December started with me fixing fences uprooted by tumbleweeds.  I've got to get some pictures and come back and update this- I always forget to take my digital camera when I head out the door, but I will remember!!!  One of these days.... The tumbleweeds were THICK this year, due to the rain, no doubt and this is the first time since we've been here that I've had this much trouble with them.  What happens is that they roll across the prairie and get stuck against the fences.  Some of our fences are steel T-posts, but most of them are still wooden posts.  The weight of the weeds and the force of the wind blowing against them puts a lot of pressure on the fence and snaps wooden posts off at the base.  Interestingly, the weeds will also sometimes leverage the posts right out of the ground.  Either way, the fence falls over.  Early in December, I was sitting in the living room and looked out into the shipping trap pasture (see Scenery) and noticed about 30 cattle in the pasture.  Well, I don't have any cattle right now!  Fence was down and my neighbor's calves were in the pasture.  Me and Chance went out to check the fence and ended up driving the calves back across the fence.  Next day, I was able to stick some posts in the ground and get sort of a fence up.

The next week, though, I got sick again.  This time, I had a fever of 102 for 3 days straight and then my throat locked up and I could barely swallow.  After a week of toughing it out and taking herbs and vitamins in mega-doses, I finally broke down and went to the doctor and was diagnosed with strep throat.  At least it wasn't my imagination.  While lying on the couch trying to swallow, I saw about 40 head of cattle in the pasture south of the house.  MORE neighbor calves!!  And sure 'nuff, the fence was down over there, too.  After I got better, I fixed that up.

As normal for me in November-Feb, I worked hard at guitar repair.  Here's a shot of my indoor work area- this is just a "middle" room in our house.  I do probably 95% of my work right here.  I've thought a lot about building a dedicated building but then I'd have to deal with heating, security, electricity, and all that stuff.  This works well most of the time.  I keep my band saw and sander in a 9 x 12 shop right off the deck and it's an easy matter to take 10 steps and be out there to cut bone or whatever.

There's a guitar hanging on the wall drying after having the neck reattached.  There are guitars to the left and right of the photo, too.  Having this kind of setup here makes it a snap to work at Kaufman Kamp when I'm the Kamp Doctor (2005 will be my 4th year there...).  Kamp is really no different from home except that it's a lot more humid.

Over here's my "to-do" wall.  That's a 1936 0-18 hanging up on the wall.  It'll be on its way to Hong Kong in another couple of weeks and I have it hanging right over the humidifier because Hong Kong is extremely humid.  The papers on the bottom right of the bulletin board are my "done" sheets- I'll check each guitar before I pack it up to be sure I've done the work.  Papers in the middle are the in-progress guitars.  This is towards the end of December and I've made excellent progress, in spite of being sick for nearly 2 weeks.  Up at the top are some photos of Tony Rice's guitar and a shot of Tony listening to Bill Monroe play Tony's guitar (a classic shot from Jon Sievert).  Far right are a set of strings allegedly played by Tommy Emmanuel.  The white board is my immediate to-do list.  Guitars at the bottom left are "done" and "ship" is on the right.  I'm going to be shipping 6-7 guitars immediately after the Christmas season.  Beneath the Martin is one of my two Bemis humidiers and to the right of it is my '57 tweed Fender Champ amp and Peavey Ecoustic 112.

On the other side of this room is my "office" with my computer, bookshelf, electric guitars, banjo, etc.

This is another part of the reason why I don't move into a dedicated shop.  This way, it's really easy to check my mail while I'm waiting for glue to dry, practice with Band in a Box for a few minutes, check the weather, make a UPS shipping label, etc.  The first two shelves of my bookshelf are full of Biblical commentaries and books, the next two down are music books.  My desk is a wreck and needs to be re-organized.  The red Partsocaster on the floor is the "kids" guitar- it's a Squire body with an Allparts neck, TexMex Strat pickups and vintage running gear.  I leave it down there and they can play it, stand on it, whatever.  The sunburst guitar is another Partsocaster, this one from an unknown (but lightweight and good looking) body with a Fender 50's RI neck and Fender Custom Shop '54 pickups.  It's my "50's Strat" and I keep it around as a traditional kind of Strat.   The banjo is a Deering Hartford model that I bought in Winfield in 2003.  It's a great banjo and I've never had a second of buyer's remorse.  And that's the office/shop!

During December we worked with "Jessie", our new horse a bit.  Here I'm just riding her around in the compound, getting her used to working thru different surroundings and such.

Jessie's a pretty small horse, as you can see, but, being a small guy, I like that.  I feel really comfortable on her and like riding her.

Dec 22 and 23 brought us some more snow!  Brianna is shoveling a path off the deck.  That little shop in the background is where I do my sanding and bandsaw cutting.  Also, if you look in the background you can see the tumbleweeds along the fences.  The snow should pack them down and help keep them from blowing, but it will also make them heavier.  Jessie lives in the metal barn and has free access to the pasture behind Brianna.   That's Chance The Wonder Dog watching Brianna shovel snow.  Chance likes to sleep in the pickups at night but during the day he's very comfortable just curled up on the snow.  He's got a coat about 6" thick this time of the year.

And as we see here, it gets cold.

Dec 24: Christmas Eve!  We awoke to find our water frozen, in spite of the fact that I'd run a trickle in the sink.  Well, let's see what we can do.  First, the temperature:

Brrr....a little chilly.  Our well house is about 1/4 mile from the house, and after getting the truck started (barely), we'll drive down there.

Here we are at the well.  I'm knocking the snow off before lifting the very heavy door up.  I'm going to take that propane heater into the hole and set it up.  I'll also heat the pipes with a blowtorch.  Usually, if I can get things warm in the well house, the water will run.

As usual, there's a packrat (Neotoma albigula) nest in the well house.  This rat ejected when I blow-torched the pipes and Chance The Wonder Dog was waiting up on top and made short work of him.  I'll feed the rat to the redtail back at the house.  There's the propane heater in place.  If you look carefully at the pressure gauge you can see that it's on "0".  This is almost a sure sign that the water is frozen in that little pipe between the gauge and main pipe.

A little later, here's the clean well house.  We removed the rat nest via pickle bucket- I filled 'em and tossed 'em out and Georgia emptied the buckets and dropped them back in.  The snow under the gauge is there because I caught old rat nest on fire heating the pipes with a blow torch.  It was like a smoke house in there for a few minutes.  I'm sure that can't be good for me- inhaling smoky rat-pee saturated sagebrush- but a guy's gotta have water.

Exiting the well house!  The meter on the pole just behind me spun briefly, so we think we've got water.  Most of the time we'll leave a 2-way radio at the house and Brianna can test the water, but I've done all I can do and now we'll just have to see what happens.

Back at the house- success!!!  Water!!! Yes!!!  I'll do the smart thing and leave the propane heater running tonight.

Just 3 months to go before I have to start seriously thinking about cattle.  I hope to spend some time in Feb/March fixing fences and piling dirt up around the stock tanks....just like I did last year!

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