in my hometown, with 27,000 original miles.  GASP!  I came very close to pulling the trigger.  Despite everything I've done saving money over the last couple of years.  Despite the fact that I know I need it like I need a hole in my head.  Despite the fact that it would get 12 miles to the gallon.  Despite the fact that it was a dumb idea.  I was ALMOST ready to pull the trigger!

Luckily my old man came over for a visit.  He's always good for a reality check ;)  He never said "Don't buy that thing."  We did get into a conversation about life, our economy and our country.  We talked about the early 80's and how he lost his farm and how things were when he was a little boy.  We talked about the fact that smart people hold their money in situations like these.  I don't know if he talked about all that on purpose or not.  We talk like that all the time, but it struck a different chord this time.

I had rationalized in my mind that if I bought this car that I could eventually resell it and at least get my money back.  (I rarely buy anything that isn't for sale two days later.)  That might have been the case, but it was pushing it just a little bit.  This particular car would be targeted for resale to a collector....... that guy with money......who would probably be holding onto his money if things don't get better soon.

The stock market has me a little concerned right now.  I have some in it, but I want to keep some of it at hand.  I feel a need to put my cash in some tangibles right now.  So the question really became where can I put it to be safe and get a possible return.  Been doing it with tractors for years, but tractor buying time is in the late fall and early winter.  Gold is past my comfort zone.  If silver comes back down, maybe I'll get back into that.  I see third-world militias on TV all the time riding around in early 80's Toyota pickups.  Those are some tough little suckers.  Maybe that's where I need to be.  I finally decided that a pristine 87 Regal probably isn't the best place right now.  A good solid $1,000 Regal maybe.  I could turn that for a Donk conversion in a heartbeat.  The collector market is just a little too shaky right now.

I still want T-Type.  One day I'll get one.  Just isn't the right time.  Glad I have that visit last night.  Dads continue being Dads no matter how old you are :)

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Farewell To An Old Friend

A part of this blog is to help me write and verbalize to myself the silliness in "accumulating stuff."  Sometimes I get attached.  Today we let go of our 1954 John Deere 40.  It had been for sale for a while, but today was finally the day she left.  It has served our family well for almost 19 years.  The real reason that I had such sentimental ties to it........it was the very first tractor that Dad and I restored together.  It was also the first tractor that my oldest son drove....just earlier this year.  It was the tractor that allowed me to learn the proper way to use and care for these old machines.  Hard pill to swallow.

However......the reason that we sold it makes the pill a little easier to get down.  We recently purchased a 1949 John Deere M.  My grandfather bought an M brand new in 1949.  It is the tractor on which Dad learned how to drive, how to garden, how to work.  He always wanted one of his own.  Now he has one and the restoration can get underway.  It was a bittersweet process.  A tractor that I've grown to love is gone.  However, we now have an opportunity to allow my Dad to realize a lifelong dream.  Making that a reality it totally worth it.

Y'all take it easy,

Alex

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Garden Update April 26

Hard to tell but left to right: watermellons, sweet potatoes/
squash, sugarcane, potatoes, snapbeans, peas/cucumbers,
and 8 rows of corn and tomatoes.
Good boogly moogly it's dry!  I haven't had any rain at my place in almost a month (27th of March.)  I have watched several systems go right around my place.  On Good Friday it flooded 10 miles up the road from me, but I didn't get anything but 85 degree wind.  That's not all that great for the garden.

However, it is fairing pretty well  After experimenting with a variety of different sprinklers over the years I have a really good system this year.  I've used oscillating sprinklers, impact sprinklers, soaker hoses and the like.  The oscillating sprinklers didn't hold up to the dirt and would last a month before the gears stripped out.  The impact sprinklers didn't wet the ground within a 5' diameter of the center.  The soaker hoses did okay, but caused a mysterious root rot on the tomatoes one year.  This year I decided to try a couple of Gilmour's low pressure turbine sprinklers.  These puppies are great so far!  I did take them off of the low bases on which they came.  I had a couple of aluminum tripods left over from previous sprinklers.  They screwed right on and worked perfectly.  The settings are nice for getting an even watering.  There is still a bit of a miss in the center like with an impact sprinkler, but the area is only about 1' instead of the 5' that I was battling.  So far they look good, but they have yet to encounter an entire gardening season......or a South GA thunderstorm .......or the baking 100+ degree temps of summer.  We'll see how they fare.

I decided on Better bush and Beefmaster tomatoes for
three of the five barrels.......
Everything is up and coming in very well.  We could potentially be picking snapbeans and digging some small potatoes in a few weeks. (we're down to the last quart of beans from last year.  We nailed it!)  The corn is looking good after the replant. Since my last garden update we set 72 tomato plants and 30 or so sweet potato plants.  They're looking good so far, but the lack of rain has me really worried about the tomatoes.  Everything else is plugging right along: watermelons, squash, peppers, cucumbers.  Even the sugar cane is us to almost a second joint.

....jalapenos and Market More cucumbers in the other two.
The four small pots are peach tree seedlings.  Crossing my
fingers on those for the future.
Still no sign of Bambi yet this year.  The super duper electric fence is still chirping right along...ready for the moment that the sweet watermelon foliage finally entices him/her to take a chance.  I haven't even seen any tracks on the perimeter.  I know it's only a matter of time.  They have found the tender foliage of my apple trees though.  If it isn't one thing it's another.

If it could only get a nice inch or two of rain.  The place would really take off like gangbusters.  But then again.....so would the weeds.  When God provides, he provides for all!  There is a decent chance Thursday.  I better go sharpen the hoe ;)

Y'all take it easy.

Alex