health

The Count Down Begins, The Future With Out My Cast

Many of you already know that I have spent most of the last 12 months in a cast on my left leg. I was actually placed in the cast on Dec 9th of last year do to a tiny bone being fractured in the bottom of my foot. I started out being told it was 8 weeks in the cast and then that turned into 13 weeks and then surgery and then recovery. So all of this added up being 5 days short of a year for the recovery from a fractured bone that is the size of a dime.

Jolynn in her leg in air cast Dec 9th 2013

Jolynn in her leg in air cast Dec 9th 2013

So as I write this, I am days from finally being free from a 5 pound weight that I have drug around, walked around, stumbled over and fallen with for so long that I have almost forgotten what it is not to have it. I have actually walked through three casts in this time period. I some how just walk the rubber off the bottom and get a new one and keep on moving along.

Some how even with my limited mobility and at times high levels of pain. I knew that their was some lesson  that would be learned from my prolonged disability. I would emerge with some sort of insight that I did not have before. I have spent more time at home over the last year than in all my life. I have felt more crippling pain than I would wish on anyone.  I have gained more weight than with both of my pregnancy’s and am still gaining. But in truth I have learned and gained from being unable to live my normal life but it is not what I thought I would find at the end of this year.

Over this year of healing and being home, I learned about empathy, sympathy and love. I spent my time caring for some one who was suffering more than me. I spent much of my recovery helping my mother-in-law in her transition from cancer patent, to a weak woman in rehab, to a woman who is slowly taking back her life. I found that setting aside my pain and trying to ease the pain of someone else was a gratifying way to spend the long months that I was not able to work due to my own broken bone.Even just days after my surgery, while still on crutches, I got a call to please “help”. Somehow the two of us managed, sometimes with her courage and some times with mine,but always with the strength of some power greater than us both.

Grandma Wanda Powers with Christopher

Grandma Wanda Powers with Christopher

So as my health returns and my healing is about finished I watch as my Mother-in-laws health is also returning. We are both less dependent on each other and of those around us. She will be losing  her home health nurse in a few weeks because of her recovery and I will be returning to work soon. It is as if their was some divine reason that I had limited mobility, that I had the time to take care of her and that we could support each other through these difficult times.

I am looking forward to life with out my cast. I should be able to return to a life that  I love and be as active and healthy as I once was. The first step is only a couple of days away and I am so excited to take my first walk around the park in my brand new Tennis shoes( after wearing only one shoe for a year… I needed to buy new ones that I had not worn the sole off one shoe). I am looking forward to walking safely  through the snow this winter.

It is with new eyes that I look at recovery from any kind of health issue. It has made me thankful for the people who dedicate their lives to restoring us to health once again.I am blessed to know nurses, home health aides, physical therapist, occupational therapists and the volunteers who spend countless hours doing chores and running out to stores for those in need. It has made me rethink my career goals. In the next few months as my foot regains the strength I may discover that I am not able to return to the work that I have done for years,  a retail store merchandise auditor. I may need to think about the life experience that I have just gone through and see if my feet lead me down a new path?  Hopefully down one that supports both my Mother-in-Law and my recovery.

Air cast with other shoes

Air cast with other shoes

Categories: Cancer, Family, foot pain, foot surgery, grandma, Healing, health | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flying with a 6 year Old and a Set of Crutches…. REALLY?

So I did it ! Not in the cool comfortable style of young urban hipster, but in the aging mom with a 6-year-old and crutches type of flying. OK, it was worth every effort that me and my family had to put into the trip but I would not volunteer to do this again. Things went down hill quick at my last Dr appointment on 31st of Oct. The Dr said he would remove the stitches and give me my walking cast at this appointment  and that did not happen. It left me broken-hearted.

me in my bandages after surgery

me in my bandages after surgery

As this photo shows, I traveled from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MS with an Ace bandage, splint and a set of crutches . I had already bought my reservations and car rental when I found out that I was not going to get my walking cast. I left the Dr office thinking I would reschedule my trip, even if this was my birthday trip.I would just wait until the crutches were gone before I traveled. Well with out travel insurance the cost to rebook my flight was going to increase my ticket price from $470 for two tickets to about  another $500 dollars, putting my trip in the $1000.00 range with car rental.I just  could not see paying 500 more dollar for a weekend trip.So after talking with my family we rearranged everything so that my husband would drop us off curbside at the airport, my brother would pick us up and drop us off again when I returned home and finally a close friend volunteered to pick us up from Pittsburgh when we arrived home. I would only be responsible for getting a wheelchair to navigate the air ports and getting Christopher through security, boarding and unloading. Believe me, that was enough to worry about while on crutches.

So in the next 24 hours I packed a 6-year-old and myself for a flight across the Mississippi river to see my mom and brother. The curb side drop off is wonderful at Pittsburgh International Airport.The minute a ticket counter gentleman saw me open my door Larry was grabbing a wheel chair to get me checked in. He did everything he could to get me through check in quickly and talked with Christopher in the nicest way. He arranged for a porter to get me through security and did all of my paper work so I could rest comfortably.He put my faith back in the human race… because he didn’t even work for American Airlines.. he was from US Air.

The TSA is actually not to bad for people in wheel chairs. I got to skip the long lines that are the reason we are all at the airport  two hours early.The agents helped Christopher walk through the metal detectors by himself and wait for me on the other side. He was sooooo goood about all of this. They wheeled me through a side door and we waited on a female agent to do a pat down. Yes, I got the dreaded pat down. This was the first time in all the years that I have flown that  I was one of the millions who get the pat down every year. It was not any worse than a police pat down. Really what are people whining about… the ladies from the TSA were polite, clean, and explained everything that they planed to do and were professionals.I was able to perform everything that they needed me to do while sitting (thankfully). I now wonder what all the fuse is over  when someone has to get a pat down… I have been touch more in a crowed train or elevator… really people unless you are hiding something in you underwear this is not a big deal.

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

I was then taken to my concourse and gate ready to board. Now remember I wanted to fly non-stop because of Christopher. I thought it would be faster and easier on us both to not have connections. That meant I chose to fly a commuter flight. You know the airplanes that have only three seats per row with one single on one side and two seats on the other. Well I am not a small woman and I had completely forgotten how small the loading ramps and aisles are on these small flights. I could not walk with my crutches across the loading ramp or inside the plane, so I hopped to our seats. Christopher needing the window seat was kinda bewildered at the fact that we were all shoeing him ahead of me into the plane.He kept looking back at me with eyes that said where are we going now. I just kept saying “go buddy, go!” until we reached our seats and he was able to get comfortable in the window seat.

This was Christopher’s’ first flight that he actually remembers and it was so funny watching him discover the seats, the lights and A/C and even his seat belt. He was sooooo excited he actually squealed when he realized that we were off the ground and flying above traffic and houses. He was so glad when we were able to get through the clouds and see the bright blue sky above the rain in Pittsburgh.The trip was clam and he played and looked out the window for the next hour and a half.

We landed in St Louis and unloaded last off the plane.Hop hop hop back out off the plain into a wheelchair on the jet way. The crew worked fast and racing me back to the gate and concourse, leaving Christopher to run after us,… scaring us both. Everyone in St Louise was in a hurry and my country bumpkin mind-set was just not ready to race anywhere. Christopher was a little confused too, I needed to make a phone call, we needed a minute to acclimate to the new airport and Christopher needed to get caught up to my wheelchair. Sadly, the next thing I knew we raced down a ramp  and into a long hall at top speed where finally the lady porter asked if Christopher could ride on my chair because he just could not really keep up. “Aaaa Ya, sure just put him in my lap” I said as she power pushed us farther down the hall into baggage claim.

Once we retrieved our bags and got into my brothers car I finally relaxed. I was safe and Christopher was a sleep just a few minutes into our 2 hour drive south to Rolla. It had been a long time since I have left the comfort of my mountains, it had been a longtime since I had to ride in bumper to bumper traffic on a 5 line highway. St Louis even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was a mess with accidents, reminding me why I hated living in the Denver Metro Area all those years.Then I remembered that this was what the Missouri called mountains and laughed. This mountain girl who lived 22 years at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder Colorado, and the 24 years in the hills and valleys of North Central West Virginia found the description of the Mountains of Missouri a joyful joke. So beautiful yet not a mountain in sight.

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

We all arrived at my brother’s house to a roaring fire and I was so sore and tired that I was thankful that we had no plans to go anywhere or see any more family that night. Christopher and I had a warm quite bed in the Ozarks and we had managed to stay safe and together all the way. It was a good night  and I was glad I had made the trip even on crutches.

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

Categories: Birthday, Family, family fun, grandma, Healing, health, Ozark mountains, St Louis, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moving Forward to Health and Healing: Foot Surgery

I have been comfortably recovering from my foot surgery. I am so glad that it is over and I am finally going to get my life back to normal. I have been so lucky in my life time, I have never needed much medication. So at 46 to have my pre-operation nurse bragging to everyone that she had a patent that was on NO medications at all was a surprise. I have been very healthy most of my life, only having to a few broken bones over the last 20 years. So I feel lucky that it was nothing more serious that sent my to the hospital.

Again who would have thought that a bone the size of a nickel or dime would cost so much of my time and energy. Now it is just getting my body healed and back in shape for my active life style. The surgery to remove the bone was about an hour and everything went as planed. My foot is in a splint and ace bandages, not the hard cast that I wanted. This limits my ability to go out side( can’t get the bandages wet) and it is a typical rainy fall here in WV. No sitting on the porch for now!

me in my bandages after surgery

me in my bandages after surgery

I have low-level pain from the surgery and have not needed to take anything more than a couple of Tylenol to keep the pain at bay, which is wonderful. But, I will tell you this much, I am out of shape, over weight and crutches are not easy on the shoulders. So my current challenge really is not the pain from my foot but the soreness from my shoulders. I do have an office chair with wheels so I can scoot around my kitchen and dinning area and play on the computer with out much effort but the rest is on my shoulders and arms. It is not as easy as I thought it would be. So another lesson learned and that is really what life is all about. I head back to see the Orthopedic Surgeon on Halloween ( Oct 31st)  to have the stitches removed and get a new walking cast. At that time I can walk but should use caution on how much standing and walking I do. That cast will be with me 5 weeks and then freedom is some time in the first week in Dec.

As you can see all is well and I am going to write about some older topics for a while and fill you in on some other things that are happening around here…. like buying a house, another fixer upper, how grandma Powers is faring with her battle with Cancer and  more fresh from the garden recipes. I finally have some extra time to write more and will be share allot over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for stopping and I will be writing more soon, Jolynn

Categories: About me, foot pain, foot surgery, Healing, health | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Preparations Begin: Surgery is less then a week away

It is finally going to happen…. a year and 30 days later, I will finally have the bone removed from my foot. I had my pre-operation appointment and everything is looking fine for my foot surgery on the 20th Oct. I will be in a cast for another 5 to 6 weeks but the future is looking so nice and I really don’t mind it at all. Because this photo shows what I had to deal with all last winter.

Air cast in the snow

Air cast in the snow

Under the freshly fallen snow is my Air Cast and under that are two thermal socks and two plastic bags to keep my toes and feet from freezing. This is what I had to do to take Christopher to the bus stop every morning. I slipped on the ice, I had ice balls under my toes, waded through parking lots full of slush and only fell one time last winter. I worked through all of it, during one of the worst West Virginia winters in 20 years. With my foot hurting, limping along with a 5 pound cast. I somehow made light of my situation by just laughing at it.

Christopher was the only one who found my broken bone a good thing. He knew I had more time to snuggle and play with him up close. I was never going to chase him through the yard so he could torment me until we both just giggled. He never minded that his mom was in a cast and took full advantage of my time out of it the cast to play “broken bone man”

Christopher playing with my cast spring 2014

Christopher playing with my cast spring 2014

I have done all the things that I would normally done without the cast. So finally around July of this year I went back to the Orthopedic Dr’s office and asked for a new cast. Yea….. they looked at me funny when I explained that I had walked all the rubber of the bottom of the cast and it was flopping around like an old shoe.  I needed a second cast to finish out the year. “Wow” the nurse said “We never have to give out new ones”. Well I needed a new one and it was free because the warranty was for one year and I had gotten about 6 months out of mine. So does that tell  you that I just can’t sit still most of the time.

Mushroom hunting in my cast...#2.

Mushroom hunting in my cast 2014.

In this photo I can really begin to see where the weight of inactivity was creeping up. I actually gained almost 35 pounds over the course of this year and I have heard that up to 50 is not unheard of. You are just so limited in everything you do. Over the year my foot did cause me to go from working 35 hours a week to 10 and then none. So I am hopeful that when this is over I will be able to work 30 to 40 hours a week on my feet again.

Now the preparations for not walking for 11 days begin. I have been working on getting grandma moved back to her house for the remainder of her recovery ( see Cancer sucks post). I have been cleaning like a mad woman and getting some one set up to come help me for the second day after surgery and a few days after that. We still have lots of shopping for frozen food to do. I am not cooking for several weeks so forgive me for not doing any new food posts for a month or so. I am planing to do lots of reading and writing though. I will be doing some traveling two weeks after surgery and will be posting about all the effects of traveling in a walking cast with a small child… That will make for a funny post. So if I  did not say  it before, I will say it now, Thank You for your support. I will be posting again next week after the surgery and let you all know how it went . So until then take care. I am on the road to recovery and will be able to do more and write more about how wonderful living in the Mountain State  is and my life as a homesteading woman.

Categories: About me, family health, foot pain, foot surgery, Healing, health | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Americans are wasteful even at the Farmers Market

Today was another eye-opening experience at the farmers market. I am lucky to live in a community where we have at least 4 farmers markets within about a 12 mile area. I live in a small town of a zip code population of about 4,000 people and the neighboring town may have a zip code population that is double that. So together we may have about 12,000 with 4 farmers markets. We live in an agriculturally diverse area and many families also grow large gardens to can or freeze their own healthy foods. So farm fresh food is not hard to find here but today I learned that we as Americans are still looking at food in a non-realistic, non-healthy way.

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

Cody, Christopher and Paige Powers picking tomatoes and peppers in the garden

I am getting ready to put up about 7 quarts of home-made spaghetti sauce and spent the morning talking to an older woman who worked the farm market stand. We of course talked about what I was making and what was real fresh and what they were short on. So after several minutes she headed out to the cooler to box up my order, as I bagged up the rest of my items. When she returned and I payed for 23 pounds of tomatoes and 5 pounds of peppers. She asked me if I might be  interested in the of tomatoes sitting on the counter. The box was about 5 pounds of over ripe, soft or damaged tomatoes. She said “no one wants these, they are not perfect. If you take them they are free.” Well of course I wanted them, why wouldn’t I, an over ripe tomato is the best tomato of all. I went on to explain that they looked pretty good to me and that I would just juice them when I got home. She felt better and I was over joyed to have another 5 pounds of tomatoes to take home.

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Harvest Basket in the garden 2014

Then on my way home it hit me. Why in the world would she say that unless she had thrown out many items from their stand. Tossed away food that was totally edible but not PERFECT. Why in this day and age would some one throw away food that could feed a needy family or a homeless person? Why are Americans so trained to think that a blemish is not normal or common? I felt offended at the thought that we are so wasteful. That we are not able to think about real food in an honest way. Fresh from the garden food is not perfect if you are realistic. It is only a farmer who sprays his crops with pesticides that never gets bug damage. It is only the tomato that is half-ripe and processed with chlorine that looks red but is hard and perfect looking at the Big  Box Store. It is only on a store shelf where food color is added  to tomato juice to make it red. Why are we eating like this?

As I drove, I got madder and madder. I thought about the millions of children who only see their food on the shelf at Fred Myers, King Supers or the Piggly Wiggly.  They will never see  green beans and peas growing on a vine or carrots are dug up from underground. Some will never know that their french fries are under that bushy plant and are dug up before being fried to a crispy treat. We are raising food ignorant children. We are raising people who have no real idea what fresh from the garden food looks like or tastes like. What a shame that our country has the most money and is the most disconnected from our food.

So when I got home I washed the box full of  blemished tomatoes. I cut away a few spots and pulled out a stem or two and did this.

free tomatoes ready to be made into juice

free tomatoes ready for juicing

I juiced the tomatoes and made about 1 gallon of fresh juice that my family can make into chili, a soup stock, a V-8 drink  or a marinade for a tough deer stake. I am sure I will freeze some as soon as I get a couple of freezer containers. I will use most of it fresh with in a couple of days. I am thinking that a deer roast with peppers, onions, tomatoes in the slow cooker sounds good. I am proud that I have used what others would have thrown out. I have saved my family money with free food and I have saved my child from eating processed food once again.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice  for free.

1 gallon fresh tomato juice for free.

When will American’s learn to look at food and its usefulness in less wasteful way? Was my grandmother crazy when she said,” Waste Not, Want Not.” I hope that slowly I am teaching my children that food does not need to look perfect to taste wonderful. That we can still use a deformed carrot in stew and make jam out of over ripe fruit. That we are able to live closer to the land because we understand that nothing in this life is perfect, but what God provides for us is perfectly made for our use. Amen!

Categories: Chili, cooking, country cooking, family health, gardening, health, Homestead, organic foods, regional food, soup, steak with peppers, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, venison | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Cancer sucks! /Know One Gets Out of Here alive

Most everyone has experienced  Cancer in some way.We all know some one who has it, is recovering from it or has passed away from it. I have even owned a dog with it. It is a ruthless killer and if you are lucky to know, or  be some one who has survived it, you are a miracle. My life is up side down due to my dearly loved mother-in-laws diagnoses with throat cancer. If all you were not following to close this maybe the first time that you have seen me write about it. I was trying to let the terrible words sink in and not totally put a damper on my husbands 50th birthday party the last time I wrote about it. March 26 we were given the news that she had stage 3 throat cancer. It was a hard couple of days and my husband had a large birthday party planed 3 days later. How to celebrate the life of one loved one and stifle the tears for another one. It was a hard couple of days.4 generations of the powers family 2014 This is not even the first time I have dreaded hearing the words cancer as my X-husband passed from stomach cancer about 7 years ago at age 41, his mother soon after was also treated for cancer and survives to this day. I have seen my aunt fight to keep her breast for as long a possible fighting a little lump that would change her life. Cancer is part every species, race, age group, nation and living creature on the earth.We all fight the same battle and none of us is going to get out of here alive.

Cancer seems to either bring out the very best in people or the worst. I am proud to say that most of our family has come together in support of my mother in law. We all have heard stories about wives or husbands walking away from a sick spouse or a families falling  apart when a child becomes ill. It is a strange  thing to observe who hangs in their and who walks away. My husband and I are in the stay and fight camp. We along with his brother and sisters are all standing our ground in her fight against cancer.

Grandma is now receiving  her first round of radiation and is fighting infections of all kinds. It seems that when the cancer started to really grow in her body she was just worn down and infections of all kinds set in. It is as if one break down lead to another, some are even mental and spiritual. It has been a long hard fight but there is some light at the end of the tunnel now. The tumor is shrinking and she is slowly healing and gaining strength. At this point we are just hoping that  she will get to go home and spend some time with us. It is a simple wish from the heart with nothing flashy or brash.We know that with this type of cancer our time maybe limited so we make the best our of what time we have. grandma Wanda Dec 2013 Living surrounded by so much beauty here in the country you forget about what really happens in life sometimes. We all do, we all focus on work and dinner and paying bills, we just don’t always think about what happens at the end. It is our nature to not think about it, we are human. Then something makes you look at it again and you can only embrace the fact that it is part of the plan that we are born into, we are babies, we live, we die and the cycle begins again. This is what I see in the country every day. The farmers, the ranchers, herders live with it day in and day out, with death and birth, over and over again. I look out my kitchen window and see the hay that grows and watch as it gets mowed down in its prime, just so in the cold of winter something will live again. It is a perfect undisturbed system. I have been so lucky to share this country life with my mother in law for so many years. We lived only yards apart on the farm, we shared in the planting, growing and harvesting together. It was on the family farm that I learned about her and cycle of life that she loves still today. She taught me that every thing on the farm was a gift and that gift needed shared.

Grandma Wanda Powers with Christopher

Grandma Wanda Powers with Christopher

My family and  I know that what seems like an ending is really just the beginning.  A new beginning for her no matter where it takes her and for all of us who get to learn to step forward and teach others about what she has taught us over her 76 years. Cancer sucks,on that we can all agree, but it is really only a step towards the next phase in the journey. One that she is prepared to take and we will stand by her all the way.

Spike buck horns in the woods

Spike buck horns in the woods

 

Categories: Death, Family, family memories, Healing, health, old age | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Undiscussed Complications Related to Strep Throat a warning to Parents

This spring has been a long battle for me. I have had some health issue on and off for 5 weeks. Things just started off with a simple spring cold and cough, you know the typical stuff. Then about three good days and was sick again with a sore throat fever and chills. Classic symptoms of Strep Throat and I thought I would wait to see my Dr for a couple of days before running in to get antibiotics. So I did, waiting about 4 days before giving into the swollen glad and body aches that I had on the heals of the sore throat. Note that Strep is almost never seen in adults or teens over 16. It is strange at 45 to hear the clinic P.A.  say yes, it was a real case of strep throat and I was actually quite sick. I never knew that there are complications that regularly occur from this bacterial infection. Most of them you would never ever know about until you Goggled the information.

Over they years I have become a little leery about using to many antibiotics and steroids. I was happy to find that my P.A. did not force the issue of a steroid treatment on my first visit but just causally said he would let me call him back if I felt that I needed them without having another appointment fee. We also discussed that with my age he would expect my case to develop into a sinus infection. OK, great! At that point  he put me on a strong antibiotic to try to keep that from happening and to support the killing of the Streptococcus bacteria. I left the office feeling that this would be the end of all of my aliments. I was wrong!

After the 4 Th day of antibiotic treatment I was feeling really good. Spent some time with Tom outdoors hiking and mushroom hunting enjoying a wonderful day and spent a nice night playing with Christopher. The next morning was totally different.  I woke up to pressure in both ears and a terrible ringing in my right ear. The combination was very disturbing. The ringing lasted several days but over about 24 hours the pressure in my left ear released on its own with a nice Pop! So being a little slow to worry, I  weighted three more days before thinking that I needed the steroids . While these short days passed the symptoms got worse. My hearing was declining fast. The first morning was pressure and ringing but I could hear almost normally. By day 4 I had lost all of the hearing from that ear and the ringing had turned into a buzzing. The pressure was steady and very uncomfortable but not getting better.Things were looking like I was going to have to call and get the steroid medication whether I wanted it or not.

Ear

In the mean time a friend that I have known for about 15 years contacted me and asked me some serious questions about my situation and explained that  her daughter, went deaf in one ear at 17  from a strep infection. Her symptoms acted just like what I had written about in a Facebook post. Well that started me looking up all the information I could on Strep Throat and what her daughter has (idiopathic hearing loss) and what other causes we could find. Not only did I have strep throat just before this but I was also recovering from facial cold sore that I have been fighting with over 20 years.  All these factors added up to trouble. Karen explained that if her daughter had taken a steroids they think that they could have saved her hearing…but they waited to long. The period for treatment is less than a month and the hearing loss becomes permanent.  I also discovered the more common complications while looking up the ones for my problem… the list is LONG and SCARY.

Strep Throat complications included sinus infections, ear infections,enlarged and damage to the kidneys and middle ear problems, Rheumatic fever that damages the heart,to PANDAS- and O.C.D. ( obsessive compulsive disorder). Holy Crap  this is just part of the list. Just think of every kid you have ever known who has had this multiple times. I knew kids growing up that would get it every year or sometimes twice in a year. The risk of complications is real and as a woman who is too old to get strep, I was shocked at the amount of damage a sore throat can cause.

Lucky for me my friend encouraged me to call back to my Dr office and ask to get the steroids ASAP. I did call in for that prescription and began taking them the following morning. The wait was on and I was actually thinking that it would not work. I thought OK, at 45 I would be partly deaf and this was the price I was going to pay. I was wrong and I began to get relief over night.

The second day I picked up the phone and could hear a dial tone. The same one I could not hear the day before and I knew it was working. In about 48 hours the pressure was gone and almost all of my hearing had returned. I still have some issues with ringing but they are better than before. What I have experienced was an emotional roller coaster and has made me more aware of what our kids go through with just a minor cold. I would have never believed that 4 weeks of my life would be lost to a bacterial infection. That what we don’t know can really hurt our health and in this case my hearing. I don’t think it will ever be totally normal but I will take every song bird that I can can hear sing the rest of my life.

So when a child gets diagnosed with a simple case of Strep Throat for their sake take the time to really watch over them closely and make sure that if you see a rash, get complaints about ear pressure or pain, or issues with the stomach that you take it more seriously than before it could make the difference between them hearing your loving words or not hearing at all.

Categories: About me, child care, Healing, health, sickness, Strep Throat | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sauerkraut, Home Made the Traditional Way

Our family loves Sauerkraut and they have made it home-made for generations. I was fortunate to receive a used kraut cutter from my father in law over ten years ago. This ones made by Masketeers in Belington,West Virginia with Appalachian Hard wood.The antique crock is a more resent purchase but is around 50 years old  so the following post will be a traditional view of the Sauerkraut making process, they way that my in laws family has made it here in Appalachia over a hundred years. There are other vessels that people make their fermented vegetables in but for me I find the use of a lager crock useful because you are able to adjust the amount of ingredients to fit your family size. This batch is relatively small  using only four heads of cabbage. Making about 4 to 5 quarts of  kraut to cold store, with larger batches we can process them in my canner. I also use the traditional 8″ inch dinner plate and a clean rock to hold everything under the brine.

crock and sauerkraut cutter made in West Virginia

crock and sauerkraut cutter made in West Virginia

There are lots of wonderful information about the health benefits of sauerkraut and other fermented foods on the internet. This is just one of many sites that explains what  sauerkraut  can do to help improve your health. WellnessMama does a great job of explaining the basic health benefits of adding fermented foods back into our diets. One of my favorite pieces of information about sauerkraut is that is was the first line of defense against Scurvy  and the effects of limited intake of vitamin C. Who would have guessed that is very simple process would save lives of sailors around the world. That just one serving of sauerkraut may have three times the levels of vitamin c than raw cabbage.

So to begin with the basic ingredients for sauerkraut are cabbage, salt and time, nothing radical or hard to find, but the alterations on the basic recipe are endless. This time I used  my 5 gallon crock so that I could make enough kraut for a couple of dinners and share some with my son and a friend.  So while cabbage was on sale I picked up 4 heads of cabbage weighing about 6 pounds. I also bought  canning salt. This salt is for making pickles, sauerkraut, and other items that require salt that is Iodine FREE, it is also low in metal minerals so  there is less discoloration of the cabbage.We will talk more about this in a minute. Table salt is not recommended and Sea Salt my cause discoloration but will not effect the fermentation of the food. Try what you have and see if you are happy with the results.

Morton canning and pickling salt

Morton canning and pickling salt

 

cabbage sitting on top of kraut cutter and crock

cabbage sitting on top of kraut cutter and crock

The first step is know about the weight of the cabbage you plan to use so that you can start out with a low amount of salt. Many people complain that home-made sauerkraut is to salty.Fallowing this basic step will prevent a person from over salting. I use 1 table-spoon salt per pound of cabbage. In this case I have a little over six pounds of cabbage so I used 6 and 1/2 table spoons salt. Also important is what kind of salt you are using as sea salt is the mildest of store-bought salts and then canning salt and then table salt. This affects the outcome of the kraut, we want to ferment the cabbage not kill the flavor with salt.

The next  part is to shred the cabbage. Use any method that is easy for you, but I suggest that if you are making more than two heads of cabbage into kraut you will want a mandolin slicer  or a sauerkraut cutter both are widely available over the internet. Then shred the heads of cabbage in to you crock or bowel, making sure to not shred the core into your container.

Tom and Christopher Powers shredding cabbage in to 5 gallon crock

Tom and Christopher Powers shredding cabbage in to 5 gallon crock

shredded cabbage in 5 gallon crock

shredded cabbage in 5 gallon crock

After  each head of cabbage I add one table-spoon salt and add any remaining salt at the end. So in this process I added  4 tables spoons while shredding and a couple at the end. The next step is the work of the job,  is to wash you hands and mix the cabbage and salt throughout. Then begin to squeeze and crush the two together this helps speed up the break down of the cabbage and begins the weeping process. Mash, squeeze, muddle, or smash the cabbage about 20 minutes until enough juice forms to cover the cabbage when pressed into your container. I just used my hands and a potato masher. If enough juice is not formed to cover the cabbage add a small amount of water and salt. 1/2 cup water to 1/4 teaspoon salt.

weeping cabbage after mashing in salt for 20 minutes

weeping cabbage after mashing in salt for 20 minutes

The cabbage brine is a little foamy from all the action but there is enough brine to cover this mixture with a dinner plate and rock at this point. I happen to have a large heavy dinner plate that covers almost the entire surface of the brine and cabbage. So I add this and squish the cabbage down again making sure the brine rises to cover most of the plate.

dinner plate over cabbage covered in brine

dinner plate over cabbage covered in brine

In this photo you can see just the very edges of the cabbage are peeking out from under the plate. As long as this small section of cabbage is under the brine we have an air tight seal with enough room for the Co2 to escape around the plate and fermentation to begin. For extra protection that the brine level was high enough for at least 7 days, I used a second plate to displace more of the brine back over the edges of the crock and then topped it with a clean rock in a freezer bag.

two dinner plates , clean rock in baggy over fermenting cabbage

two dinner plates , clean rock in baggy over fermenting cabbage

This was now ready to cover with a cloth, piece of wood, any thing that will keep bugs out and set for the next week to ten days. At about 5 days I look to make sure there is still enough liquid  over the edges of the plate to make sure I am keeping that air tight seal. What I found was a very nice bubbly foam that the bacteria had cause by releasing Co2, the brine was still deep enough for a good seal and I recovered the crock for two more days. Then at 7 days I looked again and noticed the there was still plenty of foam being formed but that brine level was getting a little low so I added about 1/2 cup water to the top of the crock. I replaced the cover and waited 2 more days.

color change at day 5 fresh foam

color change at day 5 fresh foam

On day nine, I saw a no foam and started to see a little milky film forming on the top blue plate and a  few areas around the bottom plate that looked dark and oxidized. When using salt with a high metal mineral content the tops of the cabbage turn to a lead-colored gray. This is nothing that will hurt you but it is not a pleasant sight. Gray is not a great color for sauerkraut. Also watch for a mold, at times it will form on the bottom of the rock, bag, or plate as these areas are also exposed to the air. I usually can stop it before the problem really starts but today I did find a spot forming on the edge of the plastic bag. All these signs indicate that it is time to move the crock to a cooler place or time to move the sauerkraut  into jars for storage. I chose to put my mine in jars and place in the back of our refrigerator.

day nine no foam slimy scum forming on top plate

day nine no foam, slimy scum forming on top plate

 

Fresh sauerkraut in jars in cold storage up to six months

Fresh sauerkraut in jars in cold storage up to six months

 

With 4 heads of shredded cabbage I ended up with 4 quarts of sauerkraut with enough brine left in each jar to cover the fermented cabbage. This process of storage will keep things ageing nicely up to 6 months. I did not pressure can or boiling water bath these jars although you could process them and keep them in your pantry for up to one year without any problems. I use the cold storage for small batches that we will use up in a couple of months but when the garden is full of cabbages and I have 6 or 7 heads fermenting I will can all but one jar and eat it fresh.

 

 

5 gallon crock with cabbage slicer

5 gallon crock with cabbage slicer

Their at hundreds of ways to include other vegetables into your kraut and some of the most often used are garlic and onions. I have also heard of carrots, beets, and celery going into batches for added color and texture. I think you will find that even if you only wanted to use a large glass jar for the fermentation vessel you can make a very inexpensive batch of healthy food for pennies on the dollar. In this case the cabbage was at 38 cents a pound and I added 6 tablespoons of salt maybe .25 cents = 2.50  for side dishes for at least 4 meals for a family of 4. That comes to about 20 cents per serving or less. Not a bad way to increase you probiotics and vitamin C in take.

So for dinner tonight, I will add this home made sauerkraut  to a low-fat cut of pork roast and bake long and slow in a slow cooker until it falls apart and serve  with a side of German potato pancakes and enjoy.

Categories: canning, country cooking, fermentation, gardening, health, Preserving, sauerkraut | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Frustration of the unhealed bone

I don’t often complain on my blog but today I am just at my wit’s end. After 6 months….yes…. 6 months have passed since I broke the quarter size bone in the bottom of my foot and I am still in pain. I have followed the Dr orders and they have not done much to help in the healing of the Sesamoid bone in my left foot.

bones of the foot showing the side view of the

bones of the foot showing the side view of the

From the bottom image in the diagram you can see the small little bone that I have broken on the bottom of my foot. The bone is like a cap to the joint of our big toe, acting like a knee cap does to our knee-joint. It is nice to have it to protect the joint but is not necessary for walking per say.  This little free-floating bone ( like the knee cap) is kept in place by tendons and muscles . In my case the bone broke perfectly in two pieces and is now flexing sharp bone shards back and forth as I walk. The pain is like having a paper cut every time I take a step, not pleasant at all. The burning and stinging eventually increased to the point that everything inflamed  making walking impossible.

I broke the bone in a very unusual way, In Oct of last year I was changing from my work clothes into yard work clothes, I lost my balance and ended up stomping my foot to the floor to catch myself from falling and “POP” went the bone. This bone is usually found broken in joggers or cross-country runners, not house wives and merchandisers.  As you can guess, It became sore and the whole of my foot became tender to the touch but the pain passed in a couple of days. I was left with just occasional times of burning and tenderness. I just thought it was a something dislocated or deeply bruised. I was wrong.

So finally,  in the first weeks of Dec. I just could not walk any more. The hours I put in walking as a merchandiser and Auditor in retail chains was more than I could stand . I headed to the Dr and proscribed a walking cast boot for up to twelve weeks.

photo of me Dec 10th 2013 in boot cast

photo of me Dec 10th 2013 in boot cast

I worked and did my daily routine with the boot through one of the coldest and snow covered winters that we have had in thirty years. I slipped and bobbed my way through winter being thankful to say home 6 weeks of those 12 weeks.

Air boot cast in snow

Air boot cast in snow

Then at 9 weeks I returned to the Orthopedic surgeon and the new x-ray showed no healing of the bone. Their is only two options at this point, 3 more weeks in a cast and/or surgery. The idea behind the three more weeks was that the Dr hoped that my body would form a scare around the bones to prevent it from moving and causing any more movement and pain.

During the last 3 weeks, I just burnt out. I tired of having cold wet toes every time I go out side. I hated that walking had become dangerous for the rest of my body, as I tried to walk over ice and snow up stairs and over slippery side walks. Finally, at the end of my 3 additional weeks I took the boot off a couple of days early as we went shopping and helped a friend with a couple of mini donkey trims in the snow. The test trips with out the case went well and I put the foot back in the boot for another week before the big reveal.

When freedom came  last week I was over joyed, I  had hoped to put the boot cast to good use,  letting my 5-year-old turn it into a toy. My happiness was short-lived. The pain returned quickly.

Christopher daning in my Air cast boot

Christopher dancing in my air cast boot

Now about two weeks have passed and I feel crippled again. The nonstop pain is back every time I take a step with out this cumbersome device. I am back to wearing it unless I am reading, writing, or watching TV and generally sitting down. The future plan is to have to bone removed ASAP, meaning sometime in the first weeks of April. Then another 5 weeks at home on bed rest and then another 4 to 5 weeks in another cast.

my air cast boot in the entry area with other shoes

my air cast boot in the entry area with other shoes

I am finding this whole process frustrating. It will be  harder as the weather warms up and the flowers and garden need planting. I am hopeful that by the end of May that I will be in my Crocks again working outside. Until then I am still plugging around the house and finding as much enjoyment in my kitchen as I can. I am adjusting to my more sedentary life as best I can. It is hard not to walk on the treadmill and take mile long walks with Christopher. It appears that I am  home bound a while longer and need to learn to take life more slowly.

Categories: About me, Healing, health, Pain, work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Problem for West Virginians with contaminated water and being Prepaire

 

Since  the terrible chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia on Thursday I have watched 300,000.00 of my states citizens suffer unheard of problems from just the simple lack of clean water. The chemical that my southern  friends are exposed to are toxic enough to not only made the water undrinkable for humans or animals it made the water unsuitable for even washing your clothes, bathing, or using it for any thing.  This  man-made disaster could have had to potential to have killed thousand of plants, animals and humans. Yet the biggest problem the my family and many others have been discussing is that people are not even close to being prepared to care for their families if this was to happen to their town. FEMA suggest that every person should have at least 3 gallons of water per person for at least a total of three days. This would mean that my family of three should have stored about 9 gallons of water per person stored for an an emergence like this. How many of us have that amount of fresh usable water on hand?

I would not call my family a prepping family.. .. just a county family that knows what being self-reliant is about. We know what it like to not see a snow plow for days on end and some times never. We know what it is like to go with out  electric for weeks in the cold winter and in the heat of summer. We know that every time the electric goes out you have no running water; no electric means no pump, that means no water. So from just our everyday lives we  think ahead and store what we can so that we can live comfortably for about a week with out electric, water or even  leaving our drive way.

Tip # 1   one of the least expensive ways to store water in large qualities is a simple rain barrel. I have had them for years and  at every home that we have lived in. I think I spent about 17 dollars on the barrel  and maybe 10 dollars on Quick dry cement for the level pad it sits on. Then the rest is free.

end of summer rain barrel and container garden

end of summer rain barrel and container garden

Their you go at least 50 gallons of water for almost no money. Our barrel has a spout kit on the other side so that I can use the barrel for watering my flowers and vegetables. The tap did add about 6 dollars and a little time to install to my barrel. We do not try to cover our barrel so we can use a bucket to carry the water into the house or out to bird bath it also allows for the water to expand in the winter when it freezes. But think this water could keep my family safely washing dishes, taking baths, flushing the toilet and giving my pet safe water to drink for days. In a real pinch we could even sanitize this water for drinking.  There are hundreds of rain barrel ideas all over the internet and huge storage systems that people build that enclose the water and run through filtering systems that can make rain water drinking safe if you want to go that far. We just want to know that we can flush the toilet and wash our bodies when the time comes.

Tip # 2 Tom and I also store water in our kitchen and basement in these 4 gallon bottles of water, the one below is the one that I always keep in the kitchen in case we need water for cooking and I am to lazy to go to the basement to get it. We found these at  local Kroger store with a refilling machine outside on the side walk.The cost per bottle may vary and may have gone up since I bought these but I think they were 6$ each with a refund of .99 cents every time you recycle the bottles for a refilled… I have never refilled the 4 that I have so the prices maybe different. So that is 12 gallons of cooking and drinking water in large bottles, used mostly for dishes and making tea.

4 gallons of water in a storage safe bottle

4 gallons of water in a storage safe bottle

Tip # 3  Everyone should try to store at least one case of bottled drinking water per person in their house hold.We keep at least 3 in our basement at all times, in the summer there is always some in the truck for Tom, in the fridge and in the kitchen… usually two more cases in the summer. For our family 3 to 4 bottles of water for drinking a day plus some for teeth brushing and hand washing is about all we really need so a case could last at least two days with three cases we have about a weeks worth for every person who lives in my home.

Tip #4 There are other item that is handy to have around to keep water safe and clean. The most important and least expensive is a simple bottle of bleach. As we all know from being kids at swimming pools chlorine bleach kills lost of nasty bugs in water. If I had to depend on my rain water for cooking, or washing dishes where the water temps were to low to sterilise the water 1/8 of a teaspoon of bleach will kill enough microbes to safely use the water for washing dishes, bathing, and cooking at high temps. It is even recommended  by the CDC for use in drinking water if you are unsure of the water coming out of your tap.

http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/emergency/09_202278-B_Make_Water_Safe_Flyer_508.pdf

I try to always have a small bottle around for other uses as well. Never know when you are going to need to sanitize an area and this works great in a spray bottle or in a water wash.

Tip #5   Just in case you just cant get enough water to say take a bath or wash you hands. Lysol wipes, Wet Ones, Clorox wipes or any anti bacterial wipes are a God send. We use them for just about any kind of clean up you can think of… no water to wash up you hands … use a wipe… no water to clean a minor cut…use a wipe… need to clean a surface to cook on… use a wipe. They are easy to store, nice and moist, stay wet for years in their own container, cheap and portable. I recommend that every one have several containers stored away for a situation like this. We store around 4 large containers of these in the even that we need to wash up with no water.

Tip #6  Never ever toss out those extra paper plates  or plastic cups after picnicking season is over. It is a wonderful feeling not to have to boil water and use what little drinking water you have to wash the dishes. So when those store brand foam plates go on sale in the summer by extra… and keep them hidden away somewhere. They can save your family a lot of water when the time comes.

I hope this will help remind  some one of how much we need to store water in case of  an emergence. Water is one of the few things that we all MUST HAVE! There is no way to get around it and so many of us never think about not being able to use the water from our taps in any way. That is what my state is facing  as you read this.  How prepared are you and should you think a head just a little farther. It could keep you from standing in long lines waiting for the National Guard to get you the water you need to just make that cup of coffee in the morning.

Sharing this post with my friends at A rural journal and Nancy.

http://aruraljournal.blogspot.com/p/random-5-friday.html

Random 5 Friday

Categories: Elk River, health, Safty, water, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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