Saturday, December 31, 2011
This coming year is all about growing into a new rhythm, building more beauty into the days. There are commitments we have until summer comes, but we're thinking that next school year will be bringing changes. A shift is coming in this year whether we like it or not as I try to regain health. We've changed diet quite a bit already in response to the cancer, but it will take awhile to become seamless.
All to the good. A happy, blessed, productive 2012 to you all! See you then.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
And no eggs yet. We ask Gareth every morning. I'm sure he'll be running in shouting with the first egg!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I checked online and found that a limp can be caused by a rip or object in a foot, which would be seen, or an infection, which would be swollen, red, and/or hot. They can get something called "bumblefoot" which sounds more like a Beany baby than a disease. But that's from not having fresh straw to walk on, so that they walk in their manure. Not the case here. And then there was the "other" category. I found lots of duck owners who had individual ducks with just a "mystery limp". Some ducks got better in a couple of weeks, others always kept that limp. Rest was recommended as much as possible.
Nancy herself is resting quite a bit. Nigel has been putting the ducks in the barn earlier, as well, and Gareth pushed his barn opening a half hour later. And several days we've brought all of them in for a lonnnng bath in the tub so that she can float to rest the leg, and get plenty of water and extra food in the form of torn-up lettuce that we throw in the tub. The others are foraging, but she is not. This has helped, or else she would have gotten better slowly anyway, because her limp is getting less pronounced.
The ducks are officially old enough to lay eggs as of this week, but of course are less likely to do so because of the short days. We don't have artificial light in the barn to stimulate them, so it will be interesting to see if they start laying before the days get longer in the spring.
When I was 16, my dad was going to school to become a pastor, so we lived in Los Angeles for a time. One night that summer, I was in my parents' room saying goodnight, standing by a mirror, and I noticed a large swelling or growth on my neck. It was just bigger than a squooshy oval golf ball. We had a tiny income at that point; fortunately UCLA was right there with advanced care for people with little money on some sliding scale. The lump was off to the side, not in the right place for anything related to the thyroid or parathyroid. After going from clinic to clinic and being poked and prodded (an aside: why do doctors ask, "Does this hurt?" while they're firmly pressing something painful?) consensus was that it was both a tumor and likely cancerous and I'd have to have surgery with follow-up radiation. Well, since we had no insurance and no money, we were so grateful to have a surgeon in Oregon, whose office my aunt had managed for many years, offer his services without charge. He was very experienced in the sort of surgery I needed. And moreover, he was willing to do it through the same-day surgery service, since he could give my aunt instructions in my post-op care. What a reduction in cost that meant! And better yet: when the surgery was done, it was not cancer, but a brachial cleft cyst, a benign flukey thing that had to do with a glitch in my embryonic development.
At around 23, 24 years old I had a suspicious mole. The dermatologist who took it out said, "This does not look good at all. I took a large area around it out. Make another appointment in three weeks to get the biopsy reports". Yikes. But again . . . turned out the mole had "dysplastic changes" which he explained meant that it was pre-cancerous but not cancer, that I'd come in in time.
Cancer scare, "almost cancer", I've had moments in my life to think seriously about mortality. It was a positive.
And now I have cancer for-real. I have lymphoma. I've had severe stomach pains since the middle of October, and quite soon they sent me to bed, where I stayed curled up in pain full time other than when I had to drive the children somewhere. It was in the long diagnosis process for this stomach pain (which turned out to be I-don't-know-how-many, but more than four, ulcers) that the cancer was discovered.
I am so blessed that I have a form of lymphoma that is responsive to treatment and has very good survival rates when caught early. Although I'm not quite sure what "caught early" means in my case, as they're not done staging it.
There have been odd moments along the way. The doctor who told me called my cell as I was stuck in traffic - since I was on a back street and not actually moving, I took the call. That was one drive that I confess to not remembering - thankfully I was really close to home. The first meeting with my oncologist - I like him, he seems good, but man that's a phrase that you don't want in your vocabulary: "My oncologist".
So right now I'm still in bed, but that's for the ulcers. The cancer just makes me tired. And hey, I'm a mother of eight. I already know tired. The ulcers did turn out to be (like 80% of ulcers) caused by an overgrowth of H. pylori, which means that after a long round of a couple of antibiotics, the ulcers should be able to heal. I'm trying to assist the healing process by being on a juice fast. This has been super helpful, since before juicing I was having trouble thinking of many things to eat that wouldn't hurt! This give my digestive system a rest - the only food I'm eating is one slice of avocado twice a day when I take my antibiotics.
The form of lymphoma I have, MALT lymphoma, is put into remission about 50% of the time simply by killing off the H. pylori. So the plan of my oncologist is to wait until about March and have a repeat endoscopy done, to see if I've gone into remission. It's strange, too - they can't just do bloodwork to check for remission, because my bloodwork has never been abnormal! If I am not in remission at that point, a round of radiation is up next.
Gareth has taken over the morning and daytime barn chores, and Nigel puts the animals to bed at night. It's been COLD in the morning, and no complaining out of Gareth, bless him. I've been able to keep pretty much up with homeschool here from my bed. Just a couple of days when the pain or nausea has been too bad, and then the older guys take over Tarquin's lessons.
So that's why I've not been blogging. So much going on, so much to mull over. This has been really hard emotionally on The Patriarch. I can agree wholeheartedly with Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain", but it is different for a spouse, for sure. The children have remained optimistic and just see me as sick in bed.
Many of my blog readers already know all of this, but not all. And I thought it would be a bit odd if I suddenly blogged about radiation or something, so finally made myself post this big ol' cancer post . . . hopefully back to posting about a more normal life soon.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
And still a crazy-busy time of year, mostly trying to race the oncoming winter. We needed to do a complete barn muck-out, and frenzied internet research was in order. I admit to not quite thinking through the issue of used bedding before getting animals – there is quite the hazy glow around the “sustainable” or “urban homesteading” blogosphere around the “closing the loop” aspects of having lovely animal fertilizer for one’s garden. How silly of me not to think through that the goats and ducks don’t exactly poo in a nice collectible way, but onto the straw of their barn floor!
Anyway, for this round at least, I am happy with what occurred. After the final garden harvest:
I ripped out all of the plants (which took forever due to the yarn I used to tie up the tomatoes – should’ve used cotton yarn, but was in a hurry so used non-compostable acrylic), used the pitchfork to loosen the soil, weeded, and then spread the barn straw over the beds. We really had a perfect amount.
I got to thinking about the ammonia content of the urine (well, actually the odor made thinking about ammonia unavoidable) and had the idea of sprinkling a layer of coffee grounds on top. Right? I mean, I took college chem, organic and biochem, etc ad nauseum about six million years ago, but I do seem to have some foggy memory that ammonia is the classic base and coffee, as we all know, is acidic. We’ve used Starbucks “Grounds for Gardens” before. This is the one reason why I can’t strictly call our garden “organic”, as Starbucks doesn’t separate out their organic and not-organic grounds. We collected grounds for about three days and had enough to do an even layer over all of the beds, then Gareth has been spreading a layer of soil mix over the top of it all. The last to cover over the odor – I’m hoping it seals off smell completely, but we’ll have to see when the rains come. He’s done a fabulous job with it; out there in the light sprinkles for the last few days so that there are only a couple more beds to cover.
Always sort of sad to put a garden to bed for the winter. Taking out the tomato, bean, zucchini, and lettuce plants that were started as tiny seeds and so much nurturing put into them – then finally into the yardwaste container, as we’re not up and running with a composting system at this point. But the goats and ducks have a fresh thin layer of straw to begin the winter’s deep bed approach to the barn, and it feels like a good start to the winter. I wonder if this point isn’t the garden’s New Year’s Eve moment every year.
If so, a happy Garden New Year Eve to all of you who garden, and wishing you a happy new gardening year! We can all take a few breaths before the seed catalogs start rolling in :-).
Sunday, October 9, 2011
1855 was lovely again this year – so thankful that the rain held off until the last 45 minutes or so, and even then just a drizzle until we were driving home at 11:30pm and it started pouring.
Gareth spent both nights out beyond the gate where the soldiers and “common folk” hang out:
He is learning how to have fun and join the story line – he’s been nervous in the past about first person events, so worried that he’d say something modern that he was afraid to speak. But he started to get the hang of it by Saturday.
Araminta was able to try something new this year, spending both evenings in the kitchen. She has always been with Lucinda before, but she was the only one in our family assigned to the kitchen. She was nervous, but really enjoyed herself – she loves to giggle, and the kitchen is traditionally a place of hijinks!
Lucinda spent both evenings in the Factor House, playing one of the Tolmie children’s visitors. She had a friend from church who was also assigned there, and during the first evening they hatched a nefarious plan for the second. Sophia was assigned the second night to “watch the children”, and my but the children were naughty. Lucinda and her friend would dash out the door when Sophia wasn’t looking, then Sophia would have to chase them, much to the delight of the paying audience.
Lucinda’s hairbows, while not from 1855, are almost 100 years old from a great-great uncle who was a warehouse man. She’s growing out of her dress! Look at those sleeves:
She wore period correct rag curls :-)
Clara was also in outside camp, like Gareth. She’ll need a long-sleeved dress soon, but fortunately the weather was warm enough, at least near the campfires, for her to wear her short-sleeved dress and a wool shawl:
She wanted documentation of the twirl of her skirts/pettis:
Sophia was also in the outstation the first night, so she wore her washdress:
But the second night, when she was assigned to the young people, she was able to wear her wool dress for the first time. This dress was started four years ago now! It has been a nightmare. I lost count of how many times she had to re-do the bodice, and it still has issues which need addressing:
Still, she looked lovely. And she also wore the bonnet she made (again, thanks to the ribbon stash of great-great uncles!).
And must have a close up gaudy-side view:
A wonderful time was had by all
Sunday, October 2, 2011
For the first time in months, I was able to go to church this morning. It’s hard to express how delightful that was. Coming home, even opening the gate (which the goats recognize), they didn’t bleat. We went around to a peaceful backyard.
Sophia has been working on clicker training the goats. She’s training them to lift a hoof and stand still (for easier hoof trimming) and to walk calmly on a lead. They’re so smart (or at least they’ve realized that they adore raisins so much) that they are learning quickly and behave well for her.
The end of a short era – next time we have goat babies, they’ll have mamas to prevent their screaming. On to a new normal, and it is good.
Friday, September 30, 2011
No, neither do I!
The goat girls are finally starting to have quite times at least. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the weekend is here and more neighborhood noise again.
Last week is pretty much a blur, but we’re all on the mend finally.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Changes in the backyard continue as ducks and goats move out of babyhood. The ducks are, indeed, Welsh Harlequins despite earlier fears. They’re beautiful birds. The most amazing thing about them is the small band of dark feathers on the end of their wings. This strip looks black in the shade, but in light, turns from bright teal to cobalt to vivid purple depending on the angle of viewing.
You can sort of get a sense of it here, although without the stunning iridescent depth of the colors:
They each look distinctive, as well, so our earlier concern about not being able to tell them apart was unfounded.
Quite relieved that I received the right ducks, as is, I’m sure, Mrs. H from Winnemucca ;-).
In goat news, mounting frustration. Weaning is not going well. Actually, weaning from the bottle is going fine – the girls are eating hay and drinking their water just fine. They’ve started to like their alfalfa pellets more, as well. I have no concern about their nutrition coming off bottles. What is NOT going well is weaning them from our continual presence. It is, as I post, day 4 of our not having a person continually in the back yard. Before that time, we’d tried moving the lawn chair farther and farther away, disappearing for awhile, etc. But it never did work. They’d bleat increasingly loudly for our company, and we were unwilling to irritate the neighbors. But winter is coming, and this just isn’t sustainable with home school and illnesses that always come with the winter.
They have screamed for four days now. They do stop sometimes for a little while. We try to catch them being good and go out for a little while a few times a day when they’re quiet. But it’s not getting better. Not quite sure what the next move is here. We stay outside in the morning until 9 on weekdays and 10 on weekends. One night Selkie screamed herself hoarse; what a strange, strange sound that was.
There were really strong winds last night, and one bed of tomatoes had the twine supports snap. Not a huge surprise, as there are some ginormous tomatoes hanging off that twine. About six of these:
I have to share with you the funniest line from the blogger Simcha Fisher at the blog, “I Have to Sit Down”! Referring to her backyard, she said, “On the other hand, the last thing I want is more stuff cluttering up the yard. Our property already looks like it’s waiting for FEMA to come and assess the damage.” Bwa ha ha ha – perfect phrase. We’ve got a couple of areas in the back that fit that one precisely:
I do intend to remove the spent strawberry growing thingies . . . and no, that plastic is no longer covering anything . . . and how the boots got in the strawberry holders is a mystery . . . and I did ask for the Little Tike toy to be taken out of the goat area. Sigh.
Several areas of the yard look like we allowed the children to get in a pillow fight, although obviously it’s just the ducks getting bigger:
What the Patriarch intends with these are a mystery, but the ducks will spend hours happily trying to open them up to eat the bugs hatching inside (or just sit on top, sunning themselves):
Just to note: those aren’t bags of actual trash – we’ve not quite gotten that bad yet – but the used bedding from the screened porch. We’re still working on a “waste management program”. So Simcha Fisher, just send that confused FEMA appraiser over when you’re done with him.
We do still have some nice things happening in the back. Still getting tomatoes and zucchini and beans for now, although every night and day gets cooler:
Well, that’s it for the backyard. Inside most of us have some bug and are sitting around nauseated, aching, with sore throats. So the back yard, with all of its challenges, is the place to be at Shady Fifth this week.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
They both eat hay, grain, and alfalfa pellets really well. They know how to drink water, but I don't catch them at it very often. This might be that they've not needed water, getting enough fluid from their milk - I don't know. They've been getting 3 bottles a day, and today I just gave them their morning bottle and am skipping the mid-day bottle. The plan is to hold at this point for a few days and then drop the morning bottle as well, etc. However, at this point (posting at 6 pm) it isn't going very well. They are both mega-cranky and yelling loudly each time they hear a voice, thinking maybe some kind soul will offer them a bottle. Too bad I didn't think of that and begin weaning on a weekday for goodness' sake. You never really notice how often your neighbors laugh, holler, open their back door, etc - and I think they're actually having a party next door. Not loud, but there are a lot of voices and Selkie and Sarabi sound like they're auditioning for Fierce Guard Goats. This has to get better, right?!!?
But this has to be done. Sarabi in particular has been looking more and more chubby - oops! And worse than weight gain: if they're allowed to bottle feed past 12 weeks, their stomachs won't develop correctly for eventual milk production. Whew. Close call there.
And in other backyard news, The Patriarch got the barnlet arranged to sequester the hay and hang the goat minerals up where the ducks can't access it, so last night the ducks made the big move out to the barn. Woo hoo! Nigel scooped all of the straw off of the screened porch, and rolled up that plastic/Goodwill blankets combo I'd stapled down in July when we got the goats. Worked perfectly. Screened porch carpet dry and clean, and awfully good to have it back until it turns into something else that I can't imagine right now!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Yeah, well, ducks are like that too.
You can have a nice purchased watering station, scrubbed each morning and filled with sparkling fresh water:
And a larger container that they like to take turns bathing in, also refreshed 2 or 3 times a day:
And their very favorite spot to get a drink is . . . you guessed it . . . the mud spot:
They long ago got all the bugs out of there, so it’s not that. Sophia suggested that maybe they just built up the habit and are still hopeful they’ll find a bug!
They are super bug chasers, by the way. We have some enormous reddish moths that have appeared in the last couple of weeks, showing up at twilight for whatever moth-y reason. The ducks love that for a bedtime treat. Of course they are fabled at slug control, and lately I’ve noticed them catching flies, always handy! It will be interesting to see how the mosquito population is affected next summer. We’re loving our bossy muddy ducks!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Gareth recently celebrated his thirteenth birthday. We are so blessed to have him in our family! He is super caring, loves a joke at any moment, and is always ready for a game, a “swordfight”, or a good book recommendation.
This does give us a family first – four teenagers at once! Here is a picture:
We’ll have four teenagers for quite awhile now. Doesn’t seem possible that they’re all that old, but there you have it – reality sneaks up on a person!
Little brother never gets cool gifts like this! Fortunately Gareth shares.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Insert evil goat nickering . . .
Wow, I don't know WHAT is with them today. I'm posting from a netbook in a chair right outside their fence. If I so much as run in the house for a moment, they both start screaming. Not a nice little talking-to-you bleat, screaming. They won't even allow me to sit in the shade in the spot I cleared a few blog posts ago. I had to run in for a sec a few hours back to use the ladies, and when I came back out, one of the neighbors a few houses down was bleating back at them (yikes).
What's more, Sarabi (bossy at all times) is just being meeeeean to Selkie today. Usually she lets Selkie know who's herd queen, but today she's plotting mean tricks. Of course, Selkie can kind of be . . . uhmmm . . . clueless that way. This afternoon, for example, after having been pestered all day, she thought it would be a good idea to take a nap with her head and shoulders in a bucket. Sarabi didn't have to think too hard about that one and had great fun bounding across the yard to ram that bucket, causing Selkie to do a little spin cycle out of her nap. And to prove that she won't be joining Goat Mensa anytime soon, Selkie went right back in there and fell asleep again. Sigh.
Sarabi, as herd queen, always gets fed first, but today she's keeping close watch for Selkie to approach the mineral/supplement/alfalfa pellet feeders. Selkie gets anywhere nearby and Sarabi tears over to butt Selkie away. Naturally I've held Sarabi's collar long enough for Selkie to get what she needs, but what on earth?!!?
Maybe they're just pouting because they had their second shower this morning. I haven't trimmed their coat at all because we're heading into winter, and I plan to give them their first trim next spring. This means they hold a lot of dirt. When I notice that their white spots are getting gray, I just take them into the shower. They're so scared they stand stock still the whole time and the entire process is quick and easy. Fortunately they're still so small they both fit in there without problem. I'd trimmed their hooves this week, so they look so pretty and tidy right now - good thing since obviously I'm held hostage looking at them today! Getting hungry . . . thank goodness for all of the tomatoes out here and the containers of yogurt in our garage fridge!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Babe”, remember how the little mice proclaimed the subtitles in little mousie voices? That is how I’m hearing it in my head: “Ducks Are Bossy”. And I’m persuaded that some lady with the same last name as mine is standing in her backyard right now, coffee cup in hand, shaking her head in a perplexed manner wondering why the black and orange ducks she ordered are feathering out so white.
Here is the picture of Welsh Harlequin ducks on the Metzger website (where mine come from):
(picture by Metzger Farms)
I have girls. Like the one to the left.
Our ducks are growing so fast! And feathering out . . . but isn’t this strange?
And that picture doesn’t show that their breasts are rust colored! Oh well, it still could change. There’s so much I don’t know.
One thing I do know is that these girls are bossy. And since they do everything in unison, their whole personality at this point is like four stereotypical teenage girls demanding “take us to the mall”, “we want to go to the movies”, “more allowance”. If we’re not quick enough with a food tray refill, they line up and walk back and forth with their half cheep/half quack voices, like strikers on a picket line. OK, so I’m mixing metaphors here. Can you have petulant teen girl picketers? If so, that’s the ducks right now.
And despite the fact that we are the Source of All Goodness for them, forget the whole imprinting-on-the-human business. I think we were too careful to not handle them too much when they were new. They definitely see us as something akin to big birds of prey whenever we approach. Ah well, they’re for eggs, not cuddling (although a disappointed Sophia would beg to differ – she had been encouraged by the pictures of the Dervaes girls over on Path to Freedom with ducklings in laps).
They’re “supposed” to be feathered out sometime around next week or so, and boy is The Patriarch ready for the screened porch to be converted back to a screened porch! The ducks are just up there nights, now, and this because they are still huddling under the heat lamp in the cold hours of the morning. It’s been dipping into the high 40s here overnight, and the ducks aren’t ready to handle that until they’re feathered out. But admittedly, the screened porch is a mess just from them being there a couple of hours in the morning. It’ll be nice to have that all cleaned up again.
And that’s a duck update! Back to you, Chet . . .
Saturday, August 27, 2011
No, haven’t fallen off the face of the planet or broken my blogging fingers or anything. August just gets like this! Between harvesting, getting homeschool final decisions made (and ordering the stuff), and trying to squeeze in a bunch of fun for the children, it’s a packed month anyway, and now we’ve added six animals to the mix.
The goats still aren’t happy when they can’t see humans. We’re working on weaning them off this attitude, but in the meanwhile, I’ve been getting a ton of yardwork done! When the children take turns out there, they usually play or read a book, which works, too.
Cleaned out a covered area in the back which had become a catch-all for things that should have been thrown away (plus leaves, moss, sticks . . . )
When the goats start milking, this area will convert to my “milking parlor”, and make a fine one, too! It’s covered, can be hosed down, and is within steps of our garage fridge.
Tied up all of the tomatoes:
And excavated our brick path from the jungle it had become:
Also got my bedroom re-painted but am still working on trim, so no big reveal yet.
Got the big girls to the mall with friends for a fashion-shopping day:
Little cousin visited for almost a week:
And the rest of the family has done a couple of things while I goat-sit: an ocean beach day trip, a local sound-beach church BBQ.
Lots of fun, and as always just tons of doctor appointments thrown in there. Looking forward – soon now – to the ducks being feathered out and the goats weaned so that we’re all able to leave at the same time for a few hours. Busy August.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Well, this is something unanticipated. When we woke up this morning the ducklings were way bigger than they were last night. I have no idea if this is normal!
They’re really enjoying living out on the screened porch. They like having space to run – it’s so funny; they’ll be standing around then race as a gang across the porch. Downside is that previously we were able to keep the porch poo-free and decent smelling, goat droppings being as they are, but now it’s fairly icky out there. Fortunately they largely stick to one side of the porch, where we don’t venture if we can avoid it. We still put them in the “brooder” overnight and when nobody will be in the living room where we can keep an eye on them. The goats pretty much ignore them. No feathers to report yet.
Big move to the barnlet scheduled for tomorrow! The Patriarch just has to lay the gravel inside, then we’ll do a layer of straw on that and use the deep bedding system. Plan is to bring the ducklings up to the screened porch/”brooder” overnight until they feather out but let them roam in the barnlet during the day.
I was out yesterday doing doctor/gymnastic/tae kwon do chauffeuring and got a phone call from Tarquin. He asked, “Mommy can I make a mustache, isn’t that a good idea? But how will I keep it on?”
So since I’m on the topic of growth spurts, thought I’d share Tarquin’s new mustache (he borrowed Lucinda’s pajama shirt as his were all in the wash):
Now that I have a vast two weeks of goat-owning experience I thought I’d share some good things to do with a goat, and those things which are ill-advised.
Good to do with a goat:
- Teach them the alphabet song*
Things that are ill-advised to do with a goat:
- Drink hot coffee. No pic, just use your imagination.
- Read a good book
- Catch up on email
- Wear your hair down
This concludes our public service announcement. You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog-hopping.
*Please ignore the gross glass door. Between the goats standing up on the outside pawing and licking it, and Tarquin standing on the inside, fingers and nose against glass watching goats, I am waving a white flag of surrender until the goats live in their barn!