Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why is Father Time So Creepy?

 I like sundials.  I would love to have one in my garden, if I had a proper garden.  You know, one that wasn't full of things like weeds and squash bugs and rocks.  But since I have a messy garden, I have to admire sundials in other places.

I took a picture of this sundial at the SciWorks museum in Winston Salem, and it wasn't until I got home and edited the picture that I noticed Father Time there with his saying.  And I was looking at Father Time and thinking he looks kind of creepy in a Grim Reaper sort of way. 

Of course it's the scythe that makes him creepy.  And then I started wondering, why does Father Time carry a scythe anyhow?  What does he need a scythe for?

If you were thinking the harvest, you'd be wrong.  Nope, it's nothing so quaint. In fact, if you do a search for why Father Time carries his scythe, you will get an answer that you probably weren't expecting.  Certainly I won't ever forget what I learned when I see the ominous Father in the future. 

Anyhow, all that eerie business aside, it does seem like just before New Year's Eve is the appropriate time to post a picture of Father Time.  Another year gone by.  I hope you all have a wonderful, safe, scythe-free New Years! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

SciWorks in Winston Salem

Earlier this month, Cort and I drove down to Winston Salem for an appointment with a specialist for his psoriasis.  He is better now, thanks to the food intolerance study, but we since we had waited so long for this appointment we thought we'd go ahead and get established with the practice in case he has a relapse sometime in the future.

After his appointment and a trip by Trader Joes (since alas, we STILL don't have one locally), we decided to have some fun and went to a museum called SciWorks.  When we first pulled up I thought maybe they were closed, as there was no sign of life in the parking lot and only a couple of cars.  Lucky for us, they were open, and we had the place to ourselves!  What a treat.

 It was a large, rambling place and we had so much fun.  Cort's favorite thing was the large piano.  I admit I was on there too.  We also enjoyed a show in the Planetarium.

 A giant mouth.  They had some neat dental tools where you could drill and squirt the air and floss oversized teeth.

 My favorite thing was the scooter race track.  Cort and I had races around the track.  No one else was there, so I didn't mind acting six years old with Cort.

 This thing used a vacuum type device to shoot you up in the air.  Cort and I both did this twice.

 They had outside facilities too with animals and nature trails.  Here Cort pushes one of those water balls.

Experiencing bat ears.  Can you hear me now?  I don't think Cort missed school one single bit on this Tuesday.

Cort and I both think we need to head back down sometime, only next time we'll bring the whole family! 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Last year I went to a Christmas party and I won a door prize for a photo shoot with a local photographer.  We saved it until last May, when the flowers were in bloom and everything was green around our place.  I thought I'd share my favorite photos from the session.

Besides, why focus on cold, wintry weather, when you can remember warm days with s'mores and campfires?

I've kind of had it in mind to use this hammock one on a future blog header, but it seems that by the time I get around to updating my header this may be long outdated.

This is the one I made prints of to include in our Christmas cards that I sent out this year. 

An extra sweet picture of the twins.  You'd never know how much they argue, would you?
Readers, I'm hoping you all celebrate a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with family.  Enjoy!

If you are local and looking for a photographer, you can check out Olinda Pulley Photography.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heirloom Seeds

Look what came in the mail last month!
My Baker Heirloom seed catalog.
I would probably need to add about four new garden plots to plant all the seeds I want to try.
In addition, I am hoping to put in some fruit trees in February.
It was fun to pour a glass of wine and flip through this.
There are many varieties I've never even heard of before.
Readers, do you have any new seeds you want to try for next Spring?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Over the Creek

When we went to get our Christmas tree, the boys had a blast running between the rows of trees and playing hide and seek. 

And then?  Then they found the rope swing.

Was everyone warm, dry, and clean on the way home?  What do you think?

Next year we'll be bringing a change of clothes for the Christmas tree excursion.  And maybe some tall mud boots too.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Francie Opens the Gate

I've found that some of my happiest days are the days I ride Francie.  I never stop being surprised by how far she has come.  She's gone from a size 38 girth that was too big to a size 48 girth that is just about right.  She's outgrown her first bridle.  And while her growth is still stunted, she has grown some and filled out a lot. 

But more than her growing are all the things she has learned.  I couldn't even touch her in the beginning.  She'd never seen a farrier or a vet or been led around.  She'd never felt so much as a saddle pad on her back.  She's an old pro now at these sorts of basic skills.

Some of the big things we have worked to accomplish under saddle are:  Francie will stand to be mounted.  She will walk, trot, and canter (we are still working on leads).  She will leg yield or side pass (she is better one direction than the other).  She knows how to back (but is sometimes crooked). 

For a while, I have been working on having Francie stand still while I lean over to open the arena gate, then back away while I pull it open, then walk through.  On the day I took this picture, Francie finally accomplished this in a calm mannered way.  So we walked through, and then we walked around some of the open pastures.  This was the first time I had ridden her outside the arena.  She was a little scared at times, especially when I made her walk around a bonfire Paul had going in one pasture, but she trusted me when I told her it was okay.

Every time I ride, she seems to come a little further.  Who knew I could've fallen for a mare (I usually only like geldings - less drama), and a gaited one at that.  But Francie has a lot of heart, and I love her for that. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When Rural Living is Hard

I love living in the country, and I can't imagine being happy anywhere else.  But there are rare occasions when it does have some cons.  Like when we had the (as my neighbor called it) deranged madman on our property in October.  Or when Pierce broke his arm and we had to get him to the hospital.  Needless to say, I keep a very extensive first aid kit in the house - it fills up a huge Tupperware. 

Last month Cort had a combination of an asthma flare up and a nasty batch of croup that gave us one of those middle of the night scares, when he really couldn't breathe.  It was scary, for him and for Paul and I.  As much as I hate giving him steroids, I was thankful to have a bottle in the fridge to give him when he wasn't responding to his nebulizer.  It was midnight and I wrapped him in blankets and took him out on the porch in hopes that the night air would help the croup portion of his breathing issues.  Luckily, it was a mild night.  So I sat in a rocker in the dark and we looked at the stars while he sat on my lap and we waited to see if his wheezing and coughing would calm. 

After it did, he came in for some hot tea with honey, and was able to go to sleep.  I tossed and turned and worried for a while before finally falling asleep.  We were lucky this time.  I really hope that he outgrows his asthma as he gets older, like I did. 

Readers, what would you not like about rural living?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Who Cut One?

We have a friend that grows white pines to sell for Christmas trees, and we decided to buy our tree from him this year.
 I took these pictures with my cell phone, so they aren't the best pictures ever.  Still, you can see our friend has a great place.  The boys had SO much fun playing hide and seek through the rows of pine trees.

Here, Reid uses a measuring stick to hunt for the best tree.  The other two were busy trying to jump over a creek. 
Two of our three boys came home with wet pants from dips in the creek.  In December.  It just seems like with three boys you are always bringing home at least one of them covered in water and mud.

Readers, do you cut your own Christmas tree?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mystery Mushrooms

1.  Anyone know what these mushrooms are?  They're pretty.  Mushrooms never fail to fascinate me.  I stumbled across them recently when trying to track down some poachers on our property.  Next time I need to take a machete along for the hike, as I got detoured by some razor briars and turned back to the house.
2.  I finally pulled all the plants from the garden and have been adding things like rabbit manure and compost.  Hoping Paul will till some additional garden areas for me to use this spring. 

3.  We're continuing our four gifts theme this year:  something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.  This is our third or fourth year we've done this, and it works out very well. 

4.  Do you like eerie gothic mysteries?  Check out The Child Garden.  It's marvelous.

5.  Driving home the other day Paul mentioned that he wondered what kind of sports car we were passing.  It was dark, so I couldn't see.  Cort said, "Probably basketball".  So then I had to explain what a sports car was. 

What are you reading lately, readers?  Besides blogs, I mean!

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Family Bingo Night

The long anticipated biannual family bingo night returned last month.  The boys so love to play bingo. 
Alas, we struck out again.  We didn't win the yard of Snickers bars or the marshmallow shooter.  The aquarium starter kit didn't go home with us.  The boys watched in frustration as these fabulous prizes went to other hands.

Next time they want more cards!  We can handle five cards a piece, they say!  I don't know about that.  I pay for one card a piece ($1.00 for the card, which can be reused all evening).  But if they want to dig up some change and buy extra cards, they can have at it.  They still might not beat out all those competitive lovely silver-haired ladies though!  Bring it, February bingo night!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Great Expectations

In 9th grade English we read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  While I've always been an avid reader, I have never cared much for reading plays.  Something about having the text broken by names for each person's speech is very distracting.  I just can't seem to become truly immersed in it.  So although I enjoy seeing the plays, I don't tend to read them. 

Studying plays in a class setting was not an improvement.  I don't know if my teacher Miss Magee just really loved Romeo and Juliet, or if my memory has become a bit faulty, but it feels like we spent at least half the year on the play.  Each day she'd assign students in the class different roles and we'd have to read through the play, line by line.  Somehow, the football players didn't pull off an engaging Romeo.  After we finally finished reading the play, we spent several classes watching the movie.

I found the entire thing very asinine.  So when I wasn't reading a role, I was secretly flipping through my English text for distraction.  And there, at the far back of the book, I found a gem.  I started reading this story called Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.  Right from the opening, when Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, I was hooked.  I adored the gorgeous and distant Estella as well, but my favorite character was Miss Havisham.  I've always had a thing for eccentric characters.  Some things never change. 

Black walnut maple cake I made (not to be confused with Miss Havisham's wedding cake).
I had read other classics prior to Great Expectations, and I would find others in high school that were magical too (like Lost Horizon and Of Human Bondage) but this one stands out in my mind as one of my absolute favorites.  I've never returned to it to read again, as there are so many books that I want to read that I don't feel I have time to reread anything.  Plus, I worry that it might not be as extraordinary as it was the first time around.  I don't want to ruin that initial wonder.
So I'm taking a vote.  Readers, if you say that I should take the risk and reread what I think of as my first truly beloved classic (26 years later!), I will do so.  It will be on my reading list for 2016.  But it seems risky.  What do you think? 
Anyone else love Great Expectations?

Friday, December 4, 2015

How We Healed Our Child's Psoriasis

Last March Cort broke out in patches on his back.  They were itchy to him, keeping him up at night.  We went to his allergist, who initially thought it was a viral eczema.  But as time went on and the spots grew, she thought it might be something called guttate psoriasis, which is an autoimmune condition.

We went to his pediatrician, who pulled another doctor in who used to specialize in pediatric dermatology.  Together, they thought it was psoriasis.  They did a referral to a dermatologist, and in the meantime we continued trying various steroid creams.  The spots spread, and soon his scalp, back, genitals, stomach, arms, and legs all had these itchy plaques.  Some nights he would scratch them until they bled.  We don't have a picture of him when he was at his worst, but this is close:

The dermatologist wasn't sure if it was psoriasis or eczema.  We decided to do a biopsy, which was traumatic for Cort (and involved a big bribe).  It came back as psoriasis.  We had two creams for his hair, one for his face, another for his body.  We tried natural remedies as well.  I read books on autoimmune conditions and tried doing some elimination diets, based on the books.  We eliminated nightshades, and later all gluten.  We made sure he got sun therapy every day all summer.  It was heartbreaking to watch him suffer, yet not have anything that seemed to help. 

The rash grew worse.  The only thing it responded to was a steroid cream so potent that he had to be monitored every couple of days, and it wasn't safe to use all over his body.  His inner ears were covered in plaques, his scalp felt volcanic, and Cort started to feel sad that kids were asking him about it in school. 

I wanted to take him to a functional medicine doctor, but we couldn't afford it.  We received a referral to a specialist in North Carolina, but our appointment wasn't until December.  I begged the specialists we had seen to do a food sensitivity panel, but I was unable to get anyone to order one.  I started researching online, and I finally found a company in Europe that would do a food intolerance test using the DNA in the hair.

Our pediatrician told me he thought it was a snake oil scheme (in a kind way - he is a very good doctor but like other doctors in our region, isn't big on alternative medicine), but I felt like it was worth a try.  The test was around $100 and we were spending at least that on prescriptions every month, so the test wasn't much different.  I figured it would be worth it, and really, what could it hurt?  I cut a few strands of Cort's hair and shipped it off to Europe for $1.75.  Two weeks later, I was emailed the results (as well as information for how to contact their nutritionist with any questions - which I did twice.  This did not cost anything extra.).  They tested for 600 foods, plus a number of environmental allergens.  We immediately removed Cort from every food on the list.

 You can see here that the spots began to get a little whiter in the centers.  The difference was noticeable within a week off his intolerant foods.  The foods were not things I ever would have figured out with an elimination diet - many were so random (like lettuce, cucumbers, onions, guar gum).  Others were bigger (milk, strawberries, pumpkin, blueberries, chocolate). 

 The intolerance test also found that Cort had a build up of candida in his digestive system.  I was unsuccessful in getting his doctors to prescribe anything to treat this, so we did so more naturally.  I incorporated tons of probiotics, coconut water, aloe juice, oregano oil and capryllic acid into his routine. 

Here is Cort just two months after we got the results of his food intolerances.  Scroll back up and look at the first picture.  We couldn't have been more thrilled by his results.  You can see where the spots were, but now they are flat, smooth, and white.  They no longer bother him.  When his pediatrician saw his skin when Cort came in for his flu shot, his jaw dropped.  He was truly amazed by the difference, and asked for information on the company I used.  He thought maybe other parents would be interested in using them.
I'm not writing this post for the company who did his testing, nor am I receiving anything for linking to them.  I am doing so for others who may be struggling like we were to find something - anything - to help their child.  I suspect it may be helpful to have food intolerance testing done for a variety of health problems.  If you would like to look at their site, you can find it at Intolerance Testing.

Cort feels so much better now.  His energy is up, and he is in better spirits (all those steroids made him rageful at times).  He doesn't mind having to bring his own dairy-free cupcakes to birthday parties, because he feels so much better now.  He has a great attitude about the dietary changes, and never complains.  For Halloween, he traded me all his chocolate candy for a yo yo he wanted. 

Readers, have you ever looked for alternative health treatments?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Making Plantain Tincture

I've been really interested in herbalism lately and we have some amazing plants growing around our land.  Plantain is neat because you will find it growing in any field or yard in our region.  It is easy to recognize once you take the time to learn what it looks like, and if you get stung by a bee you can break some off, chew it up, and use it immediately as a poultice.  The seeds when it flowers are what you may recognize as psyllium.  When you break off a plantain leaf, you will see strings from it:

As always, make absolutely sure you know you have the right plant before you use it, and it is also a good idea to consult with your doctor. 

Plaintain is healing in all sorts of ways.  It is antibacterial and antimicrobial, which is why it is so healing for the skin.  It can relieve diarrhea, and it can help a cough by assisting in expelling phlegm.  Some say it can slow the growth of staph and TB bacteria.  It eases heartburn and indigestion, and is also a diuretic.  Plantain can stop bleeding and relieve pain, and it's no surprise that some believe it to be one of the most versatile of herbal medicines.
I made a tincture, which is still curing, so I haven't tried it yet.  As plentiful as plantain is in our yard, it's something I could make more of easily.  It's curing in 100 proof vodka right now, and I shake it once a day.  Later, I'll strain it and bottle it.  A dose is just 6-12 drops. 

Readers, do you use any herbal remedies?