Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

I've been silent here a while because they say when you don't have something good to say, keep quiet.
Because I have been feeling as if I am "that" person...

Honestly, if I were to list all the things for which I am grateful, they would be endless.  In EVERY day there are those blessings, starting with the profound one of being able to wake up in the morning anew.

We've had lessons on not taking that for granted these last few weeks.

Last year, I just struggled to feel good, and physically just never did.  I tried many different things beginning with mind over matter.  A good mental boost (read a kick in the pants) is often what I need to motivate myself beyond initial startup.  Towards the end of last year, though, I had enough trouble it began affecting my ability to work my shifts.  My torn meniscus (knee) has never healed, either.  I have felt I'm becoming "that" person...the one with always a reason (excuse??) why I can't do this or that, or having to sideline things I want to do myself (having to ask for help now), or "special accommodations" for what's beginning to see like a dang disability.

I would mentally pep talk myself into How Not to Be a Wimp, and I would try to fulfill beyond my own and my agency's expectations (not to mention my clients) on the days I did work outside the home.  At home, I was so wiped out that things around here just collected dust and did not get maintained by me as I'd like.  In fact a lot of things never got done.  This is the perfect way for me to feel extremely lousy about my contribution to my life and my family's and friends' lives.  I may be harder on myself than anyone else.  Jack certainly never expressed any complaints, but that just made me feel guiltier.

I think the past few weeks have been another lesson in trusting God, and in humility.  Sometimes being humbled is straight-up being brought low.  Sometimes life pulls the plug.  Sometimes we are sidelined.

The ER visit at the end of last year was a costly one, poorly timed...are those things ever timed better?  Shame and panic overwhelmed me.  I pride myself on being dependable and on doing a good job.  Already not operating at optimum (and constantly having to hide it or compensate for the knee, the feeling lousy, etc, w hile maintaining a level of excellence outwardly at work that I did NOT feel inside myself...ugh)...I still took jobs because we needed the money...I needed to push through...something would surely give, right?  And then I just couldn't.  We thought I'd had a heart attack and afterwards I could simply not function, not get out of bed for more than a few hours at a time.  Try explaining that without giving a workplace a reason not to give you future work.  I'm a very private person and DON'T like to give out personal info (which I seem to be doing just now, hmmm...why does the internet still feel more anonymous??)  At any rate, I was grounded.

I hate feeling like "that" person, whoever "that" is...

January was spent in bed.  So were the first weeks on February.  I could not get up for more than a few hours before my body just quit and left me no choice.  There was no inner backup to draw from.  This scared me and really scared Jack.  I cried a lot over  having no choice in the matter.  We investigated  insurances and other options.  We consulted a lot of different knowledgeable people, as we were able. 

In the end, our options are very limited, and I'll leave it at that. I did discover that privacy is very important to us, and that I don't want advice from well meaning sources unrelated to our private lives.  And I will say that healthcare dot gov is not the holy grail that the current administration tries to promote it as, even for those of us who need give it serious consideration.  In the end it's MY CHOICE.  I resent the dangling piano overhead of an IRS penalty if that choice for me does not include mandatory insurance care.  That's all I'll say about that.

I am grateful to have a very good doctor who has worked to have other options available.  It does not equate to  free healthcare nor any burden on the private sector.  I've mentioned it before, but it's called the Epiphany program and it covers a very broad range of healthcare basics.

Anyway, back to life...

My doc did some investigative labwork and chose a few things for us to address.  Then, for the first time since I can remember, Jack and I got the REAL flu.  It was a bad boy.  The fever and ugliness phase lasted a week and the bronchitis phase lasted  another.  We are  now fully Gatoraded and coughdropped.  Thank you, Halls...thank you to my daughter who plied us with cold cures from afar <3 Thank you to Bounty that DOES quicker-pick-you-up when the Kleenex run out... What does a person do when your body quits on you for hours at a time and you can only stay in the bed or on the couch?  Well, we don't have TV and one can watch only so much Netflix or even facebook.

Change has happened inside me as a result of weeks of enforced rest.  I hadn't realized it was time for some changes, and some things I think I 'd been waiting for some indication from God as far as specific direction.  Some things I had to war with myself about...whether to stick with some things or to go a different way.  Some things I had to let go and not understand at all.

I'll write more specifically about those things.  I had to let go of a lot of fear and realize I have little control over things when it comes right down to it.  I got a chance to read a lot, talk to God a lot, and do more listening or just being quiet than anything else.

I think I needed that.  I needed the quiet and to listen.

I hope I'm on the other side of this dark and stormy night.  I'm feeling better enough to feel human, which I hadn't in quite some time.  I've had to let some things go, let some expectations of myself go, and to allow myself to be...well whatever I can in the now, without apologies.  I've had to be honest about some things I just shrugged off as "business as usual" when really deep inside myself I've been troubled at times.

I got to see how some  people treat me when I can't offer them anything or couldn't be of use to them just now, even though I've done nothing but good for them or their business in the past,  And I really appreciate the good friends we have who encourage us in God during those dark times.  Those friends become like family moreso than many of my actual extended family members.  I thank God for them.

Here's to calmness and clarity.  We are all fragile, whether we think so or not.  Life each day is a gift, whether it feels that way or not at the time.  People are to be treasured and respected.  Our own hearts' desires are also to be nurtured and  protected and put gently in God's hands.

I've learned that He is present in the dark nights.  I  knew that from before, and did not doubt it.  But He is my actual actual God who is an actual Father.  I poured out my distresses to Him and in some things I continue to.  Whatever sense that I make of the dark times, or don't, He has never been the one to let me down or let my husband down.  All that we have that is good is from Him and He keeps us during the confusing and frightening times.

If I don't take anything away from this but a realization of His goodness, that is enough.

There is more, and I'll write about it.  But His goodness is dayeinu (enough) overflowing.

Grateful to still be here, be feeling better, have a roof over our heads, have beautiful husband/daughter/friends....

What does today hold, or tomorrow?  I don't know.  But God will be sufficient for it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

This Man

This man.
I just don't have the words to express how much I love him, and even moreso,  how much he loves me.

He loves me by digging post holes by hand, because we have to do it that way right now.  It's the only way it can get done, so he does it, even when it exhausts him.
He loves me by telling me to rest, to keep off my bad knee, though a lot of times I don't listen to him, and then he loves me enough to realize I'm stubborn and really like to work beside him.
I don't do as much.  I paint the fence posts with tar, or hold a post he's trying to position or balance one while he makes the hole deeper.
He never asks me to push myself, and it makes me want to more.

He worries about our future, my future.  He works hard in the now.  He worries about my health, and I worry about his.  We try to better our health together, and sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we have an extra slice of pie together.

I can't imagine my life without him.  I don't have to...I already lived too many years without him prior to our ever meeting, and I don't want to go back.
I love that he always showers before bed...always.  He loves getting grimy and sweaty and using his physical strength.  And then he loves to get clean and relax.
He usually loves my cooking.  And I love to share that with him, and so many other things.  Countless things that are just him, and that have, this past 9 years, become us.

We looked at the tomato seed packets that arrived in the mail, gleefully.  We could almost taste the little multicolored cherry tomatoes in our minds.  He was as excited as I was...sugarplums dancing our our heads.  Sugarplums that can be planted, nurtured, watched, and if reaching maturity, eaten...and then the seeds saved for future plantings.  Dancing in our imaginations and in our future reality.
That prostrate plant is the wild muscadine that has fruit all over it
 I was in the ER this weekend, and that was unexpected.  I'm not an ER person, so this was a last resort.  We have no idea what expenses will arise as a result -- I am uninsured.  When I stabilized, I chose to leave and to try some followup through my own doctor.  We did check into the Obamacare insurance.  If we signed up today, it would not cover us until early February, so those decisions will have to wait a few days till  we get more facts.

Any trip to the ER jeopardizes our ability to get safe, to get to the land.  Getting to the land is what we equate with some level of safety both financially and practically.  Those who do not think like us will not understand, will not understand why we have to keep trying to do it, to make that happen.  They will not understand our choices, what we go without, what we keep in place, why we carve any spare time up with trips an hour away to do a few hours work, mostly Jack's own labor, to inch-by-inch Make A Place.

We need to finish the fence.  That's a huge project, because it's all on Jack.  It's being done by hand.  Then we need to do some  more clearing, dig a well, put up a panel and have a temporary pole (electric) run, then buy a used trailer.  At that point, we're IN.  We NEED to be IN.  After IN is dig out a cow pond, put calves on the acreage, get bees, plant trees, field plants, medicinals, on, with joy in each step.  But getting IN, that is the priority.

I'm praying for a tractor.  As impractical as it might seem to pray for one out of the blue, too's the one piece of equipment that seems to be most needed in various capacities.  One which we cannot afford to buy even used, but can be prayed about nonetheless.  God tells us to ask for what we need, and I look at my husband, his ability and his age and the fact I don't want him to become injured, and I ask for a tractor.  I'm used to being redirected in my requests if they are not wise or timely.  And we're both used to working instead of waiting around for golden sunbeams and pixie dust.  But God has answered so many of our prayers in ways that exceeded our expectations, and He is our true father.

I pray that I will be ok, that He grants me and also grants Jack the wisdom to know what health actions to take, what tests to agree to have run, to  know when it's ok to forgo them and just live the best we know how.

I do not want to break the bank, to risk our future, to put more financial burdens on Jack.  He works for my future...I work for his.  I feel  he carries the lion's share, and now he's a little scared after that ER visit.  He wants me around, and I want him to live beyond beyond. 

This man, he is my heart, he is my miracle from YHVH's hand.

Every one of these posts that are now in the ground are not just the beginnings of a fence.  They are acts of love.  With every shovelful of sand and grubbing hoe severing a root system, it's "I love you."

I pray that this refuge he cherishes for our future and willed to existence through prayer and sweat and sore muscles...and laughter and shared wonder and blue skies and endless loads of supplies and tools...I pray that it comes to be.  Because it is the desire of his heart.  I am the desire of his heart, and I am humbled, daily.  I am in love with this man and life with him.  I thank God daily for the miracle, and I close my ears to anyone who does not understand it enough to be happy with our endeavor...this love I may never have had and may never have had to give were it not for God's mercy and goodness to me, to us.

I need for those who understand to pray for my husband's success and blessings to pour upon him.  He is truly a friend of the Almighty.  And he is my beloved.

YHVH hasten all Your blessings upon this man.  Your man.  My man.  My very heart.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wild Muscadines


P.S. Greenbriers are Delicious!

These weeds are everywhere to be found around the smilax family of plants. Here's a Green Deane youtube video.   I just learned a few days ago they're edible, and we have so many coming up where Jack mowed at the farm, I've been picking the tender tips on site and eating them raw.  Ours are much smaller and newer plants than the ones shown:

They are delicious...they taste like fresh, delicate asparagus! (to me)

Here's another link, Merriweather's Texas foraging site...  The key in identification is to make sure the vine has both thorns AND tendrils, and alternating's the link

Friday, December 27, 2013

Update, and Untimely Cigars

Quick update, before any more time gets away from me.  It's shabbat and I can't sleep.  I had heat exhaustion earlier today, at least I think that's what this is, even though the temps were in the mid 70s.  It was overcast and I had no idea I was soaking up all that sun, but boy, it did a number on me after several hours out at the farm.

If I don't feel better by later today (and a good night's sleep, hopefully?) I may have to break down and go to the doc.  But anyway...

Last week Jack chewed up the southern property line, all 660 feet of it, with a walk-behind bush hog.  It was not the bigger type machine he was hoping to find at a rental place-- in fact he was unable to find the kind he really needs anywhere.  Yet.  Knowing him, he'll keep on looking, because we really need something more substantial.  He had to wrestle that machine over so many palmetto roots that he was really sore and nearly sick from the physical exertion of it, and he's a pretty strong guy.  He was in temporary agony the night after that throwdown, muscle cramps and such.  I played nurse but he didn't get much relief those first few hours.

This week he dug all the holes for the posts along the front, the east side facing the roadway.  It's mostly sand, but a few of the holes hit palmetto roots and he has had to work his way downward slowly with a grubbing hoe/pickaxe thingy, which was also really physically demanding.  The first day this week, he used both the shovel and the manual post hole digger (clamshell type), but today just stuck to the shovel.  The posts have to go in about three feet and the posts themselves are 6 inches wide and 8 feet long.  We got about half the run in the first day and most of the rest today, and I painted the asphalt paint to coat them all (and, as usual, part of myself, ha).

We just couldn't finish up in time, but only a few are missing and we hope to get them in next week, weather and schedule permitting.

I began a new assignment at work and I just don't know how it's going to bode for the knee.  I was simply exhausted this week -- it was three consecutive 12 hour shift workdays in a row, and that's an awful lot for my knee, without being able to put it up at any point during those hours.  I was in such pain by the end of the third day I could barely walk.  It comes down to needing the money and needing to stay as active as possible.  I've decided that it will either work or it won't, but I won't know unless I try.  If the knee worsens, I'll have to try, again, for a different assignment, since on this one they won't allow just two days, for reasons necessary to the client.  Let's see.  I do miss being home those days.  But...we need the income.

I'm exhausted.  Going to head to bed now, finally.  I've been sipping lemon and water and such but don't feel restored yet.

I did get some pics of a beautiful wild muscadine vine loaded with fruit at the back of the property.  We see the wild grapevine sprouts all over the place, but have never seen any fruit yet all this time.  What a wonderful first!  I think this is the bronze variety of muscadine because the fruits at this point are a bright yellow.  I'll hopefully post the pics soon.

The wildlife spotted today was of course beautiful...a very large otter ran across the highway on our way in, loping along, black with a brown underbelly.  We heard herons all day and saw some fly over.  At one point there was a flock of thousands of swallows wheeling was neat!

No snake sightings today, but  a grim reminder was retold from one of the employees at Tractor Supply.  He's a local to our area and like us chooses to locate there because of the rural beauty and privacy and wildness.  I was asking about snakes and he mentioned he was struck by a large rattler/Mexican viper cross snake (which I've never heard of and am not happy to learn about) just this summer and barely made it in time to the hospital.  He was treated with antivenin and I think the treatment ran into the 20K price range.  Ewwww.  That kind of thing makes me want to slash all the palmettos flat to the sand and burn the duff and gnarled roots down to nothing...I confess.  We did pick up some handy tips from the man about local stores, rental places, and questions about getting Ag exemption status.   Which is all premature since we are frankly inching along with the fence, but we gather facts anyway.

We finally met someone from the property next door, the one that had the large encampment of people with offroad vehicles around Thanksgiving...and none of whom introduced themselves to us.  Till today.  A  younger friendly nephew of the owner and one of his friends came by on a 4 wheeler and chatted with Jack a few minutes.  We're pretty obviously a presence now on our property, fairly regularly, and it was nice having an introduction to one of the neighbors we share a boundary with, and letting them  know we do plan to live there eventually and are putting a perimeter fence up.  And he assured us their rifle targets will be positioned  safely (we didn't ask, but nice to hear it).  We also put up two of the No Trespassing signs, one at each of the front property corners.

A family also drove by, out looking for land and trying to locate some of the For Sale properties out there.  The signs usually go missing ,and it makes for a fun search for those willing to actually drive out that far.  We're hoping someone nice hangs in there and buys the foreclosure  home at the end of the road.

And, finally, a special moment.  Somebody upstairs has a real sense of humor, I'll just say...

When I know I'll be using the tar paint on the fence posts, I'll wear the "tar outfit" from home...a lightweight men's longsleeved shirt, my oldest pair of jeans, both of which are smeared with black tar streaks that don't wash out (and ruin the washer trying, so we don't...)   Well, it's a little humbling if caught in my full getup, but then I've never been a slave to fashion, and we don't get out and go into stores or anything if we're wearing something really grimy like that (and it is).  I thought maybe the exception would be the loading yard at Tractor Supply, since surely actual workers doing actual work probably frequent the place to pick up fencing and posts and things.  So Jack is helping load and tie down a number of 8 foot posts into our short truck bed, and I'm standing by, chatting with the two employees helping without a care in the world.

I'm off my game in the early morning...I've never been a morning person to start with, never will.  And that morning we had thrown some  last minute things into the vehicle on our way out.  The day was yet young.  (too young and not enough caffeine yet)

I was not aware enough to fully realize that the younger of the two employees was not exactly making eye contact with me as I chatted, and the old man had a bemused look on his face.  But I was too uncaffeinated to notice just then.  And then Jack decided to get more posts, went back inside to pay for them, and we chatted some more...sort of.  I was vaguely aware I was getting some odd vibes, but mentally dismissed it as my awesome tar clothing ensemble reaction.  Until Jack returned, we finished loading, and I got into the truck again and was putting on my seatbelt.

(I've debated whether to include this anecdote here or not)

Still in my early morning brain fog, I reached across to fasten the seatbealt, and then noticed what I had failed to notice all during the chatty little conversation with the two store workers.  I had earlier that morning grabbed what I'll delicately refer to as  "feminine supplies," stuck then in the front shirt pocket of my workshirt...and there they had stayed ever since.  Not concealed, noooo.  They were prominently displayed sticking halfway out of the pocket, like a handful of plastic-wrapped cigars, still in their rather feminine-supply-ish packaging, for all to admire.

And of course Jack never noticed.  And he had a good laugh over that, and still is laughing.

I'm sure I will get my sense of humor back one of these days.  ;-)

OK, that's all I've got for now...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Can !!!

The pressure canning retries were not in vain (a mere 6 hours later)!  5 quarts of homemade soup all pinged, hooray!!!

I can!  I'm a canner!  I'm canning!  I can!

Substitute the word "can" in this video for the word "sail" and this is how I feel...move over, Bob Wiley...Ahoy!!  heehee!

Presto 16 Quart Pressure Canner

It's finally jiggling.

And I've been talked back off the ledge.  Thank you to Kathie, my canning hero(ine)  for being the calm sounding board I needed after the first fail, and for her "I knew you could do it."

And I am doing it!

I thought I knew I could do it until the first attempt had to be aborted after the very screaming sound coming from the valve lock thingy.  That rattled me, truly.

We purchase a $64 Presto 16 quart pressure canner recently with money I gleaned from the grocery budget by being frugal, a challenge to myself to see how low I could go one week from the usual amount.  The All American was our first choice, but the Presto has its fans, too, and the price was right, which ended up being our determining factor.  The other determining factor was that it is safe to use on our glass stovetop.

I've NEEDED to can for years.  Why I've been this resistant I don't know.  It's mental.  I just was not ready.  I was "stuck" with too little direction for too many projects I wanted to do, and a lot I needed to complete.  Money has become more of a factor right now, and I need to use every batch of food to its utmost.  Too many times I'd make a large batch of this or that, such as chicken stock or soup, just to have the leftover amount languish too long in the fridge between other incarnations.  Not only was it perfectly good food, it was perfectly delicious food sometimes wasted and oftentimes inconvenient to reheat, always having to take a small amount from a larger pot to reheat and so on.

Part of my resistance has also been that I really don't need more kitchen contraptions.  I'm a less is more contraption person...I'd rather do without.  The ones that have found a home here are ones that get really used and are worth the headache of finding space for.

I've taken years to get to this point of wanting to begin canning since the few years in my childhood when my mother taught me how when we had an overflowing garden.  I've taken days to leisurely (read Not Stressfully) read all the enclosed instructions, various other canning sites, and sending private emails to a few folks who are already pros at this.  And I chose a day I had few distractions and nobody else going to and fro through the kitchen.  It's 2:39 and at 3:05 I will turn off the stovetop and wait a little longer to hopefully take out the first batch of canned goods I've made since 1981.

I made soup yesterday, a big batch that was really good (to us) and got the kitchen ready for a new project.  I followed each instruction to the T, with the one hiccup of forgetting to stick a plastic knife in each filled jar and jiggle to remove air bubbles before wiping the rims and adding the heated lids and then screwing on the rings.  I had them all the way in the canner, water included, when I saw I'd skipped that step, so I undid them all and got the air bubbles out (or the invisible air bubbles out, I never saw any) and rewiped/hot lidded/screwed rings on and replaced in the canner.

I had meticulously gone over the whole canner with a fine toothed comb (figuratively) and given it a good washing and drying, checking that all holes were no clogged, etc.

Even after all that, something happened after the exhaust phase (steam blowing out the valve for 10 minutes before attaching the rocker) when I attached the rocker.  It didn't begin rocking.  The other valve atop the canner is the pressure lock valve which sticks up from the surface of the lid when pressure is present.  I made the MISTAKE of pushing on it a couple times with my finger.  Oh MY.  It screamed.  SCREAMED.  And wouldn't stop.  One long screech that lasted longgggg minutes before piping down.  I mean the kind of school fire alarm squealing all through the house screaming.  My husband who is sleeping in preparation for tonight's 12 hour shift at work sat bolt upright and asked me to shut the bedroom door.  The door was closed already.

I turned off the burner and took the canner and set it to the other side of the stove, off the heat.  It still SCREAMED.  Until pressure went down.  Mentally I knew there is an additional rubber plug that, in the case of a pressurized emergency, would blow off and release the pressure so the thing would not blow up.  Knowing that was little comfort during the screaming incident.  The dog hid.  I consulted Kathie and a couple websites and the Presto guide.  And started all over, taking everything out, pouring out the water, measuring again, taking needle and thread and making SURE nothing was plugged up anywhere and re-oiling the gasket.

This time it worked.  WHEW.

No screaming.  I'm sure I'll get the knack of this before long.  If at first you don't succeed, and all that.  I'm just relieved.

I was going to bake bread and other things, but I'm just applying cups of coffee to my jangled nerves and waiting till 3:05.  It's now 2:58  (I'm a slow typist)  And nothing yet has blown up.

I think we'll rack this up to a "get to know your equipment" day.  Note to self, the rocking stays steady at number 4 of the stovetop dial.  Second note to self, it takes about ten minutes with this one, at least with quarts, to reach rocking.  Third note to self, steam does escape from both valves, and I need to start counting "exhaust time" when I FEEL the steam coming from the main valve instead of SEE it.  That's all for now, Self...

IF nothing is broken and there is no more excitement in the next few minutes, I may have my first 5 quarts of homemade CANNED soup to put in the pantry instead of a big stock pot in the fridge.

HOOOOO freaking RAYYYYY !!!!!!!!!!!!


(Smiling victorious Rosie the Riveter smile) long did it take for YOU to not be terrified of YOUR pressure canner?? :)