Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Newsletter

Dear family and friends,
Yep, I’m still alive! Sorry that I stepped off the planet for 3 years. So much has gone on in that short period: it’s been a mini life-time! 

So, here’s my brief update:
In May 2016, I retired from full time teaching (finishing that up at College Heights Christian School in Joplin was like going out with a bang...a happy bang!). Then, for some odd reason, I decided to complete my MFA back at Fontbonne University in St. Louis. I stayed at the home of Gordon & Jean Shaw again (just like 30 years prior to that, for Seminary) and grew to love and appreciate them even more.

I also went back to working part time at a Michaels store, but this time in Chesterfield, MO. Hmmm, let’s see, full time enrollment in a Masters program and 16-20 hrs/wk part time framing...that’s not enough! That’s right, prior to that, in April of 2016, I bought 12 acres of land in Western Kentucky to start a hobby farm.
The property search for the hobby farm began a couple of years earlier. I was looking for 10 or more acres, with a Southern facing slope (into which a solar powered earth home could be dug/built), with some natural water source available (or at least the potential for such), in the country and yet with easy access to a building supply center, and somewhere in either central Missouri or Western Kentucky (being that most of my contacts have been around St. Louis, MO or Paducah, KY over the recent years).
Even though the Missouri possibilities outnumbered the Kentucky ones 20:1, I found the right piece of land, for a good price, off a country road, just a 5 minute drive from the Lowes home improvement store in Mayfield, KY. I’ve called the property Dabar: a Hebrew word that means both “promise” and “wilderness”, thus...promised land

With the help of some members from Christ the King church in Joplin, I moved everything to the building site (a gravel pad at the end of a gravel driveway already on the property). Pretty meager accommodation, but only for one weekend/month while living at the Shaw’s. I hired out someone to bush hog the land in my absence (overgrown with hay and prairie grass some 6’ tall). 

The lay of the land is gently rolling with 4 wooded and 8 open acres. The building site is set back from the county road by about a quarter mile. In addition to the gravel access, the property came with an old milking barn and tobacco barn. It has a low lying area that feeds a wet-weather creek, which will be turned into a one acre pond a couple of years from now. 

Finding an all purpose tractor was the next step. Ended up with a 1974 John Deere 68hp with front loader and backhoe (left: dug a 8’ deep hole for a septic tank). I then had a deep water well
installed and hired a Mennonite contractor to build, and drop  off, a 13x32 foot outbuilding. In the Fall of 2016, I planted  20 pecan trees (2 year old pre-grafted saplings of the Kansa
cultivar). Roger, a good friend since my first stay in Paducah, helped with the planting and then later with installing the irrigation system. 

I purchased and erected a 6 panel solar array to operate the well pump and supply power for the future temp cabin. I dug a hole for a 700gal residential cistern and then, in 2017, had the same Mennonite contractor build and drop off another “out building” with doors and windows. This one was a 16x40ft structure that would be converted into the temp cabin. 

At the end of that Summer ’17, I moved everything down from the Grand Haven storage unit (guys from Covenant Life church helping on that end and others from New Geneva church on this end!). Cabin conversion began and, in late October, I planted 10 more pecan trees (Pawnee, a cross pollinating cultivar). The 1st harvest of 5 pecans came about 2 years early, in Oct. 2018! I’ll have to get a bee hive going in a year or two, at this rate, to help with cross pollination. 

In the mean time, I had enrolled at West Kentucky Community and Technical College to get a degree in Residential Electrical. I felt that I was adequate with regard to general construction, carpentry, and plumbing. But, the electrical training would help me in wiring the cabin and other electrical projects. That two semester full-time load earned me the title of an Electrician Trainee Level II...enough to get the job done! 

I wasn’t able to get everything done with the cabin in time for Winter and I got froze out. I mean it was record breaking cold for the area and I didn’t have all of the insulation installed and only a little wood burning stove with which to heat. Water supply froze, water heater froze, toilet froze, faucets froze, and the last straw, my spare water jugs froze! I ended up living at my church in Paducah for the month of January ’18. 

For 2018, I’ve been tweaking the off-grid power supply, bought a portable propane furnace (with thermostat so that I can leave it on for extended periods of deep freeze), and have started making plans for constructing the earth home. But, that project has been put on hold for another year due to the fact that I totaled my Toyota Matrix by hitting a deer and had to use funds to purchase a replacement car. However, I am planning on a couple of smaller construction projects for this coming Summer. 

Teaching, Art, and more
I went back to teaching as an adjunct professor of art at West Kentucky Community and Technical College this past Fall. Two Art Appreciation courses there and another of the same at a community college in Tennessee.
In addition, last year, I returned to teaching art (and CAD) through the Veritas Home School Christian Co- operative. We are currently meeting at my church, New Geneva Community Church, in Paducah. I also serve as an elder in that church. 

I’ve managed to fit a little bit of art tutoring into my schedule as well. What I haven’t made time for is art production. There’s a small studio space in my cabin, but it’s not heated. So, even when I do get around to restarting making art, my painting will have to be limited to the warmer months of the year. 

I’ve not maintained my bicycle touring (or riding, for that matter!), with the
exception of a four state corner loop one Summer while living in Joplin, and
a late Spring ”jaunt” in Nevada and North Dakota (to check those states off
my list). Yes, that’s snow in Northern Nevada. All that remains, of the 48 contiguous, are the five Northern most of the New England states. 

I have continued on as a part time framer with the Paducah Michaels store, in just a token sort of way (a little during Christmas breaks and Summers).

Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!                  Kevin

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