A Busy Year - Fall 2007


2007 has been a busy year for us.

Our younger son Matt ended up with a DUI conviction last fall an temporarily lost his driver's license. He decided it was a good time to move to Missouri and find a lower stress occupation and life style. We ended up making two trips to California moving him here. He is doing well here with a steady normal job. The low key life here in the Midwest agrees with him. He has no plans to move back to California once the hold on his driver's license is released.

Our other son, Chris, and his wife presented us with a new granddaughter this October. Naturally Faith had to fly out to California for that event.  I stayed here to take care of the property and critters.

Matt's move alone would have kept us busy but this was the year of the big ice storm!

This photo shows how winter started out. A little light snow now and again. We were enjoying ourselves.

Then the Ice Storm came!

This is the tree that fell across our driveway loop. It was 70 foot tall when it was still standing.


The ice storm lasted only one night. What followed was 7 days without power. That included a couple days without water too since the water district pumps didn't have power. The ice pulled down power lines and power poles. Trees and tree limbs fell on power lines. Trees were down across ice covered roads so that power company line trucks could not reach downed lines to repair them. Fire trucks and rescue vehicles could not get around. In all, it was a mess.

We got by well enough though. We had plenty of wood for out woodstove and fireplace so we did not freeze. It was cold enough that we were able to keep our frozen food out on the porch - and the stuff needing refrigeration in the laundry room! We missed having hot showers. Entertainment was reading and listening to audio tapes.

We had plenty of time to think about what we should do to be ready for the next big power outage. We bought two generators (Honda EU2000) - small and light for easy handling - very quiet - two for redundancy. I wired a multi-circuit transfer panel into our main circuit breaker panel. We can now be up and running on generator power in about two minutes if we need to. (Of course, now that we have this ready, we can expect no long power outages occurring for many years now!)

This shows what the driveway was like.


Over the years, trees and tree limbs have grown out over the opening created by the driveway. The ice broke limbs out of the old trees and bent the younger ones over to the ground. It took hours of heavy chainsaw work to clear the path enough for us to make it to the road. Those bent over treetops and limbs were hard to move.  First, they were very heavy with ice seeing as that was why they bent over in the first place. Second, some were frozen to the ground.

This might give you an idea of what we were dealing with.


This photo shows the ice buildup on one of my antenna wires. It is red insulated number 12 wire folded back and twisted onto itself. The layer of ice is about 3/4 inches thick on the top of the wire and about 1/2 inch on the bottom - plus there are the icicles hanging down.

This is what the weight of the ice did to my beam antenna.


I thought my beam antenna was done for. Fortunately the aluminum it is made from is tough. Once the ice melted, the element all returned to horizontal. I don't know how many times it will survive this kind of abuse though.

This is what my firewood pile looks like now.


It took several weeks to get all the trees cleared from the driveway and the road down to the lake. Just those trees alone cut and split produced nearly 6 chords of firewood for the wood stove. The row in back covered with the blue tarp is more than enough for the coming winter. The partial row in front is the start of the pile for the following winter. In addition to that, there is another chord or two of wood for the fireplace not visible here. There is much more wood still laying around ready for me to cut and split.

Faith is looking at one of the cliff houses at Walnut Canyon, AZ


We did take time out to relax a bit. On the trip we took to California to bring Matt's truck to Missouri, we did a little sightseeing along the way. After spending time with our kids and my parents, we headed back, stopping at the Grand Canyon and several native American historical sites.

Here you can see Faith learning about native American pottery.


An interesting point about this pottery is that it is made with clays that fire at much higher temperatures than those used with ordinary pottery. The artist here (the lady on the left) actually digs her own clay.  Her colors and glazes are all hand collected locally also.

A litter of baby Opossums


An interesting project was handed to us. A friend's daughter spotted a road killed 'possum and stopped to move it off the road. She discovered it was a female with a litter of babies. She couldn't go off and leave them but didn't know how to care for them. So... They ended up at our house. You can see the five babies above. Marsupial young start out very tiny. They are about 6 or 7 weeks old here but they are still so small that the whole litter can fit in one hand.

They were so young that they needed bottle feeding.

The 'possums after about 3 weeks


They quickly learned to eat from a dish. They required quite a lot of attention at first. They did survive and grow though. In spite of being 'wild' animals, they liked being held and petted.

Here they are two months after arriving.


After two months with us, they are getting to be about 10 to 12 inches long from nose to butt. (The tail adds another 8 or 10 inches in length) For reference, the mesh is 1 inch by 2 inches. All five of them slept in that box they are walking out of. It was funny to see. It was like one of those "how many teenagers can fit in a phone booth?" kind of things. I guess if you evolved to grow up in a 'possum pouch, a little crowding is considered normal.

Here they are just prior to being released.


But... they had to be released to the wild.

The ice chest you see has a door cut in one end and is attached over an opening to the cage. The 'possums slept in it on cold nights. You will notice that there are only four now. We were lucky enough to be able to place one of the females with the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield.

We tried to place the other female with another nature outfit in Springfield, but they didn't call to ask for it until a couple days after they were released.

Darn! We would have like for her to have life of luxury too. She is the second 'possum from the right, facing the camera.

We actually delayed releasing the 'possums to allow a bobcat that was hunting on our property to move on. We had moved the 'possum's cage outside the basement about a month before releasing them. They needed to become used to the outdoors climate, sounds, and scents. A couple of evenings we had the bobcat yowl at us from across the pond. Apparently it thought we were interfering with its evening hunt. We waited for the nightly bobcat yowls to fade away in the distance before thinking about releasing our 'babies'.

UPDATE:  About a week after releasing the 'possums, the female came back.  We had been leaving food and water at a spot near the house where we had seen the 'possums right after release. We figured it wouldn't hurt to provide a little food for them until they have a chance to learn how to get by in the woods. We also hoped we would see the female so we could recapture her. I saw her leaving the food bowl and called to her. She stopped, turned around, and came towards me.  She then made the motion she had previously used to indicate she wanted to be picked up.

I carried her into the house and handed her to Faith while I got the cage set up for her again. She snuggled in and fell asleep in Faith's arms for a few minutes until the hubbub of my rushing around and phone calls coming in woke her. She snuggled a little more and then began grooming. She gave every indication of being glad to be warm and under the care of humans again. Since she will be going to an indoor facility, we figured a little more domestication would not hurt. We brought her in while we were watching TV after she became active in the evening. She seemed to love being held and petted. It was fun to be able to spoil a "wild" critter for once.

We contacted World of Wildlife in Springfield and gave them the good news. The made arrangements to come pick her up. They got a great 'possum. She is going be a part of a nature education outreach program.

The continuation of last year's pond wall project


Along with ice storm damage cleanup, moving Matt, and raising 'possums, I did get in a couple yard projects. The one you see here is a continuation of last year's pond wall project. The idea here is to dress up the edge of the pond near the house that was previously just a muddy spot at the bottom of a steep bank.

Here's a closer look


Those concrete blocks weigh about 80 pounds each. It take bit of effort to build a wall like that. The red stone below the wall is a channel I made to carry the water from the house footing drains to the pond. The drains trickle water through most of the spring. Any rainwater draining to the area outside the basement is also directed into these drain lines. The stone helps keep this area from getting too muddy.

The barbeque shelter


My second major construction project for the summer was this shelter for the barbeque pit.  At this point in the overall project, it kind of looks like a shrine to honor informal Ozark barbequeing. Actually, this is just the first step - installing a metal roof so we can barbeque even on days with rain likely. I spread a thin layer of pea gravel for temporary cover over the bare clay and set the old concrete block barbeque in place until I get around to building a permanent version.

Faith's 'Pollywog Bog'


With all the stuff going on this year, some things got neglected. Faith's bog area got little attention. It's still kind of a pretty spot, just not quite as well maintained as Faith had hoped. I've included this photo to show how even a weedy bog can look with the fall colors for a backdrop.

Our House


This has been a good rainfall year. Though the pond water level you see here is down about 10 inches from full, that has been about as low as it has gotten since last fall. It'll probably be back to full again before too long.

A fall view of the pond


Well, that is about it for now. We've been retired for 5 years now. That's hard to believe. The time has gone so fast. I think it is safe to say we have comfortably settled into this rural Ozark lifestyle. We've made lots of new friends plus have lots of family nearby. With ice storms, wild critters, community activities, it's never dull around here. Of course, though, we can also just ignore the outside world and enjoy ourselves. After all, its two hundred yards through dense forest from our house to any of our property lines. That provides plenty of isolation from external stress.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!