Saturday, December 23, 2017

Ummmm... I'm not dead yet!

Hi Folks,

I've actually got a t-shirt that says that. "I'm not dead yet!"   Daughter #1 got it for me several years ago when she was studying in England where she saw "Spamalot" live, but that's another story.  I wear it when I'm in the hospital because the nurses get a kick out of it. The fact that I know that, I suppose, needs to be part of this one.

So first things things first, I am still alive and more or less OK.   That being said, it's been a year of changes.  Where do I start?

First the good stuff.  We have a grandson!  Born February first, he's an amazing gift from God for both this parents and us.  His name is Maverick.  He lives, with his sisters and parents of course, about 2 1/2 hours away - which is pretty hard on Grammy De.  Pics to come.

The homestead is pretty much the same.  We sent about 10 chickens to freezer camp and bought a few more.  We have seven now, and just as it turned cold they started a molt.  We'll be glad to get everyone past that.  We'll grow up a few more in the spring.

The garden actually shrunk this year, but it was still respectable.  We had high hopes, but energy was an issue.  There were still 130+ pints of green beans, only 30+ of tomato products.  There were cabbages, beats, sweet potatoes, egg plant, onions, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, a couple different kinds of peppers.  Not a bad year, and we have high hopes for next year.

And the nitty gritty:  It's called CVID - Common Variable Immunodeficiency.  You've almost certainly never hear of it: Statistically there should be only about 6200 of us in the whole USA.  That means about 132 in the whole state of Indiana and 3 in the rural 4-county NE corner where I live.  I don't know the real numbers.  I've never personally met another CVID patient, but know of several from blogs and other web pages.  Google it if you're interested but the short story is that I don't manufacture certain classes of antibodies, and have a pretty constant string of small infections interspersed with the occasional major one.  There is a a short list of weird stuff that comes along for the ride.  I was diagnosed in 2012, but this year it 'bit' harder than most.  Fatigue is the real problem, which is why, sometimes, things just don't get done.

There were a few little health things going on that become bigger things when you throw CVID in the mix.  I had two surgeries this year: One planned - an inguinal hernia fix, and one unplanned - a 7mm kidney stone they had to go fetch ten days after the hernia surgery.  And a prostate cancer scare (I'm clear for now - recheck in a couple of months.)  And a 17mm spleenic aneurysm that seems to be stable for now.  And acute bronchitis - again.  (I'm mostly past that for now.)  And I've stopped manufacturing sufficient vitamin D (that's a CVID related thing) which is part of the whole fatigue thing.  You get the picture.

So with all that, things have slowed down across the board.  At home, pretty much everything takes longer to do and some things just don't get done.  At the day job, I've had to step out of what was a central role in major programs, into more of a support role.  Having to do that stung a little bit, but the folks at work were and are great about it, and it's for the best.  God only knows for certain, but the slower pace is likely a permanent thing.

I think I promised, a year ago, to spill the beans on the day job.  I'm a physicist (BS only, not PhD) at a mid-sized defense company and I am, or was anyway, the chief system test engineer for many of the USA's weather satellite primary sensors (think: "camera", but about the size of a mid-sized garden tractor.)  You likely have not heard of my company and, as much as I like it, I'm not going to name it.  If you've seen weather satellite pictures (think hurricanes this year) on TV or the internet, you've seen a bit of my handiwork.  Ok, promise kept - 'nuf about that.

Just so no one is tempted to think otherwise - I am STILL blessed.  Wildly.  Immensely.  God is still in control.  I have a wonderfully supportive family.  I can still hold a job, and work for a company that is willing to let me.  I can do almost anything I want on the homestead, just not as much of it.  I have a team of about 6 really good doctors that keep me going.  Life on the Hoosier Country Homestead is still really, really good.

I will try and post a more frequently.  And I will get back to reading your blogs.  I seem to be on the upswing, and have collected a handful of post-worthy stories about the homestead, family, and life with CVID.

Do take care all and, as always, Col. 1:9-12.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Catching Up #1

It's time to get started on these catch-up posts.  I'm going to do them by topic, so the first one is going to cover the saga of 'The birds'.  (With apologies to Alfred H.)

This year we added to, and later subtracted from, our chicken flock.  It all started when our one reliably broody hen went broody once again.  We were hoping it would happen and was glad when it did.  We carefully selected the eggs we wanted to her sit on and sit she did!

In the mean time, since she was sitting in a nest box some 18" off the floor of the coop, we set about building a nursery annex to the coop.  We ended up with a "nursery annex" box off the west side of the coop a little more then twice, in each dimension, the size of a nest box.  It could be opened to the coop or blocked off.  It had a separate pop door to an isolated yard space set up for chicks.  We still need to paint it, but we didn't want to paint and then drop the hen in, so we left it unpainted until next spring.
The "Nursery Annex" all ready to go.
When the nursery was done we moved our broody hen there and waited for the chicks to hatch.  18, 19, 20, 21 (OK, so maybe we counted wrong), 22, 23 (Umm - This isn't good), 24, 25.  A little candling action showed no chicks.  Not one.  In any egg.  From any hen.  It seems Ivan Crossbeak the Rooster had worse issues than just a crossbeak. 26, 27, 28.  So what's a flock owner (and a broody, expectant hen) to do?

The answer is, "We did what we could and, by the grace of God, got away with it."  We went to our favorite local farm store and bought 6 chicks.  Then, late in the evening but well before dark, we picked up the hen, pulled out the eggs, put in the chicks and hoped for the best.  Two of the chicks ran straight under the hen.  The other 4 essential mobbed her.  She immediately accepted them all. Whew!!  5 of the 6 survived and we had our replacements for some of our aging hens.
Six little ones: 3 ISA Browns and 3 Rhode Island Reds
Jumping forward to fall, production from our 11 older laying hens had dwindled to two or three eggs a day.  Most of the eggs were coming from the 4 Easter eggers.  The 4 Red Stars were generating a few eggs a weeks, and the 5 Buff Orpingtons were done.  A little internet work and a few phone calls later and we had located a place to process our birds.  We considered doing them ourselves, but decided we weren't going to butcher often enough to invest in the things we needed to do it right.  Ivan went too, and a couple of weeks later we had 10 whole "slow cooker" chickens in the freezer.

Just today, we got eggs from every one of the new additions.  We lost of the one of the Easter eggers to an accident and one to predators, so we now have a flock of seven hens.  We're considering added a few more in the spring.  We're also considering adding a rooster back into the flock.  One of my good friends from the 'day job' has one we could buy now if we decide we want one.

So that's the story on the birds!  All in all, we're in a pretty good place today with our flock.  Once again we blessed.