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April 2018 – Status Report or How I Hurt My Back

April Status Report

When I worked in high tech, one of the most hated tasks was writing a monthly status report.  Now that I’ve been out of that job for over 10 years and am getting forgetful in my advanced age, I miss having a status report so I can remember what I did last month or last year.  Therefor, this is my April 2018 status report – for memory stakes.

snip of my google calendar for April
April Calendar

Rita’s trip to FL

This month started with Rita leaving for Florida to pick up her mom in her winter home in Sebring and take her to her Summer home in Greencastle, IN.

She was to fly out of Latrobe on May 3 at 7:15 pm. Being an 1:15 hour drive from our house and in rush hour, we left around 5:00 to get her there with enough time to check in.  We were about 40 minutes from home when I asked her if she checked her flight status to see if it was on time, for we were having some serious winds that day. She did and found out that fiight was delayed until the next morning.  We turned around, stopped in Indiana, PA for a drink and  hors d’oeuvres.  The next morning, she got on the delayed flight and arrived at her daughters in Ft. Lauderdale where she has short visit. The next day she took the Amtrak trail to Sebring. 

Her first task was to evict two free loaders who rented the cottage from her mom.  They paid for two weeks and stayed over six.  Rita forced the father/son team out and realized they were not only homeless druggies, but they also trashed the cottage to the point of needing serious work to fix. She watched them pack up one pizza box and a shirt in their car. The cottage didn’t have a clean dish in it, burn holes in various counter tops and carpet and was filthily. She spent two days cleaning it.

By Wednesday, May 11, she had her mom packed and started the road trip back to Indiana.  She called around 5 pm to ask me to find them a motel near the Georgia border.  Because her mom is 99 years old, in a wheel chair and gets distracted easily, her goal to leave by 8 am that day turned into an exit time of noon.  The next day she drove the rest of the trip (18 hours) to Greencastle, where she had to de-winterize the home so they could stay there. She spent the next day, Friday, unpacking and dealing with various needs for her Mom.  She arrived home Sat, May 14, exhausted.

Wife’s away time:

 While Rita was away dealing with her Mom, I covered her potter classes for her, do firings, take care of the dogs and basically go into bachelor mode. That  means I go on my ‘wife away’ diet which consists of popcorn, cereal, and scotch.  I did have more nutritional food since there were a fair amount of left overs in the refrigerator. 

I picked up the truck we had just purchased from the local auto mechanic. We knew it needed some front end work, inspection, and summer tires put on it.    It is a 2001 Dodge Ram 4X4 in good condition.  We have been wanting a pickup for some time and after years of low level looking, this truck came on the market due to a death of a husband of one of her students.  It was a fair price and we have been saving money for such an event, so we paid cash for it and were able to cover the $850 repair bill.  We now have a truck to help with the various projects we have around the house.

Winter was hanging on in early April, so the outside work had to wait for warmer weather.  I did get to hang a few sheets of sheet rock in the garage, which is a project that has been under way for years.  My frustration with not being able to organize the garage storage correctly was at a high. Not having sheet rock on this last wall was getting in my way. 

This picture shows the ‘after’ view. I basically hung three sheets and a few smaller ones above them.

Next I can finish wiring up the outlets and hang my slot wall and put up shelves.

Then came the warmer weather.  A chore that I always dread after winter is raking the stones out of the grass near the driveway from plowing snow.  Having a gravel driveway and plowing results in the gravel stones ending up wherever you put piles of snow.  This year, I tried my best to not put the plowing piles in places where I mow. But, there were two places where I had no choice.  So, the day before I went to pick up Rita at the airport, I raked. 

I have learned that raking is one of the activities that can ruin my back.  I had successfully avoided hurting my back from shoving snow, so I didn’t want to hurt it by raking.  I raked for only an hour and 1/2.  I didn’t feel too bad, but I must have weakened it, for the next project really set me up for trouble.

Raku Residency at Latrobe High School

We have agreed to do a Raku Residency at Latrobe High School.  This involves three activities:  a day of demonstrations of how to make Raku pots on the wheel, a day discussing glazing and safty, and three days of firing pots outside in two Raku kilns. April 19 was the day we were to do the throwing demonstrations. We have 40 minutes for each class and there were four classes.  To prepare for this, Rita and I spend two days throwing to get our demonstration routine down and timed correctly. Sitting at a potter’s wheel throwing is another bad thing for my back.  By the time we did the demo, my back was hurting.

Computer work:

April 19 was also the day my son, Adam, started hiking the PCT.  He had asked me to hike with him but I refused.  However, I did agree to help him post blog updates. He would feed me text and pictures and I would put them into his blog.  That means sitting at the PC, which is another bad activity for bad backs. Sitting at a PC is not your back friend.  So, I spent a fair amount of time sitting at my PC getting the routine down of posting his blog updates.  I got it down to about an hour per post. but by the third week of April, my back was hurting daily.  

Tree across driveway:

Then, on April 16th,  there is the chain saw work to cut up a tree that blew down across the driveway.

Chain saw work is not kind to backs too. I only cut enough up to allow traffic through the driveway.

If that wasn’t enough to get my back really hurting, then came the back killer project.

Rebuilding Garden beds:

As it is in our house, there is always a full list of to-do’s and many times a new project crops up that supersedes your to-do list.  Rita decided early last month that she wanted to build a deer fence around the garden bed.  Part of the criteria for the new fence is that we allow tractor access to the beds for dumping buckets of manure into the beds. Warmer weather met the garden work needs to get done so we can plant.

That means moving the beds and since we are moving them, she wanted to replace the cinder block walls with wooden built boxes.  The blocks  are dry stacked and frequently move due to winter snows and frost heaves. Wood may not last as long as the blocks, but she doesn’t have to rebuild the walls each spring.

Before picture – Rita removing blocks

The cinder blocks weigh about 40 pounds.  The blocks we used to build these beds came from an old garage that collapsed. We salvaged the blocks and used them to build the garden bed walls. We used the tractor bucket to move them, but we still have to remove them from the beds and load them into the tractor bucket.  

I figured in three days, we moved  over a 100 blocks.  That hurt!

Then I had to build wood boxes for new beds. That met hauling new hemlock boards from a local Amish saw mill, cut them to size and screw them together. That also hurt.

After picture, new beds in front. the old block beds in back will be replaced next year.

By now, I’m in fairly extreme pain. 

By the end of the month, I had to stop doing any work that involved lifting or bending over.

Clay order:

We got a 1200 pound clay order and I did accept help to load it into the van and unload it into the studio.


I tried to cut grass with my hand mower, but found even walking behind the power mower hurt.  I finally hired some help from a neighbor Amish young man. He stacked blocks, rake gravel from the yard, cut up the rest of the tree that fell across the driveway and did some hand mowing. 

The month ends with me trying to do outside work without lifting, bending over, or doing too much walking.  The good news, my granddaughter arrives from the University of West Virginia in two days to stay for a week before she goes back to summer school.  I think she has a strong back and has offered to help.

Little does she know….