Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So Done With My Doc

This is getting ridiculous. Way past time for a change.

She charts everything by computer, and every visit is more or less as if she has no idea what we've done prior or what's even wrong with me.

It's a small office and they downsized and no longer even have a nurse in the office. But I think they're milking this office visit thing for money.

They used to have good communication via phone when there was a regular nurse, but now I have to go for an office visit for everything...and begin all over again as if the doc didn't just see me three days ago (argh!) She actually asked me why I was there last time I came in and I said Because I'm SICK and you told me to come back in??? (maybe it comes out more polite than that) Their office has a phone line where you leave the doc messages for refills or other communications. At her instruction, I've called with updates she requested. She's answered none of my calls. At the last visit, she said she is not going to do anything via the phone, and is just going to have me come in each time since I get confused. I'm the one confused???

I really think at this point that in my case she has no idea what she's doing, and I can't believe I've waited this long to change docs. Dang dang dangit!

And now how to get a referral to someone better without paying my current one for another office visit...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Soup's On!

We're soup rich! I think the success of our recent batches has been making it all from scratch as much as possible, and making really delicious broths from the poultry and bones/carcasses.

This is a quickie update...let's see if I can keep each bullet point to six words or less (??!)

1. Doc ordered bedrest.
2. I don't do bedrest well.
3. Went to health food store.
4. Got eardrops, mullein/garlic, teatree/grapefruitseedextract.
5. Taking enough meds to sink Titanic!
6. Am beginning partial Budwig protocol.
7. I chose it. It can't hurt!
8. Eating homemade soups/bonebroths daily.
9. Losing weight a bit (no complaints!)
10. Jack bought me fresh bed linens :) :) :)
11. Breathing is a good thing.
12. Periodic sun soaking feels great.
13. Baked 2 turkeys for more......SOUP :)
13 1/2. Two HUGE stockpots of SOUP.
13 3/4. And 4 gallon freezer bags of meat!
14. I love my dog
15. I love my daughter
16. I adore my husband
17. Must kick this pneu/flu permanently!
18. Am tied to the kitchen, no complaints!
19. I believe health converges there.

Soups made in the kitchen in the past 5 days:

1. Homemade chicken soup. Broth from boiling whole chicken and straining the broth. Skimmed most of the fat off. Sea salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, onion, celery seed, ginger, turmeric, paprika, parsley. Carrot sections added last. Added chopped meat if desired to individual portions before serving. Made from the first boiling...the best of the broth.

2. Homemade vegetable chicken soup. Took carcass and darkmeat of above chicken and boiled second time, then simmered a couple hours with sea salt and onion, covered. Strain and add in the small pieces of meat, chopped fine. Add canned tomatoes, onion, celery, similar spices to above, simmer. Closer to serving time, peel and chop several potatoes into small chunks, few large chunks of carrot (whatever veg desired) and cook till soft, adjust seasoning. Toast a couple leftover biscuits till hot and golden and break into pieces in individual servings of soup, or serve with open faced toasted cheese toast.

3. Chicken corn chowder. Take leftover soup of #2, mash any large chunks till small, heat up, add a good quantity of creamed corn and turn heat down, add splash of milk or cream, serve.

4. Turkey soup is similar. Spices vary slightly. For calabaza/winter squash cuban soup...Veggies include mix of calabaza/winter squash cubes, sweet potato/boniato cubes, potato cubes, celery, onion, garlic, cassava/yucca chunks, green plantain chunks if available toward end of cooking. Use richest availabe turkey broth and add in small amount of chopped dark meat...adjust spices...sea salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, sofrito, turmeric, thyme, cilantro. Serve with hot basmati rice and whatever else you like....black beans, a dense homemade bread chunk, some melted cheese toast. I like it by itself and Jack likes it with the rice served in a scoop to one side right inside his bowl of soup. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whine-Free Update

Just an update on some of the plants that have graduated from Bucketville to The Bermuda Rectangle (the lot next door where we've spread horse barn compost throughout the year, giving rise to a jungle of Bermuda grass and various other lawn-mower-defying growths....oh for livestock!)

Last year, this lot was flat and bare. Now we have a good collection of test plants going. Seen here are a pigeon pea and some moringas in the background.

We see these both as potentially valuable crops to us beginning now, but even moreso in the future. Rather than back up and reiterate the many uses of these under-utilized (in our country) plants, here are a couple of good links from one of our favorite resources, ECHO (an hour away, practically in our own backyard, yay!)

Pigeon Peas link

Moringa link and Another Great Moringa Resource list from another site

And not pictured in this post, but something we're trying to encourage the proliferation of is the Chaya plant (the link is a download...it's worth a good read) Jack's trying to get some cuttings of our very small plant going in the Bucketville nursery.

If there's anything that can pick me up from the doldrums, it's seeing that some of these plants are hardier than our horticultural learning curve, and the joy of spending time reading many of the resources from lists like this...it inspires me that we have so many underutilized plants that we really NEED to gain the wisdom (regain, more often) to use in our own backyards. And we DON'T have to have fancy equipment...there is so much we CAN do at the most basic level (reminder to self!) Here's such a list...

MJ had recently requested pics of the pigeon pea progress here, so here are a few. We didn't know when to plant them this year, so we may have planted them late...no pods on them yet, but one of our intentions in growing them was as a fodder plant for livestock. (We're working out the growing part ahead of time... no livestock as yet) See how tall this one is? Kaleb's size lends perspective to how much growth we've seen in these in a relatively short time. I think Jack planted the pigeon pea seeds in July, starting them off in (what else? ha) 5 gallon buckets. Things learned?

1. They prefer being in the ground
2. They're vigorous enough to skip the bucket stage and just be sown directly at their permanent site.
3. They prefer a drier location that's not often waterlogged.
4. They really put on growth quickly.
5. Of all our plants, they are among the ones that take the most abuse...heat, drought, extremes of weather. Let's see how they do this winter...
6. They make good nurse plants to give partial shade to smaller seedlings. That's what the buckets beneath are in the pictures shown.

Shown below are the moringas, started at about the same time, or even later than the pigeon peas. The growth is amazing...I think these are in the 8 to 10 foot range high. We were supposed to cut them at the 3 to 4 foot height if we wanted a coppice sort of rotational leaf/limb harvest, but we have to get our act together and read up on it before we start hacking away. Thankfully, there are excellent resources ( see those lists above) to familiarize ourselves with. But to answer the question of whether they'll grow? Yes! They are not much good as a shade tree, but the leaves and the entire tree all have individual uses...the leaves are packed with so much nutrition, they're said to be the cure for malnutrition in most of the known warm-weather world, even where there are weather extremes of heat and drought. And I believe they are cheap and easy enough to grow that their harvests should benefit the entire world at large nutritionally, without science and marketing putting a hefty price tag on it.

Here's some idea of our little jungle we have going. There's something really encouraging about seeing this where before I couldn't get a shovel to penetrate the hardpan. Jack gets the lion's share of credit for the brawn and sweat involved moving a lot of that manure and digging all those holes! He told me once he never knew he could grow things, but I have to say the plants and he seem to have a symbiotic enthusiasm for each other. Most likely my biggest contribution is fueling the plant addiction...ha! (that's not really an exaggeration)

Below, a closeup of a pigeon pea bush/plant

Here is another superstar plant...to say they grow like weeds falls short of describing how, in plastic bins, these things grew so fast they now top seven and eight feet in height...so fast we got preoccupied with other things and didn't get them into the ground fast enough! But the ones transplanted even at this late date are going gangbusters. These are the cranberry hibiscus, also known as false roselle. It looks along the lines of a japanese maple, and the leaves are simply delicious picked at the small tender stage and eaten fresh...they are a fresh lemon flavor, and the color is gorgeous. It's on my To Do list to expand my use of these in the kitchen...I have many ideas I just haven't tried yet. In the meantime, they just continue to grow. Our plan is to keep these much shorter so they'll take on a bush form instead of more vertical leggy growth. One thing we've learned is that the leaves have to be utilized immediately upon picking, or they wilt quickly. They can be prolonged by cutting a branch and keeping it in a vase of water...and make beautiful leaf bouquets that way.
I can't get enough of this color...

Here is a closeup of the moringa leaves, with morning dew. All parts of the moringa are edible. The leaves can be cooked, or dried and powdered. They are edible fresh, too, but have such a strong peppery flavor that way that a little goes a long way. Cooking them or drying them for additions to soups and so on de-intensifies the sharp flavor significantly, and it's not very noticeable...but oh, the nutrition! Super great, and responsible for keeping whole populations of third world babies from malnutrition, and mothers in milk. Don't get me started on breastfeeding as a topic :) My baby is 21 and I was fortunate enough to be able to nurse her for a great start in life. Ok...back to the post :)

One of the few branches of medicine I'm really enthusiastic about :)

Well, that's about it, but no post is complete without Kaleb photos. I'm sorry about my rant in the last post. Besides my hubby, Kaleb is a bright light every day...how can anything be really terrible when you have 100% devotion and adoration from this soft and loyal companion?

Regal canine... and his squeaky toy.

He's not always asleep on the floor. I took these pics to illustrate that wherever I am, he accomodates me, but HAS to be next to me. I love those instincts. I have to be careful not to step on him sometimes...he's truly a Velcro dog.
See what I mean about having to be careful? This is the wheel of my computer chair...as I am sitting in it.

Love is...my own personal bodyguard glued to whatever I'm near, if he can't be glued to my person. Love you, Kaleb!

And of course, the frog leg pose always makes me smile!

Thank you so much to you all for encouraging me after my last post. I really love you guys!
I know it's time to go now because Kaleb's run out of patience and trying to get my attention with a very insistent wet nose. I'm not alert enough to read his mind just now, and just got a blank stare from him when I asked him if little Timmy is trapped in a mine shaft. Plus we're in the wrong state for mine shafts. But outside we go for some air and sun :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I'm Not Here

Because if you don't have something good to say, supposedly you're better off keeping the trap shut.

So maybe I'll keep this short and cryptic. Which means the post will probably end up being long and nonsensical...ha :)

This is not the first time we have been at the Doh end of the learning curve, namely when it involves money, land interests, and high hopes...oh, and attorneys. I will not go into the specifics, but I have been feeling sucker-punched at a recent development...or lack of development, in which an attorney simply did not advocate with the facts she was given at the outset of our situation, and then tried to play it off later with a slant that was irrelevant...because she simply took our money and never HEARD and READ the details at the outset. And of course we have no recourse because we're tired of attorneys, it's a small town thereabouts and we don't want to burn any bridges...and blah blah blah. Oh, brother. Legal stuff, land stuff, blah blah blah. See? Not very specific, am I?

I keep many details out of this blog for privacy's sake, which makes it kind of hard sometimes since the blog's about our life and many of its ups and downs on this journey. The journey turns on our having useful land. I know we can do the urban thing right where we are, but there are still doors open that need to be fully explored with acquiring land, and we need to do so in a timely way. So we keep plugging along...and providing cryptic nonsensical updates here to that effect. But there are tangible things to do, some of which if successful will allow us to HAVE USEFUL LAND. Meaning animals and fewer restrictions than where we are. Etc, etc.

And now for the gripe summary...

I have a steady husband who is very optimistic. (No gripe about that!) I myself am pretty resiliant and CALM in a variety of situations and circumstances. However, when it comes to incompetence involving taking large amounts of my money and seriously setting back our getting land SOON, when the expectation and all the conversation seemed we were on the brink, well...for some reason this time it felt like it took all the air out of me.

The other thing is that I've been feeling lousy, quasi-lousy, or slightly-less-than-bad...depends on the day which label to apply...for MONTHS now. In June it started, I don't know why. I got a stubborn respiratory infection that almost would go away and then would come back with a vengeance, and I'm not the kind of gal who goes to the doctor. I cleanse, do soup, do over-the-counter if necessary, do herbs. When my knuckles start dragging the floor and I can't speak in coherent sentences and my ear feels like it's inhabited by an expanding golf ball, then I go to the doc. I succumb to prescription meds. I feel the antibiotics wiping out any and all good bacteria in my body along with the bad and I ramp up the probiotics and vitamin C.

Blah blah blah...this is starting to sound like a litany of The Geezer List....corns, bunions, sciatica...I'll try to keep it shorter :)

Anyway, last week's newsworthy (NOT) sucker punch was accompanied by a sprained wrist and the next stage of this confounded respiratory infection that won't go away...going on 4 months now, all told. I've begun feeling sorry for myself. The house needs a deep clean, I need to be industrious, I need to keep walking daily, and I need to feel WELL. So yesterday at the most recent checkup, the doc tells me I'm not responding to any of the antibiotics, and my eardrums and canal look horrible, and she prescribes me what she refers to as The Big Guns, which amounts to the highest concentration of Augmentin I've ever been prescribed and an antifungal, which together cost three figures...good golly :(

This, and I'm the sort of person that avoids antibiotics like the plague (haha little pandemic phraseology fun there) ;-)

The weather is simply beautiful.
I'm grumpy.
My husband is simply wonderful.
I'm grumpy.
I have nothing to feel bad about.
I'm still grumpy.

So I haven't been even coming to the computer.

Oh yeah, and another thing I'm grumpy about (as long as I'm on a whinge binge), is that I have friends who live elsewhere, and family who sporadically get in touch with me via snail mail, but never email or read the blog...and they want to be updated in detail about what's going on with us, but don't have phone time because their lives are too busy. And they have email. But the only emails I get from them are the spams I hate, with silly "forwards" and my email address included on the huge laundry list of group emails they're sending to people I 've never heard of. Ugh.

See? Told you I'm grumpy :)

Let's see...anything else on the grump list, hmmm...

Oh yes.

I'm homesick. This will undoubtedly put me on the Most Thankless Person In The Western Hemisphere category immediately, but I'm a-sayin' it right here..

I MISS THE UPPER 47...namely Tennessee, but you can fill it in with anywhere that has some hardwoods, rolling hills or an occasional small mountain, streams and rivers, pastures and woodlands and four seasons, and wildlife not abundant with alligators/pythons/carnivorous insects/creeping tropical amphibians.
I miss trees turning colors.
I miss being able to SIT ON THE GROUND without being digested by stinging/biting/gnawing/viperous/poisonous/disfiguring things.
I miss laying out on a crooked lawnchair without becoming a fire ant buffet.

And I miss the sound of creeks, streams, and rivers and the cool of the night coming in through the windows... and bundling up and smelling woodsmoke and earth smells ...and having a fireplace or woodburning stove.

I miss really big trees, especially oaks. And dogwoods. And fruit trees like apples.

And the very worst admission....

I'm not a beach person. I can be awed by the sunsets, the wonderful romance of wading at the water's edge, absolutely! Shells, sand between the toes, my sweetheart holding my hand and walking together along the shore...the birds, the salty smells, yes. BUT...

I don't long for that. I long for the creeks, springs, pools, shallow rivers, the talking stones in a trouth stream. Cold mist hanging low in the mornings and deer browsing like ghosts. Flannel shirts.

OK...yes, I'm now officially an ingrate!

Just a homesick one.

Oh, and I miss red clay...can you believe I'd EVER say that? But it grows the best tasting tomatoes I've ever had, and sand doesn't impart that same liveliness to a tomato as that red clay.

Well, now that's off my chest for now.....I'm off to begin re-counting all my blessings and getting over myself...which will be easier if I can just get feeling better. When I'm sick for more than a couple days, guilt sets in and I feel like I'm being useless (well, basically I AM) :) and I feel uninspired. I need a good cry. I've had a few moments like that, but there's just so much to be grateful for, it's impossible to wallow....I'm so thankful to God for SO much.

I'm trying so hard not to be jealous of others right now. I'm just not the jealous sort. But I've actually wrestled with some of those feelings, too...not coveting, but just feelings of sadness like I'm being left behind. Some of this has to do with the fact we're wrestling with restrictions, restrictions, restrictions here in Florida that simply are a non-issue (and cost a HECK of a lot less in all the particulars) in about any other state. But they are entrenched here.

OK, whine over!

Blogger wouldn't let me post pics tonight, or I'd just have put up some update pics of the great growth we've seen in many of the plants Jack transplanted. Hopefully, I'll be able to post them soon :)

And I'll have spent a bit more time reflecting on all the benefits there are to our situation, and being grateful. For SO MANY blessings! And the fact that in fact I'd live among cannibals, leech-infested swamps, and torpedo-sized mosquitos to be with my beloved husband.

But I might still be a tad grumpy ;-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Morning Blues

(clicking pictures will enlarge)
While most of the rest of the country are enjoying milder temps, for some reason we're having record highs for this time of year. The normal morning dew, when combined with already-percolating mercury climbs, becomes a thick shroud of steam in and around everything outdoors.

This morning, I had the blues...

these blues. I love wild morning glories!

Yes, I know they're a pest.
But pestilence never looked so beautiful...

I won't confess just which pots and plants lie buried beneath our lush impromptu morning-glory topiary, but instead I'll just enjoy the daily morning show of blooms...lovely! Soon enough it will be time to clean things up (again), but till then let's see just how high it'll go :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One Month Later

(clicking on pics will enlarge)

Two days from now will mark Month One since we adopted Kaleb. I'll return to blogging more about our plants and plans, but just wanted to get a few more shots (twist my arm!) to chart our constant canine companion's entry into our household.

We hoped for a companion dog that would be bonded to us. I can say, gladly, that one month later our fellow seems to have settled in well.

Because he is a dog formerly owned by others, he came to us understanding simple commands (sit, stay, down, outside, go home) and is not destructive to furniture and furnishings inside when we leave. It is also obvious that he has never been struck/hit, so he is not afraid of hands petting him or signaling him, and we only use positive training ourselves...treats and praise and "uh-oh" instead of a lot of "no" responses. Very happily, he also came to us fully potty trained. The only accidents he's had were unavoidable...parents away too long from home. (Can I just sing the praises of tile floors? :)) He also is very used to being brushed and lying on his side for grooming. Wow, are we thankful!

I think he had a big shedding just prior to our knowing him. Add to that a homemade haircut of most of his fringes and skirt, and we haven't been too sure how they'll grow out. It's looking a little less choppy now. He's had a couple of baths since first arriving, but doesn't seem to need them since. His smell is more "doggy" rather than sour and dirty-smelling...boy did he smell at first.

His "puffs" (rear leg skirts) are fluffing out...maybe they're growing out...let's see how long they get.

Some unpleasant discoveries at the first vet visit (besides the bill, ha) were some broken teeth and too high a parasite load of worms. The good news was that he was heartworm negative and the bloodwork they ran was clear in all other areas. He has the MDR1 genetic mutation that makes him vulnerable to certain common heartworm and worming meds, not to mention other things taken internally, and had had a near-death reaction to one prior to our ever knowing him. One third of all Australian Shepherds and certain other breeds carry the MDR1, and the kindest thing to do is to have yours tested if there's a chance he/she is one of the at-risk breeds. A reaction can kill or permanently damage the dog (it affects the brain), and isn't worth the gamble of taking chances with.

The left side of Kaleb's muzzle/eye area is the "scar side"...he came with a healing bite mark and soon after scratched a gouge under that eye that took a couple weeks to heal. The gouge is now fully healed and returning to its normal hair color and pattern, but the bite can still be seen somewhat.

I'm not sure about coat quality, but the noticeable thing so far is that it's seeming softer.

His feed is now 1 cup AvoDerm kibble + 1 cup cooked mash (my own ingredients) + either 1 cup raw or cooked veg...or a good drizzle of active culture plain yogurt. Twice a day.

Of course there are toys in the equation. I've been educated to the fact that there are few, if any, guarantees when it comes to rawhide chews due to the chemical nature of their processing. A bone-shaped Kong chew with hollow ends is fun for Kaleb when the cavities are filled with a dab of peanut butter and a couple of training treats. I'd forgotten just how inflated pet store prices are on just about everything, and when we needed a leash, we just found a 20' training lead at a discount store, and initially used a choke chain for walking him. But I prefer a regular collar, and after a nasty spill involving my own carelessness and the longer lead wrapped around my ankle (last memory...throwing the tennis ball...then staring at concrete up close and personal, ouch!), we needed a short lead. I found a matching collar and lead online on a military supply site (who knew?) for less than what the pet store prices were, and liked the aesthetics a lot better...here's the lead...

So far, Kaleb will bark when someone enters the house, but won't bark at anyone outside...we're actually hoping he'll bark more. So Jack wants us to give him treats whenever he barks. I'm of the "hmmmm" opinion on that, but it's quite entertaining watching Jack tryinig to talk "dog" and encouraging him by going "woof WOOF" anytime he sees something he wants Kaleb to bark at. I told Jack I think the dog is training him...ha.

Ok, am I just weird or what, but I've always been attracted to beautiful natural fibers. There are so many variations of color and texture on my dog, he's a four-legged Fiber Art.

I don't intend for the blog to become an unending series of doggy portraits while I drone on and on about My Baby. I'm just SO excited that this part of our homestead happened...finally, after so long a wait! Paired with the relief of having paid down a considerable chunk of our debt, it may be boring to others but it's huge for us.

Upcoming posts will be updates, with pics, of some of the plants we planted earlier in the year. We're pleasantly surprised at how they've survived periods of extreme heat, drought, monsoon, and....um....benign neglect :)

If you have updates of your furry (or other animal) homestead residents, feel free to post links in comments...I'd love to see them!

Monday, October 5, 2009

These bones were all that was left after making my second batch of homemade dog food... baking a turkey, saving the breast portions for the humans of the household, and boiling all the rest (including fat, bones, juices, all the bits and pieces) and simmering for half a day.

It's not every day we cook a whole turkey for a pet, but last year at Thanksgiving, we stocked our deep freeze with meat on sale, and turkey was between 59 and 69 cents a pound...that equates to 6 or 7 dollars for a ten pound bird. We've been very happily eating....and eating...and eating our way through those turkeys from last year, and are about to hit the one year mark and there are still some to go.

With our recent adoption of Kaleb, our beloved Australian Shepherd (yayyy!!!dream come true), we found that kibble prices for the healthier mixes are quite pricey. My parents always fed the lowest grade kibble to our family dogs growing up, and I guess I just thought most of them are created equal. Kaleb wasn't picky, and we started out feeding him just that...low-end kibble. Then I read the ingredients list more carefully and did some reading on the internet, as well as consulting with my esteemed Aussie Mentor, and decided that was probably going to cause more problems than it solved. So those extra turkeys languishing in the deep freeze have found further purpose.

If we had a pressure canner, I'd have turned them all slowly into canned turkey stock by now, but since that hasn't transpired yet, they are the base I use to add to a small bit of quality kibble and healthy leftovers Du Jour. As a result, Kaleb is pretty enthusiastic about mealtime, and will nudge and nudge me at the same two feedings times a day and literally give me The Meaningful Stare while he licks his chops...too cute! If it's a day I work nights and sleep days, I get hijacked from Dreamland by a slight whining sound beside the bed, and here is what I see when I roll over and look beyond the covers...

If that doesn't work, this wet nose gives me Morse Code alerts....Food, Lady! SOS...

The cooked portion of the mix is all the meat, juices, "bone dust" (whatever part of the bones that will crumble in my hand to powder after cooking so long..and it's amazing how many will)and so one from the actual turkey. Then I add in any leftover bread, some rice and oats and garlic powder, and any green veggies or squashes that are leftover from the fridge...bits of meat or fat from other leftovers, and that's it.

That gets frozen into smaller portions, a few days' worth at a time, and I thaw them in the fridge as he eats his way through them daily. We're still working with his portion size, but it works out to about 1/3 quality kibble plus 1/3 turkey mixture plus 1/3 raw shredded leaf lettuce or cabbage or cooked squash, etc. Just NO onions..they're harmful to dogs.

I haven't done the price estimate, but I know each serving of the turkey mixture comes to pennies because the quantity off of just one sale-priced ten pound turkey is huge...two stockpots full when I made some more today. And I'm talking large stockpots. I add water as it all cooks and dont add the final ingredients till just at the very end. I only have a handful of turkey bones left when all is said and done, and I freeze them to stew in the next batch...minerals! I have at least 5 or 6 gallons of great food to supplement our furry fellow, and I don't have to worry that he's getting sub-par by-products below consumption-grade.

The results may take some time, but I'm shooting for a healthy weight for him, improvement to his coat condition, and less shedding. And a happy dog, of course!

I've never thought of myself as an "Animal Chef" type of person, so this started off more as a practical way of getting some high quality for low cost. Normally I'm entirely stingy about freezing all our poultry and beef stock to use for soups. I have so much frozen just now though, it's not an issue. It's nice to know that for 6 or 7 dollars plus some excess pantry item contributions we have at least a couple months of dog food it would have cost us MUCH more to get at the store.