Saturday, September 20, 2014

A journey of (several) thousand miles...

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We are home! And I am so grateful for it, even if there is tons of work to be done.

August and most of September has been crazy. On the 11th of August we left the farm and started our journey to Texas for my 7th surgery.

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We left early so we could enjoy the drive, and a little time away.

We drove through part of Shenandoah National Park. It was gorgeous, but much of the road was impassable because of the thick fog making visibility zero.

We also finally stopped at Luray Caverns in Virginia, something we've been by several times but never been able to stop and see. If you have not explored the cave, it's so worth the visit.

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It was the first cavern I'd ever been in, and it's pretty awesome to see.

Then we spent a week in Florida with Kevin's brother and niece, which was a nice break. After that we headed to Dallas slowly, stopping in Grand Isle Louisiana for a night since I'd never been in that area ever before, so we explored a bit of the bayou country.

Sunday we made our final drive into Dallas, and Kevin had an allergic reaction and his eyes were once again almost swollen shut. Monday morning I called my Doctors office to let them know I was there and would see them the next day for  my appointments - and they let me know they needed me to come in right away because they had moved my surgery up a day!

Although the hotel did not have a car service, they had the maintenance man drive me to all of my appointments - three different ones and 4 1/2 hours worth. It was beyond kind of them to do, especially since they had already made an exception for Douglas even though they had a strict no dog policy. The manager also came in at 5:30 AM the next morning just to drive me to my surgery. I can't say enough about how good they were to us.

My surgery went smoothly, Dr. Dulemba was awesome, and that is probably the least pain I've been in after surgery since they had me on a pain pump I could control myself and I also had a pump with numbing medication going right into my pelvic area. The nurses were very good to me. I was pretty sick from the morphine however. I stayed overnight and almost did not get out the next day since I was really struggling but they got me well enough to send back to the hotel Wednesday afternoon. I made it until Saturday before ending up in the ER with a severe allergic reaction to the medication, which was probably the worst part of the entire experience. I didn't think I was going to die but I was ready to. They took care of me there however and got me quick relief with a bunch of different medications, and I stopped taking the pain medication I was on. I went back to taking my pre surgery medication so I had more pain because it's not very strong, but I felt better overall because I was not sick.

We stayed in the hotel until Wed and then made our move. This surgery was not nearly as difficult as my last since much less needed to be done, so I was not in nearly as much pain. But my body went through a lot of changes this time, so that takes a long time to sort out, but we knew that was coming.

Instead of coming straight home, we headed to New Mexico to visit friends for a few days which helped give me a break too. Either way it was a 5 day drive to home, so we decided to take it slow,

On the way to our friends house near Quemado, NM, we had to pass right by Carlsbad Caverns so we decided to stop. We made it there 10 minutes before the evening bat flight! It was unreal. I was so excited to see the bats, hundreds of thousands of them, exiting the cave for their evening meal. I had never seen anything like it, and it was really incredible. I was holding my breath half of the time, it was such a special thing to be able to experience.

The next day we went on the 1 1/2 hour tour of the big cavern, I couldn't walk enough to make any of the guided tours so we did the easier self guided tour. Thankfully at Carlsbad they have an elevator down, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to walk it.

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It did wear me out pretty badly but I'm so glad I saw some of it, it was beyond words. That cave is the biggest and the most impressive by far. I also appreciated that they had less lighting so you felt more of the feel of the cave, and also that you could walk alone and stay as long as you wanted to in certain areas without being pushed along like you are at Luray.  I really hope someday when I am better we'll be able to go back and explore the cave further, there are several different tours of varying difficulty you can go on.

Before we left the town of Carlsbad, we stopped at the Living Desert museum and Zoo.

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I was really worn out but I had to go and see the Prairie dogs. It was worth it.

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They had a nice little set up there and they are the cutest creatures around. I could have watched them all day long... and also brought them all home with me.

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We also stopped at Three Rivers petroglyph site, but I couldn't handle the walking at all so I was only able to see a few of the rocks (out of thousands) before I headed back to the camper to rest.

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It's a pretty interesting site though and you could spend days exploring it.

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On the way to Quemado we drove by the VLA (Very Large Array) which is the radio astronomy observatory near Magdalena. It was pretty cool to see those giant dishes out there in the desert listening carefully.

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We spent a few days in Quemado, visiting, exploring the area and for me, mostly resting, I needed it. Also my body realized at this point what had happened to it and I got pretty sick for a while.

But after some visiting and resting, we started out for home.

Before we left New Mexico, Kevin wanted to show me Taos since I had never been there and always wanted to go. He said it's so much different than people think, and he was right. The town was fine but no big deal to me, but the scenery! WOW. It was incredible.

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Then we just pushed on and headed for home, many LONG days of driving which was tough on all of us, Kevin, me, and Douglas too.

Douglas was a really good boy, at the hotel, and camping, he was beyond well behaved and he tried to take good care of me. I am so glad he was able to be with me, it really made things easier, especially when I was suffering the most. He hardly left my side.

We got home Sunday night, and man was it good to be HOME.

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I missed the critters so much. And my bed. And my kitchen.

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The dogs are all very happy to be back to their normal routine too.

But since we've been home we've had no time for rest. Monday we found out Kevin's cousins wife, and our very close friend passed away. We loved her dearly for many reasons, but to know her, was to love her. She was kind hearted, warm, honest. She taught me how to make my very first batch of strawberry jam and how to make pickles and she was always there for me through my earlier surgeries. She was a great lady. She just had her 67th wedding anniversary with her husband in August. She had begun in the past few years to forget things and wasn't herself, and I am grateful she is at peace now and that it was a peaceful passing, but still, those left behind must grieve, and my heart is broken for her husband. So we spent this week dealing with that, and also of course since we got home everything broke, the washing machine, the tractor, etc, which is normal, so there is a lot of stuff to be fixed!

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 I had to start back on one of my medications I was taking pre-surgery which has helped with the ongoing trouble but it also makes me sleepy, so it's slowed me down a bit. I am feeling a lot better but I still have pain, and I'm still really worn out. But it's only been three weeks since surgery and also, I have had little time to properly rest. I have more energy than before however, so I am raring to go, so I have to watch myself carefully since it's very easy to over do it.

But I had to get out to the big creek to see her in all of her red glory - she turns red every September and only for a few short days, it happens super fast and it's easy to miss. I look forward to it every year. Rollie came with us, as he's learning to ride in the atv, and he loved it, especially when he found out he gets to explore new areas too!

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I mean how could you miss this? It's my favorite spot in the entire world. It feels good to come home and be happy to be here. Sometimes we wonder if our hearts are content here or not, and its always good to be reminded.

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The Chihuahuas did just fine at home with Jim, but I did not like being away from them one bit, I am so used to traveling with all of them at once.

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The F word (well more than one of them probably) has been getting thrown around a lot and honestly it's a little ridiculous since it's only September, But frost did indeed come Thursday morning! We moved all of my plants into our sun porch or undercover, and I harvested the rest. I got a good crop of tomatillos, lots of peppers (that's not even half of them) and I still have a ton of herbs to cut and dry... a lot of my herbs I am bringing inside for the winter to try and winter them over too. I also got cucumbers, okra, tomatoes, carrots (grown in a pot!) and some other goodies.

I am surprised at the weather. Since we've been home, almost a week, so many trees have changed color so fast it's hard to believe. I see an early fall leading into an early you know what. But I won't say it and jinx us. I hope all of your gardens grew well this summer.

Today Kevin harvested our garlic, which did pretty good considering we did not tend it at all since we've been gone. It tastes delicious. I have beets to start pickling among other things but for today, I'm resting with the dogs. I need it.

I am so happy to be home to our little world, when we get here it easily seems that nothing else matters except what exists and is happening in this forest around us. And I like it that way. For many years I wondered why I chose to live such an isolated life since I set out on my own at 17. But now I know why. Because my heart told me this was the way... and I listened to it.

Thank you all so much for your messages of support as well. This has been such a long journey and while I don't expect it's over, I am making progress, and that's all I've ever asked for.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Here I go again...

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With taking forever to update! Honestly time has gone so quickly, I can hardly keep up.

It's been super busy here between getting ready to leave, working around the farm, pickling, and just day to day stuff.

We are in full packing mode right now and our truck camper is going on the truck as we prepare to leave Monday morning for surgical trip number two (surgery number 7). I like traveling a whole lot better when it doesn't always involved surgery for me, let me tell you!

I have been very stressed out about leaving the little dogs. I have never left them for more than two weeks and that was at my last surgery. I am not used to not having them with me when we travel. Douglas has a lot of separation anxiety (it's kind of mutual but he becomes a worse emotional wreck than me) so I was most worried about leaving him. We will have the camper but we are also staying in a hotel for at least a week right before and after my surgery. The hotel is really nice and set us up comfortably for my initial recovery, but they also do not accept pets. So we had assumed taking even one dog was out of the question. But they were kind enough to make an exception for me because of surgery! So I could bring one dog. Norman is the best traveled and trained, but Douglas will be going because he's so attached to me he panics if he cannot get in the bathroom with me. The Chihuahua's are also bonded so they will be OK together, but still, I don't like leaving them. I know I also have to worry about myself though, and I won't be feeling so great, and also Kevin will have a lot on his hands while I am in the hospital.

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I did manage to get a whole bunch of pickling done! I got through a bushel of cukes and stocked us up on Dills, bread and butters, mustard pickles, and also 8 day fermented icicle pickles. It felt so good to be canning. I wish I could have done more but I'm glad I accomplished what I did, even though it took me a while to recover.

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My peppers are just starting to get ripe and actually producing better than I expected with all the rain and actually cool temps for July & early August. I hate to leave them! I'm hoping I'll still have a bunch to harvest when I return. I'm freezing everything I can so I can process them when I get home. The bananas and jalapenos I will pickle.

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It's also peach time and I wish I could be preserving some... but since I'm getting ready to hit the road, I've just been eating up as much as I can, either fresh or in muffin form! Peach crumb muffins are one of my favorites.

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I'm also harvesting herbs to dry while I am away. I suspect I should be able to gather a lot more when I return. Chamomile is my favorite, just smelling it is so relaxing. I love it in tea but I think I need it in pill form to take as needed, it's amazing as natures relaxant :)

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The kids are all doing well! The boys are separate from the girls now (since this picture) and I'm hoping I won't have any boys jumping fences while I am away!

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They have been enjoy the extra abundance of grass and also green leaves and flowers this year.

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So has Jackson! It's been a great year for pastures, hay... It's hard to believe when we come back it will be fall!

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The creek looks gorgeous in purple - but as you can see our humidity has been high the past week, you can't hardly see outside it gets so thick at times and actually, we haven't had any recent rain. Such a strange summer we've had here.

But now we are heading into the major heat. Pretty much everywhere we are going it is hot, hot, hot!

I am very excited though because hopefully we'll fit a couple of fun things into the trip despite me not feeling great and the main event being surgery. On Tuesday we are hoping to visit Luray caverns in Virginia which we drive by all the time and have never been able to stop at, so I'm really looking forward to that!

I hope to update from the road when I can.

Thank you all for all of your support, for reading, for your comments, it all means a lot to me. And I apologize for not keeping up with blogs recently, I do check in and hopefully will be more active and on track soon.

Oh, and P.S. we got about 350 square bales of hay off our fields, the barn is full, and we've got another huge pile under tarps so we have a nice big security net of hay this year, that's been helping me sleep better at night a lot!

Here's hoping this surgery, once I recover, really helps. I'm not afraid of surgery at this point even a little, but I am worried about recovery - I'm tired of doing it, and this one may be different than the others. But I remind myself that by "different" it might be hard, but it also might be very easy, you don't know until you are living it, so I'm trying to think positive and hope for the best :) 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's been happening here...

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Gosh time has got away from me! It's hard to believe how fast it's moving and sometimes I can barely catch up. Where to start? :) I tried to update the blog a few days ago but I've been having major computer issues... thankfully Kevin has been working on it because it just drives me crazy. It's not fully fixed yet but since it's working right now I thought I better take advantage and update the blog while I can! 

So to start... my month on the chemo drug to shut off my hormones was rough. The side effects were hard to manage but my pain did get better - I actually had a few days of NO pain, except I had a constant migraine I could not keep at bay, despite taking medication constantly. However I did see some changes without a doubt and amazingly after 8 months of painful digestive issues, they improved to the point of almost not being there. So that confirmed to me that all of my symptoms have been connected to the same thing and not several different things as some of my Doctors had lead me to believe here. So I feel better having a clearer idea of what has been happening to me. I couldn't take a second injection because of the side effects so I'm feeling pretty miserable right now... But there is hope.

I have surgery scheduled with an awesome surgeon the end of August and while I am not in any way excited about surgery number 7 OR recovery - I am excited that this will likely give me some relief once my body adjusts to the changes and heals. Because of the results I saw on the medication we feel pretty confident we have a good handle on how to move forward. I feel so terrible right now anything is worth a chance but I feel so positive about it and so hopeful. I just wish it wasn't the end of August and it was tomorrow!

Because of issues with Insurance we cannot afford to go back to my amazing surgeon in Georgia, so we've been working on that for months trying to figure out what we could do and what our options were. So we'll be making the journey this time to Texas, near Dallas and we will not be flying. After my really painful and difficult flight last year after surgery, we are going to drive. We considered taking our 40 foot 5th wheel which would be great for comfort and recovery, but it also makes it harder for us to find places to camp and causes us to travel slower, so we've settled on taking our slide in truck camper. It's 11 feet and it's great for camping, we've taken it on many trips to Alaska, but the only trouble is, you have to climb up into the bed, which I won't be doing after surgery. The table turns into a bed thankfully, although we've never used it, but we'll set it up nicely so I"ll be able to sleep there while I heal from surgery. This surgery should not be as painful after as my last one, I had several procedures done at one time and should only be having two done this time, unless the Doctor finds something else.

In the meantime, I'm plodding along, doing a little here and there as I can. The men have started haying and have been working hard to get our fields cut when the weather allows as we've had so much rain it's been crazy. My plants have suffered because of it, but so far everything is making it through OK, but the tomatoes were very unhappy for a while. We still have a lot of work left to get our haying done, but we are getting some pretty great bales this year, and lots of bales off of two of the fields we did not cut last year when we woke these old fields up for the first time in 65 years! The fields we cut last year and seeded in the spring are all nice and green, and thick.

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Hay drying in the sun...

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Rollie rushing to check out the fields

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Farmer Kevin making square bales!

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When I took this picture I was thinking, Dreams really do come true. This picture is like an image taken from my mind, one I'd seen many times in my dreams. It's important to stop and realize when we see things right in front of us we always dreamed about... sometimes we don't notice, like a pain that is no longer there, we forget... it's important not to.

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this is security!

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The animals are all doing well, except tired of the bugs bothering them... 

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In case you didn't already know... flowers are delicious.

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Here is a picture of Henrietta with her head through the fence, eating greens on the other side...

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Henrietta: um, you didn't just see that... 

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Out there in all that tall green stuff is one darned cute little horse...

I talked to an interesting woman a week ago who drives her Mini's...I got to meet her horses and heard all kinds of fun things about driving. I had not thought much about a Mini horse driving a cart, I know they can pull one, but she showed me pictures and told me that a lot of older fellas that used to drive heavy horses and can longer handle them, drive minis for fun. She had a great Pony whom was just a star. I am used to ponies to being quite naughty but this guy was just a real charmer.

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Also a week ago, I wasn't feeling well but wanted to do something so I decided on drying some herbs... I figured that should be a safe thing to do and it's light work. I harvested some of my herbs but also decided I should take advantage and go collect some nettles some to dry as well (they are amazing for herbal teas, so many health benefits.) We have nettles everywhere but there is a big patch in the goat yard which is close to the house, plus I could say hi to the kids.

So off I went and I had a great snuggle with the goats and safely collected some stinging nettles without getting stung (because that sucks if you do) But on the way out, Aurora (one of the Pygmy girls) pushed open the gate and sneaked out.

It's not really a big deal because she doesn't run away, but she's kind of naughty. I did the right thing and asked for help, something I rarely do, normally I'd just catch her myself. Jim came to help but somehow I couldn't resist and I ended up tripping and falling...

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And that roll of fence wire beside her had a piece of it lying under the grass, that's what tripped me... and also stabbed me right in the butt.. at the top of my thigh. Thankfully it was right where it was getting meaty - a reason it's important to have padding, but I still hurt myself pretty good. We took care of it so there was no infection but I sported a nice multi-colored bruise for several days, and a deep wound.

You win some, you loose some. 

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Olive, our last Prairie dog is doing well and enjoying the abundance of clover this year...

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And I am trying to enjoy the abundance of raspberries. Our bushes are super full. We have acres and acres of wild raspberries. Because I cannot be in the sun right now without getting sick it makes it hard for me to pick them in large amounts, but I've been out when I can to at least pick some. This patch is right behind the house.

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They are so delicious. I wasn't able to pick any last year because of leaving for my surgery before they were ripe so I am enjoying them this year.

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and so is someone else...

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Douglas loves wild raspberries.

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And Rollie just loves adventure!

(and also raspberries.)

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The gooseberries are looking really good too - as are the blackberries and wild grapes. I think it will be a good year for everything - however it needs to dry up for the grapes, they don't like it being so wet.

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I also did manage 1 batch of strawberry jam! I'm so hoping to be able to get more canning done this year. Usually I spend 2 months canning. Many nights I've stayed up until 2 AM working on apple butter or canning some kind of pickle or relish. It's been a long time since I've been able to really catch up on my canning and refill our pantry properly because of my health. I have a list of things I really want to make this year no matter what, so hopefully I'll be able to. I need fresh pickles badly, and I really need to make some Chow Chow relish because I dream about it constantly.

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This is how my stash of goods usually looks in the fall (and this is just part of it) and I cannot wait to be able to refill it again.

It amazes me it's the middle of July already. I hate to rush it and won't wish that because I want all of our gardens to grow well and everyone to enjoy the nicer weather, but I really look forward to the end of August, and hopefully moving in the right direction to get me back. I know it won't be a simple process but this entire year has been very rough, and I'm so ready to move forward.

We had to stop haying because of rain again for a couple of days but hopefully tomorrow it will resume!

I know I promised last time not to wait so long before updating the blog,and it's hard to promise that I'll get back into the normal swing of things right now when things still are not normal, but I promise not to go so long without an update. June was a tough month for me... but I learned a lot and I have my heart focused on the future, and on feeling better :)

Thank you so much to everyone who reads the blog for all of your patience and support! It means the world to me.
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