Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

This year seems to be flying by. Just a few days ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving, and Christmas is already come and gone. Now we're just two days away from a whole new year. It couldn't come at a better time.

We drove over to New Orleans (Metairie actually) to spend Christmas with my Sweetie's sister's family. Had a good time and ate too much for sure.

















Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving '08

















Thanksgiving has come and gone. Well, at least the 'holiday' did, but there's plenty of food to remind us that Thanksgiving can last a lot longer than one special day.

This year we hosted my Sweetie's sister, hubby and two sons from New Orleans. They had a bit of a time driving over because of the traffic but at least they made it safely. We kinda figured they would be hungry so we cooked a huge pot roast on the Egg. Before that I cooked two large pork butts for pulled pork sandwiches. They were so exhausted they had some of the roast and then crashed. The pulled pork went into the freezer for another day.

Thanksgiving Day I cooked a 20+ pound turkey (we called him Fred) and he was ready in about three hours. But I let him perk in the Egg for another hour at a much lower temperature while all the side dishes were cooked. By the time we sat down to eat everyone was hungry. Fred turned out to be the best turkey ever, bar none. And the side dishes were absolutely wonderful, as were the desserts.

I suppose you could say we had lots to be thankful for, especially considering all that is going wrong in the world. We had a good roof over our heads, plenty of food to eat and a loving, generous family together to enjoy each other's company. We would be the envy of at least 80% of the world's population if only they could get past the lack of shelter, the pain in their stomachs and the loss of their family members to everything from disease, famine, terrorism and a seemingly endless list of bad people who exploit them to no end. Yes, we have much to be thankful for.








Friday, October 31, 2008

Coop Party 2008

Well, we finally held the long awaited Coop Party, referred to by some as the Coop-de-doo... It turned out great in spite of some anxious moments only two weeks earlier when Hurricane Ike came through the area threatening, and almost carrying out the threat, to destroy everything in its path, including the Coop, the main focus of the party. But we survived with only limited damage to fencing and the complete distruction of the roof over the spa.

Because of the extensive damage to the area and the lengthy period of power outage, food and fuel shortages and general chaos from so much destruction, we almost cancelled the event. However, we hunkered down and did what was necessary to repair, clean and purchase what was necessary.

By the time it was over, we had 45 show up, some from as far away as Virginia, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The rest were from the San Antonio, Austin and Houston area. All came to have a good time and we did just that. It could not have been better.

I set up a special blog for the party that contains over 200 photos. If you wish to view them, click here: http://chickencoopparty.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Big Party At The Chicken Coop

Now that I'm finishing up my recovery from surgery I think it's time to have a party to break in the Chicken Coop. So a few Egghead friends got together here and we set a date... October 4, 2008.

I know, it's just two weeks away from Eggtoberfest in Atlanta (which we will be attending) but anytime sooner would have been too hot or in conflict with other events, or too close to the holiday season.

I posted a formal announcement on the Big Green Egg Forum and within a few days we had RSVP's from about 40 Eggheads and Egghead Wannabee's. There will probably be at least ten or more additional guests as we get down to the wire.

Take a look at the Blog Site I set up for the Party. It lists the names of those coming and will eventually have photos of the event itself.

http://chickencoopparty.blogspot.com/

If you are interested in coming, scroll down the page to the RSVP section and follow the instructions.

This is going to be a really great party.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Surgery Update

I have been in recovery mode for 18 days now and I'm doing fine so far. Well except I'm bored to tears because I can't build, fix or destroy something. Heck, I can't even bend over. But the doctor said it takes six weeks for everything to heal. Even then I will not be able to climb mountains, only small hills. I'll take it.

Meanwhile, we are preparing for the party of all parties, at least as far as we've hosted. This one invites our Egghead friends to celebrate the completion of our outdoor kitchen, the Chicken Coop.

I say 'completion' but in reality it is still an on-going project that just keeps me busy (when I'm not feeling poorly) and out of trouble. Plus, each new idea we come up with is fun to do. We just added a new cabinet in the back that encompasses one of Judy's ideas, a built in ice chest drawer. This is so cool (pun intended). We built a drawer that holds a huge ice chest where we can store bags of ice for up to seven days. I added full-length drawer slides making it very easy to slide out even with a hundred pounds of ice inside.

Then above it I made a huge deep-drawer to hold large, bulky items. Then off to the side I added slide out drawers to house our growing collection of cast iron cookware.

To really enhance the look I made cedar louvered doors for some of it and a solid cedar panel for the other.

We happened on a piece of Corian countertop that will fit perfectly after I trim it. And the good part, it was free.

The Coop should look fantastic for the party if I can ever get back to working on it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Post Surgery Stuff

Well, I finally had the back surgery yesterday and it went quite well. Came home today. I'm in a great deal of pain from the actual surgery but the other pain in my legs and hips seems to have disappeared. That's what the goal was all along.

I will be seriously limited in what I can do and where I can go during the next four to six weeks. Then I can start to do some of the things I'm used to doing around here. Well maybe not building outdoor kitchens and flagstone decks but there's always something to do here.

My surgeon said he found nothing else of concern besides the three areas where bone was pressing the nerve bundle (L3 L4 & L5). He performed his magic over a 2½ hour period. It's called a lumbar laminectomy to correct a condition called spinal stenosis. In my case, he thinks it was caused by genetics, but the condition is fairly common although less severe in most people. The surgery success rate is from 95% to 100% depending on where you look. If you have the condition you should certainly consider the surgery before you damage your nerves beyond repair.

I just took two more of the pain meds and my next stop is bed. I hope I can sleep non-stop until tomorrow. Probably not but at least I can take more pills if I need to.

It's nice to live in a country where treatment is available. I couldn't stand much more of the pain that was constantly at level six or higher all day, every day. I'm really looking forward to each and every new day from now on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pre-Surgery Stuff

My back surgery (lumbar laminectomy) isn't until the 29th but I had to go do all the pre-surgery stuff today. Mostly signing papers, but they also did lab work, x-rays and ekg on me. I still have to go to my family doctor to get his release for the surgery but that's next week.

I also learned a little more of what to expect after the surgery. Of course this is all based on the fact that it will be an uneventful, successful surgery.

The surgery will take about 2 1/2 hours. Then I will remain in a recovery room for at least one night, maybe two. They want me up and walking ASAP and certainly by the time I'm discharged the following day. Then I'm to progress my walking to as much as 3 miles a day within six weeks. I am "strongly discouraged from riding in a car for 4 weeks, except when absolutely necessary." I cannot "lounge on an over-stuffed couch" nor "do any lifting, bending, or stooping activities for 6 weeks." I should "specifically avoid bed-making, doing the laundry, vacuuming, or loading the bottom shelf of the dishwasher."

I'm also supposed to remain upright as much as possible, take deep breaths, eat a lot of fruit and fresh vegetables, use multivitamens and avoid alcoholic beverages.

It may "take 3 to 4 months" before I can "resume heavy physical activity."

They say I will have "good days and bad days" and about all I can do is rest, take the medication they provide and place ice packs on the painful area.

This is definitely not going to be a picnic.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Finally Got A Surgery Date

Three weeks ago I underwent a CT Myelogram for Dr. Cartwright to determine if there were any other areas of concern with my spinal stenosis. There wasn't, but the initial three areas were deemed "serious" and a laminectomy is about the only way to correct the problem.

Surgery has been scheduled for July 29th at Tops Surgery Center near KSF Orthopeodic's offices on Red Oak Drive. I've had knee surgery performed there before. The staff was very nice.

I have to have new bloodwork data and visit with both my primary care and heart doctors prior to the surgery date.

I'm told that it is likely that I will return home the following day of surgery but I will need some level of assistance for a few days.

It sounds like they have this procedure pretty much down pat so I'm not all that worried. If anything, I'm really looking forward to being able to function again without severe pain.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Never an end to health issues

Once again the ugly side of growing older raises its head and points me in the direction of yet another doctor. This time an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Cartwright at KSF.

My "Mad Max Disease" (affectionately named after my good Egghead friend Mad Max whom I charged with giving me his back problems over two years ago via email) has reached the point where I have to do something besides get epidurals for relief. My treating doctor suggested that I see Dr. Cartwright for a consult.

I had to undergo another MRI, this time an open MRI which was not as "challenging" as the one I had two years ago. I have claustrophobia. But with the open MRI I managed to sleep through the process.

Dr. Cartwright reviewed the MRI results and pointed to three areas where the spinal channel containing my nerve bundle was narrowed and probably putting pressure on the nerves thereby causing the constant pain and occasional loss of control of my legs. The condition is fairly common, especially in older and larger men. Genetics also increases the chances of having the problem called Spinal Stenosis. Surgery is the only way to correct the problem.

He went on to say there may be other problems and he wanted to arrange for a CT Myelogram, a procedure where dye is injected into the spinal column in order to enhance the images through X-ray and CT Scan. I underwent the process yesterday and I'm still suffering from it. That had to be one of the top five pains I have ever suffered. Double doses of Vicadan is all that got me through the night. Even now I'm having serious hearing problems and a headache of the worst kind. Hopefully it will clear up before the day is over. I may just go back to bed and sleep.

If the additional data supports his diagnosis I will likely be scheduled for surgery, a Laminectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the lamina that overlays the spinal canal. It enlarges the spinal canal and is performed to relieve nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis.

I'm told that I can expect to be laid up for many days, but within three months I should be able to lead a normal life.

An update will follow as soon as I know what the next step will be.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New Blog Site - Chicken Coop

When we set out to create an outdoor kitchen we basically had in mind a structure that would allow us to cook on our Big Green Eggs out of the direct sun or rain, plus offer the conveniences normally associated with an outdoor kitchen: refrigerator, running water, storage, good lighting and plenty of room to do stuff. Well, we also wanted it to have a pleasing look and be a fun place to hang out, not to mention have a unique personality of its own.

Apparently, we accomplished that and more. Once I began posting photos on the Big Green Egg Forum, I started getting requests for more photos, measurement information, construction details and even requests to hold a party. Some even sent items they thought would be right at home in the Coop. Naturally, they were added to the decor, often getting names of their own.

Of course I was pleased that so many people thought my handiwork was worthy of so much praise and I answered every request for more information.

Then it occurred to me that I could easily set up the Coop's own blog site, which I did and started filling it with photos. Check it out at: http://springchickencoop.blogspot.com/2008/05/spring-chickens-coop.html

Now when a request for information comes in I can simply refer them to the new blog site, along with any other information they may ask for.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Chicken Ranch Update

Finally, things are starting to settle down a bit here at the Chicken Ranch. Good thing too, because we are now in the "hot" season. It's just way too hot to be outside performing any kind of tasks unless you happen to be one of those who seem to thrive in the heat. I am certainly not one of them.

However, things do still get done. For example, a fast-growing palm tree was taking over a portion of our front landscaping. It's a pretty tree and would normally look nice wherever it is growing, but in this instance it seemed to be overwhelming our other plants while creating a major problem when it comes to maintaining the area. Before destroying it we offered it to someone if they could come dig it up. Someone did and now they have a very nice tree in their back yard. We still need to fill in the hole and clean up the area before planting some more appropriately sized plants.

We also received two new "critters" for our growing collection of Coop Animals. The first came from Egghead, "2nd Lt. Bob" in Massachusetts. We have temporarily assigned the handle, "Sundown" to him until we can come up with a more suitable name.

The second and most recent arrival arrived with a note saying that he is "a sick chick" who "needs some of your good cookin'." He was sent by my Sweetie's cousins after their recent visit to the Ranch. We also need to assign an appropriate name to him.

Here they are during Rodney Dangerbird's security orientation and general debriefing about their roles here.

















So now you are up to date. Stay close though because there will surely be more to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2008 Texas Eggfest in Austin

Well, another Texas Eggfest is now under our belt (pun intended). It was held last Saturday, May 10th in Austin, Texas at The Oasis, a really neat restaurant/bar on a high cliff overlooking Lake Travis. We were joined by my Sweetie's sister Joyce and brother Curtis and their spouses, Allen and Sandra. Joyce and Allen helped us cook up four dishes: ABT's, Frito Pie, Chickaletta's and Shrimp over a six hour period.

Everything we cooked disappeared quickly to a hungry crowd of about 150. Only 15 of us were cooking. The rest were new to Egg'n or about to purchase their first Big Green Egg. They were loaded with questions. In fact, 32 Eggs were pre-sold and at least 10 more were sold after the people saw how easy it is to cook on one and how delicious the food is.
Other cooks met with the same results. Lots of great food for lots of appreciative people.

The location could not have been better. We were on a private deck, complete with tables and chairs and our own bar. Water and sodas were free and beer could be obtained with a ticket. Mixed drinks could be purchased for a very reasonable price. We really like this arrangement over having to lug a big ice chest with all our beverages in it.

The view was fantastic. Boats in the lake looked like ants. The only problem we had was the heat. It gets hot in Austin. So next year we're having it in April. Yes, we'll definitely be there, as will just about everyone who came to this one, plus all those who couldn't make it this year.

Our hats are off to BBQ Outfitters, Sponsor of the Eggfest, and The Oasis for allowing us Eggheads to have a really great time. Here's some photos to prove it.















































Or watch the video...

video

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fifty-Seventeen

In two hours I will be a year older. Fifty-Seventeen to be exact. At least that's the way I prefer to think of it. Of course the traditional method would put me up in my sixties but that's no fun.

If I had thought for a minute that I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself. So here I am, overweight, on heart medication, arthritis in multiple joints, herniated disk in my back, one good eye, missing a prostate due to cancer, a bullet wound, rabid dog bite, cut arm almost off at the shoulder and many other serious threats to my well-being during that time. But I'm still better off than a lot of folks, and for that I consider myself fortunate.

So tomorrow when I wake up I will begin another chapter in my life, just like the day before and the day before that and so on for the 24,455th time. It will be a nice day and the love of my life will be by my side.

It's fun being me.

Happy Birthday

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unfinished Project Finished

It has been a couple of months since I sawed through the tips of three of my fingers while replacing new wood on Judy's hammock. The fingers are coming along nicely but the project never got completed, that is until yesterday.

It really urps me to start a project and not finish it. So yesterday I finished it. Yep! Got 'er done! Project completed.

No, there's no plans to use the hammock because we already purchased another one, so we will probably give it away. I don't even care if we throw it away. Unfinished, it was just a constant reminder of a project that never got completed. I suppose now I can pressure wash the blood off the garage floor to totally eliminate all evidence suggesting that I did a stupid thing.

At least I didn't let it get the best of me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Projects

My fingers are still healing from my little encounter with the table saw a few weeks back but things are still getting done around here. For instance, our fence that I installed myself almost twenty years ago was in pretty bad shape and needed replacing. We paid someone to do it and they did a great job.

















While they were here we had them add to the French Drain I installed last year. They did a great job on that too.










































Then we asked them to install a real concrete sidewalk to replace the stepping stones I put in last year. 90' and it looks good.










































Of course all of this was expensive but since we've decided this will be home from now on, we wanted things to be for us, not the next owner. Heck, we even had a guy come install new attic stairs that lead to our A/C and water heater.


So the only thing left to do is mow the lawn tomorrow, and for that I purchased a new mower. Had to, my ten year-old mower pull cord finally broke. So since this is probably the last mower I'll ever buy I got one with electric start. That is so cool.

With all these projects being done I can now do something else with my time. Sawdust... I've really been wanting to make some sawdust. Lots of it too. Maybe now I will. And I've been wanting to read more. And I just started a new book by Greg Iles. And I want to do more cooking on the Big Green Egg. That's why I own three and built an outdoor kitchen for them.

But I also want to start a vegetable garden. A nice one. Raised with individual sections for each type of plant, and easy to maintain. In other words, tomatoes that might cost me 50¢ at the store will probably end up costing $4.00 by the time I do all the things necessary to make a tomato. But as any gardener will tell you, it's in the "growing" not the "buying."

And finally, I've really been wanting to make an outdoor brick oven. Yep! One that makes pizza and bread. Once again, it's in the "making" not the "buying."

Or I could just stop everything and become a vegetable myself. Naaaaaaaaa! Too much fun being me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tablesaw vs Fingers

After 20+ years I finally let my table saw bite me. Yep! I let my guard down for just a second and the three middle fingers of my left hand suddenly had divots taken out. No, I've still got all of them but they still look like they were in a battle and lost, even after four weeks.

Unlike a knife, a table saw makes an 1/8" wide cut. Fortunately I had set it up to only cut 1/8" above the board so my cuts were only 1/8" deep. Even so, it was deep enough to reach the bone and take a nick out of them too.

I marked my "WHATDOIDONOW" path in the garage with 294 drops of blood before I got it under control by wrapping my hand in Bounty towels. Then I drove to the emergency room where I was promptly treated, mostly because I take blood thinners that tend to make me bleed a lot. They didn't want me to mess up their new floor.

29 stitches, Xrays, a few bandages and some really good pain killer and I was done, at least until the next day when I had to see a hand specialist. He started out by saying I was one of the few lucky ones. Most of his patients lost fingers and even hands. But he was pleased with the stitches as well as the appearance of the wounds and scheduled me for hand therapy a couple of days a week. I go back to him next week. I think he will be impressed with my progress.

Surprisingly, for three weeks my whole hand didn't want to function properly, and the three fingers tended to hurt quite a bit although the tips were bone dead. I'm told that feeling will likely return in time as I finish the healing process. Also, scar tissue will be minimal if I continue my therapy.

So instead of thinking "woe is me" I'm thinking of just how fortunate I am. It could have very easily been worse.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year

Well, I survived another year. 2007 was certainly challenging what with a heart attack in January and that annoying/painful sciatica problem cropping up all year long. Then my Mom died and my two brothers are in dire straits.

But there are plenty of folks worse off than me so I'm really not complaining. It's more like comparing each year to each other. Let's just say I've had better ones.

But there was some good news too. I passed the "critical period" by being cancer free for four years according to my prostate doctor. Instead of seeing him every six months I'll only go every year. That's certainly a mind-settler.

Also during the year I finally finished the Chicken Coop, my outdoor kitchen. It is an absolute pleasure to cook in and I've made some very good meals out there. Not to mention having a lot of fun.

Then there was that period when I was making handles for Lawn Ranger to help him catch up on some back orders. I sent him enough rough cuts to give him some relief and now I'm in layoff status. I surely don't mind not having to worry about it but I really enjoyed making the handles for him. He said he would call me when he's ready for more.

Then there was Eggtoberfest in Atlanta. We really had a good time. Met old friends and made new friends, not to mention cooking and tasting some really good food. I am SO glad we got into Egging. Everyone is just like family whether we've met in person or not.

Then there was my goal of winning the Texas Lottery. I didn't win but that may be due in part to my not buying many Lottery Tickets. Small technicality. I may try harder in 2008. Worth a shot because somebody's gonna win.

Then there was the Clan MacMillan Society of Texas stuff. We went to Salado, Texas for a big Scottish Clan Gathering and Games where we helped man our Clan Tent. It was fun but the wind literally destroyed our tent the first day. And since I "volunteered" to prepare our Clan's newsletter I tried my best to do it up good. I was actually surprised at how nice it turned out.

Finally, we did Christmas in New Orleans. Actually, Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. My Sweetie's sister lives there. We really had a good time, well except for a terrible mattress at the La Quinta where we stayed until Christmas Eve. By then I had had enough and slept on a sofa at my sister-in-law's house. It was better than the hotel mattress.

My Sweetie gave me another Big Green Egg. A mini. I had been wanting one for a long time and it certainly lives up to its reputation as a good cooker.

Both of us are starting off the new year with a strong resolve to lose some weight. My target goal is 640 ounces. I think it's easier to lose ounces than it is to lose pounds. Just losing 3 ounces a day will reach my goal in 213.3 days. And 3 ounces is a piece 'a cake (pun intended).

We're both looking forward to 2008, all the while thinking it can be whatever we want it to be.

Happy New Year