Uncategorized

The Wonder Years

I grew up in a time somewhere between wagons and rockets.  As children, my parents rode in wagons.  My grandpa remembered the first car he had even seen, scooting down the muddy main street of Pickens.  It got stuck in the mud too and some mules had to pull it out.  Speaking of mules, my parents also plowed the gardens and the cotton fields with mules.  Tractors were a rarity back then and they were very expensive.  Fast forward a few years to my generation.  We saw men walk on the moon and wireless smartphones that made almost all the equipment in Radio Shack obsolete.  What will the next generation (our kids) witness?  Men on Mars?  Unlimited clean power from fusion?  Cures for cancer?  It boggles the mind how fast things progress.  To put it in perspective, think about this.  Laura Ingles Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books, crossed this country in a covered wagon as a child and she crossed it in an airplane as an adult. 

Wagon Ride

I am very excited about all the possibilities the future holds, but I have one foot firmly rooted in the history and lifestyle of my parents generation and I will be forever grateful for that.  We may have self-driving electric cars now, but I remember a time when there was leaded gasoline and you had to spin a handle on the pump to clear the previous purchase.  I remember driving old trucks with dimmer switches on the floorboard and triangular shaped vent windows that you could open for airflow in the summer months.  There was no air conditioner in our vehicles, our house, or our schools.  I cannot imagine a summer without AC now, but back then we had an attic fan that would suck the sheets right off your bed.  We slept with all the windows open and that attic fan whirring away all night long.  It was good sleep too, wrapped up in fresh, sun-dried sheets with a hand-stitched patch-work quilt.  My grandma used to have quilting bees at her house.  She would set the frame up in the living room and her friends would come over and sit around the frame, stitching, sipping coffee, and sharing the latest gossip.  I have several of those quilts now and would not part with them for anything.

Plowing with Horses

I also grew up in a time when men smelled of sweat, plowed earth, wood shavings, fresh cut hay, oiled leather, Red Man chewing tobacco, and Old Spice.  Back then their faces and forearms were tanned and leathery from long days in the sun and their hands were calloused from hard work.  Suits were worn to church on Sundays and overalls, work boots, and trucker hats were worn the other six days of the week.  Back then, Sunday was a day of rest too.  My dad would not even take me fishing on Sunday because it was a day that God gave us to rest, and he believed that was exactly what we were supposed to do.

Quilting

I remember many nights when mom and dad sat in the living room, the attic fan whirring away, and a Billy Graham crusade playing on TV.  There, in the soft glow of the television set, mom and dad would listen to Billy Graham’s service while stringing and breaking beans.  I remember sitting in the shade beneath a plum tree in the back yard on a hot summer day with my mom.  In front of us lay a huge pile of corn dad had picked the previous evening.  We would shuck the corn, break the ends off, and take off as much silk as possible. It was hard, slow work, but oh such fond memories of sitting there, passing time with my mother.  I could go on and on about the work.  Kids these days gripe and complain about simple chores like cutting grass.  We did not have weed eaters when I was a child and every time my dad cut the grass, when he was finished, he gave me his pocketknife to do the trimming.  All round the house, around the porches, around the flower beds, around the shrubs and trees, I had to trim the grass the lawn mower could not reach with a pocketknife.  How many kids today have ever had to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and pick corn?  We would be in the fields as soon as it was light enough to see and we would pick corn until lunch time.  Then, we would go eat lunch and come back with the tractor and a wagon to get the corn we had picked out of the field.  Our day did not end there either.  We would take the corn to the barn and load it into the bin, then dad would hook the tractor up to the grinder and we would spend the rest of the day grinding the corn into 50lb sacks of feed.  In the summertime, if there were no chores to be done, I would have to pick up rocks in the pastures.  In the wintertime, even though our woodshed was full of split and seasoned firewood, if there were no chores to be done, we would cut more firewood.  That was an all-day job too.  We would cut a full load and then I would have to split it and stack it in the woodshed when we got home.

Breaking Beans

Anyhow, you get the picture.  Unlike millennials, I do know how to use a phone book and a rotary dial phone, and even though that technology is forever gone and now useless, I am thankful for being a part of that era.  It was a time when men were men, women were women, and no one had a gender identity problem.  It was a time when chivalry, patriotism, good manners, kindness, respect for the law, and love of God was very much alive and well.  It was the best of times. 

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. A street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back… with wonder.” ~The Wonder Years

Uncategorized

Dreams, Goals, Plans, Action

I have a ton of dreams for this farm, but I’ve never written them down with a date to make the dream become a goal.  No goal means no plan, no plan means no action, and no action means they remain dreams and nothing more.  What I consider a dream is something big.  Something that will cost money and something that will require hard work, but something that will in some form have a big return on the investment.  Here are some of the dreams on my list…

  • Small Barn for tools (shop), feed storage, and junk storage.
  • Large barn for family gatherings, possibly to rent to public.
  • Turn existing barn, beside the pond, into a picnic shed with restroom and grill.
  • Covered bridge over first place driveway crosses the creek.
  • Stone bridge over second place driveway crosses the creek.
  • Waterfall beside stone bridge.
  • Grist Mill (not a working grist mill) with overshot waterwheel, fed from pond.
  • Turn timber framed woodshed behind house into food processing building.
  • Finish log cabin in the woods above the pond.
  • Build an on-site old-fashioned general store on the farm.

As you can see, there are quite a few things I have dreamed about and as I approach retirement age, my time to accomplish some of these is running short, so I’ve decided to pick one for which we have the greatest need at the moment and that one is the small barn for tools with a feed room and a large area for storing junk. 

This barn will be located on a slab in the parking area at the end of our driveway, to the left of our house.  Since it will be so close to the house, we are going to call it a carriage house and build it to resemble one.  Below is a photo of what we envision. 

Carriage House

The structure will be 16’ wide, 24’ long, and 2 stories tall.  The first floor will have two rooms: a tool shop/garden shed and a feed room.  The tool shop/garden shed will be 16’ x 16’ and the feed room will be 8’ x 16’.  There will be stairs in the tool shop that lead to the second floor.  The second floor will have half walls (4’ high) on the sides with a roof peaking around 9’ or 10’ in the center. 

My goal is to have this finished before winter.  I’ve figured up the materials for the floor and I’ve divided the work required to complete the floor into 3 sessions (weekends).  I’ll tackle the first floor walls next, then the second story floor, followed by the second story walls, gables, and finally the roof.

As soon as I get my truck out of the shop I will start.  Stay tuned for updates.  This will be a long project.

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan.
A plan backed by action makes your dreams reality.
~Unknown

Uncategorized

Springtime

Well, we survived another year and another winter.  Springtime is upon us and there is so much to do, but I won’t bore you with a list.  It would be a rather long list and I don’t quite feel like typing THAT much on this post.  I know I’ve said it many times before, but springtime is my favorite season.  I have an old 1965 Chevy pickup and I love to roll my windows down and the ride around, looking at people’s yards, carpeted with fresh green grass, and bedecked with white dogwoods and pink azaleas.  The sun is brighter in the spring, the sky is bluer, and the air is cleaner and fresher.  There is a resurrection of life taking place all around us, a constant reminder of another resurrection that is celebrated in the springtime.  Happy Easter, everyone.  He is risen. 

Springtime

“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” ~Martin Luther

Uncategorized

I’m Back (For Now)

Well, I had decided to quit blogging, given my circumstances, but I’ve changed my mind.  My PSA doubling rate was 2.2 months.  Anything under 3 months does not carry a good prognosis.  However, through a combination of different interventions and God’s grace I’ve managed to stretch the doubling rate out to 12.6 months.  That is much better.  My oncologist has a particular clinical trial he wants me to participate in, but my PSA must be a 2 before I am eligible.  Right now, I have “rising-PSA-only recurrent prostate cancer”.  That means my PSA is rising, but there is no evidence of disease yet.  If I can maintain a doubling rate of 12.6 months, I will not be eligible for a clinical trial for 4 years.  However, I’ve found a recent study where the PSA doubling rate in “rising-PSA-only recurrent prostate cancer” patients (like me) was extended from an average of 10 months to over 24 months with the use of Avodart.  Avodart is actually a hair loss drug.  It works by keeping your body from converting testosterone to DHT which is another form of testosterone that causes male pattern baldness.  Prostate cancer is a hormonal cancer and testosterone is the food that feeds it.  However, DHT is like a superfood for prostate cancer.  Will I get the same results?  I don’t know, but if I do get the same results, My PSA should not reach a 2 for about 9.4 years.  The trial my doctor wants to get into uses an immunotherapy technology called BiTE.  In a nutshell, they train my immune system to go after cells with PSMA on their surface.  Initial results are showing very robust responses, but it’s way to early to know how durable these responses will be.  That’s why I want to delay the trial for as long as possible.  If I can delay the start date for 9.4 to 10 years, that will take me to the age of 70.  If the response is not a complete and durable response and I only get 5 years from the treatment, that will take me to the age of 75.  However, in 10 years this BiTE therapy, if successful, should be an FDA approved treatment and there are even more treatments in the pipelines.  Some companies are making great inroads on the CAR T-Cell therapy on hard tumors.  CAR T-cell therapy is cure for lymphoma.  If they can figure out how to get past the tumor microenvironment, then it may very well become a cure for prostate cancer and breast cancer.  At any rate, without the opportunity of receiving one of these new treatments by participating in a clinical trial, my estimated life span is 4 to 6 years (providing I stay healthy).  I’ve missed writing and although I am starting back on this blog, this is my last post on my prostate cancer.  I’ve seen far too many blogs where newly diagnosed men start the blog talking about how they are going to fight this disease and beat it.  Just about all of them end with a post from the wife informing everyone that her husband lost his battle with the disease.  I don’t know if I will beat it.  I do know the odds are against me and the statistics are not in my favor, but what will be, will be.  God has blessed be far more than I deserve, and if this disease takes me out of this world, I will leave with a humble and grateful heart, full of praise for God’s blessings in my life.

Uncategorized

More Lemonade

Well, it’s ironic that my last post, just yesterday too, was about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. I’ve been given some lemons that I’m not sure I can do anything with.

In 2018 I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. It was locally advanced, meaning that all of the cancer they could detect was located in the abdominal area. So, I went for the cure – surgery, followed by 35 weeks of radiation, followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy. I also started ADT when I was first diagnosed and continued that for 2 years.

I’ve been off all treatments for 2 years now and my PSA has been 0.000. My oncologist was becoming hopeful that we had beat it and was going to change my checkups and labs from every 3 months to every 6 months, but my last PSA came back at 0.014. We retested again 6 weeks later (yesterday) and it came back at 0.049. It has not reached the level to be considered a biochemical recurrence, but it is on the way and moving quickly (it tripled in 6 weeks).

So what does this mean? It means I will go back on ADT and stay on it until it fails. ADT lowers your testosterone to castrate levels. It keeps you alive, for a while, but there are side effects. Tiredness, weight gain, constant hot flashes. Also, long term use can lead to osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

How long will ADT give me? No one knows. Two years? Maybe five? Maybe longer, but the answer is no one knows. It varies from person to person. What will I do when it fails? I will probably try Provenge, a therapy that turns your immune system against the cancer. This is not a cure either, just another therapy that will also eventually fail, but it might buy me a couple more years. After that? Maybe Zytiga, although that therapy shuts down the adrenal glands and I will likely be on prednisone for the rest of my life, however long that may be.

Anyhow, I’m dealing with a terminal disease now and being only 59 years old, it is highly likely I will die from this. If I were 70 years old, all of the therapies and treatments available would possibly keep me alive until I died from some other age related ailment. My hope is that the therapies available will keep me alive until some breakthrough treatment becomes available.

Anyhow, I am facing a giant and I need to focus my energies on getting my affairs in order and making sure my precious wife is taken care of if God decides to call me home. This is my last post on the blog. It was never my intent to gain a large following or to monetize this, I just enjoyed writing. For the handful of people who follow this blog, thank you. For Sebastion, who “likes” all of my posts, thank you.

As far as the farm goes, it’s not my dream anymore. The days I have left, however few or however many, will be spent loving my family.