This fall has been a season of repairs about my house and property. The house turned 34-years old this month, and virtually nothing had been done by way of upkeep all that time.

I avoid barrowing money for any but the most pressing (and expensive) needs; in fact, the last time I borrowed money was to build the house. I just don’t understand the mentality that allows someone to pay two and three times as much for something just to get it “NOW”.

The result of this is that I have been dept free for nearly 15 years, and can easily live off my social security. Mind you it’s not an extravagant living.

Rather, I put money aside, which would be paid out in interest, until I have saved up enough to get what I need. And that is where I’m at now.

Here are some of the things which have been happening out here at El Sueño:

Plumbing: That component of the house which had suffered the most from neglect was the plumbing. Several sinks had been abandoned because they leaked; and the drain for the washing machine no longer worked, forcing me to move it close to a toilet stool which served as the drain.

Also, the oil well fracking of recent years had been accompanied by a significant increase in sediment in my well water; the solution to which was to install a simple and inexpensive three-stage filtration system.

Electric: The electric outlets and fixtures remain functional; we just didn’t install enough outlets when we build. Accordingly, we are going to every light switch which does not have one, and installing an outlet below it. I will no longer have to drag extension cords half the length of the house to access power.

We are also installing a pair of 4-plugin outlets outside (on the back of the house) to accommodate hooking up vehicles to recharge batteries, etc.

Propane: A more urgent update required the installation of a pair of 30,000 BTU wall heaters in my bedroom and office. This was necessitated by the development of leak(s) in the pond loop of the geo-thermal system. The repairs are not that difficult to make, it’s just too cold right now to get out on the pond in a boat to make them. I’ve done some in the past when beaver cut holes in the line; it’s probably one or more of those 15-year old repairs which has gone bad. But, that will have to wait until string.

However, the “real” heating system for my house is the sun; with five sets of sliding glass doors forming the south exterior wall it is of a passive solar design. Close the drapes at night to keep out the cold, and open them during a sunny day to let in the sun. On a cold but sunny day the house will easily warm up into the eighties.

Finally, at night I use an electric mattress heater to stay toasty warm in bed.

Driveway: Another large (expensive) undertaking will be a final sculpting of the driveway. Several years ago we had a small settling pond constructed just upstream of the large (2 acre) pond south of the house. To do that they constructed a dam which became a part of the driveway. Such constructs need to settle for several years before they can be finished – its time, past time.

Hopefully before the year is out a man, with a big bulldozer, will arrive on scene to accomplish that task. After that is finished I should no longer have difficulty getting to and from the road to the house.

Richard A. "Dick" Ortez earned a doctorate degree from Creighton University in microbiology. During the past 40 years, he has taught elements of food science at the university and medical school levels, operated a café, and run a truck farm and food processing business. He writes the Seed to Table column at his farm near Glencoe and welcomes questions, comments and suggestions sent to He can also be reached at 405-338-5747.