Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Plarn and Broken Bones

Being on a fixed income is never fun. Now being on Social Security Disability, I can't work or produce an income outside the limited allowable limit. It amounts to pocket change over a year's time. I still receive a small amount of income from my husband's pension that mainly pays for my part B, my supplemental insurance, and my monthly drug bill. I also receive a stipend from book sale royalties each month (it may buy a couple cups of coffee each month). Suffice to say, I'm luckier than most. At least I have that.

But I have an additional income, so to speak, from Mel. Technically, Mel hasn't held a job in 18 months. She has been working the homestead. All the egg sales, recycled products sales, and vegetable and sales of everything else comes under her. She's not my spouse or relative, but a separate entity. I may contribute to the production, but truly reap no benefits from it to speak of. She pays for the property tax, her car insurance, tags, certifications, and licenses. It is her property after all. So I guess I reap some, but not enough to constitute an income source.

So this is how I can contribute and also keep myself from going stir crazy. Besides caring for the animals.

I mentioned in an earlier post about making plarn. One man's trash can be recreated into usable objects. Call it recycling, repurposing, upcycling, thrifty, frugal, or whatever catch phrase you want to use, I call it income producing. Whether I sell it as plarn or make market bags with it. With a little bit of labor on my part, it can create a product to bring in income. I ultimately bought a Fiskar rotary cutting set so I wouldn't have to use scissors. Scissors and my left hand do not play together nicely. The cost of the plarn materials is basically free (grocery and merchandise bags).

The reason for selling both the plarn and market bags is- that we are not the only crafty people out there the world is full of knitters and crotcheters. How do I know? Take a look at how many YouTube videos, forums like Raverly, and magazines there are at the book stands. But then again, there are uncrafty folks out there that need finished products too. Not that we expect to get rich with this item alone. Far from it. If we sell enough to even pay a couple of electric bills each year, every little bit helps. I've included the video inspiration with you below.

It's easy enough to do. Spinning it with my Heavenly Handspinning Vespera electric spinning wheel is a breeze.  Jan at Heavenly Handspinning is a true gem to work with and now she lives in a neighboring town too. Yes, it uses electricity, but hey, one handed spinner here. I gifted myself this machine after I retired my great-grandmother's spinning wheel. Yes, I relearned how to spin one handed again after my stroke. I spin the plarn for added strength and a more consistent product. Knitting and crocheting one handed has enough challenges. I can make yards of plarn watching my favorite show or movie via Netflix in one evening. I can comb fiber or spin while rotting my brain with the boob tube. Otherwise known as relaxing in the evening before bed. Spinning is one of my old favorite winter pastimes. And, it is winter. Mel is learning and producing as well.

Of course, there are our other handmade products as well. Mel and I are avid needlework gals. Whether it's dishcloths, socks, sweaters, caps, or anything else, we can make it. My knitted beaded evening shawls are a sure fire money maker. It all takes little startup capital and higher profitability. It won't make us rich, but every little bit counts.

There is the farmer's market. Offering chemical-free, heirloom produce won't make us rich either. But as I said before, every little bit helps. It all depends on the harvest. There's also my pickles and jams we can sell. Growing our own produce makes this even more profitable.

With the farmer's market, we can sell other things too. Mel made me a fantastic harvest tote for Christmas. It was made of scrap lumber. She used welded wire mesh on the bottom so I can rinse the vegetables outside with the hose
before bringing them inside. She also made me a folding board out of cardboard first, and then out of 1/4" plywood so I can fold laundry easier. There are a tons of wood working projects she can make and sell.

The only drawback to farmer's markets is that they are for a limited time. Events in our local area also are a possibility. But then we have the website too that is doing nothing right now. There are other websites like etsy and ebay which offer year around access to sell on. There's always business cards for word of mouth off season referrals.

So making money on the homestead or under SSD is challenging, but not impossible. You just have to put your mind to it and maybe a little creativity. What will sell and what won't is a trial and error method. All you can do is try. Wish us luck.

On another note, Thursday I returned from my podiatrist's office in shock. This is a fairly long, convoluted story. It started last week. I noticed my foot was giving me more pain than usual. I was having to sit more than usual because of it. As the week progressed, it got more frequent and the pain increased as I walked. I chocked it up to weather and my increasing spasticity. But the next Tuesday marked my return to physical therapy for dry needling and stretching. This usually works well for a couple of weeks duration, so I wasn't overly concerned.

Tuesday morning arrived bright and sunny. Snow and temperatures in the teens was predicted for the night. I went to my therapy session with my old PT. I did all the intake paperwork because I had a new prescription by a new doctor at Emory. I mentioned to my therapist about needing to work on my foot and ankle because the pain had increased over the past week. After all the measurements were taken... elbow full extension is now at 50 degrees which was a 5 degree gain. I've never worked so hard for 5 degrees in my life. Foot inversion is 20 degrees so that was a bit worse. It would account for my increased pain level. My pain level was a constant 6 out of 10. Plus all but my big toe would curl under when bearing weight on the foot which plays havoc on balance. My big toe would try to arch straight up but a strap on my AFO holds it down.

Anyhow, the therapist worked on stretching, needling, and range of motion on my foot. We both admitted that we had enough of a workout. I stood up and my toes lay almost flat inside my AFO which was better. I knew the discomfort/pain from the manipulations would ease by the next morning. It's always like this after therapy. These muscles rarely get the same workout between me doing them and a therapist. The therapist can stretch the muscles better. It's a question of working angles.

By the time I drove home, 15 minutes, I got out of my van and the pain hit me. Every time I put my weight on my affected foot was like someone stabbed me with a knife. Somehow, I made it up the six steps into the house. I was almost in tears. I sat in front of my computer, took off my AFO, and massaged my foot.

The next morning, it was more of the same, if not worse. It didn't hurt when I wasn't weight bearing only when I was standing or walking. "Well, if it hurts, don't do it!" I tend to follow this advice, but at the same time I was trying to figure out what was wrong. I watched videos and knitted until I was cross eyed. I absolutely abhor being inactive! It's one thing if I choose to be inactive, but an imposed inactivity has never been my cup of tea.

By Thursday morning, I called my therapist and asked her what had she done to my foot?! Heck yes, I was irritated, grumpy, and the pain when walking was 10 out of 10 when I bore weight on my foot. She told me to come in. I did. Walking from the house (steps included) was painful. Walking from the parking lot into the therapy office was teeth grinding affair. Walking from the lobby area to the mat undid me. I had tears running down my face and I couldn't talk coherently. When I was better composed, we talked as she examined my foot, my shoe, and my AFO trying to determine the cause of my pain. We went through more stretching and range of motion. There was point tenderness but no obvious break or displacement of the joints. The pain reduced down to a more manageable 7 out of 10. We were Sherlock Holmes and Watson trying to figure out what was wrong. The truth of the matter was the therapy was just the straw that broken the camels back. It was the only conclusion we could come up with.

The next trip was to my podiatrist. Lucky for me, she'd had a cancellation. Once again, I hobbled painfully to my car, drove to the doctor's office, walked in with literal baby steps. Pain wouldn't let me do anything else. The first stop was the x-ray machine. You gotta love the digital x-ray machines. Talk about instant gratification. The definition is so much better too. The first thing the doctor noticed was an old family nemesis of ours now plagued me too... arthritis degeneration in several joints of my feet. Between my spasticity trying to bend my foot and my AFO trying to straighten my foot a silence war was raging. The small bones in my foot was the casualty. Zooming in on the top view of my foot were not one but THREE fractures in my foot. What can I say. The overachiever in me wasn't happy with just one fractured bone. No wonder there was point tenderness and knife like pain when I was weight bearing. While I had considered stress fractures as a cause, I discounted it because there was no pain when not weight bearing.

So the plan of action is to be nonweight bearing on my affected foot for 3-12 weeks. I'd go stark, raging mad being in bed that long, and then there is the issue of bathroom needs. Most everything else Mel can handle but this I have to do myself. It's not like I can use crutches. Hello! Nonfunctioning arm here. Well, my podiatrist had the answer an Iwalk hands free crutch. I may be buying a quad cane too for added stability and from a sanity stand point. It ain't cheap as a pair of crutches. There's too much of the white stuff on the ground.

Or, I can manhandle my husband's rollator around. I found out Medicare doesn't cover the Iwalk, but my BCBS does as a out-of-network charge. The deductible is twice as much. In other words, I'd have to pay for it out of pocket. I guess, it's the rollator for the time being. Funny how I gave away my hemi walker and wheelchair when I had no further use for them but kept this, huh? I think I planned on repurposing it. A good thing I hadn't gotten around to it. For now, at least I'll be off my foot. I don't foresee having to use the hand brakes so it should suffice. I may still purchase the Iwalk, but for now, this works. It's definitely stable.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: This Darn Stroke! Well Woes

It's not very often I say this, but THIS DARN STROKE! At times, frustration gets the better of me. As usual, it is costing me money too because I can't do something because I'm having to hire someone else to do it.

I said this before when the door handle busted on my vehicle and I couldn't maneuver the working side of my body to fix it. That ended up costing me a few hundred dollars. This time it's our water well.

It's not rocket science diagnosing and fixing a problem with a well. If you've done it once, you can do it again. I've done it several times over the years. Everything from drilling a shallow well for the garden to installing and fixing all components that go along with it. I was lucky enough to have a father that didn't mind teaching me the ropes. He was a certified welder, electrician, plumber, heating/air conditioner tech and auto mechanic. He is a Jack of all trades and is aptly named Jack. Or, Poppa Jack to all his abundant grands and great-grands. But I digress.

Here at the Cockeyed Homestead we had no water in the house. Having just replaced all the pipes from the well to the house wasn't the cause. At first, we thought it was because of the hard freezes we'd had. I honestly thought that burying the pipes deeper would help with this. They were 2 1/2 feet deep and it's well below the freeze line, or suppose to be. To say I was irritated at this point would be stating fact. Well, it was two days before the temperatures rose above freezing. The daytime temperatures was a little above but not much. I was biding my time. We keep four 5-gallon water jugs filled in the stores building for just such occasions. They aren't light when filled but the new deck and ramps make it easier to move into the house.

By day three, the temperatures rose well above freezing. Still no water. I knew at this point that the problem was with the well or one of the components. Mel and I start trouble shooting the well. The first issue I have is the well itself. I told y'all how the previous owners had Jerry rigged the door. It gets better. The whole bladder tank, well pump, switches, and well, everything is cockeyed and Jerry rigged. In all my days on earth, I've never seen anything like it. A nightmare post Christmas. If ever there was a convoluted way of putting things together...this was it. Pipes and wires spliced, glued, and screwed into a mess. All housed in a 4'x4'x3' building. There was no way to move let alone get into the building short of laying on your back or squatting. I might mention here that they did use roofing nails in the 1/2" plywood roof. Half an inch or so of the nail points came through the plywood and shingles inside the roof and they were nice enough to leave them in tact for anyone trying to work inside the well house. It was a Machiavellian's torture chamber's delight if you got too close to them. Oh, there is an actual old time well (the kind you drop a bucket into) in the building covered by a concrete lid too. The well pump assembly sits on top of it.You just can't get to it let alone remove the lid. There's no room!

So you get the picture right? Now imagine little, old, impaired self me trying to troubleshoot this thing. It was a comedy of errors at every turn. Mel had always called a plumber before being a city girl and all. But I had the knowledge and hands on experience to fall back on. I powered on the well. I tend to troubleshoot the highest cost to lowest cost repair that way I can be relieved when it isn't costly. Actually Mel did this because the power switch was up at the house a couple hundred feet away. We are playing relay with cell phones. Good news, the well pump kicked on. I reached around various pipes and wires to touch the pump. Not hot after it ran for a few minutes cycling off and on. That's a major cost savings. Well pumps can run a couple hundred dollars upwards. To replace this size would have set me back $360. Whew! But still no water inside the house.

Next pricey item is the bladder tank. While usually filled with compressed air and water, it makes a particular sound when the bladder inside has ruptured. I'd had to replace one of these before. When the bladder ruptures the vessel fills with water and depending on the size of the tank, it can be quite heavy. The well pump also tries to keep running which in turn burns out the pump motor. I know this from experience too. I picked up the pipe wrench and hit the side of the metal tank. Ping. I hit it again to be sure I heard what I heard. The old measure twice and cut once. The tank was full of water and the bladder was blown. That will set me back $140, but that's still better than having to buy the pump motor. I could reach the bladder tank, but it's actually called a pressure tank. But I've  seen it called both. So I ran to my local Lowes to pick one up. It would have been cheaper to go through the plumbing supply house, but I didn't think about it. I was too thankful that the tank was just inside the shed. Other than the connection of the water line and a few wires, it would be an easy fix once Mel remove the old one.


I went to Lowes and actually got a fully powered wheelie cart. You just don't understand how rare this is in the big box stores in this town. Most times, the cart dies halfway to your first item. So I'm still in a thankful mood as I grab a sales associate to carry the box to the cash register and put it into my van. I get the tank home. It was only a 20 gallon tank instead of a bigger, more costly one. By this time, it's getting dark. I decide to leave installation until the morning. The box with the tank isn't heavy, but too bulky to pick up one handed easily. I got a two handed Mel for that. Yes, it's the laziness of two again. But I wanted to teach Mel how to do it. What's the use of experience if you can't teach it?

So morning arrives, Mel  cuts the fittings and tips the old bladder tank on its side and starts to disconnect everything. The dirt floor of the dirt is now red clay mud. Everything is underneath with this type tank. Trying to break the seals around the fittings was a nightmare. The couplers actually broke opening a whole new can of worms and another trip to the hardware store. A union would have great if the previous owner had installed one. If only I could have gotten in there with my two hands, but would have been better than trying to explain how to do it. It also would have been easier if the assembly hadn't been on the dirt. But the piping was finished after another run to the hardware store for more couplings. Next came the wiring. But once, again dusk is falling and Mel was exhausted. With no light in the well house, working on wiring was impossible. But it was still light enough to see an electricians nightmare of different colored wires attached wire nuts snaking around, coiled and spliced here and there from the well pump, to the pressure switch just behind the well pump at the back of the shed. At least they used wire nuts, right? We'd have to disassemble everything to reach it.

At this point, I'd had enough! I called my handyman. I couldn't do it. Mel was exhausted to tears. I just didn't want to struggle with it anymore. I just wanted running water in my house and a hot shower instead of birdie baths after heating the water on the wood stove! It was time to make it all somebody else's problem.

By the next afternoon, my handyman showed up. He'd had to complete another job first. Our handyman ain't cheap at $65 an hour, but he is good. For this reason, I don't call him very often. But he's the only one I call. He believes as I it right the first time and it'll be easier the next time. When I explained our problem, he felt certain that he could finish in an hour. This was over the phone, mind you. Seeing is believing. He arrived and saw the same mess I did. He changed his estimate to two hours.


The first thing he did was install a circuit breaker mini panel to cut the power to the well in the well house and a light. Doh! I'd already figured to do this when we actually had water in the house. But that's okay, it's done now. He untangled the mess of wire and all those wire nuts to see what was what. Instead of trying to go through everything to get to the switch, he simply cut around it from outside the building and pulled it through. Then he installed the pump switch closer to the door because he couldn't work inside the pump house either. In my mind. I'm hitting myself in the forehead. I could have done that. I was so frustrated that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It turned out that the switch was burned out so it was replaced too.

We finally have water in the house. Yippee! It was well worth the money I paid him. I got my hot shower. But as you know I'm a Murphey and well versed in Murphy's Law. I noticed another problem. The water pressure wasn't what it should have been. By process of elimination, there's only one other thing it could be...the foot valve at the bottom of the well. It means pulling the pipe out of the well and replacing that pump. That means tearing down the pump house and rebuilding. But, I'd already decided to do that this coming summer or fall after dealing with the pump house during this calamity. So we'll be building a 8'x8'x8' pump house. We'll be raising the bladder tank off the dirt too. We're getting too old to play in the dirt and mud. With this new building and the rain catchment system in place, we should have any water woes in the near future, but if we do, we can fix them.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Weather Outside is Frightful...

The weather forecast today, sleet with a strong chance of snow.
Come on. It's a sing-a-long!
 Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Yes, it's winter. Two arctic dips with more to follow until the spring thaw.  But inside it's warm and cozy. Thanks to the church's delivery of a cord of wood. The wood stove is chugging away. Actually, we usually keep at least half a cord on hand all year long.

With the bone chilling, colder weather comes the ever lengthening slew of problems that are associated with age and having lived the life as fully as I have. Arthritis aches with Rice Krispies early awakening (snaps, crackles, and pops) are a daily occurrence. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm just stating facts. Living post stroke only adds to the reality that I ain't even a fall hen anymore. Namely the spasticity worsens as the weather turns frosty. My hands and arms bear the ugly, blackened burn marks from touching the wood stove while loading wood in it one handed. But it's not just me, Mel has her full share too. Oh, to be able to afford a front loading wood stove. Even a used one.

I'm not nearly as cute trying to get up.
Falls happen with more frequency in spite of being extra cautious of how slippery ice and snow are. My new shoes make every piece of imaginary carpet lint a trip hazard. With the Dantrolene causing temperature intolerance (side effect) doesn't help the situation. I find myself shivering when the outside and inside temperatures fall below 60. That's not like me at all. But my pain from the spasticity is definitely more manageable. Unlike the Zanaflex that either zombified me, or had me shedding tears with each spasm. I can always put more clothes on.

So if you are reading this and thinking I'm miserable, don't worry. I'm not. I actually love the winter months. Granted living in south Georgia for decades did thin my blood some, but I really do like the temperature fluctuations here in north Georgia. The Bible talks about all things having a season. This is just that...a change in the seasons of my life. I accept this for what it is. Within a few short years, I'll be a great grandmother. It just is what it is.

Someone has a sick sense of humor
Maybe if I hadn't had my strokes, I'd be fighting against this aging process. You know the mighty IF, but there's no changing what is. As humans, we always look for something to blame or play what-if mind games with ourselves, don't we? The fact is that I had strokes. Yes, I'm still fighting to recover what I lost with each one, but as time marches on, I realize that yes, my life was changed forever, but it is not so bad. I mean things can always be worse. Just thinking about the possible worse is terrifying. It makes me thankful that I'm not in that situation.

The truth is my strokes only marginally changed my direction. I had plans and continued along my desired path with a few adjustments. I'm still doing what I want or need to do. I may have to ask for help on occasion, but that's okay. I didn't get where I am or become who I am without help along the way. Granted now, it may be asking for help in different ways than I did before. "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up." There's someone around that can help me up. This is the major adjustment in my plans instead it only being me and single handed homesteader.

Speaking of helping me up. I've noticed that it is taking me longer and it's harder getting up. Sure getting up after a fall since my strokes has always been problematic, but now, I'm having extreme difficulty rising from standard sofas. In part, I blame the abuse my left (functioning) knee and hip has had to carry the burden since my strokes. I've even noticed a touch of carpal tunnel syndrome in my left (functioning) wrist.  I asked my PT, "what can they do about it now?" I mean think about it. Under normal circumstances, immobilization and/or surgery would be the treatment. But given that it's the only fully functioning limbs I have, it's just out of the question even for a week or longer. Yes, I do know some double amputees that still can do. But as difficult as it has been to figure out how to continue doing has been, to make do with even less is mind boggling even if is only temporary. I just prefer not to.

I asked my therapist what can be done about the atrophying muscles in my right calf. I was told that I'm doing everything I can and should do. While this is comforting, it doesn't change the fact that it is happening. I just have to bide my time until I can get out of my AFO permanently. The fact that it took five years to see the marked changes in my calves, shows the diligence I used with my leg exercises. This atrophy in the calf could also account for my "new" difficulty rising too. It "rapid" onset in the past year can be attributed to the spasticity also. Notice how this is cylindrical in nature this is. So maybe I'm grasping at straws continuing to hope that the people at Emory can help. But for now, some hope is better than none.

So while the weather outside is frightful, I'm cozy and warm inside most of the time. But that in itself can be dangerous, Without the busyness of outdoors, I'm left with too much time to ponder these things. Indoor activities leave my mind idle while my hands are busy with knitting or spinning. Come on. Sing with me. Then my focus can be remembering all the words, enunciating the words correctly, and staying on key.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Happy New Year and a Look Back at 2017

Here's wishing all my readers a happy new year! I pray that 2017 wasn't too rough on you. If it was, then may the coming year truly bless you. Does it still seem as strange to you as it does to me writing 20XX? I still catch myself writing 19XX on the few checks I do write these days. After almost two decades into the new millennium! How sad is that? Maybe I'm regressing. Yeah that sounds better than old fart's disease.

2017 in retrospective...
This blog hit 350,000 page views in 2017. Relearning Something New was the most viewed blog with over 7,500 page views. For the life of me, I don't know why. It's pretty standard of most of my blogs.

2017 was a productive, but unproductive year for me. I made absolutely no forward progress in my stroke recovery. In fact, I regressed due to the increased amount of spasticity. I lost all mobility in my arm, wrist, and fingers and most of my shoulder range of motion. This was truly disheartening. To work so hard at regaining use after the strokes only to lose it all due to brain farts (brain miscommunication to the muscles or electrical misfiring of neurons in the brain).

I finally got frustrated enough, tired of waiting, and maxing out my Botox levels every three months, to stop Botox all together. Not that I was having any adverse reactions, but when you pay so much for something you expect it to work better. The fact was, at 500cc of Botox every three month wasn't improving my mobility. The longevity of the drug was only halfway working after 45 days out of the 90-day cycle in pain management.There HAD to be something else. I'd given it the old college try for 4 years with only limited results. My proactive self kicked in. The risk of dying during any surgery out weighed continuing like this. I consulted a neurosurgeon about permanently ending the cycle.

This in turn led me to Emory University. At my first appointment, the initial fellow hemmed and hawed. He started with the whole disease process line. I wasn't allowing that! I said, it's broke, fix me. He called in his superior. On the Ashworth scale my spasticity was rated 5 out of 5. It's more like cerebral palsy rather than post stroke spasticity, he explained. Doh! Tell me something I didn't know. In speaking to the stroke team over a couple of appointments and a bunch of tests, they feel confident they can restore my arm back to the lower spasticity gains that I had two years ago. That means a reduction in pain, mobility in my shoulder, elbow and I might even get my index finger and thumb back again. I'd worked too hard recovering that much and they see no reason for me not to continue recovering in spite of my spasticity. It was an angelic choir singing praises. The possibility of neurosurgery is still in the mix, but it will be later in 2018. I'm not sure what all this entails. I'll keep you posted. But at least, there is renewed hope of a solution rather than treading water waiting to drown.

In 2017, my Medicare kicked in finally five years post first stroke. This, in turn, opened a whole new can of worms with my other medical insurance because I'm a few years short of age 65. The Human Resources office at the college was trying to work this out. Finally, success!!! My medical insurance premiums dropped to a little over $100 a month (a $250 a month reduction). Sounds better, huh? The over payments for all these months will pay my bill for the first quarter of 2018. A good thing with the new year's deductions.

It seems that not only can my beloved cause policy changes at the college but I can too. My husband had three months worth of vacation time and 6 months worth of sick leave on the books when he was no longer able to work because of his illness. Talk about a headache for the college! They couldn't fire or replace him until the time was off the books. The policy is now changed. And now, the pre-65 clause in our medical insurance is history too. It pays to be pro-active and self advocating.

The absolute best thing about all of this is that I'm now within the university system for medical care. The university system picks up the tab that insurance doesn't cover. This is important because a new year means new deductibles are due for both Medicare and my private insurance. The almighty buck is important on a fixed income. I'm just thankful.

Here's praying that I no longer have difficulty in getting my diabetic, orthotic, specialty shoes in 2018. Lord knows, they put me through the wringer in 2017. But at least if I do have difficulty, I have a back up pair of shoes now. A new friend of mine, via YouTube, had a suggestion for me. A sample of the Purple seat cushion. She just ordered one. The sample is a 2"x 2" square of the product. Just the perfect size to go between my AFO and my foot to add extra cushioning when my foot attempts to develop a pressure sore. I still have days when I'm on my feet a lot. When walking sloping or uneven sidewalks at festivals and events, there's very few places I can sit and rest my foot. These are pressure sore danger times. Even with the padding Hanger put into my AFO, and two pair of thick socks and 4 x4 padding that I do, I just do too much. But then again, I'm trying to enjoy my life to the fullest living post stroke as much as possible. She emailed me that she ordered one for me after our conversation. Could it be that my foot pressure sores are history? I'll have to let you know.

The home and property on our homestead got some much needed upgrades too. A new rabbitry/barn/food storage building, a new and regraveled driveway, and plumbing and electrical work. A virgin quarter of an acre was cleared and terraced for our planned orchard, and a new deck complete with ramp access into the house was also built by outsourced labor. A new rabbitry and chicken hoop houses were built. All the gutters have grates on them so we can harvest the rain water. No more compost and baby trees growing in the gutters. So it's been a busy year on the homestead front. All thanks to the sale of my property in south Georgia. Sometimes, you just have to spend the big bucks to make life easier and more accessible. It was money well spent. At least now it's all done and we look forward to having many years of pleasure and profit from it all.

My children are still barely speaking to me after a year and a half of moving up here. Oh well. I had to do what I did to be happy and I am except in this one area. Life's too short to dwell on such things.

No new major accomplishments for 2017. I've just been honing what I have relearned and doing it better. Although I did make my first hard cheese to stretch my repertoire in cooking and preserving. I canned and put by more produce than I have in years past except when I was raising my children. I'm enjoying my end of 2017 by not having to go out shopping. I "shop" instead in my freezer or food storage building once a week. In fact, I'd never leave this homestead, other than pleasure, if it wasn't for doctor and therapy appointments. Yes, it's still physical not mental therapy sessions. I like it like this. I  don't miss the go, go lifestyle I had in the city.

2018, like the beginning of each year, holds the promise and expectations of starting things anew. Revamping our little vegetable and herb gardens into a adaptive gardener's heaven is definitely an open promise. The seeding of rabbit yummies in the orchard, and berries and grapes this year also is open to expectations. The first harvest of our own fruits to make wine is another...not that I drink it, but I love the process of making it. Mel loves wine so again we balance. I made four gallons worth in 2017. Clearing more trees for firewood and allowing much needed sunlight into growing areas is slated for 2018. Maybe even dairy goats (dwarf variety). If nothing else building an area for them. I refuse to buy livestock that don't have proper areas set up for them. It will give me a new challenge in 2019...yogurt, butter, cheese making.

Life is what you make it...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas and a RIP

Image result for merry christmas imagesI wanted to wish y'all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Once again this year has flown by. Why does it seem that time flies by at break neck speeds the older you get? I find it hard to bbelieve that it's once again Christmas.

Was it just a month ago that we were busy in the orchard with temperatures almost 70 degrees. It's down right blustery outside now. If you are going outside, you better at least have a sweatshirt or sweater on. Brr!

I'm actually down in south Georgia this week celebrating the holiday with my family. I left Mel with all the fixings for a prime rib dinner. All's she has to do is place it in the oven or place the steaks on the grill. Down here, it's still t-shirt weather. Aren't you jealous? What a difference from my mountain homestead. Just driving across the state, I had to stop midway and shed my sweater.

I hope y'all have a good one with full bellies, and plenty of good cheer.

You remember me telling y'all about Logan, the cat, right? How he was leaving presents for me long before Christmas. Well, I caught him mid squat in the hallway a few mornings ago. Not too long after I'd cleaned up his last presents for me. I yelled and kicked at him. Don't worry I wasn't even close to hitting him. I must have made my point because he high-tailessed, he's a Manx, out the pet door outside.

As much as I get irritated by him, he's pretty handy to have around as a service cat. He was a purring glucometer. He learn this by being with his previous owner, Mel's mother. She was an insulin dependent diabetic. Upon her death, Mel inherited the cat. He would warn her if her blood sugar was too high or low. How did he do this? He sniffed her breath. He took his job very seriously. But he didn't stop there. He had to sniff everyone's breath that came in. He would pester and yowl until he did. If your blood sugar was fine, he'd rub you and want to be petted, or he'd just leave you alone. If your blood sugar was too high or too low, he'd bite you. Not hard at first. Just hard enough to get your attention. If you ignored him, he'd continue getting more intense as time went on. He'd often sense my blood sugar an hour before I started feeling symptoms that my blood sugar levels were off.

Image result for brrrAnyhow, it wasn't until much later, I noticed he wasn't with the other cats on or by the breakfast table by the wood stove. In winter, the cats and dogs all pick their favorite spots for optimum warmth. Concerned, I asked Mel if she'd seen him. Her answer...not since mid morning. I was concerned, but not concerned enough to go out in after dark temperature fall off. The low was in the 30s. He was old enough to come in from the cold.

The next morning, still no Logan. I'm really concerned now and we both bundled up and looked for him in the light of day. We found his body by the wood shed. We have no idea what the cause of his death was. I'll miss him. Now I have to put batteries in my glucometer. I haven't had to use it since I've been here except to double check the cat. The cat was never wrong. RIP Logan.

Nothing is impossible.