Monday, June 29, 2015

Kefir- Diagnosis Update

Kefir, photo credit

After three weeks of treatment for my ulcerative proctitis, I have made only 
marginal improvements but the symptoms persist.  I have to begin a maintenance 
program with the medication now plus have another appointment in late July.

In the meantime I was communicating to my doctor through the healthcare
portal and explained how my symptoms had stopped at one time, until my family 
doctor prescribed a Zpack antibiotic when I came down with a sinus infection.
As soon as I took the first two pills it flared up again.  Since it was antibiotics
that caused the flare up I thought perhaps it killed off all that good bacteria
in my gut.  He agreed, it wouldn't hurt to try.

The easiest thing was to pick some up at the store to see which type I 
liked the best.  In my smaller store there was only cherry and plain, other stores 
will carry multiple flavors and formats.  There is regular kefir, organic, frozen, Greek style, vegie, kefir cheese and flavors within these categories.  Mine is Cherry.- 
you can link to its info here.  There are also recipes at this site that include dips and
marinades, breads and salads plus lots more.

I can tell you that it tastes like drinking a thick yogurt (but has twice the live and active cultures).   I prefer the light yogurt and dislike the new Greek style.  It's just a texture thing. I like thin milkshakes and ice cream as well.  Most people would like this a lot. It is tart, very cherry tasting, just like my thin cherry yogurt but thick.
You drink a cup a day or you can drizzle it over granola, cereals, make smoothies
or anything else you'd like make out of it.  For me, I just drink it.

Yesterday was my first day and I'm just finishing up another cup today.
In a few days I'll see how I'm doing.  I'll try some different flavors too, 
I think I'd like the blueberry.
I think I'd like it layered in yummy granola, maybe with whipped cream on
the top- but don't think I'll be adding those calories to my diet!  LOL

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Potato Tower

The potato tower has been in place for a couple of years
but only a few layers deep.  We never dissembled it to
get the potatoes but rather just dug down and harvested as needed
leaving the smaller ones as seed potatoes for the next season.

This year we added more compost as the vines grew with a couple extra board
layers.  As the vines emerge you just keep covering them almost to the top
with more dirt/straw/compost or a combination.  Our neighbors used
all straw while ours was dirt and then only compost from that point.  Ours
look better but we may have different varieties; however, I think our 
compost makes the difference.  As you cover the vines new potatoes
begin to grow so you end up with layers and layers of potatoes.

Once they flower and the vines die, you
begin taking off the boards to harvest.  There is no
digging in the ground and we don't do any weeding.
We'll see how they produced in this very wet Spring and beginnings of Summer.

We've covered the top to keep raccoon from digging, they must like
potatoes too or just the bugs that burrow into the compost.

Next to the potatoes we have a small side garden where we typically grow
the early radish and salad greens and then move on to some cherry tomatoes
and beans and regular greens.  This year has not been the best but we do have 
a few tomato plants and one green pepper. I hope they start producing more
once we see the sun again.  There is horseradish in another raised bed and it
 seems to be taking off well.

We don't even have the big garden started due to
the very soggy conditions.  There are a couple of blackberry plants and one
elderberry growing but nothing else besides weeds.
Maybe we can get a fall crop in soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


We don't have many vegetable crops in due to soggy conditions but anything producing fruit or berries is truly enjoying the season.

The blackberries are doing very well with the unusual amount of rain we have been having.  I planted a couple varieties last year which seem to be taking off.  This one has larger berries but fewer of them.  There are no thorns on this variety so I'm hoping to get berries before anything else does.  I really can't eat the seeds so my end result will be jelly or sorbet.  There is evidence of bugs but I don't see extensive damage on them.

The other variety is a more compact berry and it has spread outside of it's raised box.  My husband put cattle panels to tie up the arching branches but we may need another row to support the plants that grew from rooted vines that sprawled away from the fence.

Our lone elderberry (Bob Gordon) is blooming.  There is a field of them
about a mile or two up the road, planted by a new elderberry farmer
who has planted several varieties.  I'm hoping to see the pollination benefits from his rows.  The blooms smell magnificent.

The mimosa is as large as its ever been and stating to bloom with the most sweet smelling flowers.  My neighbor has a very large pair at the top of our drive and you can smell it as you come close.  After the storm several of the flowers were thrown onto the road, still sweet smelling so I picked up a few so Taylor could have a nice whiff.

And finally, a volunteer mulberry where I can let it grow without
running into our coop or rooting under our front porch deck.  Hopefully this one will give us mulberies in years to come.  I am hoping to get a paw paw but I don't think I can provide the amount of water they need in addition to the lighting conditions.
They like to be in the shade for a couple of years and then full sun plus get plenty of water.  It's a tree I've wanted since I was a kid.  In fact, I want an entire patch of them.  They grow here but mostly by the creek beds and I've only seen one fruit but it was not on my property so I didn't get to taste it.

Today, between rain shows, we have to put another row of boards on our
potato tower.  They are growing faster than we can bury the new stems. With luck we'll have plenty of potatoes for the season!

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Soggy Birthday

(click to enlarge)

A Soggy Birthday

On the day I turned 56 the skies poured down relentlessly, submerging our county road and creating great roaring rivers out of hillside culverts. Gravel drives stretched across pavement where temporary waterfalls spilled over the outer edge.  With one bridge already washed away from last month's storms, the detour for those on the other side is no longer accessible other than via boat.  A long journey now longer, if at all.  Surely we will hear of emergency water rescues when someone decides the water is not too deep if they simply drive faster.   

Fortunately for me, our alternate exit was comparatively dry or as dry as one would expect while in the remnants of a hurricane or tropical depression as it is now referred to.  I drove slowly while the wipers swished oceans of rain across the windshield and cautiously studied how deep the culverts were getting or would be within the next hour or so.  I was meeting my husband at Denny's for my traditional birthday breakfast, the famous Grand Slam, with over hard eggs, hash browns, crispy bacon and pancakes that I failed to finish.  

We met for a late breakfast, more brunch, during what I thought was a momentary break in the weather, until I pulled out of the garage -which must have been the signal to release even more buckets of rain.  The garage cat eyed the downpour before hiding beneath the work bench, preferring to curl up in relative dryness, away from wiggling worms evacuating their homes in the grey mud bubbling up from our limestone gravel.  They stretch out in font of the garage door, crawling in and eventually drying up in crispy, thin curls which I will eventually sweep back into the gravel drive along with the carcasses of small, black ants that march in a solitary line to the cat dish.  Regardless of what the song says, they don't seem to march down, into the ground, to get out of the rain, boom, boom, boom, boom.  Rather, they somehow climb through the back door and onto my tile, two stories up and eat my grout leaving bits of sand at the back door and a trench where the grout once rested. 
The ants must die.

My daughter and granddaughter called, wanting to know if we would meet for dinner out.  No, not tonight. I am already soggy from the rain, full from Denny's and the water is still rising.  Maybe another time.  Tonight I think I'll live it up by sitting in my recliner in my comfy V neck T-shirt (pink) and black soft pants.  I'll get a light throw, something to drink and maybe a birthday treat.  We'll watch some tv and go to bed early because when you're young you want to party all night but now a days, sleeps sure sounds good!  

I hope you enjoy the photo. I walked up to get the mail and found these two bugs in my solitary day lily. I don't know if they are friends or will battle over ownership but they never seemed to notice me.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Diagnosis

It's almost my birthday and it sure is hard to get old!

I was just diagnosed with ulcerative proctitis, a chronic autoimmune disorder 
that causes inflammation in the lower six inches or the colon, 
leading all sorts of uncomfortable conditions such as bloating,bleeding and 
a lot of ugly stuff.  It is one of the Inflammatory Bowel Disorders in the same
 family but not as severe as ulcerative colitis.  
(This is not IBS, irritable bowel syndrome).
The body tries to heal itself by creating inflammation but goes overboard
which results in all the symptoms.  For me it's more very uncomfortable rather
than horribly painful, no sharp pain at all but a pain the the patootie nevertheless.

There is no known cause, other than it is typically hereditary and if not
the same disorder, something else autoimmune.  Also, while stress does not cause
it, stress contributes to the severity of the symptoms.  So, even if there
was no stress before, now the stress is wondering if it will ever clear up
and I can go back to normal, or as normal as I ever was!

My gastroenterologist sat with me for an hour during a follow up visit
after I had my a colonoscopy.  He explained everything, drew pictures,
went over my actual photos taken during the colonoscopy and calculated
my typical fiber intake by reviewing the last couple days of meals.
(I was thinking of adding my colonoscopy photo to Facebook, 
Can you imagine reading:  "Kathy changed her profile pictureEwwwww!)

Now I have known I have diverticulosis for a few years. He tells me everyone
will eventually have it but it just depends on how old you are when it becomes 
a problem. It's where little pockets form in your colon and can capture bits of
hard material such as seeds or nuts, leading to infection and inflammation.
Their newest theory is to not worry about what you eat but I know I can never
eat popcorn again and most nuts.  I've been in terrible pain in the past and would 
prefer to avoid it in the future. This led me to shy away from a lot of whole
grains and fibrous foods.  That; however, does not work well with 
my IBD problem.  So we changed my diet.

I have to eat between 12-15 grams of dietary fiber daily, either
from supplements such as Citrucel or from counting the grams
in certain foods.  He provided me with a list of many foods that 
have a good fiber content so I have been tracking it daily using
13.5 as an average intake.  To the side I have added a column to say
how I am feeling, hoping to pick up a pattern.   You can see I 
am ahead of goal so have some wiggle room if I want to vary
from the items I have chosen.  Animal products- meat or dairy- has no
dietary fiber but I can eat an egg in the morning but may pair it
with a one small oatmeal packet or later in the morning, a 
Fiber One oatmeal cookie which is loaded with fiber and delicious. 

I have found that this diet makes me full.  I don't snack a lot
other than the fiber cookie or bar that I schedule in the day.

Some that suffer from colitis are put on oral medications but they can't treat
mine that way so for three weeks (!!!!) I have to use a medicated enema which
is done at night where afterward you have to lie down for hours 
so bedtime is the best time.
Yes, I have to do this myself and it is not easy!
Thankfully, I have insurance because the medication retail value
is $450 for 3 weeks, and you might need a second set of treatments.
I can't imagine.

I keep telling myself that it could be MUCH worse.
This could require other solutions but rarely ever turns into cancer.
I have also found several other people who have similar problems,
some are my co-workers and I had no idea. Not that I want
them to feel bad but it's nice to be able to discuss it and what
works well for others.  I tend to tell my boss and co-workers
everything so in case something happens, someone at work will
know what is going on with me.  

To complicate matters, after my leg problem where I pulled
ligaments, now the opposite foot is killing me, having a large
lump in the middle of the top of my foot.  It is either arthritis 
from all this darned rain (it will never quit, will it?) or I have
stressed the good leg too much when it was compensating for the bad.

I believe I need to travel to England and go to one of those
rehabilitation centers you see in vintage movies where they are
wrapped in warm blankets, stretched out on chaises lined across porches 
that overlook the sea.  They would bring me tea
and some of those nice cucumber sandwiches on rye
that have capers and thinly sliced onions topped with a dressing.
Yes, that is exactly what I need but with my luck, it would turn
into an Agatha Christie novel and I would discover the body in my
closet!  Sigh.

Next steps-
I will be going to Denny's on my birthday for that Grand Slam breakfast,
even if I have to use my husband's boat to get there through the 
heavy rains that are expected during the next couple of days.
You see, the free breakfast, which has become my birthday
tradition, is only good ON your birthday.  Not the day before or after.
So, breakfast and coffee it is.  I'll not make my fiber goal on Friday!

After that, I'll worry about healing.
I need a break
or a frozen mango margarita*!

(*only from On The Border restaurant which they do not have here)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Orange You Glad It's Spring?

I think there's a pattern here!
Orange blossoms are popping up all over.
It's sort of like the time we decided to paint the kitchen
at the old house.  After I took down all the nicknacks, I discovered
that I collected chickens!  I had no idea.
This is in the days before coops and tractors.
It must have been a sign.
Like all this orange.
The pretty milkweed is blooming among bee balm and the other natives.

We get pretty red and black bugs that congregate on them plus 
butterflies that are the exact color of the blooms, not monarchs,
but orange and brownish ones that flutter in groups and
hardly mind if you try to let one land on your finger.

Many of you have seen the Red Hot Poker plants
in our garden wall. They are spreading and showing up
in several areas now.  They will soon start losing their blooms
but while they are here we get to enjoy how unusual they are.

I have always loved the marigolds: big ones,
small ones, yellow, red and multi colored ones.
Some people can't stand them but I try to plant them 
in with the vegetables to keep pests away.  It's been 
pretty wet here so not many veges in the ground yet 
other than tomatoes and peppers plus our potato tower
and a new bed of horseradish.

Wild daisies appeared in front of the frog pond and 
spilling over the garden wall.  There are large patches
at the edge of the woods along with bushes with great
white blooms.  It's been a long, long spring, perfect
for the flowers.

I saw this pretty butterfly early in the morning.
I watched as it fluttered from bloom to bloom.

It was soon joined by a bumble, just to the lower right of it's wings.
They bumped into each other from time to time.

We have a big weekend in store for us.
I am going to introduce Taylor to the sewing machine,
we have more mulch to add to the potato tower,
we might fly Taylor's drone and my husband
has some serious antenna work to do for his ham club.
Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Camera - Nikon D3200 DSLR

My husband said he had to have a serious discussion with me,
he had to make a decision and wanted to know if I wanted
to be surprised or have some say in it.
Oh, oh.  That sounds like a huge red flag to me!
Never fear, it was not a bad thing.

He reminded me that my birthday is coming up in June
and he'd been putting money aside to give me a great present.
I started thinking about some of his "great" choices from years past:
the matching set of trash cans, on wheels to make it easier for me
to get them to the curb probably leads the list.

It's something you have been wanting, he says.

I start thinking.
No, he couldn't have saved up $10k for a used long arm quilting machine.
What else did I want?
Oh, a camera?

(Click to enlarge, they will look better).

I have wanted a nice camera ever since I was a kid.
Not your normal point and click, but a SLR with multiple lenses.
My husband has had one since he was 16 or 17 and it was fantastic.
Now, you can hardly use them since everything went digital. The 
paper and chemicals needed for his dark room are extremely expensive now.
So he saved up and waited for great sales on a DSLR.

Apparently everyone else knew this was coming except me
and I had to get it early, before the great sale was over.
We purchased a Nikon D3200 DSLR that came with two 
lenses, a free class and a coupon for 100 free prints.
I came as a kit so it has a bag as well and we purchased some
extras like lens protectors and a polarized filter.

I have to reduce these for size because Blogger sets limits
so you really can't see how great these look full size.
Even the reduced files look better on my computer than
when I post on Blogger.

It has an auto setting which will do all the work for me
and manual (shooting RAW) that saves all the data recorded
by the sensor when you take the picture. You get better photos
and can adjust it to remove any flaws and control brightness
and contract better than when it's compressed into a JPEG automatically.

In this photo the jar is crystal clear but images are out of focus
in the background, softening it.    Some day I want to get a macro lens,
something that will show the hairs on a grasshopper's legs.
In the meantime, I'll be reading up and practicing with settings as I 
learn to shoot manual settings.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Saving Bacon Grease

If it were not for bacon I could almost be a vegetarian.
Not only do I love bacon but we also save the grease,
storing it in the refrigerator in a mason jar.  

I spread a little bit in a skillet to fry eggs in the morning before work.
I also use it to brown diced chicken breast for quesadillas, giving it
that extra something without actually adding bacon to the mix. My husband
may put a little into the green beans rather than using a slice of bacon. 
He'll use it when frying hamburgers and most anything else because
what could be better than bacon?

The price of bacon has skyrocketed if you have not noticed.  We have 
been purchasing it in bulk and then dividing it into vacuum seal bags
and freezing it.  It comes in a box and may not be perfect pieces
but it is about $2/pound.  If you look at the price at bacon in the 
store, you get less than a pound for $5-6 and it is still fatty.

Do you save your bacon grease?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Woods are Thick

The woods are thick this year.  This is the view from my
back deck looking to the side yard.  We have had such a 
long, cool, wet Spring that the trees and grasses have 
taken off.  Typically we might see the deer strolling by as
they munch on leaves or the opossum and raccoon creeping
by the brush piles but this year you can see only thick greenery,  

The chickens have plenty of shade.  The string you see in the photo
is part of the guy wires that hold up my husband's ham radio
antenna.  The birds enjoy sitting on them, in fact the 
hummingbirds rest there awaiting their turn at the feeder.

This is one of his antennas.  He has his Extra Ticket
now so he is authorized to use all the privileges afforded 
ham radio operators.  As a whole, there are only
about 130,000 + or- hams that have this, out of 750,000 
ham radio operators in the US.  It required a great deal 
of study with heavy math and electrical theory.

The hedge rose is covered in sweet smelling blooms
but I am forever picking worms off the bushes and plants.
They are having a great spring too, along with the weeds.

Wild catnip is popping up among the clover.
It's surprising that the cats don't seem attracted to 
it while it's growing. I have to tear off leaves and 
crush them before they notice.  And they REALLY notice!

We're down to three cats now plus one that wants to 
live here but is too aggressive for my girls.  I feel 
sorry for it because it is obviously abandoned, probably
a house cat that someone dumped or couldn't find when
they moved.  I try to leave some food for it but the
raccoons beat him to it most of the time. If he can
get along with our girls he is welcome to stay.  We 
don't have a male to protect them now that Spot is gone,

We will have more rain this weekend.  Our tomato leaves are 
turning yellow due to the moisture and I have not gotten the 
big garden in at all.  My knee has improved so I'm up for
more activity although I can't kneel or stress it too much.
It is nice to not use the walker at work but it was sure 
convenient for hauling around my laptop and notebooks!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Whizbang Chicken Plucker

 Have you seen the Whizbang Chicken Plucker on line
and wondered if it is all they say it is?  I can assure you
that it is and we will be processing our own meat birds
as we move forward with increasing the flock. 

My husband's boss built from the plans in
Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker
by Herrick Kimball.  Tom welded the plate on the bottom which 
spins while the rubber fingers do their job.  All the specialty parts can
be ordered on line.  I have a link to the website below.

We don't have the motor attached while it sits outside; however,
it bolts to the side of the frame and uses a power cord connected
to a switch which is attached to one of the side posts.

After scalding, but not yet cleaning the chicken, you
turn on the plucker and drop 2-4 chickens inside while 
spraying water into the tub.  As the chickens spin around
inside the tub, the fingers will pull out the feathers which 
will be washed out the gap at the bottom, all in a few seconds,
about 15-20 seconds.
When the chickens are plucked you turn off the power.

This contains the complete instructions for making the plucker 
and instructions on how to process the chickens. There are also
tips on scalding and cleaning as well.