Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dawn Ritual


At dawn, I feed the critters and turn Melody into the front pasture for a bit. Then I grab a cup of coffee and go out to get the paper. As I walk down the driveway to get the newspaper, I can see the sun coming up over Smith Mountain. This morning, May 29, a cloud rests on the mountain.


The peach tree by the mailbox hangs heavy with peaches. They're small yet, but it won't be long until they're edible.


I get the paper and turn back to the west. The crape myrtles that I planted a few years ago have gotten larger. They won't bloom for a while yet. Stray clouds dot the sky.


My coffee cup awaits me on the gazebo's railing. Do you see it?


And the gazebo welcomes me to sit and read the paper.


This morning Chloe joins me.



The lavender's bloom looks pink in the morning light.


The wisteria, redbuds, and forsythia that surround the gazebo glow in the early morning light.


I sit for a while, sip my coffee, and read the paper. Then the sun is full up and the day begins.


~

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Monday, May 28, 2012

First Hay of 2012

The hay at Polecat Creek Farm is baled! It didn't rain, even though rain was in the forecast and some ominous clouds piled up.

This is how the hay looked after it was cut last Friday.


Yesterday, it had cured nicely in the point field. . . 


. . . and the side field.


This morning, the point field was ready to rake.


Beside the point field, chicory bloomed.


My husband took his tractor and rake down the road to the farm. I followed along and brought him back to get his truck. Back home, I couldn't help noticing how the clouds were piling up over the house. And it was humid. Not a good sign for hay-making.


But the rain never came, a light breeze blew, and John got all four fields raked. While John raked, his partner Bobby came with his haybine and started baling. Here's a distant shot of some of the bales in the big field . . .


 . . . and some of the 15 bales in the point field . . .


. . . and bales in the side field.



Bobby was in the home stretch of baling what John had raked in the back field. 


See how thick the raked hay is?


Back home, John's tractor rests in the front yard. Some of the Polecat Creek Farm hay still clings to it.


Polecat Creek Farm produced a total of 58 bales this spring. Even after Bobby takes his share, we'll have enough from this cutting to feed Melody for a year.

Now we have two more farms to go.
~

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Melody's Morning

Because the clover has been so abundant this spring and because Melody came close to foundering while she had Lyme disease, she's been confined to a corral for most of the time. However, she's doing so much better now that she can go out for limited periods. I let her into the front pasture about 6:30 every morning and let her graze for an hour or two. She meets me at the gate when I go to get her.

She gets in a last bite or two of clover, and then she's ready to head back to her corral. I don't have to lead her; she knows the drill.


The flies are bad, so she swishes her tail as she goes.


Every so often, she stops to grab one last bite. 


Then she moves on again—toward the shed where her breakfast awaits.


She goes through the corral gate . . . 


. . . and down the hill to the shed . . . 


. . . where she eats her breakfast. I put on her fly mask and turn on her fan. She'll stand in front of the fan and snooze.


And that's how Melody's morning usually begins.

~



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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yard Work

Parts of my yard are like a manuscript that badly needs editing. Today, I did a bit of snipping and planting—but mainly just looking at how the yard has changed.

The pergola needed some work. Volunteer sunflowers—thanks to the birds' messy eating habits—had sprouted at the right side. I thought the left side needed something, so I planted some wisteria I'd been saving. Maybe it will grow up the side and across the top, giving me a green bower.


Notice that I put some bricks under each of the two benches. I got tired of weed-eating under them.

A lot of flowers are blooming around the gazebo. The snapdragons did very well, a gerbera daisy that I bought on special last year survived the winter, as did a mum which will bloom later. The lavender, that was a tiny plant a few years ago is spreading and blooming like crazy.


Behind the lavender, the sage is going to seed. In the foreground, protected by a cairn, is a sweet shrub that I bought earlier this year. A few weeks ago, it was a little stick, now it's full of leaves.


I bought these two pots of yellow daisy-like flowers from Kroger on special for a dollar each. Originally, $11.98, they looked brown and miserable when I bought them, but they've bounced back nicely. Behind them, the rosemary bush and another lavender plant are spreading out. Both were small plants a few years ago.


On the gazebo's east side, a red lily blooms. The St. John's Wort is blooming and spreading like crazy.


Inside the gazebo, the wisteria is taking over. The wisteria is a few years old, but hasn't bloomed yet.


It's invading the ceiling.


Along the front sidewalk, the prickly pear is blooming.


And a kitty lurks in the mondo grass. The gladiolas behind him will bloom in a few weeks.


A briar grows from the dwarf nandina along the front of the house. I just trimmed some briars from there a couple of weeks ago. How did they grow so fast?


I can't believe how much things have grown this year. Change is inevitable, I suppose. It's hard to believe that three years ago, the gazebo looked like this and the pergola like this. And three years ago, I blogged about editing part of the backyard. Ditto, two years ago.

My yard seems to be in a perpetual state of revision.
~


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bouncing Back

Warning: Health matters. Boring. But I'll post some pics of my flowers to relieve the monotony.

In February, my diabetes had gotten out of control, and I felt lousy. My A1C was 10, which meant my average blood glucose level was around 250 to 275, depending on which chart you consult. I had low energy, and I didn't walk well. Last fall, I'd gone off glyburide because it wasn't helping, and my BGs were always above 200—sometimes 300. I cut my carb consumption a bit, but apparently not enough.



I signed myself up for a diabetes class, which was a major waste of time and filled with misinformation. I eventually dropped out, but I read a few books that maybe saved my life. At least they improved it. Those books, which I've mentioned upstream in this blog, are Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD, and two books by Gary Taubes—Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat.

Since making some changes in medication and what I eat (or don't eat), I've gotten better. A lot better. I started taking Prandin, which didn't cause me the problems that other diabetes drugs had in the past. (Years ago, Metformin caused bad muscle aches; Januvia put me in the hospital with breathing problems plus high blood pressure, Glyburide didn't seem to help and occasionally made me shaky.) I cut my carb intake severely and eliminated certain foods that might be a problem.

                                       
My A1C dropped to 7.3. That means an average BG level of 163-183 (depending on which chart, etc.).  I've dropped 20 pounds. My energy level is higher. My cholesterol levels have improved slightly. HDL has gone up; LDL has gone down.

I can walk faster and for longer periods of time. My balance is better. My leg pains are mostly gone. I still have trouble sitting for more than a half hour, so long car rides are out of the question for a while. I've noticed that I can almost make it to Roanoke before numbness and tingling start in my hands and feet. If I can stop and walk around a bit every 40 miles or so, I'm OK.


What I try not to eat?

Wheat: This meant giving up bread, pasta, etc. I'd already cut way back, so this wasn't much of a problem. Once in a while, I allow myself a cookie,  but it has to be a really good cookie. Problem: wheat is in so many things, so I can't eliminate it entirely. But eliminating most wheat also eliminated my acid reflux and occasional bloating.

Potatoes and rice: I gave these up long ago. Potatoes—besides spiking my BGs—gave me bad muscle cramps. Sweet potatoes didn't give me muscle cramps, but my BGs shot upward when I ate them, so they had to go. Rice has always spiked my BGs.

High fructose corn syrup: This stuff is in so many things, though, that I still ingest some. But not as much as I used to.

Most processed/prepackaged foods: I've given up the convenience of microwave foods that have all sorts of additives. I'm trying to eliminate additives—especially high fructose corn syrup.

Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame gives me bad back-of-the head headaches, so I eliminated that long ago. Others, such as Splenda, raise my BGs substantially—just like sugar does.

Most fruit: Fruit is sugar, and it raises my BGs considerably. I occasionally eat blueberries or strawberries, but not very often. When the apples on my tree are ripe, I'll eat an apple while I am walking around.

"Fake" food: Margarine is something I avoid. Ditto many oils (What the heck is a canola anyhow?).

Soy: Thanks to Monsanto, the soybeans planted in the USA are Round-Up resistant. I don't care to eat Pesticides. Like wheat, though, soy seems to be in a lot of things.

Soda—either regular (sugar/HRCS laden) or diet (artificial sweeteners). I eliminated soda from my diet years ago. I don't miss it.




What do I eat?

Low-carb vegetables: I love broccoli and cauliflower. Ditto the kale and mustard greens I grow in my little garden. I also eat cabbage, eggplant, brussel sprouts, yellow squash, zucchini, spinach, green beans, and a few other low-carb veggies. Kale chips are my favorite snack.

Eggs: A minimum of three a day.

Meat: Especially steak or other red meat, which is loaded with nutrients. And bacon. Every morning begins with a bacon and eggs breakfast. I occasionally eat chicken but rarely more than once a week.

Butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Coffee: Black. Three to four cups a day. Maybe more. Sometimes tea.

Sparkling water: Satisfies my taste for something fizzy. I like LaCroix and Perrier.

A little ice cream: Preferably natural flavor with a high fat content and few additives.

Almonds: But just a few a day.

Basically, I eat few carbs and more fat and protein. I don't count calories, just carbs. I always have a full plate at each meal and eat until I'm satisfied. Because I eat high fat, I rarely get hungry between meals. (I do not follow the American Diabetes Association's advice to eat according to the food pyramid.)


Do I exercise?

I don't go to the Y or a gym. I consider activity—such as housework, gardening, yardwork, and horse/dog walking—as my exercise. 

I've bounced back considerably in less than four months, but I still have a way to go yet.
~

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grave Matters

Tombstone.2 is now installed in my family cemetery. I'd ordered it a few weeks ago, an event duly noted by Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey.

Here are some pictures of the arrival and installation:

The Smith Family Cemetery. The corner at right is my spot.

My stone will go in this corner—where the original was.

While I tidied up around the space, a buzzard watched.


Before long the truck arrived.
I was second on their list that morning.

The truck had to go to the far corner of the field to get to the graveyard.

It's halfway to the graveyard here.

One worker scrapes down the original concrete pad. . . 

. . . while the other moves the base.

Soon the base is in place and being leveled.

The stone goes atop the base . .  . 

. . . and is being leveled.

After 4 pennies are placed under the corners,
a sealer is applied to hold the stone to the base.
The pennies keep the stone from squishing out the sealer.
Then the excess sealer is removed.

The stone is washed to remove dirt and debris.

And the truck leaves.

One of the guys had installed my first stone in 2005. It was the first stolen one he'd had to replace. He said he'd replaced a lot of stones before, but usually that was because they were hit by cars.

That first stone, identical to this one, only lasted two years. We'll see how long this lasts.