If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

We Voted. (And You Should, Too!)

 As a young girl I recall my Daddy getting so frustrated with my Granddaddy when he would talk politics.  Granddaddy followed the party line and he preached it as well, as best I remember, anyway.  

He strongly influenced where my cousins and I attended school just because he disagreed with the county government over where they built a school.  The interesting thing is, the school for that area is now built right where Granddaddy thought it should stand way back when.

Even though my Daddy eventually became much like Granddaddy and followed a party line, early on he taught me to research and learn about each candidate. He taught me to look at years of service and how he/she had voted if they were incumbents. He taught me to look at which committees the incumbent had served as a member or leader. He taught me to become familiar with the issues and weigh the positives and negatives - not just blindly follow a candidate. And I always have.

As I reached adulthood - or what legally was considered adulthood, my Daddy stressed to me how important it is that I vote.  He always promoted the idea that as a woman I could do anything a man could do and when it came to voting, he stressed the importance of taking advantage of that right.  He talked to me about how people had fought and died to give me the privilege of voting.  He talked to me about how women fought to be granted the right to vote. He explained that it an obligation of mine as a citizen of this country to vote and let my voice be heard. He talked about how laws were made and that we relied on the people we elected to make those laws, see that those laws were upheld, and update the laws when needed.

As a result of the influence of these two men, probably, I have voted almost every single opportunity I was provided.  (There may have been a couple of times when I was younger that I didn't vote but I don't recall for certain.) At any rate, I usually participate in early voting or absentee voting.  I'm not a patient person and I don't like to wait in line for anything.  I do it at times out of necessity at the Post Office, the DMV, or the doctor's office or someplace like that but I really try to plan and work out ways that I don't have to wait in line.

This year I was determined to absentee vote by mail just because of all the hullabaloo that has arisen about it and because I wanted to keep my husband and family safe.  So, Mike and I sat down and requested the absentee ballot be mailed to us.  The day after it arrived in our mailbox, we sat down and filled it out and the day after that, we put it in the mailbox at the end of the driveway and lifted the flag to signal the postal carrier to pick it up.  After a few days, I began checking the website to see if they had received and posted our vote. Friday, I saw that they did.  

All of this to say that our government system may be broken in many ways.  We may be living in uncertain times by some measures.  However, if we want to make a difference, we all need to vote.  Early voting is happening right now in most places. Here in Tennessee, early voting is available until October 29.  If you can, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity.  If not, just be sure you get to the polls on election day.  

Voting is a privilege that everyone else in other countries might not enjoy. Voting is an obligation to help uphold this country of which you are fortunate enough to be a citizen. Voting is the most important thing we as citizens can do to make our wishes known and see that our lawmakers and leaders recognize that we support them and influence them.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fall Project Number 1 - The Solution (Continued)

Yesterday I shared the saga of a flooded driveway.  Something that we have been being kicked with for the past couple of years.  We may never get another flooding rain.  But, this last one truly devastated our driveway and our pocketbook.  The first picture below shows rock and gravel that washed away from a culvert that goes under the highway in front of our house. 
The picture below shows how the flood waters wreaked havoc on our son's culvert.  It washed huge rocks out away from their culvert and washed away the sides of the creek bank.
Those huge rocks below were lining the edge of the bank and up against the concrete culvert that you can barely see at the left edge of the photo and are now laying in the bed of the creek.
Leaves, limbs, roots, and debris got hung up at a tree and the pile up against the tree trunk is as tall as me - well over five and a half feet.
We knew that adding more rock to cover our culvert was only more like putting a band aide on a cut artery.  So, we got a local concrete crew to come in and make a permanent crossing for our driveway.

I was amazed that they came in with such minimal equipment and wondered a bit about how permanent their work might turn out to be. 

I watched out the window while I was working that day and could see the progress being made right before my eyes.

The gravel that we had just added was scraped back away to either side of the creek.  They used the only piece of equipment that they brought to dig out the gravel and move it aside. They dug down below the concrete sides that were poured last year. The crew are guys who grew up in this community and Mike has known them all of his life.  They are like extended family to him.  One of the guys is a familiar face to me because our sons played baseball together when they were boys.
They worked for almost an entire day moving gravel and digging out and setting up boards as forms for the concrete.  Then, a couple of days later, they were back and were followed by a concrete mixer truck.

Load after load of concrete was emptied.  I think I counted three truckloads delivered.  The truck would pull in.  Concrete would be pushed from the truck down that long trough onto the driveway. Then, those guys would go to work pushing and smoothing and raking and leveling. Back-breaking work and time sensitive. They needed to get it spread and leveled and smoothed before it started to 'set up' and become hard.

First they worked with tools that had long handles and used a board to smooth and shift the mud-thick concrete. They used manpower to move the concrete around to make it set right where they wanted it.  

Then, they used tolls with an extended handle and a lighter touch to float the air pockets out and smooth out the surface.  

Next they spent some time smoothing it out and making certain it was level.

The finesse they used truly made it look easy but I cannot imagine how much their legs and backs must hurt at the end of the day!
The last touch of the day was with a broom like tool with an extended handle that was used to add texture to the surface. Hard work, concentration, and a fine touch but never did you see them when there wasn't a smile on their faces.
And it turned out just as smooth and level and perfect as can be!  It was amazing to watch them and to see the results of their work.
At the end of the day, there were ramps running down alongside the concrete that was already there that would direct the water off the surface and down into the creek.  There is a gentle slop from the center out toward the edges to encourage the water to run off instead of stand on the surface. There are grid patterns to allow for freezing and thawing of the ground during winter.

We really wish we could add this surface all the way from the highway to the house.  However, at this point, our driveway has cost almost the same as the first house I ever bought!  Yet, we feel like we have a permanent solution in case of flooding.  I cannot say that we weren't tempted to drive out the driveway last night in the middle of the night when the rain was falling rather hard. Even though we knew it wasn't raining hard enough to flood, we still had that anxiety in our gut!  Mike is so confident, however, that this is the last time we will have to have work on this part of our driveway that the other day I overheard him tell a friend, "If this washes away, I'm leaving this place!" 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Fall Project Number 1

 It seems like there is always a project in the works around here.  If we don't think up one, Mother Nature will come up with one for us.  A couple of years ago we put in a new driveway.  We had been sharing a driveway with Mike's family but when his mother sold her house and moved in with us, we decided to add our own driveway so that we didn't need to deal with an easement.  When you live on a farm like we do, you generally have a gravel driveway and it is a part of your property upkeep. 

Now, we had a major flood here in 2010.  Then, we got another gully-washer in 2013.  However, since we put in the new driveway, we've had three major flooding rains which washed out our driveway.  The driveway was completed in September of 2018.  Then, in early October this happened:

So, we added more rock and made repairs.  It was frustrating and it was quite expensive following on the heels of just completing the building of the driveway. Every time it rained, we worried that it would flood.  Then, in February of 2019 it did.  And again, we had this:

So, Mike hired a guy to come in and shore up the sides of our culvert with concrete.  That way we knew that it would hold the pipe in place and should hold the rock in place as well. 

Yet, every time we drove across the culvert, we could look off into the creek and see all the rock and gravel that had been washed away just sitting there staring at us as if Mother Nature was mocking us.
We sort of became like folks on the coast during hurricane weather.  We would watch closely any time that a heavy rain or flooding was predicted.  In August of 2019, we had a big rain and there was some washing.  So, Mike and a neighbor lined the entire top of the driveway across the culvert with bags of concrete mix.  That helped and there wasn't nearly such gully washing nor loss of gravel when we got a major rain in March of this year.
Then, along comes September of this year. At the beginning of the month, we got a major rain.  A flash flood. Major flooding.  

It broke the fence that was across the creek holding in the neighbor's cattle.  It washed our gravel away almost as bad as it had almost a year before.  It was frustrating and heartbreaking.

Deep ruts were left in the driveway at the culvert. Loads of gravel were deposited in the creek joining the other small fortune of gravel that was already lining the creekbed instead of our driveway. Once again, we added a couple of loads of gravel to smooth out the surface so that we could drive across.  Then, only a dozen or so days later, we got a downpour.  Three to four inches fell within a matter of forty minutes. It was devastating.

This time the neighbor's newly repaired fence wasn't just broken.  It had washed down the creek and could not be found.  The picture below shows the drainage that comes off the hill and beside our house before traveling down the field to join the creek.  I've never seen such a rush of water in my life.
Mike and I felt defeated.  Not only had we poured thousands of dollars into our driveway, we had seen it wash down the creek and line the creekbed where we couldn't obtain it till the weather was chip dry like it gets sometimes in July or August.  We also needed to repair it once again so that we could enter and leave our home. So, that meant pour more money into this driveway.

We knew that we should be counting our blessings and lifting prayers of thanksgiving that our home is fine and nobody was harmed.  It just seemed really hard to do consistently when it felt like we were getting kicked in the teeth.  However, we took a deep breath and did just that for a temporary fix.  Yet, we know that we had to do something more permanent rather than keep throwing thousands of dollars down the creek.  We prayed and gave it some thought.  Tomorrow, I'll show you what we wound up doing.