Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

... From our homestead to yours.

Although we haven't decked the hall,
We haven't put up or cut a tree,
We haven't hung a single light,
We haven't made or bought the first present,
nor have we sung the first carol.

We hold the birth of Christ within our hearts
Always thankful for the sacrifice made.
A gift so precious more than jewels or gold
Remembering the day of salvation's grace enabled,
Rejoicing the promise fulfilled for life everlasting. 

Merry Christmas to all believers or not. Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Winter and a Rant

Even though winter doesn't official begin until December 21st, it sure doesn't feel like it to me with my way southern roots. It's down in the 20s at night. The daytime temperatures aren't too bad fluctuating between highs in the 40s to 50s. No snow, but every morning I have to crunch through the frost and break the ice barriers which form on the waterers, and tend to our rabbits and chickens. I found a length of 1" PVC works wonders for this task. I used to use my heel and end up with a soaked leg misjudging the thickness of the ice. The song about Jack Frost nipping at your nose (Merry Christmas to You or the Christmas Song) rings true. But even still, my thick cardigan keeps my body warm enough.

I do wear a glove on my left hand most mornings. (Just griping here) My right hand is snuggled in my sweater sleeve.  Since it doesn't move, this works great, but have you ever tried buying one glove? It almost seems wasteful to buy a pair when only one will be used.   Plus, having a small hand, I often unable to find small sized gloves. I wear the pig leather work gloves almost exclusively now. They are flexible for fine work and sturdy enough for the tough stuff. And of course, there is a definite left and right hand. Unlike the tube socks I wear over my old lady compression socks. Gloves, or should I say a glove, are fun to put one handed. It's a repeated rubbing motion of the glove against my pants leg to get it on, and resorting to my teeth pulling them off.

The advantages of dropping almost 40+ lbs since I've been here, all my last winter's clothes are too big. Larger sized clothes have several advantages living post stroke, #1 they're easier to get off and on, or up and down as the case may be; and #2 I can layer dress for warmth easily. I was taught how to dress in layers at a very young age living in Nebraska. Wearing one of my summer time tank tops under T-shirts hold my body heat against my body where it's needed, or a combination under a flannel shirt enables me to stay out on the porch stacking firewood or tending to the animals without bulkier outer garments. I know the time for these are coming soon. Mel is seriously cold-natured and she is already in a heavy coat. After all, winter is still a few days away.

That brings me to Christmas approaching. I've definitely got a "Bah Humbug" attitude towards this holiday and have for several years. It's not a religious reason of it not being Christ's actual birth, nor the date was picked because of paganism. Even though over the decades, I've tried to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive (not what you buy vs what you give from the heart) the joy has slowly ebbed away especially this year. I won't be going home for Christmas, instead I'm opting to stay on the homestead partially because of our financial situation and the other part is not wanting to infect others with the "Bah Humbugs."

Let me stress that this is not depression. I'm thinking of me also. The drive home is almost 6 hours one way. I was just home for Thanksgiving. At my advancing age and health issues, the trip is hard on my body. The threat of my Triple A still hangs like a sword over my head. Not that I'm seriously worried about it. Also each trip takes longer to recover from. Next year, I'll do it in reverse...maybe. It's hard planning some things in advance.

But all that being said, I feel blessed in our little hollow. Money is tight but what's truly new with that? Our bills are being met that's the important part. Yes, it would have been easier to sell my old home and pocket the cash. But still we are warm, safe, and comfortable. Our wants won't kill us. The needs are taken care of. God is good and faithful to us lowly children. I'm excited about our future plans.

As always ...
Nothing is impossible

Thursday, December 8, 2016

I'm an early riser. I awake before the chickens by at least an hour or two. I spend my first thirty minutes, before my feet hit the floor, in prayer. It's an uplifting way to start my day on the right foot. Or should I say left foot because my right foot is still partially paralyzed and spastic. My cat, Little Bit, demands some one on one time. Then I'll don my socks, leg brace, pants, and shoes in preparation of actually getting up. I'll grab a sweatshirt from the drawer because I know the night fire in the wood stove has gone out. In the predawn darkness, I'll make my way into the dining room after a pit stop to the bathroom. And so begins every morning.

Once halfway in the dining room I'll ask, "Where's my puppy?" Herbie will sleepily come to me for his first morning head rub. I'll walk into the kitchen and fill the electric kettle with water, and then make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Some people make coffee, but that acrid liquid hits my stomach and comes right back up. Nobody likes to start the day that way. I'll take my cuppa tea to my desktop to read my emails and watch some YouTube to see what the homesteaders I follow and touch bases with them. I usually will start writing this blog and my other one. (this takes me many hours to complete) I may or may not put on my sweater because the inside thermometer on my desk is registering the temp this morning at 64 inside while outside is a blustering 42. Warm enough for my sweatshirt and keep the chill at bay.

I'll clean the wood stove and empty the ashes from the overnight burn into the outside pile. Since we only use hard woods in our stove, they'll be great for the garden later. They are still some hot embers in this right now so shoveling this into the compost pile is not a good idea. I'll put the pan back under the wood stove and set up the fire for later. Mel will want it warmer in the house when she wakes up. But it will a couple of hours before that happens. I'll be fine with all the morning activities. Besides, I have enough body fat to keep two people warm and insulated.

Can you smell it?
Every Wednesday and Saturday is baking day. I'll bake the bread we need on the homestead, convert a loaf of bread into french toast, make Mel's crepes (what she calls pancakes), cinnamon rolls, or crumpets. At least get the crumpets, rolls, or/and bread mixed and rising. The excess will go into the freezer for later in the week. I may also make hamburger and hot dog buns depending on the week's menu.

Of course, making bread on our homestead takes some preplanning. Two days before, I'll soak the whole wheat kernels overnight. The following day, I'll rinse it and spread it out on a baking sheet to dry by the wood stove. The next day, it will be ground into flour for whatever I'm baking. It will take about three passes through our manual grain mill to get it as fine as I like it. Yeah, I know I can go to the store and buy my flour, but have you seen what's in that?! Is it GMO? Is it organic? What kind of pesticide or insect droppings or particles may be in it? YUCK!

Devon in his healthier days
Next comes the feeding the inside animals. Assorted dogs, get fed half their daily rations per weight. We feed them twice a day. The cats normally have free choice of their dry cat kibble throughout the day except for Devon Angel. This male gets two tablespoons of wet cat food twice to three times a day. He is Mel's special needs cat and is mentally retarded. The reason for feeding him wet rations is simple. All his teeth have rotted in his mouth. He can't chew the dry cat food. He tries but he lost so much weight over the summer, we thought we would lose him. He was literally skin over bones before I started him on wet food with goat's milk supplements. After three months feeding him this way, we can no longer feel his ribs and hip bones under his skin. He's back to his semi healthy state enough to play in the fallen leaves.

After the dogs have eaten and I make sure the other cats haven't nudged Devon away from his food, it's time to take care of the outside animals. First stop is the chicken pen. Not that the chickens are in there. They hear me coming down the covered porch steps and greet me from under the porch. Once the sun rises, they fly out of the coop and run area. They follow me back into their pen for their snack. I usually have leftover bread, leftovers, or stale crackers handy. I'll scatter these and their pellets rations around their run area for them. We do have a chicken feeder, but this week has rained too much to use it. I'm not complaining mind you. We still haven't tarped around the coop or finished the roof yet. So I really blame the chickens for not staying their coop.

Next come the rabbits. Since we have J feeders in the rabbitry, I only have to fill them every couple of days. I'll go into the rabbitry to pet and talk to each one of them every morning. Mel is charge of their watering them. The idea of taking all those water bottles down to fill and them, and hanging them back up is a nightmare. I do the morning feeding and check up, and she does the evening. We split the chores evenly.  The outside rabbits are last. I'll repeat the process all over again.

I'll gather the eggs. Since we are in winter mode and it's early morning, there's only about two or three eggs. They easily slip into my pocket. Now, I've gone almost full circle around the outside of the house. Luckily my balance is good enough that I can do this without my cane. I climb up onto the front porch, pick up a couple of pieces of firewood and place them on the small table outside the front door. It's all I can carry with one fully functioning arm. I'll repeat this procedure until I have six or eight pieces stacked on the table. I'll go inside carrying two pieces. I'll drop them next to the wood stove. Then I'll take the eggs out of my pocket and put them in the refrigerator. I'll light off the wood stove, fill the canner pot with water, fill the pet water dish, and bring in the other wood I stacked on the table. By this time, the wood stove is ready to be loaded with more wood. Within half an hour the house is a toasty 76 degrees.

I'll set up Mel's morning tea things. She loves Yorkshire tea with cream and sugar. I'll pour myself another cuppa tea and make myself some oatmeal. Then I'll go back outside and stack about ten pieces of firewood by the door for the next time. Between 9 and 10 Mel will wake up. Her tea will be steeping and she can sit in front of her laptop and wake up. I've already been up for 4 to 5 hours by this time. I'll fix her breakfast and put the bread in the oven. I'll plan what cooking videos I want to film. Hmm, this week I've got to do the promised dog treat/training biscuits and my caramel apple gingerbread cake. Oh, and there's the sugar free hot cocoa mix. Tis the season and all that.

Some time soon, we've got to do a "Tea Time" video. We haven't done one since October. Time flies when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off preparing for freezes. A list of my prospective video topics will take take us into February next year doing my segments once a week, and then it will be planting season again. Or, at least seed starting season. Our first hard freeze of the year was this Friday. The high was 32 degrees not counting the cold, arctic wind that came with it. It's been quite a few years since I've endured temperatures that low for more than a day or two. That's just winter here. Still not as bad as the winters I lived through in New York, Nebraska, Michigan, or other places up way north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Mel told me to hay the outside rabbits preparing for the freezing. Being the smart butt that I am, I went to each cage waving like a crazy person and yelled "Hey!" to them. Once she came around and saw me with a quizzical look on her face, I stopped and put the required hay in their cages. My Buddy immediately started eating it as did most of the bunnies. I had to repeat the process several times to ensure they'd have enough to burrow in to keep warm. For the really hard freezes we tack up tarps to block the wind.

So how has your week been? Y'all have a blessed week and remember...
Nothing is impossible

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Things that Make Me Go ARGH! Revisited

Everyone has them. I'm not immuned to "ARGH!" moment, but the past couple weeks there have been almost daily events.

ARGH! #1
 I tried something new with this blog. I tried to link this blog to our website. Instead it redirected to our google + page. So I believe all my previous posts are there. So if you were trying to find's there, I think. I also think I've got it all back to normal to appear here now. We'll see when this publishes.

ARGH! #2
Before I left my previous cardiologist, she had performed all of the necessary information gathering for my new cardiologist except for an ultrasound of my legs to check for PAD (peripheral artery disease). So I had one done once I got established with my new cardiologist. The results were troubling. Coupled with severe leg cramps several times a night and pain, I agreed to another heart cath and angio of my legs. If there was significant blockages, stenting would be performed or I'd be sent to a vascular surgeon to have it corrected.

At this point I should mention, I had a coronary artery disease and a heart attack before age 50. I also have a very bad family history in heart disease from both parents. The heart attack damaged two valve in my heart and with time (10 years) the stress on my heart has damaged a third of four total valves. I'm heart broken which limits me even greater than my strokes. Oh, and my strokes were from blood clots forming in my heart which went to my brain. All my doctors agree that I'm a very sick woman, but that's only their opinion.

Angio of triple A like mine
Okay so I go through all of these tests, after waking Mel at 4 AM to take me, and the results...the cramping is NOT a blood supply problem. So now I'm still having leg cramping and pain from some mysterious, unknown cause. So this test didn't do anything. Surprisingly, what the angio did show was an Abdominal Aortic Aneursym (Triple A). It's still small so it bears watching although it could rupture and kill me. My thoughts on the matter, everything else is trying to kill me, why not this too? But hey I'm still here in spite of everything.

Don't think I'm taking this lightly. I'm not. This is serious. It has less than a 10% survival rate if it ruptures. It will be taken care of. It should be as easy as a stent placement with only a day in the hospital.

ARGH! #3
We built the new coop and run for the chickens. The chickens have flown the coop literally! It took less than two hours for the main rooster, Whitie, to figure out he could fly over the 4' fence safely and show the others how it was done. They were back to roosting on our front porch.

I got irritated with it all. I swiped them off with my cane. They just waited a few minutes and were right back again. I grabbed a sleeve of stale crackers and led them back to their new roosting spot inside the fence. A couple of them decided to fly the coop again. My trusty cane had a workout until they decided to see it my way. I had to do this for a few days before it became a habit for them. Now they at least roost in the new chicken area instead of our porch. I take victories when I can because once daylight shines they are back free ranging everywhere. They still lay eggs in Mel's tool box and behind the front storm door, so I can at least gather eggs. The egg laying bins need to be built. The hens like their privacy and security. Then I'll have to train them to the new set up.

ARGH! #4
We finally got a good drenching rain!! It's been a long, dry summer and fall. We actually had puddles on the property that weren't from a busted water pipe! They lasted for two days before they dried up/soaked in. Of course, it would storm the day we had to drive at 5 AM to the hospital for my procedure. But we were thankful anyhow. It's supposed to rain today according to the forecast, we'll see. It gave us a reprieve of sorts.

As far as our water conservation techniques go, it looked something like this.
  • Early AM, while the well had overnight for the spring to refill, I'd draw five gallons of water.  
1 for the household animals
2 for the canning pot on the wood stove
1 gallon for cooking
1 gallons for outside animals (rabbits and chickens)
  • Early afternoon
6 gallons for washing clothes (1 load by machine)
  • Early evening
2 gallons for iced tea
Mel's 5 minute shower and my sponge bath.
  • Late evening
2 gallons for the wood stove
3 gallons to run the dish washer.
1 gallon for incidents or in case the well goes dry overnight so we can at least have tea in the morning. Hot tea is our coffee in the morning.

Hope all is going well with you. As always ...
Nothing is impossible.