Monday, October 31, 2011

Who is the Momma?

I have so enjoyed watching all the ducklings grow this summer.  Mamaw and I were just talking the other day about how interesting the ducklings are. The come out these cute fuzzy little things. You watch them and they seem to grow so slowly. This particular brood seemed like they would never feather in. Just when you think they may never change, you turn around and seemingly they have doubled in size overnight.

This is the oldest of this year's broods with their momma. They crack me up. Many of these ducklings are larger than the hen, yet she leads them around. She still watches and protects them. At night the "little" ones all snuggle in a circle to keep warm, but momma is not far off, ever keeping a watchful eye on her offspring.

Have you guessed which one is the momma? It is the one with the white head. You know the one giving me the suspicious eye as I take photos of her babies.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Second Salt

Kellen and Lydia Salting
Bright (well maybe it wasn't so bright then) and early  this morning we headed down to the meat processor's for a second salting on Kellen and Lydia's Ham, Bacon, and Egg hams. It was a quick and easy process. They simply needed to scrape off the salt from the first salting, and then re-salt their hams. Now, the hams sit and cure until January. I can't wait to see how they turn out! 

Kellen's Hams

Lydia's Ham

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Autumn Sunrise

I remember when we first moved here, I was daily in awe of the beauty of our surroundings. Six years later, I admit I often take that beauty for granted, especially in this last year and a half that has been so hectic and stressful.

This morning I got out to do chores a bit earlier than normal. The schedule for the day was jam packed. I was in a hurry, and little stressed about getting everything done on time. Then, I happened to look up from the task I was completing to see this beautiful sunrise.

I stopped and soaked it in for a moment, feeling exceedingly grateful for this beauty we have been given, and appreciative of the moment to enjoy it. There was just a touch of sadness at all the moments I've missed as I've been caught up in the worries of this life.

I only lingered a minute (and then another to grab the camera.) The moment didn't make me late. It didn't interfere with my well laid out plan for the day, but in that moment my focus was changed. I wasn't consumed by my over scheduled day. I was awed by the beauty around me. The beauty is always there, but I don't always choose to look at it.

With that little change of heart came peace, and that underlying peace made the day go much more smoothly. The tasks got done in a timely manner without me being irritable and stressed.

I am very thankful for this morning's beautiful sunrise, the moment to enjoy it, and the gentle reminder that it only takes a moment and a small choice to turn my heart and my focus where it needs to be.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ham, Bacon, and Eggs

Who is ready for breakfast? Kellen and Lydia are working on the ingredients to make one heck of a breakfast from scratch. Well, perhaps before scratch. They are participating in the Ham, Bacon, and Eggs program this year that is available to local 4-H and FFA students. They each took a hog to Rolfe's Custom Meats last week. The guys there got the hogs ready for cutting, and Saturday Tim took the kids to get to work on the bacon and hams. The leaders and the butchers showed the kids how to cut the ham and bacon from one side of the hog. Then the kids cut the other side.

Lydia cutting the bacon.

After the cutting is done, it time to begin the curing process. Then we wait. There will be another ham salting at the end of month, and several other steps between now and the end of February when the curing process will be complete.

Kellen salting a ham.
Around that time the kids will start collecting the "perfect" dozen of eggs. They will be looking for uniformity of color and size.

The ham, bacon, and eggs will be judged the first week of March, and the project will end with a breakfast where the meats and eggs will be auctioned.

I just love this project, and am so excited the kids are participating this year! The kids are excited too, and enjoyed the cutting of the meats. Kellen was particularly impressed with the large saws that the butcher uses. I can't wait to see how the projects turn out! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No News and the Same News

Two weeks ago we had a visit with our local retina specialist about Kellen's eye. After visiting him before, visiting the best of the best specialist in Philadelphia, and visiting the infectious disease doctor, the consensus was that the lesion behind Kellen's eye was not cancer and it was not any of the long list of infections or parasites that can be detected by blood work. They all agreed that the next step was to try a round of steroids in hopes that would shrink the lesion behind the eye.

Today the doctor found that has been no change in the lesion or the pocket of fluid from it behind the eye. There had been no significant change in Kellen's vision either. We decided to continue the steroids another two weeks, and check again. At that point, if there has been no change, he will wean off the steroids, but other than that there is no planned course of action. The doctor mentioned freezing the lesion, but also said it is in a very difficult spot for that procedure.

Many of you have also asked how Tim is doing. They got the cancer with the surgeries, and then interferon chemo was recommended. The first month was intense, and I'm so glad it is over. He is now on a lower dose treatment that he is supposed to take for a year. It makes him feel weak and tired, kind of like what you feel like with the flu.

So far we've seen a pattern of him feeling pretty decent for a week or two of treatments and then gradually he feels weaker and weaker. Then his weekly blood work will come back showing his white cell count to be too low for treatments. He'll take a week off, begin to feel better, and then start the cycle again.

It does seem like he is more tolerant of the treatments as he goes on. The down part of the cycle takes longer to come, but it still does. It is very frustrating to us both.

And I wonder if it is really the best course of action. I've always had an interest in alternative/natural medicines and treatments, but never took the time to become more educated. When Tim got his diagnosis we were in crisis mode, and there was no time or energy to research or consider other treatments. We just did what we were told.

A ways into the chemo we started watching documentaries like Food Matters, and reading books about the Gerson Therapy. We started discussing these alternatives. Then we got Kellen's news, and were back in crisis mode again just treading water. 

(Anyway, those two paragraphs were a complete rabbit trail, but this is my blog and rabbit trails are allowed.)

So, we really don't know what is going on with Kellen's eye. The good news is it isn't getting any worse. The bad news is it isn't getting any better, and no one seems to know how to fix it. Tim is doing about the same. The bad news is he still feels sick a lot of the time. The good news is it takes him longer to feel really bad.

Personally, I'm tired of doctors, tired of medicines, tired of not having answers, or fixes. I am just tired.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Definitely Purple

Last week I was walking by the garden, giving it my normal quick glance as I went to feed animals when I noticed something purple sticking out of the ground. My first thought was that the kids had stuck some toy into the ground and forgotten about it. I went for a closer inspection.

As I got closer, I realized it wasn't a toy. In fact, it was connected to my sweet potato vine. I'll admit to being a bit confused momentarily. What can I say? My mind was a bit occupied this summer, but after a second I remembered that I did buy purple sweet potatoes back in the spring.

This is our second year growing sweet potatoes. They have earned a spot near the top of my list of favorite garden plants. They require less work to plant than white potatoes, and once they are in and mulched they are virtually care free. The only maintence they needed this year was a bit of hoeing, and that was only because the neighbors' dog kept digging up the hill. There is quite a bit of labor involved with the harvest. We harvested on Saturday.

Even though I knew I bought purple sweet potatoes, I never expected them to be such a deep and beautiful color. We roasted them with some onion, potato, eggplant, and fresh herbs tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. It made a delicious side dish.

I'm not sure what color my sweet potatoes will be next year, but I do know that there will be sweet potatoes in the ground here again!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

I Don't Know, But It is Bad.

Awhile back the girls and I were on our to Farmer's Market. They were playing school, and Lydia was working with Vivian on her math skills. Vivian was counting with her fingers, and in the process had her middle finger up alone. Lydia gasped and said, "Vivian you can't put your middle finger up like that."

From the front of the van, I am wondering how Lydia knows what that particular gesture means, and what she is going to tell her little sister about it. Vivian is unfazed, and simply asks, "Why can't I?" Lydia answers, "It is bad. It means a bad word."

Do you really think Vivian was satisfied with such an answer?  She kept pushing Lydia, and I kept quietly wondering how this was all going to turn out. Finally, Lydia looks at Vivian and says, "I don't know what it means. I just know that it is bad. Don't do it."

Vivian was finally satisfied with that answer, and so was her mom.