Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Traveling this Weekend, But...

After the fiasco of the past few weeks, we are finally moving forward in building our homestead. We've been two women with only a functional left hand. Mel sprained her wrist and was in a split. She's getting a small taste of what I go through each day living post stroke.

For our YouTube audience, it's been a long absence from any new video productions. When we ain't doing nothing, there's no sense in videoing it. Sure I've been canning, but it's not something they can't see or learning on fifty other sites. As far as cooking videos, I haven't made anything worthy of videoing because I've been canning. The rain has kept us indoors as much as possible. So no building, animal updates, or gardening stuff. Still we have to get back into video making mode again.

The hardest part of building these new structures is digging the holes for the 4x4 posts. Each structure has 12 of them. It takes Mel a week with the post hole digger to do twelve. We cut the 8' posts in half so the 4' are anchored two feet into the ground for added stability. These will allow the pallets to be screwed into them. We don't want the predators gaining access. We'll be stapling chicken wire to the outsides of the pallets also to hold the little ones in. This will allow the rabbits to run around the large enclosure while we groom them. 24'x10' is plenty of room for them to scamper and binky to their heart's content. We'll also be seeding an area, not enclosed by the tarp, with rabbit yummies like Timothy, orchard, rye grasses, and clover for them to "free range" in. Straw will be under the cages. We decided to reuse the smaller cages we built for the bucks. They just don't need as much room. The new larger 24x36x24 cages will be for the does. Building this five-plex (15 feet long) was an adventure and a half. We put in the drop down nest boxes and a shelf that a momma rabbit can hop on to for getting away from the babies. Yes, they are the Taj Mahal for the does. We are reusing the old hutches as grow out cages and quail cages.

We are now entering the second stage of our rabbitry. The breeding/ pedigree part of raising Angoras. This last year has been spent getting to know our rabbits and get them on a grooming schedule. I still need to get another buck to replace Keiran who died last month and another doe for meat rabbits.The quail are our next expansion animal into homesteading. We spend a year with each animal before getting the next. The next big jumps are to goats and then Guinea hogs.

As for me this weekend, I have been summoned home. I've honestly not been home since Thanksgiving. The reason is simple bad weather and my health. I have a triple A (Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm) growing. My cardiologist is concerned but it isn't big enough to warrant surgery. That doesn't mean it won't blow, but it's unlikely. Knowing quite a bit about these things, I've felt like I have a time bomb in my belly and been afraid to go anywhere especially not 6 hours on the interstate. My dad called me. He and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. I honestly think it has been longer. I haven't added it up, but he says it's their silver, but he has Alzheimer's too. It's actually their 28th. I broke out my calculator. I'm just happy he remember she's his wife. He often forgets and searches for my mother.

Another new area for our expansion is a grain trial where the old rabbit hutches are and bush hogging the orchard. Whether we plant the orchard this year or not all depends on timing. We still have the driveway and house to fix when I return to the homestead. That was my main focus for this year especially after being stuck up to my axle in mud and snow this Spring and winter. New pipes from the well to the house has to be installed. The fool that built the original system used a flexible hose and only buried it about 6" underground. We had numerous breaks and water freezing before it gets to the house. It has to be fixed properly. I'll gladly pay someone else to dig the trenches and lay the pipe. It's too big of a headache for me and Mel to do it. I want it done right.

With the new rabbitry and chicken hoop shelters going up, it's time for the electricians to come in and do their stuff. Wow, we can even have air conditioning in the main part of the house this summer! Not that I minded doing without last year. It's not like South Georgia up here. The humidity isn't as great or the temperatures as high. You'd think that Mel being from Orlando would be used to the heat, but she's spoiled and loves her air conditioning. We are so different in our heat and cold tolerances. Hers is a very narrow range about low 80s and she's comfortable. I'll be the first one in shorts and a tank top while she's still in the long sleeves. My comfort range is between 69 degrees to 85 degrees. I'll be in t-shirts until the temperature drops into the low 50s.

Well that's about it. Remember,
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Lending a Hand

Just because you've had a stroke, it doesn't mean you can't participate and help others. I offer a hand in doing everything. I can only offer A hand because my right hand is paralyzed and spastic. But still, that doesn't stop me.

We recently moved all the angoras out of the present day rabbitry. No, I didn't actually totally move the rabbits by myself because I need my one functioning hand to support me going down the step. That didn't stop me though. Mel got them out of their cages and handed them down to me. I held them like you would cuddle a baby against your chest. They love to be cuddled and felt secure even with my lopsided gait. I had opened the hutch doors before we got started so it was a quick trip around the corner, popping them into their new cage, and fastening the spring lock before getting the next one. Think through the process twice and then do. It saves time and frustration.

Then came the hard part that Mel thought I couldn't do at first. Removal of the cages and litter trays. shredded insulation, rat nests, rabbit poo that had gotten as hard as a ball bearing. I'm still doing the supporting, carrying, and setting down the cages and litter trays to manage the step.

It's one thing moving these into the rabbitry but a whole 'nother thing moving them out. In moving them in, I just had to support them, walk to the door, set it down, climb the step and hold them while Mel attached the chain. In taking them down, the cages had almost a year's worth of rabbits living in them. Poo was stuck to the bottom where I couldn't reach to clean them. Rats had built nests under the litter trays and in the insulation in the walls.
 Now, I'm slipping and sliding on rabbit poo ball bearings, baby rats, and dodging grown rats scampering to get away while removing these things and so is Mel. I'm high-stepping trying to keep my footing. The last thing I want to do is fall into this mess. Flashes of scenes from Willard danced in my head. Do y'all remember that movie from 1971 or the remake in 2003 or Ben in 1972? Now, I'm not terribly afraid of mice and rats, but still, those movies still give me the willies. You get the idea.

We decided to pull all the wall boards down too after we removed the cages. What a mess the rats made. There was no way I'd be using it for food storage in this condition. I hit upon a brilliant solution to drive them all out and possibly kill them. If not kill them, at least neurologically impair them. Bug bombs. We set off two in the 8x12 storage shed. The results were as I expected. The ones left in the building 100% of the babies were dead, about 75% left of the adults were dying or had some nervous disorders (easy to catch and kill). The other 25% scampered out when I opened the door. Hopefully, they'll die later. We scoured the building with bleach, soap and hot water. Toilet brushes work great for this purpose. I ended up wearing a mask because of the fumes.

I'll admit Mel, with two hands and an able body, did more than I did, but with a job this big, even my one-handed-self was helping. So now all the insulation is stripped, beams and siding are cleaned and sanitized. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop to the call the electrician to rewire it with proper lighting and a separate, a dedicated circuit for the building. It will enable us to run the air conditioning, lights, and plug in the new freezer without tripping circuit breakers in the house. Then we'll put in the new foam insulation and paneling up. We'll add rat traps just in case too.

It will be ready for food then. I've been canning quite a bit, mostly dry beans so they'll have a proper home. With just two of us in a household, cooking kidney beans, limas, or any dried beans is almost ridiculous to do for one meal for us. A pound of dried beans makes four meals unless it bean soup. It also takes hours. This way, it's simply open, heat and eat it. It only takes about an hour and half total to do fourteen jars in a canner. A little time now and a little time later. No, I don't lift the canner with hot stuff in it. That would be nuts with one hand. The best part is, it's about 35 cents a jar. Of course, if you bought the jars for this it would be more.

My point is. Don't be afraid to lend a hand if you've only got one functioning hand. It can be invaluable. An extra hand is better than none. So what if you only have one like me. We get the job done. That's what is really important.You never know until you try. Remember, not all first attempts are successful. Keep trying and figure out how to make it work. It has taken me dozens of failed attempts before I succeed at something to make it look easy. Don't give up.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Budgeting Resources

Wow! I hate when that happens. I was writing my homesteading blog and came up with the idea for this blog. And then, BRAIN fart! It's gone!

It could be age. I am older. It could be CRAFT (can't remember a frigging thing). Or, it could be just because my strokes left me with brain damage. Let me go back and read my other post and maybe it will flash back into temporal remembrance. Humming the theme to Jeopardy.

Ah! There it is! I found it. Today, the topic is about budgeting resources. No, I'm not only going to talk about money (but that too), but time (yours and someone else's), energy, and space. While most of us knew what financial budgeting was prior to our strokes, a stroke, and living post-stroke entail new avenues of thought. It was a true SHTF (stuff hits the fan) event.We had to expand our resources into the vast unknown of no time limit to recovery. It could happen in that golden 30 - 60 days or it could be years...decades even.

I mean most of us were living our lives like nothing like this could happen to us, right? I know I was. Then BOOM! Everything changed. We take more pills than anyone should ever have to take. Our vocabulary has changed to include phrases like ischemic and hemorrhagic to name just a couple. Some of us have to rebuild our vocabulary (everyday stuff) from scratch, and we still haven't got it all back. We budget our word use to words that come easily to us or have to say many because we can't remember exactly what the word is. I'm in this corner now.

To top it all off, my comprehension is mush. I have to see the name of a character within three pages to remember who they are. This pretty well shuts down most fiction reading. Because I'm having to budget my words, it takes an immense amount of work to get my point across. Simply talking to another individual is exhausting. It also plays upon yours and the listener's patience. The more hurried I feel the longer it takes. 

Forget about simple math computations in my head. Now anything above single digit functions is history. I used to add multiple columns of triple digits in my head. Plus multiply and divide them too.

So I rarely read fiction anymore. Although, I did pick up a Harry Potter play that I had little trouble reading. Don't ask me how but it just made sense. I stick to single person nonfiction. Reading should be a pleasure, not something you have to work at. It saves me time and frustration. See I'm budgeting that too. If I have to read something more than three times to understand it, it is better left unread unless I have to.

Relearning how to do everything also causes frustration and wastes time if you do it too many times in a row. For me, cans will go sailing across the room while trying to open them too many times. My inner child breaks free in a major temper tantrum. Sometimes, you have no control over your inner child. Save time and energy. Limit your inner child tantrums. Nothing makes you feel more exhausted or wastes more time. The mess you make will be another chore you have to do.

I limit my attempts to three. After that whatever it is- is left for someone else to do. Or at least put it down and walk away. It will still be there in fifteen minutes after you've calmed down enough to try again. I DON'T ALWAYS PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH WITH THIS ONE.

The economy of space is another concept of budgeting I learned after my stroke. Changing a full-size bed is harder than a twin sized bed. Having a bed convert into a desk where I don't have to move too much was brilliant. You don't use your bed once you're awake. I don't even have to fix the bed if I don't want to. For me, I haven't had anything besides two cats sleeping with me for years. When I'm ready to sleep, I sleep. When I'm ready to work, I work. Because everything has a place on the bed or desk, space isn't wasted. There's less to clean up too. It's higher than most twin bed frames so getting off and on the bed is easier for me. I have had to close a kitty a time or two into the wall to get them off the bed. They weren't hurt and just learned when I said "off," they'd better get moving.  The Murphy bed is easy enough to move single handed.

Having less to clean conserves energy. I have found that since my strokes, it takes twice as much energy to do the same job as before. Coupled with the Chronic Fatigue I now suffer with, any energy savings is a plus. Cost wise, you knew I'd get around to the money part, didn't you? I spend more of my limited income on prescriptions. Before, I could take an additional job or two to cover the expense, but now that's a luxury. Cutting expenses any way I can is a necessity.

By reducing the stuff I had down to bare essentials, I rid myself of the cost of housing all those items. I needed clothes on my back. But the fancy suits, blouses, skirts, pants, and shoes (oh my God the shoes!) went to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. I needed my cold weather clothes...three sweatshirts and three sweaters. T-shirts (6), shorts(6), tank tops(6), two blouses, jeans (4), one cardigan, one pair of dress pants and two dresses is what I pared my wardrobe down to. Oh, yes, underwear 10 pairs, knee high socks, 12 pair, and three nightgowns was also in the saved pile. I'm actually happier with fewer choices. I have less to wash, dry and fold. It takes up one dresser instead of three closets. Even still, I could reduce my wardrobe even more if I wanted to. I think I wore my heavy quilted jacket only once this past winter, but I'll hang on to it.

Our household utilities can be pared down, but they are manageable. We produce 75% of our own vegetables. Animal feed is a necessary expense. They are also income producing so it balances out to zero at the end of the year. They are self-sustainable plus they feed us too at a  fraction of the cost of store-bought. For everything else, there are local farmers for meat and Zaycon Farm meats. Haven't heard of Zaycon before? They sell no hormone, no antibiotic meat products. We recently joined their Influencer program. Where we get a small percentage of anything others buy under our referral. It means free meat products for us with enough referrals. I recently got 36 lbs of pork sausage links and bacon for less than $2 a lb. A case of all beef hot dogs with no organ meat fillers was cheaper than a wholesale price. Yes, it takes freezer space or jar space if it's canned, but you can't beat the price. I'm currently waiting on enough points for their cases of beef roasts or steaks free. I'm currently saving double of what I did when using coupons. Now that's saying something because coupons saved me 65-85% each time I shopped.

Every penny saved is one more towards stroke recovery and living post stroke. Every moment saved is one you can spend on relearning something else or something new. Every inch of space freed is one less that you have to clean. Every ounce of energy saved allows you to feel at ease to enjoy your life. And that's the whole point, isn't it?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Rain, Rain Go Away!

It's been raining here on the homestead for three weeks. I was thinking about building an ark. No, not really.  Living on the side of one of the foothills in north Georgia helps. It all runs down to the creek which is a 100 feet below us. But all this weather has stopped forward progress on the building/repairs we had planned on the homestead. Not that it's rained or stormed every day, but close.

We had a delay in the delivery of the new chicken /rabbit shed. So the chicks are still free ranging. We've had a delay in the regrading and installation of the new driveway. Nobody wants to slide in the slick clay including me. No electrician wants to play with rewiring the outside power box in the rain. If they did I'd be concerned. It would do no good to trench the replacement water lines, it would be filled in almost as soon as it was trenched. So we sit and wait for it all to be done.

Meanwhile, the wet weather has played havoc with my life. The cooler damp weather causes my spasticity to be worse. Does this happen with anyone else? Even with the Botox, muscle relaxers, and the dry needling. My arm draws up in a tight set of muscles and dares me to try and straighten it. When I try it cramps into a charlie horse. My leg is just as bad. I have to put my AFO and socks on first thing in the morning. I can't take it off until bed time or I won't be able to put it on again. Imagine trying to relax or nap with this thing on.

My shoulder on my affected side is painful upon movement. I think I've developed osteoarthritis due to the ACL tear and the rotator cuff injuries a year to five years ago. Fun fun. It just adds to my misery. I really don't mean to complain. It would help to know I'm not the only one out there with this going on. I still have animals to care for and a life to live even though it's raining.

Walking in mud and rain is never any fun in living post stroke. First of all, I'm walking with a cane. Even more so when it's rainy and slick. I've just had too many falls to walk around in the rain without it. I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid. The soles of my shoes may be thick rubber (not really but you know what I mean) with deep treads for better traction, but that won't keep me from sliding. Well, they do to a point. But clog those nice treads with mud and all bets are off. Walk into a store with those high gloss tiles and BOOM. I'll fall in a heart beat without my cane.

This poses an interesting dilemma. I can't move my arm to put on a jacket. I can't use an umbrella because my only working hand is full of a what do you do? My daddy always told me that I didn't need to worry about getting wet "because poop floats." Yes, he was just being ugly in the comparison. He really didn't mean it I'm sure.

So all my life I've rarely worn rain gear. I would get wet, but I would dry. It's like saying " a little rain won't hurt you." But before, I could at least run to get out of the rain.  Not now. So I get soaked. I'll dry. But then again, I walk from the car into an air conditioned store. BRRR! A rain soaked sock under my AFO is very uncomfortable. It rubs and cuts even with the extra padding the brace maker put in. Then there is the clean up afterwards. Wiping the whole AFO in alcohol after drying it. Having my insurance only pay for one pair of specialty shoes a year doesn't help. I'm off my feet until all of it dries. No sense in putting on a dry sock and AFO if the shoe is soaked inside and out. But I'm tired of getting soaked!

I know Rebecca Dutton mentioned in her blog a couple of years ago about a strap up gollashes, but I can't find it now. So Rebecca! At the time, I filed it away under "that would be nice, but not really necessary." This past month has proved the necessity to me.

I'm also looking into purchasing a rain slick that I won't have to put my arm into the sleeve, but can fasten one handed over the top of my affected arm. It may just mean getting one a size or two larger. The fasten easily one handed is the imperative. A zipper wouldn't be bad but joining the two sides into the zipper would be maddening. I would be exhausted by the time I finally got it fastened and zipped up to do anything else.

I know, Murphy's Law, that by the time I get all this new gear the rains will probably stop. But it won't truly stop. Even with last year's drought, it's has still been a very wet spring. I'll just be prepared. For as my mama used to say, "there will always be an again."

So that's it for this week. Remember...
Nothing is impossible.