Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Soaking seeds and COrNTRACTS

  I've been starting seedlings galore. One of the biggest perks to growing things from seed you saved yourself is the noticeable vitality. 

  I ordered up a huge selection of different crops to try this year. The whole liberating concept of having plenty of room to grow whatever and as much as I want.. the internet.. plus a debit card... a touch or two of Pinot Noir.. and the giddiness only achievable by many nights of no sleep..  Well the results showed up at my doorstep 3 weeks ago. 

 I resisted the urge to pile up all of the packets and roll in it. 

 I grabbed out the old teacups that sport lovely 70's floral design and made a mild tea. The glorious thing to the neighbor's old house is that the downspouts are snapped off at the base, which makes collecting water a snap. 1 gallon of rainwater, a few drops of organic liquid sea kelp fertilizer and I ran it through vermicompost. By ran it through.. I took a cleaned out 16 oz. cream cheese container, cut a large hole in the lid, popped a coffee filter in the container (folding the edges over and the lid held the filter in place).. a few scoops of vermicompost gently swirled into the rainwater mix was then strained in the cream cheese filter container.

 Totally don't need to do this.. it is just to make a mild tea that I use to presoak some seeds in small batches before planting. I let many seeds soak in this for a few hours. To be blunt.. it puts me on the clock. Once they hit the water.. I am committed. I have to have their pots readied, the identification tags made.. move move move! No slacking off  or excuse to "do it tomorrow". 

 The soaking also lets me pay closer attention to the seeds. For example.. a lot of floaters is not a good sign. I had a LOT of floating tomato & pepper seeds from my order.. and looking closer.. they are missing embryos, and many tomato seeds were crushed. 

 When you clean your own seeds, you can skim off the "floaters". Ones like squash, tomatoes, peppers, etc. will set a lot of seeds in their fruit, but the "empty" seeds.. the unfertilized (hence missing the embryo) seed is more buoyant. (there are some viable seed that float.. however a majority of the floaters are not viable, this is when you are first processing your seeds to be saved.)

 Seeds I saved sprout very quickly. About 10 days faster than the ones I just purchased of the peppers. The chive seeds I chucked in a tray on a lark were 3 years old. The onion family is notorious for short viability of their seeds. 3 years old.. I didn't give them too much of a chance. I was pleasantly surprised when at day 3 I saw many of them emerging. 

 I'm still trying to figure out how to get a few acres tilled. We have to remove a lot of saplings and brush to clear a way to the gates to get into 2 of the fields. Around here.. "lures" to attract deer are illegal. The way properties used for hunting get around it... is by planting corn. Can't put out a salt lick.. so instead they set out a massive buffet. 

 The hunters we rent the farm to seemingly talked to a local farmer. Short version.. my Mom was talked into renting the north fields as at the moment, I do not have the finances to reseed it all in an alfalfa mix.

 When she approached me on it.. I had more than a few questions. 

 "What are they planting?"

 "What strain of corn?"
   "I don't know, but I will find out on Monday because I have to register it."

  "Isn't Farmer So-n-So a conventional grower?"
    "I don't know what the difference is. I told him no toxic chemicals and he said that is not a problem because he doesn't use them, but he did say he will have to use fertilizer."

 My Mom is not a farmer, she is not a gardener. She also is rather uninformed about a lot of things (absolutely the opposite of her Mom, my Grandmother, the Garden Guru). I got Farmer So-n-So's phone number and asked him point blank. Resulting in the contract being cancelled. He was planning on GMO corn and the joys that come with planting that type of crop. Out here, Round-up is considered harmless by a majority of the farmers. What Farmer So-n-So thinks is non-toxic.. and what I think is non toxic... are 2 entirely different worlds. 

 While Farmer So-n-So tried telling me of it's virtues.. and how you can't grow anything without it.. that it is safe enough that he lets his cattle graze on it after harvest. That's his opinion. He knew my youngest sister, but it seems he didn't know that several times she had to be airlifted out to the City was after the neighbor sprayed.

 I'm fine with being the "organic hippy weirdo". The way I see it is.. either you pay the piper now or later, but no matter what, he needs to be paid. 

Update on my sister.. She got into the Mayo clinic. After a battery of tests and biopsies the results were much worse than we expected. The tumor is 5cm, and right up on and pressing against the superior mesenteric artery which makes it inoperable. Chemo at this stage wouldn't help.

 Right before getting the call that there was a cancellation and she could be squeezed in.. she bought tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls in April. 

 We are trying to tackle everything as best as possible, not squander what moments we have, and take it in stride one day at a time.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Winston Churchill Quotes

 I can't help but really adore many quotes from Winston. I am trying to make a dent in my seedlings while we wait for the ground to dry and the Mayo clinic to call.

 The gastroenterologist my sister just went to was trained by the Mayo clinic.. and on Tuesday he called and said "this is beyond my abilities. I'll get you in to the Mayo clinic because they're the ones you need."

 She packed a bag and is ready.. just in case there should be a call saying "we can get you in this afternoon". A 4 hour drive away.. I really hope the call comes soon. If the tumor can be shrunk enough to get away from those main vein and artery.. they can operate. 

 Positive attitude means everything. Trying to keep her spirits up sometimes is like trying to push a boulder up a waterlogged slippery hill. Thankfully due to my strong Irish and German lineage.. I am stubborn enough and hardheaded enough to know I can do it.

 Also I am excited because we will be picking up a sampler package of totally grass fed beef from Irish Grove Farms. Roughly over an hour drive to the east.. I can't wait. 

 Also on the list for this week is finishing my sister's kitchen so she has a counter top on which to place the big ol' juicer.... and ripping out her shower to put in a bathtub. When she does start chemo, she'll need to soak in a hot hot bath for 30 minutes afterward to open up the blood vessels and make the treatment more effective.

 I need to believe she can do it. I do believe she can do it. 

 It sounds silly I suppose... but with each seed I see sprout.. to me it means I have a way to help her. This is what I can do... this is what I will do.. and even though I can not fight the battle for her, I can support her, I can encourage her, and I can help supply her with what she needs.

 Quotes from Churchill:

 "If you are going through hell, keep going."

 "I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks."

 "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

 "A joke is a very serious thing."

 "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

 "Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have."

 "I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod."

 "Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer."

 "We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival."

 "Never, never, never give up."

 "Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room."


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ordering more seeds

 Things here have mellowed out a little. After the emotional meltdowns subsided we refocused and are now playing catch up. While originally my excitement was about attempting to reclaim my own health, it is now encompassing the need to try to help my sister.

 The Gerson diet is one way she is trying to deal with the situation. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer sucks. If she can shrink the tumors, then there is a remote chance they can still do the Whipple procedure. It's like desperately trying to win the lottery when everything depends on it. It is a chance though... and no matter how remote, it is a chance.. and we'll take it.

 So I am hitting up the seed catalogs and making my list. 

 Maybe there was a reason everything fell into place like it did. I am grateful to be out here, that is for sure. 

 The weather is too cold to build cold frames, but... it warmed up enough at the house in town to thaw out a section of the backyard. Yesterday it was just dry and thawed enough to be workable! So the yard debris of last fall's leaves were rounded up, the kitchen compost materials added, and the coffee grounds from in town's only cafe mixed in to begin hot composting. 

 I still have yet to come up with a name. Well, I did have a name, but it was rejected. 
  Krazy Achers  (black wal-) Nut Farm

 I felt kinda creatively stifled when it was suggested I pick another. I was rather proud of it. Kinda like the answering machine messages I used to have to do in high school. A chore I was liberated from when my artistic flare triggered a few phone calls to my parents to see if my younger sister was ok. I thought it was adding ambiance as you heard the saws and banging of the remodeling in the background. Not like my sister really had her head stuck in the railing and firefighters were trying to cut her free...

 So in an attempt to spark true creativity, I waited until this very last second to fill out the Farmer's market ad. Indeed.. writing this right now when I should be filling out the forms to helping to fuel that spark into a fire that only sheer panic of running out of time can create.

 What are you selling? Well... not sure.. but they don't have a box to mark off "whatever my sister hasn't consumed". 

 A huge bonus recently discovered is a neighbor (and by neighbor I mean someone less than 5 miles away) is big into bees and blueberries. Once things get blooming, I will see if they want to put a spare hive or several on the farm.

 The trays for the propagation unit are situated nicely... in Colorado. Where it seems I left a lot of gardening gear on the side... where it would be obvious and not forgotten... and it was... totally overlooked. It's ok.. I found a place where I can order new ones, tomorrow when they are back in stock. Instead of $18 each, I found them for $8. 

 Back to filling out the ad.. which I have less than an hour to do. Then round up the list and order a couple hundred dollars more in seeds. My "start small and focused" concept is out the window and has moved on to... grow grow grow... just as soon as it thaws..

 While some can not function in chaos, for others it is a setting in which they thrive.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Devastating news

 The doctor called my sister at 9pm. He apologized twice for being the bearer of bad news.. and then told her she most likely has pancreatic cancer.

 I'm flipping between uncontrollable crying and anger. 

 Tomorrow I will be at her house as we tackle scheduling a battery of tests. PET scan, blood tests.. track down an oncologist. It is a 3cm tumor in the head of the pancreas. Which means that the only option is the Whipple procedure.

More extensive surgery, called the Whipple procedure, involves removal of the pancreas head and nearby structures (e.g., the duodenum). It also may be necessary to remove the entire pancreas, as well as the spleen, gallbladder, and bile duct. Sometimes, the tumor cannot be completely removed. Most specialists believe that partial removal is not beneficial.

 My sister is 47. She's been eating organically and rarely eats meat since she was 18. She doesn't smoke, rarely has a drink, and the only pills she pops are vitamin supplements. 

 I am closer to her than any of my other sisters.  She is my greatest support, my best friend. Ever since I was a baby, she's the one I would turn to. I was the one she would turn to later and no matter what, we knew we could count on the other.

 For the moment, humor has failed me. Every part of my being is trying to will this to be anything except pancreas cancer.

 Her lymph nodes hurt. 

 She's been complaining to the doctor something is wrong for over a year. Not until she was incapacitated with pain and in the ER did she get anyone to actually look.

 See.. the doctor quite blatantly would say "sorry, our 15 minutes is up. You need to reschedule." A "long" session as determined by insurance is 30 minutes. She had to wait over a month to get each appointment. 

 Nothing else seems to matter. Everything else can wait.

 If anything I am grateful we moved back. It seems everything lined up to get us out here, just not for the reasons we thought.

 As long as there is a speck of hope to hold on to.. I will hope.

  I don't know how or when we'll tell our daughter... our daughter is completely devoted to my sister.

 While I am a wreck now, come tomorrow there will be no time for tears. There's not enough time to cry.

 6 months is the average. Less than 5% of pancreatic cancer patients are alive after 5 years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not all "tools" are sharp.

 We have a fair amount of ancient equipment still on the old farm. Many of the treasured pieces, like the horse drawn plows, we had kept in the workshop to keep them protected. Sadly because they were so well preserved... they were also stolen.

 (ok the road grater isn't quite ancient.. but I find it novel)

 A few pieces are scattered on the property where the landscape and wildlife has claimed them. Smaller hand tools and the like are rounded up as we find them and stored safely away.  My Mom has a shadowbox like, glass topped coffee table that every now and then she changes up and uses the small tools as decoration.

 Much of the fencing from the old pastures have been driven through or snipped away. In time we will get around to repairing/ replacing what we can. A measured pace to work and then much can be accomplished. Luckily the milk house is full of rolls of wire.

 For safety we are trying to round up hazards buried by time. Barbed wire and the like are collected, or we tie a bit of bright material to it so we can find it easier later. What we have been finding a fair amount of... are steel traps.

 The steel traps look new. They also were primed and awaiting some poor critter. Although we allow the select few hunters on our property, traps and lures we don't allow. We also found a bunch of tree stands. 4 of the stands do not belong to our hunters.

 Keep on coming unwelcome trespassing hunters. I'm trying to talk my husband into learning to weld.. because these stands could possibly make nifty trellises! I'm not sure how to repurpose the traps, but I'll think of something.

 Meanwhile.. our free time.. actually it isn't free time. It's emergency, drop everything, nothing else matters, race to the hospital, go go go! time. 

 One of the reasons we are out here... my Mom's health issues. She has a few health issues, including 2 TIA attacks ( Transient Ischemic Attack). Mini strokes.. like having a cannonball shot over the bow of a ship.. a warning shot that you need to clean up your act because the next time..  could be the real deal.

 Still no news about my sister's biopsy/ MRI/ etc. Although with a crazy strict diet she is able to function much better and minimize much of the pain. When I wasn't able to be at the hospital, I was on the phone with her.

 Helpful little sister that I am.. I shared this bit of wisdom to help her mentally prep for an ever invasive colonoscopy (gotta love iphones.. youtube is never out of reach)

 I kindly told my sister that this was one home video that should be left out of the yearly family update montage.

 I hope everyone else is having a bit more even keeled time.