Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Regular readers, you have been so patient to wait for new posts here during my long hiatus.  For those of you who have checked in with me via email and posts here, I am grateful.  I’m still here.  There’s been a lot of good in the past several months but also a great deal of sadness, and as time has gone on I’ve been overwhelmed with how to begin.

First, let me say that no humans to which I’m deeply attached are gone.  Mr. Homesteader had a little cancer scare that lasted for three months, but it was mostly scary because his doctor hyped his reaction to a test result and because I was so worn out from the summer.  I did spend most of the summer, from late May onward, in and out of hospitals with a dear relative, who has made a near miraculous recovery through his sheer will (and a really good orthopedic doctor who did emergency spine surgery over Memorial Day weekend and then helped get the patient into one of the best rehab centers in the region).  I have a lot to say about how a family member can survive in such situations, and in time I’ll say it.

I also more recently had experience caring for a relative whose dementia–probably Alzheimer’s–was much more advanced than we realized when we scheduled her visit.  My beloved grandfather died from complications of Alzheimer’s, so I knew what to do, but the time involved in caring for her during her visit was not something I anticipated.  I’ll need to do a post on that as well, because dementia care can be fraught with danger and frustration, if you aren’t prepared for it.

As for the animals, well, those are the longer stories.  We have more chickens than we had when I last posted–a net gain of two–only when I say net gain, I mean that some are gone.  I’ve learned hard lessons in chicken raising.  I’ve done a lot of things right.  I built a gorgeous chicken tractor myself that I can’t wait to show you.  And I and Mr. Homesteader made one big mistake with buying chicks.  I’ll give you a clue. Go look back at my chick pictures.  Look closely.  Do you see what’s wrong?  It’s okay; this story has (mostly) a good ending.

The last story that will unfold here has to do with my beloved male barn cat, Tucker.  Tucker is gone.  He died much too young.  I’ve spent countless hours second guessing everything I did that day, what I might have done differently to prevent his untimely death.  He knew so much about surviving in the woods, and he was really good at exploring the places he loved most and coming home safely.  He also knew that he wasn’t supposed to cross the road–yet it was there that he met his maker.  I do not want to revisit my grief, but I will post a tribute to the biggest, best barn cat ever–not counting his sister, who, thank goodness, still lives, albeit a much sadder cat than before.

Of course, through all of these events, life has gone on.  I or Mr. Homesteader has still cooked from scratch almost every day.  We had a really tasty pizza tonight with kale, roasted butternut squash, and turkey kielbasa, for instance.  We’ve planted things.  We’ve canned.  We’ve prepared new land.  Life has gone on, and I’ll have plenty to share that way too, and I promise what I share will be happy and tasty and, I hope, creative and helpful.

No pictures tonight, just stories to come.  And you’ve been forewarned.

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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?

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And my family elsewhere in the south appears to be okay too. I’ve got an older relative in Huntsville, AL, but remembered that the sister of a dear friend lives there, and she’ll check on him in person tomorrow.

I will admit that I’m tired of hunkering down, backtracking around flooded roads, and revising the hail damage report for my insurance company, but what we’ve had here is nothing compared to Alabama.  I hope that all of my blogging friends are weathering the storms safely too.

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Regular readers may remember that I claimed at a December party that I was going to run the 10k (6.2 miles) at the Little Rock Marathon in March this year; then I discovered that there is no 10k.  My old, pre-Lyme disease self could have easily done the next race down, the 5 k, so instead I opted for the half marathon:  13.1 miles.  I am a woman who has fought Lyme for the better part of a decade.  I am most definitely middle-aged now, by any actuarial charts.  I am  on the chubby side, thanks to inactivity during my fight with Lyme.  I got a positive diagnosis for the infection when it was thoroughly embedded in my system from muscles to heart to brain six years ago, on March 4, 2005.  I started long-term high doses of antibiotics six years ago from today, on March 7, 2005.  I’m ready to say goodbye to Lyme.

Yesterday I completed the half marathon, running and walking, in a little over three hours.  I know I was close to the back of the pack, but my goal time was to finish in four hours, and I beat my anticipated time per mile by about 4 1/2 minutes and my total time by almost an hour.  Mr. Homesteader kindly walked to various points around the course to cheer me on.  I first realized I was doing better than my goal when I hit the 5-mile mark at 9:10.  I’d hoped to be there by 9:15 or 9:20.  I knew I was doing okay when I crossed the 10k mark.  I had planned on stopping running then but kept alternating running and walking.  When I hit the 8.5 mark where a friend was serving water, I was more than 20 minutes ahead, despite a bathroom stop with a long delay at a portapotty long about mile 7.  I really started to hurt as I got close to the governor’s mansion–my twisted ankle, my pinched nerves in my feet–so I pulled out my Ipod, up until then just used for my clock, and I inserted one earbud and listened to Harry Potter and his introduction to Quidditch.  That was enough to distract me, and within a mile I’d pulled the earbud back out and was enjoying the cheerers again.  Then we hit Chester Street.  There at Chester and 7th is Vino’s legendary pizza.  The aroma of pizza and faint scent of beer reached my nostrils.  I almost stopped.  I kept going, though, although by that point I was now down to running two minutes out of every ten.

Then I hit the lipstick stop.  It’s famous as the only one on marathon courses.  I don’t wear lipstick in my day-to-day life, much less when I’m sweating.  I thought one of the volunteers there was going to block my way until I convinced her that I really did not want lipstick.  By then I knew I was within a quarter mile of the finish line.  And when a fellow runner/walker I’d had the opportunity to chat with on the course several times told me it would be easy to run the rest of the way in (thanks, Zora!), I did.  Only I really ran it, and she jogged, so she is not in this picture.  That’s me, in the black fleece.  I’m crossing the line.  I’m not really that wide; I had my gloves and headband stuffed in the pockets of my oversized pullover.

In retrospect, knowing what I know now about how close I was to breaking three hours, I wish I’d run just a little more and somehow avoided the potty stop.  Maybe next year?

Thanks to all of my readers who provided so much encouragement and who have patiently waited as I traded adding recipes here for miles to my shoes.  I should know soon if I’ve succeeded in really, finally beating Lyme.

P.S.  Mr. Homesteader took me to Vino’s after I’d showered and changed at the hotel.  Other runners were in there wearing their medals, all from the marathon relay.  I wish I’d worn my  half-marathon medal in!  They all looked a lot younger than me, and I was so happy to know I’d run (and walked) further.  🙂

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My “track”:

Look closely; it’s there!  Yes, I ran yesterday.  Actually, I ran until the snow got too deep and I had to walk.  I got in 30 laps, until I looked like the Abominable Snowman.

My running buddy:

In fact, she shows up from the neighbors’ house, runs circles around me, begs to be petted, and then races off to chase deer, cats, birds . . . and then she catches back up with me and does it all over again.

The creek in snow:

Cold frames seems a particularly appropriate name today:

I’m not sure there’s still something growing under all that snow!

Is it delivery?

No, of course it isn’t delivery.  We can’t get delivery here in normal weather, much less when there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground.  If you missed the recipe earlier, it’s here.

So, the NWS claims we got 9-12 inches of snow.  Our thermometer read 1 degree F above zero this morning.  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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A few weeks ago I signed up to run/walk a half marathon in early March.  I’m committed to doing the “race,” even if I’m the slowest competitor.  Given how out of shape I am, I’m afraid that I may be greeted by people in white coats for a whole different type of commitment!  I’m hoping, however, that the race will be an important step on my way to closure of a phase in my life, the time when I can say goodbye to Lyme disease.

Nine years ago, my heath took a nose dive.  I had been an extremely active woman, running nine miles three days a week, lifting weights, hiking, and so forth.  The plunge began following a fourteen-mile hike through the Ozarks in August of 2002.  (I was then just a visitor in what is now my home state.)  I spotted what I thought were baby spiders when I sat down for lunch; hours later I discovered hundreds of tiny ticks attached to my skin under my socks and shorts line.  I had sprayed for insects that morning, but I did so after I got dressed.  The ticks crawled to the first spray-free space of skin, and around every tick was a sign of infection.  It was like something out of a horror movie.

Here I’ll short cut the story  to say that I immediately knew I needed treatment and sought it as flu-like symptoms began but was unfortunate enough to be referred to an out-of-town walk-in clinic with an idiot doctor who didn’t know the difference between a tick and a chigger.  I contacted my home doctor who thought we could wait a week for treatment.  Sadly, he was wrong.  Within a few weeks of finishing a short course of antibiotics, I started having trouble staying awake.  I also had pain and lack of focus, but I didn’t connect the symptoms, and neither did my doctor.  I was training for a half marathon, and I beat myself up when I could run less and less each month instead of more and more.  Fast forward a couple of years.  I’d taken a year’s leave of absence from work and moved to another state and then back to whence I’d come, where both I and my doctor were stumped by my increasingly confusing symptoms, including sleeping nineteen hours a day, signs of early onset Alzheimer’s, and–although I never mentioned this to my doctor–pain.  By then too I’d met the man who is now Mr. Homesteader, and he pushed me to keep searching for a solution.

How we figured out that I had Lyme or its close cousin Master’s disease is yet another story in and of itself, one that perhaps belongs on another blog (one about Lyme, which this one is not).  In the end, I was fortunate to get connected with Dr. Edwin Masters, who treated me until his death two years ago.  Since then, my new primary care doctor in my Ozark community, where I moved five and a half years ago, has picked up where Dr. Masters left off.  I was almost dead by the time Dr. Masters started treating me, the first weekend in March in 2005.  I’ve been on high doses of antibiotics almost continuously since then, determined to beat the disease.  I genuinely hope that my war is ending.  The half-marathon I’m doing will be on the sixth anniversary of meeting Dr. Masters and starting my much-too-long climb out of the pit that is neurological Lyme.  Run or walk, I don’t care, as long as I reach that finish line.

Now, dear readers, I know that many of you have overcome health adversity and/or taken on physical challenges like running races.  Do you have any words of wisdom to carry me through the next five weeks?  One tip I have for you is that I keep myself walking (and occasionally jogging, when I feel up to it) by listening to books on tape.

P.S. (from 10 p.m.):  Today my “track” (the cleared area of the property) had dried up enough that I felt comfortable running again, without fear of breaking an ankle in the mud.  I alternated running and walking for 15 laps–about 3 or 4 miles.  I’ve got to get my track measured!  It felt pretty good.  Maybe I’m really going to pull this off!

P.P.S.  Today I felt miserable, with the kind of bone tiredness and aching that I associate with a mild herx reaction.  Still, I knew if I just got off my bohuncus and moved, I’d feel better.  I pulled off 25 laps.  I alternated running and walking the first 20 and then walked the last 5 to cool down.  I also finished “reading”  The Defector by Daniel Silva via my Ipod.  I’m more a “cozy” kind of mystery/suspense reader, so the bald violence in this book got to me a bit.  I’d still recommend it, with the caution about the torture and executions.

P.P.S. Sunday, 2/6/2011–got in 30 laps, 20 doing my half run/half walk and the rest walking.  I was slow, but I was determined to make the mileage, because we’ve got more icy and snowy weather on the way, and if it arrives as predicted it will reduce my “track” to a slippery mess for the rest of the week.  Thanks for all of the words of encouragement this week.  It really has meant more than I can say.

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Oat and Wheat Bread

A nearby bluff

First, for my regular readers, let me say a belated merry Christmas and a blessed new year.  I have no good explanation for my long absence, short of too much off-homestead work followed by hibernation.  Yep, you read that right.  My best explanation for my failure to post is that I’ve been hibernating.  Oh, sure, I’ve kept cooking and baking and even doing winter gardening and taking long walks or jogs outside, but those things have mostly happened on the bright sunny days, and generally my days are measured by the sunlight.  When the sun goes down, I’m ready for bed.  And I don’t want to get up again until the sun rises.

Thursday the Ozarks were hit by a slick mess of ice and snow.  I was sixty miles from home when the storm changed from rain to snow, but I had the luck to make it home safely.  All the while, as the slushy mess swirled around me, I kept wishing for a place to hibernate.  When I got home, I curled up with the “barn cats” on the sofa and settled in for the rest of the winter.

Snow-Swept Ozarks Field at Dusk


Truth is, when I lived up north, our quick-moving snow storm would have shut down nothing.  I would have bravely ventured out, walking a bit more carefully or driving a bit more slowly but gone on with my business.  Still, I think that slowing down and re-charging during the winter is an idea from nature that most of us could use.

Cold Frames . . . . Brrrrr

Do you know the best time to plant most trees?  Autumn.  Plant in the autumn, and the tree will establish itself through its roots, growing strong while appearing dormant above ground.  Winter is important for tree growth, even if we can’t see it happen.

Miss C., cozy for winter

I’m not sure if I’m most like a tree or a bear or a ground squirrel or even one of the cats (who seem determined to teach me how to enjoy winter), but I know sometimes I just need to step back, snuggle up in a comfy chair, and re-establish my roots.  Winter is a great time to do just that.  Now, though, as the days get longer and brighter, even though it’s colder, I’m starting to feel like a tree, prepping its buds for blooming.

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader, including images.

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