Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Rural First Aid Kit

Since we live rurally I like to be prepared for any medical emergencies.  It's not like we can run across the street for bandages.  In addition, we are always outside and with three boys (plus a husband) someone is always getting banged up.  I think my first aid is probably a little more obsessive extensive than the average person's, but that could be a good thing.  I'd rather have it and never need it than the alternative.

As you can see above, I got everything out recently when Pierce cut a big slice in his finger using scissors in an after school club.  I put peroxide on it and then steristrips to hold the cut together, plus a bandage on top of that to keep everything clean.  The tupperware to the left above has various supplies and medicines, and the tote on the right is all bandages.  It may seem excessive to have so many bandages but we discovered when Paul had his bike crash with major road rash that you can go through a lot of bandages quickly for just one injury (he was changing large bandages twice a day for three weeks).  So it's good to have all different sizes and types.  I also keep some vet bandages (which could be used on humans or horses) and some specialty bandages (like an Israeli army bandage, an expensive bandage, but if someone had a severe cut with a lot of bleeding it would be important to use something like this until we could get to the hospital). 

I like to keep a couple of bottles of Hibiclens which is excellent to cleanse cuts that might be vulnerable to staph.  I have all sorts of ointments, eye wash, a snake bite kit (I actually did research on this to see which, if any, were actually effective - we had a neighbor bit by a copperhead while gardening), and lots of random useful items I've read about in various first aid books.  I have several first aid books I've picked up at thrift stores, and a couple of nursing and medicine books.  Plus, all the tinctures I made last fall and a few essential oils (like oil of cloves, which is excellent to use for a toothache). 

In addition to reading the books, I've watched Youtube videos on how to use some of the specialty bandages, and I've taken first aid and CPR through my job.  Hopefully no big emergencies will happen, but if something does, at least we will be reasonably prepared. 

Readers - do you keep much in the way of first aid supplies?  Do you feel prepared to handle an emergency at home?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fire Starting

When I was a kid, I can remember my dad trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass, not expecting it to work, and causing the carpet to start smoking. 

When we were up on our mountain a few weeks ago, I discovered Pierce trying to start a fire with his glasses. 

I think the sun was at a wrong angle.  Paul came over to help.  All the boys were interested in this fire starting business.

In the end, a lighter started a fire in our fire pit very nicely.  Maybe we'll try the glasses trick again when the sun is overhead.

Readers, have you ever started a fire in an unusual way?

Friday, March 25, 2016


I've tried to plant blueberries a few times.  The little bushes always disappear instead of growing.  I don't know if something eats them or what.  Usually every summer we go visit my aunt and uncle to pick their blueberries, since I can't seem to grow them myself.

Nevertheless, when a neighbor offered us some starter blueberry bushes from his I jumped on them.  We planted them along the driveway on a hill back in February.  I'm hopeful that since they are already used to the terrain and soil in our area, they will fare better than the ones I have bought from the store.

Readers, do you have much luck planting berries?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Clothesline Days

We have been through a couple of clotheslines.  The problem was that they were not sunk in concrete, so they eventually fell over.  They were the typical two stranded long line.  I asked for one of those clothesline tree deals for Valentines (Paul and I are so romantic that way). 

It took a few weeks but we finally got a sunny, mild day so I could try it out.  I love not having to waste electricity using the dryer, even though it is a little more time consuming for me.  There's something peaceful, though, about hanging up clothes in the sun. 

You can see my garden (with its rickety old shed)in the background....just waiting for a bunch of seeds! 

Readers, do you hang your clothes out to dry?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Odyssey of the Mind, Year 3

This was Pierce's third year competing in Odyssey of the Mind.  He had a different team this year, and a different coach.  Pierce was the only male on his team, and he was the youngest.  Pierce had a really fun team and an excellent coach.  The problem they chose was called "Fur, Fins and Feathers" and they did a skit involving animals and emotions.  There were 16 teams competing in this category for the Piedmont Regional competition. 
To the left of the picture is Pierce before his skit (he was a zookeeper) and to the right was the interminable wait for the awards ceremony at the end of the day (they were trying to entertain the kids and had them all doing the hokie pokie for so long I think it could've been in Guinness for longest hokie pokie ever). 

Their team took second place!  They were so thrilled.  The girls were all planning what they would wear on Monday with their medals.  Pierce, sadly, doesn't have any skinny jeans, but he did wear his usual jeans with his medal. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rocks for Sale

Cort set up a rock shop on top of our mountain.  He was very busy for hours digging up rocks and carrying them over to his 'shop'.
They run $1.25 each if anyone is interested, but wear your hiking shoes and bring some bottled water because his shop is a mile long steep trek off the beaten track.  You might be paying more for the experience than the rock. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seeking Tranquility

Back in December I resigned from the part time job where I was working with mental health patients in the community.  I liked the company I was working for, and I loved making a difference, but the job was extremely stressful, and the stress level was increasing.  It got to a point where I felt like I was sacrificing so much of myself that I didn't have much left to give to my family when I got home at the end of the day.

I asked my other part time job (teaching psychology at a local college) if they could toss me an extra class from time to time to make up the difference, and they were happy to do so.  I've been teaching some freshmen orientation classes from time to time.  Teaching involves very little stress, and is fun and energizing for me. 

I cannot begin to tell you how my quality of life has improved.  I'm happy to take this step back from working in the mental health community to regroup.  I'm sure I'll return at some point - I can never seem to stay away for too long because it's part of my nature that I always want to help.  But this time?  This time I chose to help myself instead. 

Readers, do you have a time lately when you put yourself first?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reading. Always.

I don't understand when people don't read.  I can't imagine not caring about reading.  Not getting new books and being excited to discover what lies within the pages.  I can't walk past a book shelf without stopping to run my fingers along the spines, look over summaries on the back, and imagine where the book might take me.  What would it be like to see a random book lying on a table and....just not be curious about it?  I have no idea.

 There is never enough time in the day for all the books I want to read.  Even if I read a book a day for the rest of my life, there would still be books I missed. 

I read almost anything.  I do make an attempt to read at least one classic every year.  Aside from that, I read whatever sounds good.  Or whatever I read mentioned in another book.  Or whatever a friend or relative or the newspaper recommends. 

I read to the boys, too.  I read them my favorite books from childhood.  Books like The Pink Motel, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Key to the Treasure and Charlotte's Web. I never run out of books for them either.  I hope they will share my passion for reading.  I think they will.  Sometimes, at dinner, I tell them a synopsis of the book I'm reading.  Once in a while, they beg to know the ending.  I never tell them.  No spoilers in my house!

Readers, what are you reading besides blogs lately? I'm reading Madame Bovary right now, but by the time this publishes, I'll have moved on to something else. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Planted some Seeds

This week temps hit the 70s and I couldn't wait any longer.  I just had to get some seeds in the ground.  I usually wait until the third week of March to plant anything, so I hope it isn't too early.
I put in kale, peas, beets, turnips, salsify (I heard about this on a podcast, and it's a perennial, so if it takes we'll enjoy it year after year.  Popular in England, you can eat the roots and the flowers), rhubarb, and spinach. 

The soil in the garden looks pretty decent after the additions we put in this winter.  I have a lot more to plant, but the rest will wait until April.  I do plan to start some tomato seeds indoors.  And hopefully we will get a new plot tilled for the squash. 

Readers, did you get any spring temps this week?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

They Don't Deliver Pizza to My House

It feels like we live way out because our road is so crazy (gravel, curvy, steep and slick) and the houses are few and far between.  But it isn't all that far to get into town - a bit of a drive, but not bad.  They certainly don't deliver pizza to our house though (which is fine, since I don't even like pizza, and have perfected a pizza made from scratch for the boys).
Town is far enough that we try to keep plenty of supplies (food, medical, etc.) on hand because a trip to town does involve time and gas money.  It was really awful when gas was so expensive - between Paul and I we were spending about $500 a month on fuel for our jobs and the boys' recreational activities (thankfully, these days we're only spending around $120 a month between the two of us).  We were so thankful when the prices dropped off.

Recently after one of the snow/ice events last month the boys and I were standing outside waiting for the bus for ages.  Finally, a fleet of SUVs pulled up.  Turns out VDOT hadn't adequately scraped the road (not to mention there was a tree down across part of it), and the bus got stuck at the end.  I asked the SUV drivers for their school department of transportation ID cards before loading the boys up to head to school.  The school division must have called VDOT to complain about the state of things, because shortly thereafter the road was plowed four times. 

So part of embracing the rural life is sometimes being stuck in place, waiting patiently for someone to remember to plow our road.  Or turn on our power after a two day outage (also last month).  Hiking up a carload of groceries to the house because our driveway is undriveable from snow and ice.  And being able to make a mean pizza by scratch when cravings strike.  But you know me.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

Readers, what are the inconveniences where you live?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tapping Maple Trees

Remember last fall when I hiked our land marking maple trees?  Well a couple of weeks ago it was time to tap them.

We started using milk jug type containers to collect the sap, but quickly realized that we needed to switch to 5 gallon buckets.  This didn't mean we would have gallons of maple syrup.  It takes about 90 gallons to make just one gallon of syrup, once it's all boiled down! 

There was still a lot of snow on our hike up to the top of our land, and on one steep stretch Paul and I were slipping and sliding like crazy.  Luckily, it was a warm day and melted later on. 

We had enough taps to do ten trees.  Then we had to check them daily, and store the sap in the fridge until we would collect enough to boil. 

I will let you know how it goes once we boil it down.  It is an all day process to boil the syrup down, but we're hoping it will go smoothly.  I will let you know!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Planting Fruit Trees

I ordered four fruit trees this year, and we planted them a few weeks ago.  I chose pixie crunch apple, sundance apple, honeysweet pear (which is self-pollinating) and a trugold peach.  I am not sure if the peach needs a partner or not, but I am hoping to order more fruit trees next year anyhow, so I will get it a friend then.

You wouldn't think the planting of four little fruit trees would cause a lot of drama, but Paul and I sure had a long, heated debate over where to plant them.  It's kind of funny now.  I'm happy with where we compromised on planting them, and hopefully he is as well.  Hooray for neutral territory! 

Hopefully they will do well.  Years ago my grandfather sent me two apple trees, and moles ate the roots.  I still wish they had survived, and get sad thinking about them.  We have outside cats on duty now, so that should help with the mole issue. 

Readers, do you have any fruit trees?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mayocoba Beans in the Slow Cooker

When I was at the grocery store I found these new beans I'd never heard of called Mayocoba beans (also known as Mayacoba beans).  I cook a lot of beans, so I was interested to try them.  At $1.80 for a two pound bag, they were cost effective.

I couldn't find much in the way of recipes, so I ended up making one up.  I did figure out that they are native to Peru.

I put them in the slow cooker covered with several inches of water.  I added a chopped onion, some chopped garlic, 2 tsp. of cumin, 1 tbsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Pretty simple.  I cooked it on low all day (check around midday to make sure they don't need more water), until the last hour, when I turned it up to high.
Then I mashed them with a potato masher.  I served them with whole wheat cornbread and a swirl of sriracha sauce for heat. 

They were very tasty - similar to pintos.

Readers, have you ever tried Mayocoba beans?