Monday, December 31, 2012

So long, 2012

Here we are at the end of another year.

It's not been the best of years here at the manse, both personally and the Sanctuary.  But it's not been the worse year either.

Mother's vision degraded to the point where it was not safe for her to drive, so there have been adjustments there, both emotionally and logistically.

Spring promised so much, then summer brought extreme heat, drought.  And there were the d^mned deer who devastated plants and shrubs.  Between the 3, very little came out of the veg beds and many blooming plants never got a chance to do there thing this season, what with a lot of them being eaten down - repeatedly.

The ones that did bloom (zins, agastaches, butterfly bushes, asters (when protected), salvias (up by the house) and larspurs attracted lots of bees.  In fact with the odd warm spring, even honeybees appeared as early as April!  After that I noticed fewer as the drought wore on.

The drought did prompt me, though, to finally clean out and install my 6 55-gallon drums.  They made a huge difference in what I could water this past year, saving me having to use my well water.  But though I did water, it couldn't compensate for the extreme heat.  For instance, the tomatoes went 2 months without setting fruit because they wouldn't flower at those temps.  Or when they did flower, those buds just dropped off.  13 plants didn't give me even 2 bushels of toms this season.  

Mother's cash flow problems (her own doing) kept (and keep) me running on cortisol and adrenalin for most of the year and there's no end in sight.  She refuses to change her ways so I'm resigned to letting her crash and burn and then pick up the pieces.  So frustrating.

Little progress was made in the gardens, although I did get 3 raised beds installed back by the golf course (soil & trek boards removed from Mother's house - those beds had become too much for her to deal with) and have also staked out/mulched an inner arc to the North end of the ring bed. I'm hoping to be able to fence in both crescent beds to keep out the deer next year.

I tried new things this year, too.  I found out I really LIKE dry cider and learned how to ferment my own.  I'm exploring cooking/baking with grain flours other than wheat.   I found a new favorite veg - Tuscan kale and am enjoying it frequently in many dishes.  What next?  I'm going to make up a batch of laundry soap.  (Yep, I'm on a roll.)

And, alas, I'm getting older.  I hurt my back this fall harvesting/mulching/moving leaves.  I never let it get better and continued to abuse it.  While I've been diligent this past month exercising and stretching and thinking twice before doing any heavy duty work,  it's no longer the back of a 40-year-old.  *sigh*  I'm not sure how this is going to shake out.

Then there's this current health issue and a Christmas in the ER.   No diagnosis, unfortunately.

Still, I'm so much better off right now than a lot of other unfortunate folks this end-of-year.  I have a warm house, a full 'fridge, working car, no debt, all my faculties (I guess) and - believe it or not - what I consider general good health (current mystery notwithstanding).  Most of all,  let's not overlook my supportive friends (real and virtual (you lovely blog buddies - you know who you are!)).

So, like the Mayans and their ancient calendar, we tuck away another year (or b'ak'tun).  Now we look forward to the next -- probably with apprehension on so many issues (personally, politically, economically, socially, environmentally, globally, etc.).  We live in fearful times, my dears.  All I can suggest is live responsibly, laugh loud and love often.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Scary Christmas and a Crappy New Year

Winter storm FREYR

Christmas was scary this year. I woke up Tuesday morning and found that the entire left side of my body was numb - from the top of my head down to my toes. After fretting about it for a couple of hours, I called my GP and she told me to get to the emergency room right away. Well, okay. But I wasn't enthused about it. Luckily my neighbor was home and he drove me there.

Long story short, after 5 HOURS in the ER waiting for a doctor, I was admitted for observation and discharged the next day. All they did was rule out stroke and heart attack. As for the continuing random numbness? "You'll have to follow up with your own doctor...." My doctor, of course, didn't know WHAT to make of it so she had sent me to the hospital, remember? They didn't care. Hospitals today aren't like on TV. They don't really seem to care about sick people.

The numbness is random all over my body and usually occurs when I'm either sleeping or resting/sitting down. While I'm active I seem to be okay. Tuesday morning I was scared to death. I'm still scared, but right now I'm just flippin' angry at the cavalier attitude the hospital showed for my condition. They couldn't discharge me fast enough after they ruled out stroke. Heck, they didn't even bother to wheel me off the floor and downstairs like they used to. Nope. I had to carry all my stuff and hoof it out of the hospital myself. For a hospital named MERCY, it sure didn't have much of THAT to go around. Pah!

So now I have to pursue this issue on my own. My doctor suggests a neurologist take a look. Or an endocrinologist. Or some other -ologist. Can she recommend someone?  No.  %$#@*!

Why stop there? Why not a faith healer or witch doctor?  How can they be any worse than our great American medical profession?  *sigh*  Well, at least I'm angry.  Angry is better than being scared any day of the week.  Christmas was a bust and the New Year is not starting out well.

Oh look.  Another winter storm to clean up after to boot.  Euclid socked me at the hospital and it needed a neighbor with a jeep to get me home.  Freyr (who comes up with these winter storm NAMES?) dumped 6" of snow last night.  I've been digging out since this morning.  Oh well, I'm sure the exercise is good for me, right?  One thing for sure, I won't be asking advice from any d^mn doctor!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A post-apocalyptic post

I went to bed last night, but forgot to set my alarm clock to 5:30, so I  totally missed the Mayan Apocalypse.   Dang!   I always seem to miss the big stuff.

Is everyone okay?  Was anyone hurt?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Of more concern is winter storm Draco with its high winds, rain-turning-to-snow and cold temps.  The roads are icy this morning and, unfortunately, I actually have to go out for a doctor's appointment soon.  Brrr.

Stay safe if you're out driving and doing your last-minute holiday shopping.  After all, most of us know that the REAL apocalypse comes in January - when the bills come in.  ;-D

Friday, December 14, 2012


I'd been reminded several times on the news that the geminids meteor shower was going to peak last night (Dec 13-14).  Usually this time of year there is snow on the ground and clouds in the sky.  But not this time.  For the past 2 days a high pressure system has swept the skies to crystal clear (and COLD!).

While I knew the peak hours were supposed to be between midnight and 4 a.m., the eastern sky was totally dark by 6:30 p.m. so I headed to the unheated upstairs bedroom and looked out the east-facing windows.  Yep.  Castor and Pollax (the twins) were just visible through bare tree branches.  (I shivered.  The room was only 48F and much colder by the window.) The meteors should radiate from that point in the sky.  Maybe I could come back later, before bed, and check things out.  Yep.  Later.  (Brrr. I could practically see my breath, it was so cold.)   Just as I was turning away from the window a whopper of a shooting star streaked across the sky.  WOW!

Nest - morning after
The heck with that *later* thing.  Next thing I knew I'd layered on a couple of sweaters and a new knit cap, gathered up a pile of pillows and quits, and buried myself in warm nest right under that cold bedroom window and settled back for the show.

I watched for over an hour, got terribly stiff, went back downstairs for hot tea and a stretch, then came back.  While they'd forecasted a peak show after midnight, I enjoyed quite a few (How many?  I didn't count or take pics - I was there just to enjoy.) very showy meteors.  Far more than I've ever seen at one sitting in my day.

Near midnight the show slowed down.  So much so that I couldn't keep awake, so, I headed downstairs and went to bed.   I don't know if the 'peak' show was up to predictions or not.

2012 Geminids meteor shower - pic from the web
This morning, around six, I was on the laptop when I thought -- still dark.  Hmmm.  I turned off the front outside light, went out on the front stoop (which faced west).  Yep.  Even with all the tree branches, I could see Castor and Pollox in the sky.  And, there!  Right where I was looking.  A bright blaze behind the hickory. What a great way to start your day! :-D

There will still be some shooting stars to see tonight as the earth moves past the debris field, so if you didn't see any last night, you might get lucky this evening.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So I lied

Fueled by sunshine and cider, I went out today and got in one last project after all.

Click the pic for the whole story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'll just leaf them alone

Finally, one of the sweet gum trees let go its leaves.  The other is trying hard to hold fast.  The mower/bagger is retired for the season so these leaves will have to fend for themselves this winter.  Not much actually under the trees; a sustained stiff wind from the south has blown a ton of them into the neighbor's lawn.

Que sera sera.

The wind has also blown down a lot of branches (I picked up a 4x4 foot pile) - part and parcel of having large mature trees. 

A couple of dead ash branches were festooned with stunning lichen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Taking a walk this winter

Dr. Oz will have Dr. William Davis on his show Monday, December 3, 2012.

Davis said that the wheat we eat these days isn't the wheat your grandma had: "It's an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the '60s and '70s," he said on CBS.

and that

Modern wheat is a "perfect, chronic poison."

Today's wheat, he said, is responsible for a lot of diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol and blood pressure, bowel problems, headaches, inflammation, overweight, lack of sleep, etc. etc.   Click HERE for an article.


To that effect I've been reading up on wheat genetics, gluten varieties (not all created equal), alternative flours, medical articles, etc. and have come to my own conclusion.

I'm walking away from modern wheat.

And not just because of Davis's book Wheat Belly, but from my own experience.

I've gone carb-free on a couple of occasions (which, obviously meant  no wheat and, at that time, bread/pasta was my primary carb of choice) in the past and as I recall my cholesterol, triglycerides, sugar and blood pressure dropped (heck, plummeted!).  But I'd done the carb-free thing for weight loss and, since I got to where I wanted weight-wise, I brought back the carbs (including wheat).  After that, the weight has crept back up.  Same with the others for which I now take meds.

Well, gosh.  Guess I didn't learn the right lesson from the carb-free diet.  Oh well, better late than never.  I'm in my mid-60s and have a couple more decades left (I hope).  Still time to turn myself around and walk away from modern wheat.

I say walking because going cold turkey would only invite distress.  First off, it's hard to get away from modern wheat which is pervasive, like corn sugar.  Secondly, modern wheat is, apparently, addictive so no sense going straight into withdrawal.

No, my plan is to start finding ways to start replacing modern wheat in my diet.  Unlike some folks who are totally allergic to glutens, I am not, so I am free to seek out alternative grain/glutens to add to my diet as I subtract the bad wheat.

Winter is upon us and it's a great time to read, research further, and experiment in the kitchen.  My goal is to create modern wheat free items to replace:

Bread.  Not the normal sandwich slicing bread.  But something for dunking in soup, sopping up sauces, a platform for pizza.  Something probably in the flatbread area.

Pasta.  Even today's 'multi-grain' pasta are mostly wheat.  I will look for 'legacy' grain products: spelt or bulgar (older, unmodified wheats), etc.

Thickening.  I will not use wheat for thickening and will switch entirely to cornstarch and arrowroot.  Barley is also nice.

I found a good website (<= click) that lists a myriad of wheat-free and gluten-free flours.  I'll be visiting it regularly this winter as I  see what's what.

I'm also lucky that we have a natural foods store nearby so I'll be checking out their grains/flour selections.

Bottom line - watch my "Chef's Table"  blog (listed on top of right sidebar) for posts labeled "wheat-free" as I look for other grains, existing products  or create my own.  I have written up a baseline for myself.  Luckily I'd just had blood work on Nov 12  to check my liver enzymes (because I take a statin for cholesterol) so that will come in handy when I get the blood rechecked in 6 mos.  I'll also keep a "How am I feeling?" journal to monitor joint pain, sleep patterns, moods, appetite, energy, etc.

I'm expecting only good things in the end.  Feel like joining me for (even a brief) walk this winter?