Friday, August 30, 2013

Meet And Greet

Before introducing you to my flock, I need to make an announcement:

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaack!

7.6 mile run

Finally back to running.  Injuries are for the birds! 

Speaking of birds, look what the girls have been up to:

Golf balls were placed in the nesting box to teach them to lay there and not on the ground.  My girls are fast learners.

I have nine new hens from this Spring.

Not easy to get individual pictures of them.  So, here are some Google photos.

Lily is my one Delaware hen.  The breed is the on a Critical Conservation Status due to its shrinking population.

Kharma and Dharma are my two Indian Brahma hens.  They can be distinguished from the Delaware by their feathered feet and the fact that they're one of the largest breeds of chickens.

One All-American girl, Ruby is a Rhode Island Red.

A French breed, Marguerite is a Faverolle, another on the Critical Conservation Status.

Daisy and Poppy are my two blue tinted egg layers.  Sometimes called Easter Egg hens, the true breed name is Ameraucana.

Lastly is my new favorite breed:  Sussex.  My Aven and Tulip are originally from the UK.  On the Threatened Conservation Status list.  These hens are the friendliest and most inquisitive of all the breeds I've had in the past. 

I chose my breeds based primarily on their laying ability, but also taking into account their temperament.  I had Ancona hens a few years ago that went ballistic every time I entered the coop.  Unpleasant memories of being beaten in the face with wings and projectile poop. 

The hens are working overtime producing an average of 8 eggs a day.  I had planned on selling eggs this year, but due to the chicks' late arrival, thus later maturity, egg production started late and I'm hoarding these eggs to ensure a constant supply through the Winter when they take a break from laying.

I freeze my eggs...didn't know that was an option, did you?  I put one per Ziploc and mash the yolk up with my thumbs through the plastic.  They keep well for a year!

The girls get repositioned over fresh grass every day.  The Hyundai pulls double duty as a chicken taxi.

More about the birds and the bees.

Bees everywhere are under assault by disease, pesticide use, urban sprawl---you name it, their populations are being decimated.  I always try to provide them with one dependable source of nectar.  The Torch Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) is a large annual that blooms straight through the Summer and seems impervious to hot, dry weather.

Do a bee a favor and plant Tithonia next year!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tommy and Mack Go to School


Mack:  "Mum says we're supposed to get in the trailer to go to school.  I'm not getting in, you?"

Tommy:  "No way, Jose, I hate school."
"Did she say in-flight meals provided, OK, I'm coming!"

Mack:  "Brother Tommy, don't leave me!"

Angus:  "Hey, Axel, they fell for it again."

How many Indians does it take to squeeze one big chief into a chute?

Tommy got a recheck and Mack got his feet trimmed.

Tommy:  "Duped again, next time she says vet school, we're hiding."

Trips in the trailer are hard on me too!  This is my way of dragging out the very heavy rubber mats:  a pair of Vise-grips provides, well, grip.  A few hours of labor and the trailer's clean and reloaded with farm implements.

Unfortunately, Tommy's wide posterior blew out a window when he turned around.  This makes window #3 that he's taken out.

I briefly entertained the notion of buying a friend's trailer. Lighter, easier to clean, easier to park, no need to unload and reload all my implements.  Sounds like a winner.

The reality of what one ox could do to an aluminium trailer, if they could even have been compressed into it.

As for my foot issues, the news continues to worsen.  My boot cast was easing my foot  pain for the first couple weeks.  But, because I'm walking at work all day long, welts were developing all around my calf, my toes began aching and my heel was really bothering me.  I chose to go to my chiropractor for an X-ray recheck. He's awesome, charges a tenth of what a set of X-rays cost elsewhere, causes me to lose only an hour of work instead of an entire morning. And he's showed me (later gave me) my X-rays. 

My chiropractor charged me $60. Previous two other appointments with different doctors: $545.  I do have health insurance, but it has a $3000 deductible, which thankfully, I haven't met this year. First doctor didn't see a fracture in my metatarsal, second doctor did see it and prescribed the Boot.  $545.  $60 got me the same, plus I was shown why my toes hurt so much -- arthritis and why I hate to put pressure on my heel: a heel spur the size of a dragon's talon.  He's referred me to a foot surgeon.  We'll forgo that appointment until I have the money and time for what will surely be a very unpleasant experience --like after the Boston Marathon next Spring.  So, it's been almost a month that I've been unable to run and the side effects are terrible.  I may need to padlock the freezer so I can't raid my pesto stash on a daily basis, otherwise I'll be having to shop for bigger clothes!   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wiling the Time Away

Until I can resume running, I have about 10 hours a week to dedicate to other pursuits, or mischief, whatever you want to call it.

Firstly, the ortho boot needed some retrofitting to fit my life.

Waterproofing, manure-proofing.

Hiking crampons

Last week, my new dehydrator arrived and it's been running ever since.



My idea is to cut back on my sugar intake by reducing the amount of jams I make with my harvested fruit and to retain more nutrients in the vegetables by drying versus canning.  Added bonus:  less storage space required in pantry and freezer.

Grape and muscadine harvest

Pocahontas would be proud of my foraging skills.  I picked 5 gallons of wild grapes and muscadines at an abandoned property.  I only ate about a gallon's worth during the THREE HOURS it took to separate the tiny grapes from their stems.  Nevermore shall I waste a single raisin!  My grapes are now in the dehydrator and should be ready by Monday morning.  At approx. $2.50 of electricity/ 24 hrs use, the dehydrator will soon pay for itself.

The kitchen's been a happening place lately.  I've been on a pesto making, pesto eating frenzy.  The bounty of basil has helped yield about 3 gallons of pesto.  I would have made more but I used up the last of my garlic stash.  Unless I break down and buy more, my next harvest of garlic won't be until next year.  I'll cave -- life is meaningless without pesto.  A friend gave me 2 lbs of pistachios from CA that I gleefully substituted for pecans (which ran out a couple months ago).  I happened to look at the price of organic pesto at Earth Fare the other day.  6 oz for $5.  A 3 gallon fortune of pesto sits in my freezer!

Week two of giving up caffeine.  Mostly gone off without a hitch.  Strangely, I don't miss the coffee.  The decaf is just as satisfying.  I'm definitely less agitated, almost zen-like.  I still drive mostly +20 mph faster than the speed limits, but I no longer gesticulate madly at people hogging the passing lane.
Giving up on chocolate has been harder.  Chocolate milk is my ambrosia.
Never say die.  I've been experimenting with recipes using carob powder.  Conclusion:  it ain't chocolate, but if you add enough honey anything tastes good.
Carob malt balls are pretty good though:

Deceiving little orb

Take one insipid briefcase...

$1 thrift store find

And convert into Cole's Portable Dehydration Monitor:

 I prehydrate before long runs, alas Cole doesn't understand the concept of tanking up before we take off.  I'm especially concerned about the heat and low humidities out West.  A 2% drop in weight loss would indicate that he's close to becoming moderately dehydrated.  Secret agent 44 (my Dad) will be toting the briefcase as he crews the ultramarathon for Cole and I in Utah this Fall.  If only I could convince him to wear a suit and tie!  The case has a plywood bottom, so I can stand in the case on uneven ground and a calculator for those tricky calculations.

Final note:  the lotus water gardens have new residents. 

Chorus frog
 I love my amphibians.  When I use my trimmer around all the flower beds, I proceed very slowly.  (If I had been doing this on my old landscaping crew, I would have fired myself!) But, being more careful means that I can relocate any toads, spring peepers, tree frogs and skinks that I might otherwise injure.  It ruins my day to have to put one out of it's misery if I catch it with the trimmer line.  We all have our weaknesses.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Doctor's Orders

Not many things elevated my spirits since my return from D.C., but here are a couple:


New lotus plants throwing outrageously gorgeous blooms.

Tommy is walking more each day -- lameness issue resolving nicely.
 While in D.C., the pain in my foot with plantar fasciitis worsened, but I ignored it.  After my tumble in WV, I could barely walk.  Thus making the following week of go-go-go 16 hour work days almost unbearable.

Quick aside...

A reader advised me to get an Otterbox for my Smartphone.  Has saved its life a few more times since WV.   $20 on Amazon versus $45 in store.
  I had 17 houses and apartments to clean in between student tenants, after my regular 50 hour work week.  The sharp pain in my foot made me so angry that it helped keep me fired up to finish my jobs.  Sunday night at 2 AM, I handed in the last of my keys and invoices.
Dad -- start packing!  We're going to Utah this Fall.  65 hours of extra work will pay for 2 weeks of Jamie-style budget travel, all-inclusive:  fuel (Hyundai gas sipper), food (BYO or grocery store), campsites, admissions to parks and sites.  And no, El Cheapo doesn't usually buy souvenirs.
The motel taken during the D.C. trip was a necessary splurge. The secret service wouldn't allow me to pitch a tent on the White House lawn.

Over a week since returning to Auburn and two medical opinions later, here's the news.
Blood work shows that I'm entering menopause-hood.

Happy Days at 40.

Jamie, now at 41.
 Time to start popping Calcium tablets like Tic Tacs and wallowing in a vat of moisturizer every day to avoid looking like wilted celery at 65!

The right hip does indeed have arthritis setting in, but it's still mild.  The shooting pains down my leg are due to hip piriformis, basically a muscle pinching of the sciatic nerve. 
The good:  not advanced arthritis.
The bad:  physiotherapy exercises.

The left foot has plantar fasciitis (duh, really?), a sprained arch from the pirouette in WV and a fractured metatarsal (bone on top of foot connecting to 2nd toe). 

My new companion for 6 weeks.
 The good: Reprieve from pain and I can bear weight on my leg again.
The bad:  No running for 6 weeks. (I heal quickly, I predict 4!)

Let's just say that I've been lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut for near two weeks.  To add insult to injury, instead of having a darn good cry and getting over it, I drowned my sorrows in pesto pasta night after night...more junk in the trunk doesn't help the morale.

So, I came up with a new agenda to keep me busy for 6 weeks:  I joined a gym and kicked the caffeine habit entirely.  That includes chocolate.  It's not that I enjoy torturing myself -- I was raised Catholic, self-depravation is instinctive.
Four years ago, I was given a stern ultimatum by my cardiologist.  So, I gave up the alcohol, the 52 weeks per year of 80 hour work with no holidays and I started running.  But, I said that you'd have to wrench my coffee mug out of my cold dead hands. 
We all have a sense of entitlement to second,even third or fourth chances.  But, how do you know if you've used up your last chance?
With diabetes on both sides of my family, I know to avoid anything that trigger a high glycemic response if I don't want to develop Type II.  Unfortunately this includes:  alcohol, sweets (chocolate, phooey), artificial sweeteners, caffeine, to name a few. 
The good:  I love carob.
The bad:  Convenience stores don't stock carob bars beside the KitKats.

After the pity party, I reminded myself of people who face real problems, not temporary issues.
Enter my childhood hero:  Terry Fox.


After losing his leg to osteosarcoma, the 22 year old Canadian started to run across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.  And this was no modern graphite limb.  This prosthetic limb caused cysts and sores and forced him to adopt a a three beat hop to compensate.
June 1980, he arrived to Ottawa.  As a 9 year old, I couldn't have told you why I was so mesmerized by him.  Now I can.  He embodied hope and courage.

He didn't get a second chance.  He had to stop running before crossing into Manitoba because the cancer had spread to his lungs.  143 days, 3340 miles, averaging a marathon (26 miles) per day.  He raised millions for cancer research and his foundation is still going strong to this day.  He fought lung cancer for 9 months before succumbing.

His statue has been moved to face Parliament Hill, but originally it stood on Colonel By Drive.

I passed his statue every day on my way to school in downtown Ottawa. I preferred to bike, skate the Canal or ski the riverside park rather than make the 10 mile trek by city bus.  Due to my high school's status as a magnet school, we had no school bus service.  Ninth graders had to ride the transit system.  Before the bus expressways were built, it could easily take 1-1/2 hours each way.  Being trapped indoors and confined to a seat was sufferable for 7 hours of class, but no more.  Taking the bus was always worse that skating the Canal, no matter if it was pre-dawn and bitterly cold.

Any day outside is better than a day inside.

So it is that I find myself nestled in the mountains of North Carolina on a Sunday evening waiting for the monsoon rain to lighten up before driving back to Alabama. No rush, I can wait!  I have this great cleaning gig up here, whereby a weekend stay is bartered for cleaning or whatever else I can find to do.  This trip had been planned for a month, but I almost cancelled on Friday after receiving my boot cast.  Not only could I not run all the trails I had lined up, but driving a stick shift is tricky with the Frankenstein foot...especially on these switchback mountain roads!
I love Maine, Minnesota, the Ozarks in Arkansas, but I'm hopelessly smitten by the forests of Western NC.

Ellicott owns my heart.
 As I was stuck walking the trails, I brought Jinx along.

Yet to be identified cool flower.

Jinx wasn't impressed.

Cole's looking for squirrels, I'm blissfully happy, Jinx wants to report me to the ASPCA.
 A wee bit of rain, maybe heavy at times, was more than he could take.  We were already 2 miles up the trail when I realized he was missing.  In my 20's I'd take all 12 of my dogs hiking -- cardinal rule:  you never left the pack.  Jinx was absent that day of class!
I assumed that he'd high tailed it back to the car.  With a mile to go, I was worried sick and broke into a run.  Running is possible, but very awkward.  When Jinx saw Darth Vader's sister coming down the trail behind him, he ran faster. Turd.  I didn't lose my cool, we retraced our steps and marched back up the trail.
To reinforce the lesson that hiking is fun, I drove directly to Whiteside Mountain and hiked the 2 mile loop up the mountain.

4930 feet up in the clouds.

 Jinx is still unenthused. 

Carried him most of the way.
 Fellow hikers expressed genuine concern seeing my motley troupe scrambling over rocks. Some were probably irked that we were passing them.  I may be booted, but I'm still in training.  Marathon season is coming and I'll be ready.  Cole can't fall behind either.  Word's gotten out about his cross country trail running quest and he's been invited to participate in a 14k trail run in Indiana late September. 

More than a little upset:  snubbing gourmet treat from Woof Gang Bakery and Cashiers exquisite BBQ.
 Jinx was so pleased to be back at the house. 

Sunday morning:  eggs from my hens, decaf and a view from the deck to the riding arena in the distance. 
 Cole and I went to see what horses were being boarded this Summer.

The saddle club may be lacking horses this Summer...

...but they still have their sense of humor!

Sunday's hike was going to be up Cole Mountain, really steep, fun and rugged.  I got to the trailhead to find -- egads--other hikers.

I'd resigned myself to the prospect of enduring more questions and jibes about my boot when I spied this at the back of the parking lot.
Disused logging road
 Didn't know where it lead, but the cobwebs across the trail let me know that we were the only ones on it.  Perfect, we'd been up Yellow Mountain trail to the fire tower before anyway.

Happy boy hard at work.

One of dozens of handfuls.
 I stuffed myself silly on blackberries.

Discovered jumbo fungi.
 It has taken a coordinated effort between Mapquest and Google Earth to figure out where we were and how far we walked. I'd tried sending out some GPS pings from my phone, but could get no service. We walked 2 miles in and 2 miles fro of the total 6 mile length of this closed road.  With the connector trails I saw on Google Earth, you can be sure that Cole and I will be back to run it this Fall.

Life's hardships exist to remind us to be thankful for the gifts we have, if we can only open our eyes.