Sunday, November 6, 2011

Skin Cancer

I knew it was likely to happen some day, and yesterday I got the news. I have a melanoma - the kind of skin cancer can get to be aggressive and can kill you. Fortunately, mine is not yet in the aggressive state. I will get it surgically removed Tuesday and be OK. My dermatologist says that this means I need to warn all my kinfolk to get regular dermatology checkups because it often runs in families.

The attached photo shows the actual bugger on my upper arm, but I need to explain. First, the depressed area in the center is from where they biopsied it - before that, it was just a red patch of skin - not dark like they often are, didn't stand up at all and didn't seem to have any depth. Second, the red square around it is irritation from the bandaids I've been wearing to keep the antibiotic ointment on it so it could heal from the biopsy.
The thing is that it didn't really look like melanomas usually do. You use ABCDE to identify melanomas (before you biopsy).
  • A - Asymmetrical Shape. Mine is pretty much circular.
  • B - Border. They usually have an irregular border, but mine has a smooth border.
  • C -Color. "The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma." Mine is just a uniform pink.
  • D - Diameter. Usually 6mm or larger, about the size of a pencil eraser. I don't know why they use the eraser for this, the other end is the same size. Anyway, mine fit this one. It's about 8mm.
  • E - Evolution. "The evolution of your moles(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and or size, get it checked out by a dermatologist immediately." This thing appeared very suddenly on my arm where there had been nothing before. No mole.
So my melanoma only fit 1 of the 5 signs. I already knew about ABCDE, but this one didn't alarm me much, because it isn't typical. When Dr. Poliak saw it, she gave a little gasp and said, "Oh! What's this?" Like I would know. All I knew was that it was an odd little thing. It appeared very suddenly. It wasn't there and then it was. It stayed unchanged for quite a while - several months - maybe a year. She didn't say anything, but after the biopsy results came back, she told me she thought it was a melanoma all along. That's why we have dermatologists, to not be fooled by little red circles. She also said that when melanoma runs in a family, then they see ones like mine that aren't so typical.

So, all my children: Go see a dermatologist to get a baseline, and then go back periodically for checkups.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Year

Well, it's not exactly New Year, but it's reminiscent of New year, so close enough.
Actually, it was about 1 year ago that I started the kitchen remodeling project, which I was putting paint on when people started arriving for Liz's Mom's funeral, which launched us into the master bedroom remodel, and moving into our restored master bedroom launched an upstairs bedrooms re-arrangingl, and then I finally put up the last piece of crown molding on the kitchen remodel that started it all. So it has been a busy year in that respect.

But, what really has me thinking is all the personal changes I've made this last year. Most of them are good, but they are really just life moving along. So here they are:
  1. I had a seriously Africanized beehive out at the Hubers, which scared me enough that I moved the bees I've kept at our house for the past 10 year or so out to a remote part of the Texas hinterland, along with all my other bees. Now I have all of them out there - 8 hives. I re-queened the Africanized one and hopefully that will settle them down for a year or so.
  2. About that same time I finally put too much strain on my achilles tendon and it partially ruptured. I spent 3 months in a boot for it to heal. It did heal, mostly, but then in a careless moment I re-injured it and it was worse than the first time. So, in the next couple of weeks, I will have a procedure down to break apart all the scar tissue in it, after which I will be on crutches for a month to 6 weeks, and then I should get better. Meanwhile, the other achilles tendon is taking a beating from the extra strain on it. "Oh, the humanity!"
  3. I have always loved candy, and I have had the habit of having some almost every night while watching TV or whatnot. Late last year I decided it wasn't good for me, so I gave it up. Cold Turkey! I just quit. It wasn't a big decision, I still have a bag of lifesavers I bought last year. I still have jaw breakers I bought last year when we went to Branson.
  4. Recently, I gave up Pepsi. I know, I've done that before and slid back into it. I didn't really decide to give up Pepsi this time, but I didn't drink it one day and after the headache started I thought I might as well quit. The difference this time is that I was less determined to do it, but now I don't seem to crave it like I've done before. I've been drinking lots of water, and that seems to help, too. By the way, quitting a caffeine habit gives you a few days of headaches. This time it was about 4 days, and it wasn't very fun. I think I'm not going to do that again.
  5. I stopped overeating so much. Again, no big decision, I just decided I didn't have to clean everything off my plate - it's OK to stop eating when I've had enough. I've lost some weight over this, but not much yet. But I feel better.
  6. I have stopped staying up late every night. I go to bed with my dear one at about 10:30 and I get up when she does. It has been nice and we both enjoy being on the same schedule. Side note: I still watch movies.
  7. We decided that cable TV was just too expensive, so we discontinued it. The hard part of it was that giving it up also meant giving up football, and that was HARD! I love watching football. But I haven't actually found it to be all that difficult, after all. The real driving point on this whole thing was that one day had Roku devices on sale for about $40. Roku is a little black box that receives wireless internet and streams movies and stuff to your TV. Once you have the box and wireless internet, you can watch movies and live streaming TV. So we can get BYU TV for conference and religious stuff, and we signed up for Netflix for movies. And that's it. By the way, I still watch movies.
  8. I have been buying flowers for Liz every once in awhile. I don't know why it took me 40 years to figure this out, but Liz really seems to think it's neat to have flowers show up occasionally. Go figure!
So, I feel like my life has changed quite a bit this year, and mostly it has been positive. I'd like to say that I've had some big revelation or life-changing experience, but it has just been a year of little changes and it occurred to me the other day that there have been quite a few of them.
It scares me a little bit, because sometimes you feel like if you get everything going just right, something has to break or God will call you home, or something. I hope not, because I am enjoying life right now and I'd like it to stay this way.

Now if I could just get us moved to Utah where I can plant an orchard and harvest fruit in my old age.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stake Conference talk - Sept. 11, 2011

My topic today is Lifelong Education.

You young people are fully involved with your education, so my topic necessarily makes me focus on continuing education AFTER you leave school. But, to you young people I say this one thing – if there is one subject you really want to try but it isn’t in your regular course of study, figure out a way to TAKE IT! I always wanted to try out fencing, but for various reasons I didn’t. I should have. For you, there will never be a better time.

So, I have 4 things to say about Life-long education:

1. It’s not too late and your mind works fine

2. It’s all about interest

3. There are more ways to skin a cat than with a dull butter knife

4. Why bother?

First thing: It’s not too late and your mind works fine

When I was young, I was thrilled to be able to go to BYU. We lived about 90 miles from the Y, in a very small town. Provo was like a dream for me, and I loved every minute of it.

My second year at the Y was my Mother’s first year going back to school. She had been there as a young woman, earned her teaching certificate, and was teaching school when she met my father. But she only had a 2-year degree and wanted to get a bachelor’s degree. It was a tough decision to go back, especially since she still had kids at home. The three youngest ones, especially, worried her. She felt like she might be abandoning them. In the end it was arranged and my youngest sister came to the Y with Mom while my youngest brothers stayed with Dad, along with the older kids. Mom missed them terribly while she was away.

Mom was scared of whether she could complete college courses at her age – she was in her 50’s then.

I saw Mom on campus fairly often, which was great. We settled in to the regular grind of classes and studying.

Mom put me to shame with how hard she studied. She focused on her school work so much that she had no social life beyond Suzy and me. That first semester she was learning how to be a student and at first her grades were only acceptable. After that she hit her groove and got A’s. She fussed and worried one time when she got an A-.

The next year, I started my hitch in the Marine Corps, married Liz, and came back to the Y in December, three years later. My first semester back at the Y was my Mom’s last, so Liz and I were there for her graduation. The college reserved a row for us at commencement. During the program, the Dean had Mom stand up as a special tribute to the most senior graduate from the Y that year, and an honor student. Then he asked the family to stand. My father stood up, all 9 of their children, 3 of our spouses, and 5 grandkids. I mentioned that they reserved a row for us, and we’d filled the whole thing. It was a long row, too.

My mother had worried that it was too late for her to go back to school. She had found that it was not. She outperformed almost every 18 and 19 year old there. In truth, it was her focus and dedication that earned her top marks. Her age forced her to study harder to keep up with her younger classmates, but her age had also taught her how to do just that. It was not too late.

I, too, had a later-in-life education experience. A few years ago I took a class in human anatomy and physiology – just for giggles. My experience was like my mothers. I had to work hard, but I didn’t settle for less than perfect grades.

The old noodle still works, even if it is a bit slower than it used to be.

Second thing: It’s all about interest

Many of you who know me, know that I keep honeybees. Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart. People often ask me, “But don’t you get stung?” I answer that of course I get stung. In fact, I get stung often. When I have to work with Africanized bees, I get stung a LOT! The thing is that I don’t mind getting stung in return for the reward of honey to share with my family and friends, and it is my pleasure to do so.

I enjoy reading about beekeeping. Many books about it are written by rank amateurs, but I like them anyway, because they have insights and tidbits of knowledge about my favorite subject.

I find that the more I learn about them, the more I want to learn about them. There is no end to this process, and it applies to more than just beekeeping.

We all have things that interest us. There are very few of you who are interested in bees, but there is something that interests each one of you as much as bees interest me. Well, maybe almost as much as bees interest me.

On the subject of lifelong education, there is no mention of a requirement to learn about honeybees. We, each of us, get to choose the subjects. We should continue to educate ourselves about whatever subjects interest us. The subjects we love the most, are the subjects at which we have the will and means to continue to learn more. If you put me in a room and forced me to memorize baseball statistics, I would think it pure torture. But I guarantee there are people in this hall who would think it a delight to be in that situation. Who would lap it up like sweetened milk and use the knowledge as the base for a lifelong pursuit of that interest.

All we have to do is continue with the things we already enjoy. But if we fail to continue to learn, then we will begin the process of forgetting what we knew. This is one of those use it or loose it things.

All of us who sit on the stand today hope that everybody in this building will spend some time learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ, in addition to other things we learn. But even on that topic, there is room for individual focus. Many of us love family and focus on genealogy, or family histories. Others of us love the scriptures and pour over them daily. Some spend their time with the organizations of the church, others on pure service. Some devour every word spoken by latter day prophets.

All of these things are good. We should each continue our lifelong education about the gospel.

Third thing: There are more ways to skin a cat than with a dull butter knife

I told you about experiences going back to college. I don’t mean that you should all sign up for classes tomorrow. College is a very formal method of learning about something. It is particularly appropriate when we need proof that we have mastered a topic. It is one of the best ways to start your professional life. But in most cases proof of knowledge is not needed. The knowledge itself is the thing.

There are many ways to continue our lifelong education. More than I can list here today. But I will list a few ways to illustrate the point.

· Back in the olden days we had books called The Encyclopedia. I loved sitting and reading the Encyclopedia – it was full of interesting things. A few years ago, Liz and I threw our Encyclopedia Brittanica away. Today, we surf the web. Today, we say IT is full of interesting things. It is also full of garbage, but remember, we get to choose our subject. Go forth and learn!

· Join a book club. Book clubs are for people who need a little nudge to get started reading books. Liz is in a book club that meets once a month to discuss a book everybody read since the prior meeting. The members are mostly LDS and the books are all suitable for LDS readers.

· Personally, I love to read and need help stopping, instead of help getting started. When I pick up the 23 volume set of books by Patrick O’Brien, Liz will roll her eyes because she knows I will be “out of the house” until I have read them all. I am an unabashed reader.

· When we can’t read, we can listen to audio books. I find that driving to Utah is a fast and enjoyable drive when I have a book playing. Of course, if Liz is along we find things to talk about and never play our audio book. That’s even better.


Fourth thing: Why bother?

By this I mean what are the reasons to continue our lifelong education. In the end, I think the reasons boil down to two: We pursue lifelong education for our work, or we continue lifelong education just for fun. Beekeeping was my example of learning just for fun.

Work is a very good reason why we learn. Our employment is the basis for our daily security. It gives us our homes, our food, our clothing and shelter. It can make life good or it can make it hard. I’ve tried it both ways, and good is better.

As our children left home, Liz, who had been a full-time homemaker, began to look around for something to do with the rest of her life. She wanted to have a credit score of her own in case anything ever happened to me. And she wanted an income that did not depend on me. These were legitimate concerns.

We addressed the credit score by taking out car loans in her name only, and obtaining credit cards with only her name. We paid them off as we have always paid off our debts. That part was easy. The employment was a bit more complicated.

She had not worked since we were first married, and did not feel very qualified for anything. After all, I plucked her away from her college education after only 1 year. When she had worked, it had been in an office capacity.

So she started looking for office work and landed a job as an accounts payable clerk in a small investment firm, involved in multi-family housing. It was a starter job by anybody’s account.

The next few years were intense for her. She took a class in basic accounting and found that she had a better head for mathematics than she had supposed. This surprised her father, who had tried to coach her through high school math classes.

She has always been very organized, and she applied her organization skills to her job. She flourished.

As she got better at her work, she was given more responsibility. The company expanded their holdings in commercial office space and she accepted responsibility for the day to day operation of a building – then another.

She learned how to calculate square footage, and apply it to rates to give quotes – all in her head while talking to clients. She learned how to sell.

As she moved on to more and more responsibility, she decided she needed a realtors license, so she studied and passed that exam. She has grown immensely in her abilities and today manages about a half million square feet of office space.

She has grown in her employment, but she has also found great satisfaction in being able to do things she did not believe were possible for her. She is continuing with her lifelong education, and I am very proud of her.

I’ve talked about

1. That it’s not too late for lifelong education at any age, even for college

2. That it’s all about your interests and that you get to choose the course of your lifelong education

3. That there is more than one way to skin a cat and

4. Why we bother to make education a lifelong pursuit

It is my prayer that we may all continue to learn and grow in the gospel and other areas of life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Africanized honeybee Blues

I am strictly a hobby beek. Africanized bees have driven me nuts the past 4 years. Before that I had no problem with them. This year I finally gave up on keeping two hives at my house in town, mostly because I am worried over the liability in an area with so many children and non-beeks (BEEK = beekeeper) near by. The decision came because of an incident, of course. I had two hives at a widow's house out in the country and one of them went insanely Africanized . When I harvested honey, smoke had no affect. So many bees were flying in front of my face I could barely see, and I got many stings through my bee suit, plus several on my face from bees inside my veil. The widow is fine, but my assistant and I were chased for over a mile - that is we stopped about a mile away and got out of the truck to take off veils and coveralls, and got mobbed again. My assistant no longer goes to bee yards with me.

So I moved all 7 hives to a new yard where there is nobody living nearby. The Africanized hive from the widow's place was packed full of bees and had made a lot of honey. I debated with myself whether to simply burn the little meanies, but I opted to re-queen. But even re-queening an Africanized hive is problematic.

  • Two new queens arrived from a commercial apiary that specializes in gentle, productive queens.I opened the Africanized hive to find the queen and got mobbed, as expected.Didn't find the queen in the top box and gave up. Instead, I took the advice of an experienced beek and separated the hive into two, hoping to make queen finding easier.
  • Returned after 3 days and verified there was no queen in one of the boxes. Queens come in a little wooden box with screen on one side and a plug of candy in the hole where they were inserted. For shipping, a cork is placed on top of the candy to prevent premature release. Normally the cork is pulled as you put the new queen in the hive. It takes a couple of days for the bees to eat the candy, and then the queen can escape into the hive to start her royal life there. I installed a new queen, but left the cork in place so the workers couldn't release her because sometimes Africanized bees are reluctant to accept a new queen and will kill her if you put her in with them too soon. This box didn't have a large number of bees, so I moved the bigger box 30 feet away and put the smaller box where it had been.

  • After I moved the bigger box, I went through every frame looking for the old queen. There were a lot of bees in there and I was unable to find the queen amongst all the piles of bees. I am good at finding queens, so I think she was a runner. I needed to spread them out some more, but I didn't have another bottom board. I had a box from a failed split that still had a few bees and some stores in it. I put this deep on top of the Africanized box, with paper towels between (a newspaper combine - where you combine two hives, but separate the bees from the hives with paper so they can get used to each other before they come into actual contact. It prevents the bees from killing each other. After a couple of days they've chewed holes in the paper and the bees mingle peacefully).

  • It was five days before I could get back out to the bees. Pulled the cork on the queen cage I'd placed in the smaller box. Looks good for this new queen. She has plenty of bees with her now and good comb to work on.
  • Went to the remote box and the entrance looked like there were fewer bees than there had been - a good thing. I smoked the entrance and opened it up. Checked the top box and found the queen almost immediately. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Not for her - she's dead - it was lucky for me because I didn't have to go through both deeps to find her. I figure she ran from the smoke, right into my waiting queen catcher. I returned later that day and put a new queen in the box, still in her cage, of course.

So hopefully I will be back to all gentle bees. The real penalty of Africanized bees for me has been that I HAVE to wear a full suit. We've had record high temps this summer and there I am dressed for a winter blizzard, sweat gushing from every pore. Even my eyelashes sweat. Every time I go out to the bees it takes a day to recover and get re-hydrated. Only a few years ago I enjoyed working bees in shorts and a T, plus a veil. I wouldn't dare do that anymore. I used to get stung only rarely, but now I get stung regularly in spite of the sweat suit. I get stung almost every time I go near bees, and when a hive goes Africanized I get stung a lot - right through the bee suit. I have two veils that I've had for many years. This year I had to buy a new one with elastic to keep it tighter, because when the Africanized bees mob me a few of them will get under the veil when I bend over.

On the other hand, Africanized bees are aggressive about gathering honey as well, and they produce lots of it. I had a great harvest this year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We are all alone, again - just the two of us in this big house. We have had kids here for the past several weeks. Angela and Nancy both brought their families here to share our summer, and found the hottest summer on record. Yum!

Yesterday, Nancy took her kids to a play house, bumper cars, arcade, kind of place and they didn't want to take the baby, and I didn't want to go at all (gimpie wimp that I am.) So I got to stay home with Sammie.
He has been fun to have. He took his first steps while he was here with us, and is fully prepared to enter that most hazardous and crazy stage where he suddenly has the ability to reach and climb on most things, without any notion of whether he should. But I digress.
While we were together, he pooped his pants and I changed him. Afterwards I went in the powder room to wash my hands. When I finished, I turned off the lights and closed the door behind me. I could hear Sammie the entire time, but after I left, he started to cry. He was in the living room, so I went that direction. But no, he was in the office, so I turned back that way. But after a couple of steps it sounded like he was in the living room again. Maybe he was in the kitchen? It finally occurred to me that he was in the now-dark powder room. I inched the door open and a very angry little Sammie crawled out. I picked him up to comfort him and he gave me a very dirty look indeed! The mystery is how did he get in there without me knowing it? It is a tiny room, and with my big awkward boot, I just can't imagine how I left that room without stepping on him or bumping him with the door. Oh well. I made him a bottle and that made everything better again.

This morning, early, Nancy and Richard loaded up their kids and headed for the airport. I got up to see them off, and then headed out to Gunter to care for my honeybees. Morning is the best time to work them before the temps get high, but it's no picnic. I have them where they get afternoon shade, which means they get morning sun. Which means it was HOT! I got there at about 8:15 am and it was just under 90 degrees, and humid. It was quite a bit higher than that by the time I finished up and crawled out of there, although not quite so humid. As I write, it is 109 and still climbing - forecast to reach about 111. Dang! I got a few frames of honey out of the hives as I pulled the (empty) supers off them in preparation for the fall nectar trickle. These are the supers where I already extracted spring honey. I put the supers back on the hives for a short time so the bees can clean the sticky, left-over honey off the comb. Now I can store clean supers with good comb until next spring.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Letters from WWII

When Liz's mother died last January, one of the treasures we found in her possessions was a box full of letters from her husband during WWII. Everyone was curious as to what they might contain, but the work of going through it and doing anything with it was too much for anybody to deal with - at least at that time. There was talk to dividing them up between all the siblings, but ultimately Liz offered to look through them and decide what to do next. As she read them, it became apparent that they are a real treasure, both historically and to the family.
When Mark Ashurst-McGee, who is a Doctor of History, visited us recently, he suggested that the first step is to take good quality scans of all of them, to preserve them and make it easier to share them. The originals can then be archived in a manner to preserve them, and the scans can be transcribed to make the text searchable and more easily read.
I happen to be waiting for my new job to begin, so I volunteered to do the scanning, which I just completed. There are 136 letters, each of 1 to 15 pages, so it was a very large project. I scanned the envelopes and anything included in the letters, too.
It has been fascinating to read these letters and get a better understanding of what the war really meant to be a typical American couple during that time of conflict. The letters begin before they were married, and since they were together quite a bit while Bill was in training in the states, they skip over some important events in their lives, such as their marriage. When he went to sea in the U. S. Navy, they became full of the yearnings of a young husband who missed his wife immensely, but they are also full of interesting views into life during the war years. The HAWAII dollar bill he included in one letter is fascinating all by itself, being marked to make it useless to the Japanese in case they captured additional U. S. territory and the cash in use there. It tells a lot about the fear of Americans for the Japanese who had attacked them.
Only a few of his letters were censored (words cut out of them with scissors, or in one case an entire page removed), but it is apparent he was always aware of the censor looking over his shoulders. After the war ended and censorship halted, the tone and content of his letters was radically different.
While I read the letters and wondered about his ship and the battles he mentioned, I took the time to read in published histories the larger view of what was happening. I found photographs with his ship (LSM-130), usually next to the ship being photographed, or in the background. I also found crew musters and other supporting documents for LSM-130, which are of some interest in themselves.
But the best part has simply been sharing my father-in-law's thoughts as he served his country. He would deny he was a hero, but he was to me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The secret to hot weather hog hunting

Keith and I made an important discovery today. How to hunt hogs when it is miserably hot and the creeks are dry.

Fact: It was 105 degrees today - the hottest day of the year, so far.
Fact: So far, every day this July has been over 100, except 2.
Fact: Today we jumped two herds of pigs.

Here is the deal. Water is drying up with our long spell of hot weather, and the pigs are actually quite fussy about where they want to wallow. They want a place where they can walk down to the waters edge, no gravel, and nice shallow water and/or wet mud.

Several weeks ago, Keith went with me when I went out to Honey Grove to pick up my bees, and while I was working he walked over to a pond where we know pigs hang out. He shot a big sow over there as it got out of a mud hole.

Today we headed out to go over there again, but we decided to walk down the creek a bit first. I didn't really think I would be making any long shots, if any, and I wanted a light rifle, so I carried my Win 94, which I haven't shot in some time.
Keith was trying to sneak along close to the banks so any pigs wouldn't see us until we got in range, but I was trying to stay on high ground where I could see them ( pigs don't have very good eyesight, but they can hear extremely well.) So I saw a pig (I think a boar) down the creek. It got up out of the mud and was moving around slowly. It knew we were there, but didn't know if we were a threat. So I took aim with my 30-30 and missed! What? I usually hit what I aim at. It was around 100 yards, with iron sights, and should have been a gimmee. The pig hurried on around a bend in the creek. So we continued. Again, Keith was hugging the bank, so when I saw two more pigs as we rounded the bend, I couldn't get his attention. I was amazed the pigs were still there, but they clearly didn't want to leave that cool spot on a hot day. As I watched, another pig came down the bank and joined the first two. No piglets, so that's why I think they were boars. As I aimed, this third pig got directly behind one of the others, making a really big target. I aimed at the center of mass and fired again and missed again! So I am doubting my sights. We messed around, but of course, all the pigs in the World knew where we were after that.
We continued down the creek and a dog came out to bark at us after a bit. Smart dog, too. When I bent down to pick up a rock, he split.
We kept walking, but it was HOT and we were getting tired, so after a half mile or so we turned back. We'd walked further than I thought and it seemed like a long way back. As we got to about 100-150 yards from where I'd shot at the pigs, I saw a sow come down the bank into that same mud hole! Yippee! A bunch of little piglets followed the sow and another sow. We watched them settle into the mud. Than a third pig came down the bank and joined them.
We tried to sneak closer, but after a bit one of the sows stood up and we froze. It laid back down, but clearly we'd been made. We got a little closer, but when they all stood up, we both knelt and took aim. I let Keith take the first shot (the one where you have a chance of connecting) and I could tell it was a good hit. We both fired once more. This is a photo of the sow we found around the bend. Notice the razorback hair standing up? The sow was gravid and we felt good about this because we'd removed 10-12 feral hogs from the area with that one shot. That is our mission - to keep in check the feral hog population.

Lessons learned:
  1. Following the creek bed with the breeze in your face is a good tactic for hot weather feral hogs.
  2. Be sure to take a rifle with a scope, even though it is heavier than the carbine.
  3. Sight in your rifle periodically, whether it needs it or not.

By the way, we were half a mile downhill from the nearest point where we could get with the truck. We had no cooler, nor ice. We had no water and were both getting over heated rapidly. Did I mention that it was hot? So there was no chance of recovering good meat from this sow. We left her for the buzzards.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going to the airport

I took Mark A-M to the airport this morning and Naomi and Haley wanted to go along for the ride. Well, of course we stopped at Outdoor World to see the fish tanks and stuffed animals.

They wanted their photos taken by this stuffed rabbit. Well, of course we can do that!

They tackled this Kodiak bear.

And they saw the rattlesnakes. I think there were three of them in there - all in a ball - but it could have been 4.

They just had to pick out a gun they wanted for when we go hunting together. (Just kidding.)

And we had fun with the bear.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I HATE chiggers!

Chiggers are a fact of life in the South. I usually take some care in preventing getting chewed up by them, but they caught me off guard this year.
  • I tended bees out at Honey Grove and applied insect repellent. No problem.
  • I tended bees at the new place in Gunter, TX and forgot to apply insect repellent. No problem. Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one.
  • I worked in the yard last Friday and got two bites. Drat it! I put applying insecticide on the yard on my list of TO DOs, but not right at the top.
  • Sunday when we got home from church, Liz parked close to the lawn and I had to take two steps on the grass. I got absolutely eaten up!
  • Monday I put a heavy dose of insecticide all over our yard and onto the neighbor's yard where we might wander while running around the house. I applied insect repellant on my rubber boots, but before I poisoned I adjusted the sprinklers and must have washed it off a bit because I got a few more bites. I don't like to put insecticide on my yard. I don't like poison where I live, and I don't believe it is beneficial to kill everything that lives in my grass. But chiggers tip the scales in favor of a total wipe-out.
The troubles with chiggers are these:
  1. You can't see them or tell where they might be lurking. They are tiny little light-red mites. The test for them is to put little black cards sticking up out of the grass. They crawl to the highest point and the card will turn red as thousands of them crawl to the top of it.
  2. You can't tell when they bite you. You could easily brush them off if you knew you had them, but you can't tell. The bite only begins to irritate you the next day and the chigger is dead and gone by then.
  3. They don't bite you where they get on you. They crawl up your body looking for a soft place where it is easier to chew. They can't actually get any good out of biting mammals, and it is difficult for them to do it. So they keep crawling until they find a place where it is a bit easier. This is most often the back of the knees and the groin area, or sometimes under your arms. Little buggers!
  4. You can't do anything about the bites that really helps. They itch like the dickens, but if you scratch or rub them it makes it worse. Some people put nail polish on them, but I can't tell that it makes any difference. After about 3 days the tube the chigger left behind kind of pushes up and if you care to risk an infection you can scratch it (and attached skin) off at that point. Or you can suffer through 2 or 3 more days and it will be over.
Did I mention that I really, really hate chiggers? Little buggers!

Do you want to join the DAR or SAR?

The DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution, and SAR - Sons of the American Revolution, are both ancestry-based organizations. Membership requires that you prove descendancy from a participant in the Revolution. The DUP - Daughters of the Utah Pioneers is also such an organization.
To all my children: If you want to join any of these organizations you CAN.
My bro. Jim sent out an email some time ago with information on John Kennedy Jr. who was captured by the British and confined in a prisoner ship. People in those days were pretty casual about caring for prisoners, and Jn. died of starvation in 1781, a common fate.
So, I have verified that this is indeed our ancestor, the father of Josiah Ashurst's wife, Rebecca Kennedy. This image is one of three images containing an application for membership in SAR based on descendancy from Jn. Kennedy Jr. It was approved and can thus be used as the basis for further applications. You just have to prove your descendancy from Jn K. and you will be IN. I can help with that. The important thing is that the document lists the source of the short narrative about his service.

"John Kennedy was a soldier of Virginia in the War of the American Revolution and was at the Battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina, where he was taken a prisoner and he died aboard a British Prison Ship of Starvation."

It also states that his wife was Esther Stilly ( my records show the spelling as Esther Stille, but spelling was quite variable in those days, so that is no worry.)

Monday, June 20, 2011


I've been pretty busy with bees for the last week or so. I set out last Tuesday to retrieve honey from my two hives at Honey Grove. One hive had died out. The other had lots of nice honey. I planted sweet clover out there a few years ago and every other year it blooms copiously, and this honey seems to have clover mixed in with the wild flowers. I also picked up several frames of honey from my friend, Dan's, hive so I could extract it for him.
Then I stopped at my friends, the Hubers (sadly, Harold died last winter) to pick up honey from there. I had two hives there and both did very well, but one of them has become Africanized, meaning the bees were MEAN, violent, aggressive, persistent, unpleasant jerks! I was wearing a full bee suit and still got 15-20 stings. Some of them got inside my veil, which I need to be more careful about.
My intention had been to take all three of those country hives to a new place with mesquite (it starts blooming now when most nectar flow is over and lasts about a month), but I was tired of bees and left them there.
At home, I unloaded the honey and the one hive I'd brought from Honey Grove and hit the rack. Next day I rested until afternoon, then took the Huber hives out to the mesquite. I had another experience with the mean bees, but at least it was short - all I had to do was drop them off.
Thurs. I got all my equipment washed up, bottles out and washed, all the flat surfaces in the garage covered with paper, and started extracting honey. That is a messy job. Honey gets spread around in small amounts and pretty soon everything is sticky. The process is this:
  • Pull out a frame and put it over a tub.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut off the caps (thin wax the bees put over each cell when the honey is ripe).
  • Use a scratcher tool to remove caps I couldn't get with the knife.
  • Insert the frame in the extractor - a plastic tub with a cage that holds 2 frames and has gears to spin them around - with the opened cells facing out. Centrifugal force pulls the honey out of the comb and throws it against the side of the tub, where it flows into the bottom of the extractor.
  • Carefully spin the frames until the honey is out. If you spin too fast, the comb can break and send big chunks of wax into the extractor where it tends to clog things up. This year I have mostly all-plastic frames which are not so prone to breakage, but I have a few all-wax, unreinforced frames of comb and I broke most of them.
  • Take the frames out of the extractor, and cut/scratch the caps off the other side of the frame, and put them back in the extractor.
  • Spin the second side. Sometimes I only partially spin out honey on the first pass because there is so much honey and the total weight might break the frame. In that case I have to reverse the combs and spin again, then reverse a second time and do the final spin on the second side.
  • Put the empty frames aside and start two more.
  • After 4 or 6 frames are extracted the honey level is up to the bottom of the spinning cage, which makes it hard to spin, so I open the gate in the side of the extractor and let the honey (which has some wax in it, too) flow into a filter, which is two 5-gallon buckets. The top bucket has a bag filter in it with the top folded over the top of the bucket and rubber bands holding it up. The top bucket has holes drilled in the bottom to let the honey flow into the lower bucket. The lower bucket holds clean honey and has a pouring gate in the side of it. When it gets full I carry it in to the kitchen and fill bottles, using the pouring gate.
This is a photo of the kitchen after extracting honey from the country hives and the 2 hives here at the house. The double bucket filter is at right on the higher level of the counter. Notice lids in the foreground, bottled honey on the lower counter, bottled honey on the far counter, boxes of bottled honey, and you can't even see all the boxes.

Liz made a couple of movie clips of me extracting, so I hope she sends those out.

I made a mistake this year. I left honey supers on the hives at the house last year after I extracted. Here in TX, the good honey is in the spring (and summer if you have mesquite), but honey made in the fall is very dark and smells strong like molasses with a bitter aftertaste. My mistake was that the bees stored some of that Fall honey through the winter and it was still there when they started making new honey this spring. This is a photo of a decapped frame with an area where Fall honey was stored. It made a lot of honey a bit strong, but still usable. Just not as good as I like it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Missionaries and a surprise guest for dinner

The house is coming together nicely, which inspired Liz to test it by inviting the missionaries for dinner last night. We also invited Bill and Barb, and they asked if they could bring their house guest. It went off without a hitch, but the surprise of the evening was when I figured out that the house guest was none other than Quinn Gooch, a linebacker on the BYU football team from 2004-7. If you google him, you can see a video clip of him making a hit on an opposing team's receiver that is a real tooth breaker. After graduating he started a BLOG - - that has become the premier site for BYU sports.
We found Quinn to be very personable, unassuming, and the perfect guest. He recently went back to school and just finished his MBA at U. Texas. He is staying with Bill & Barb until his family arrives, after which they will live SE of Dallas.

Today, I am hanging a couple of curtains and a few other little things to complete the bedroom transformation. It has been a long, difficult project, but we are delighted with it.

The following photos illustrate what still needs to be done.
This is the sun room. The curtain on the floor in the foreground will go on the window next to our bed, and it is the same as the ones on these windows. I love sitting here watching TV with the view of the trees and bushes (and the occasional neighbor), but Liz says it weirds her out. This room is essentially done, but we are thinking of buying a big amoir to put in the corner where Mom used to have her desk.

This is the bedroom. Some of the fittings for the curtain rods are on the bed. This room will be done when the curtain is hung. We put all our Queen Anne furniture in this room and it worked wonderfully. Liz went to First Monday Trade Day in Canton a couple of weeks ago and got the little flower arrangement that is now in the nitch in the wall. Nice!

This is the sink area. I still need to put travertine marble under the mirror to tie it in to the marble vanity top. And I have some towel hooks to install.

I was standing in this area when I took the photo above of the sinks. Liz wanted the outlets where she could reach them as she sat here, but we've decided they need to go down under the table, near the window. That will give me enough room to properly hang the mirror.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Setting up PMs

PM = Preventive Maintenance = Maintaining equipment at a regularly scheduled interval that will allow you to find and fix problems before they become disasters. Actually, you can't prevent disasters. Things WILL break down when you don't expect it, but it doesn't happen as often on well-maintained equipment.
I currently have a nice little gig setting up the PM schedules for Varsity for two large commercial buildings, totalling almost 1.5 million sq. feet. It is a little bit overwhelming sometimes, but I am making good progress and everybody is happy with my work. That is good, because from what was already done, it is clear that none of them had the slightest clue how to get it rolling.
So, now I am obsessed with equipment and what has to happen to it. Some of it was converted over from the old system, but it's fragmented. For example, I already have a list of equipment in the buildings and the serial numbers. I also have a list of tasks that were done before. Part of my job is to match up the equipment with the appropriate tasks, and that gets a bit tricky sometimes. Most of it, though, is just grunt work. Just keep slogging away until you reach the end of the pile. Never mind that there are 154 Fan Powered Boxes to schedule. Just take the first one, give its schedule a name, give the PM you will generate a name (I always call it PM: whatever I called the schedule), assign it a task (usually a monthly task). Then, if there are PMs to be done on another interval, enter those and make sure they don't pile up in the future - there are monthly tasks, quarterly, semi-annual, annual, biennial, triennial and more and you can't have all 154 triennial tasks hit the staff in the same month, or even year or they will be overwhelmed. So you tell the system the triennial task happens every 36 months, but add 2 months before it is generated, and 4 months for the next one, and so on.
Confused, yet?
This stuff is rattling around in my head and it is making me a bit squirrely. I have been accused of being a little creative with how many hours I've been working. Somebody said I can't work over 100 hours for Varsity + 40 for Cabellas, + 50 on the remodel and fit it into one week. Well, I did say before that the 100+ hours were in a little more than a week, actually 9 days. It is still a lot.
So, yesterday, my good buddy and bro-in-law-squared, who has finally returned from California, and I went out in the woods and filled feeders. It was a delightful break. I even got to fire my pistol. I flushed out a monstrous big, well fed rat that had made its nest in one of our blinds and was eating our bait corn. Well, he won't be doing that anymore.
We talked about going back today for some actual hunting, but I have too much to do.

Cooling Tower #4 will have PMs monthly, starting 4/15/2011, which will take 30 minutes. It will also have a quarterly PM which I'll just let happen each third month, and that will take an hour. A semi-annual PM will be every 6th month, plus an offset of 5, and that will take 2 hours. The annual PM, every 12 months, plus an offset of 11, will take 2 hours. The biennial PM, every 24 months, plus offset of 20 months will take 4 hours. Check it all over, and BE SURE to save it.
And now I'm done whining, and need to get back to work.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Goodby Cabellas

I resigned from Cabellas Friday. It was a tough decision for me, as I do not like to give up on jobs, women, or overwhelming projects. But I had to do it. Here are my reasons:
  1. I've worked the last two Sundays and they had me scheduled for the next two as well. Nobody asked me what I needed, they just scheduled it that way.
  2. When Cabellas hired me as a Maintenance worker I envisioned what I was doing for Varsity, which is pretty high-end maintenance, HVAC, high voltage electronic systems, pumps, etc. Cabellas envisioned someone who cleans the bathrooms three times a day. They said that isn't what it will be long term, but they didn't give me any info on what it would be, so that's all I had to judge by.
  3. I got a job with Varsity to enter maintenance schedules for all the equipment in two large commercial buildings into the new CBRE Work Order system. That pays a lot more per hour, and they are in a bind so they want me to work lots of hours. Last week I put in over 100 hours on that, in addition to 40 hours with Cabellas, and at least that many more trying to clean up the remodel project. That's too many hours for one person, which brings me to...
  4. I needed a day off! I had to quit to get a day off?!?
On a lighter note, the bathroom looks great. Below is the tub. It is awesome! We got a Jetta brand tub that was special ordered but cancelled. Jetta has such tubs on a special part of their web site. This one cost about half what we'd have paid, and then it turned out it was a foot longer than we'd thought when we bought it, so it would have cost more than we thought if we'd ordered in the ordinary way. It is VERY nice, and the marble turned out nice, too.

This is the little chandelier Liz got to hang above her dressing table. I put in a couple of little spot lights for actual light and this adds a feminine touch to it. Gives me the willies.

I hate to post this photo with all the stuff piled on the sink, but it goes with the outlets and switch with no covers, yet. The plumbing all works, including a new hot water pump so there is instant hot water. We're making the paint guys come re-do a lot of the walls, though.

And this is the view into the master bedroom. Reminds me somewhat of tornado damage.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Where did the time go?

My last post was 7 months ago. Here is a quick update on what has happened since then.
  • My census job ended in Oct. because it was all done.
  • November: Harold Huber died while snorkeling in Hawaii, which may be one of the great ways to go. He was a great friend. I have 2 hives of bees at his place in Trenton, which Yolinda is happy to let me continue to keep there. She is also selling me his woodworking supply of walnut.
  • December: Our friend, Krista Oakes, died after a 5 year battle with brain cancer.
  • Also in December I got a new DROIDX cellphone, which is fun. However, I left it home while we had a fantastic family reunion in Mexico.
  • I worried a lot about keeping everybody safe in Mexico, but in the end there wasn't anything I could do about it, and it wasn't an issue. I still need to post photos.
  • As soon as we returned from Mexico, Joe and family packed up and moved to Holland for at least 1 year while he gets an MBA.
  • Jan. 1: Liz's Mom died. We have very mixed feelings about this. Happy that she is reunited with the love of her life. Sad that she is gone. Happy that we can get our master bedroom back. Sad to walk in there and not see her. The construction is in full sway as I write this - the house is full of dust - the built-in vac. doesn't work because I am waiting on parts to re-connect it where we had to move a wall - the new Jetta tub is waiting to go in and that is exciting.

  • March 6 will be the first day on my next job. I will be doing maintenance at the new Cabellas store about to open near by. It is very low pay and only part-time. I expect to work hard and get a FT position with better pay after a short time.