Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Look Back at 2017 - July to December

So, Dave and I arrived home from our cruise on June 15th, and around the 25th of June I started to experience diarrhea.  And it started getting worse.  I called my infectious disease doctor on Monday July 3rd, and his nurse instructed me to immediately go to the ER.  The doctor wanted me tested for C-Diff.  She explained that the ER could get the results in a couple hours, where as the doctor's office wouldn't have the results for a couple of days.  Sure enough - I had it.  Turns out, being on so many different types of antibiotics for 6 months, killed all the good bacteria in my system and only the bad bacteria was growing.  And when you get C-Diff, it's very contagious.  Dave and I used separate bathrooms, everything was disinfected, and I did a lot of hand washing.  The doctor put me on a 2 week course of new antibiotics, but at the end I still had it.  So, I had to do another 2 week course.  At the end of that, I STILL had it.  So, I was taken of ALL antibiotics and put on a special antibiotic that was developed only for C-Diff, (when we went to have the prescription filled, the pharmacy had to order it in, and they asked, "Do you know what this is for?"  Dave said, "Yes, do you?").  I had to undergo 2 courses of the special antibiotic before I was declared clear.  At the end, the doctor explained that if the 2nd course had not cured me, I would have had to be hospitalized, and maybe have part of my colon removed or a fecal transplant.  Thank goodness, for prayers and blessings.  By the end of September, I was FINALLY back to myself.

By the end of September, we did manage to get enough from the garden into the freezer, to help through the winter.  We had green beans, tomatoes, carrots, a few potatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, and 1 nice pumpkin for pies and breads.  Even though I didn't get anything planted until mid June, everything did well.  The garden really liked the hot heat this year, and the night time waterings.  Due to my limited mobility, we cut way back on how much we planted, rather than doing all 5 beds full, we only did 4 of the beds.  But we had plenty for the 2 of us.  This year I didn't enter any breads or exhibits in the fair.  I just wasn't feeling up to standing on my feet and preparing anything for competition.  But, that's OK, with me.

In October, Dave and I went to Cabo, MEXICO and Dave's brother, (Bruce), went along.  A couple years earlier when Bruce turned 60, Dave told Bruce that he wanted to take him to Cabo for his BD.  Bruce was too busy, and in September he called Dave and told Dave he was finally ready to take us up on the vacation offer.  We spent 7 days being lazy, eating way too much good food, swimming, and laying in the hot sun, (like lizards).  But it was a good time for the 3 of us, and Bruce enjoyed Cabo.  We returned on Saturday the 21st of October.

Bright and early Monday morning the 23rd, I was back at the hospital.  This time to have my right knee replaced.  Most people could not believe that I was brave enough, after all the trouble my left knee gave me.  But, 2 weeks before, I was put on a special antibiotic, and in pre-op, my right leg was give a special antibiotic wash.  I was  treated very special to prevent any infection.  This time I spent 2 nights in the hospital, was up and walking the afternoon on the day of surgery, and on Friday, started my outpatient physical therapy.  1 week later I was only walking with a cane and off pain meds, and by the end of December, I was released from P/T.  Every time I went in for follow up with my doctor, the wound was carefully examined, and an antibiotic ointment placed over the surgical site.  By the end of the year, as you can see, the knee looks pretty good.  Today, the scar is getting less and less visible.  I still have some soreness, and I was told it is to be expected for a year to 18 months.  But I'm doing well.

Dave and I still continued to attend Broadway Across America plays.  And we've been getting in home massages about every 3 to 4 weeks.  They have done wonders to help relieve stress and work out our kinks.  And the best part is we don't have to leave our house.

As we've started to get older, we've move a little slower now.  We tend to enjoy staying home more.  But when we travel, we enjoy going to destinations at offer memories and smiles that we talk about for years to come.  Some people remark about how we travel alot, and I tell them, "You will too, when you're an empty nester and are a little older."

Here's to better health, more travel memories, more smiles, and more life.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Look Back at 2017 - January to June

I was surprised that I haven't posted since the middle of 2016.  But, a friend of ours mentioned to Dave that he missed reading about the garden and my view of travels around the United States and various parts of the world.  So, I dug out the 2017 calendar and thought I'd give an overview of what happened in 2017.

While January winter was a mild and pleasant one, the first part of the year was a very demanding one physically on me.  In the fall of 2016, Dave and I traveled around the Northern Mediterranean, and Dave noticed that while I started the trip with lots of big smiles, as the trip progress, (an my knee pain progressed), my smiles faded and eventually you could see I was just tolerating the trip.  On the flight home, I told Dave, "It's time for my knee surgery".  After several visits to a couple of orthopedic surgeons, January 10th, 2017 was scheduled for my left knee to be replaced, (it was the worse, with no cartilage left and much arthritis).

The surgery went well, and the pain was almost none.  The second day I finally had pain, and was switched to a higher morphine based pain pill and stayed a 3rd night, but went home on the 4th day, (Friday Jan 13th).  Bright and early Monday morning, I started my out patient physical therapy.  I don't remember much about the first day, (due to all the pain medication I was on).  Dave stayed home full time the 1st two weeks to take care of me and get me to my 3 day a week P/T.  Then the ladies of the ward stepped in to drive me back and forth the P/T.  When people say that knee replacement is the most painful surgery there is - don't believe them.  The surgery is easy.  It's the physical therapy that's a killer.  By the 2nd week, I was off the walker and using a cane, and by the 3rd week, I had reached my range of motion goal, (130 degrees).  Of course, I was doing my exercises everyday at home.  On Monday, January 30th, my therapist mentioned that I would probably need one more week and then be released.  I then told him, "By the way, my knee is leaking".  He put me in the exam room on the table, pulled up my pant leg, to look at the knee, said, "I'll be right back".  Within 5 minutes both he and my surgeon were standing over me asking the usual questions, (how long has it been leaking, is it only leaking clear fluids, has there been any blood, yada, yada).  The doctor wrote a prescription for an antibiotic, and said, "I want to see you in 2 days, 8 AM sharp".  I came home, called Dave, and told him what was going on, (so he could go with me to the appointment).

We went to the doctor's office, and in just 2 days, the knee was getting worse.  The doctor took one look and asked, "When was the last time you ate?"  He then left the room for about 15 minutes, and when he returned, he proposed 2 options - stay on antibiotics and hope for the best, or open up and knee and get a good look at what's going on.  After discussion, it was decided to undergo surgery again.  So, that day, (Feb 2nd), I was admitted at 11:00 for surgery again.  2 nights in the hospital and home again.  Tuesday morning P/T started bright and early.  The doctor said he cleaned out the knee and put a strong antibiotic in the knee.  This meant, again learning how to walk and use the knee again.  But, my brain had finally learned the first time to trust the new knee.  So, I was determined to meet my range of motion again, (this time it was set lower to 120, but by end of month I reached 130).  The second time wasn't as much of a set back as the first, other than relying on people to get me back and forth to P/T.  Dave went back to work after a week at home with me.  By February 27th, once again, my therapist said, "I think another week, and we can release you".

But, by Thursday, March 2nd, my knee was hot, red, and swollen.  My visiting teacher was over at my house and I mentioned to her about my knee, and she looked at it and said, "That's definitely an infection.  Call you doctor!"  That evening when Dave got home, I told him about my knee, and he immediately called the doctor.  Of course they were closed.  At 7 AM, the next morning, he called again, and told the answering service about the problem, and asked to be put through to the doctor, and they did.  Dave explained the problem.  The doctor said, get her in the office at 8 AM,  but first stop by the hospital and have her blood drawn, (there was an order waiting), I want to see her results.  By the time we got to the office, the doctor walked in and said, "Have you eaten this morning?"  Dave and I both knew that meant a 3rd surgery.  Withing 2 hours I was in the OR.
This time when I woke up, Dave said the surgeon found the knee was completely full of infection.  He cleaned it out, but left the knee open took several samples, and put in a "wound vac".  They would leave the knee open until they could figure out what was wrong.  They called in an infectious disease doctor, and every hour the samples were being monitored.  It turned out that the next morning they discovered I had MSSA.  When the doctor told me, my heart dropped.  But, the good news was - it was treatable and curable.  It would mean running a "pic line" to my heart, and giving my high doses of antibiotics several times a day.  I would also need to keep the line in for 7 weeks, and be house bound.  That meant have physical therapy at home.  This time, learning to walk, and move was very difficult.  I was in the hospital for 6 full days.  The next day, a nurse and a physical therapist were at my house assessing my needs, providing my medical needs, teaching me how to address my pic line, etc.  I was very weak and overwhelmed.  Everything took a toll on me physically and mentally.  Just going to one of my doctors would wear me out.  My knee scar was so large, and unsightly.  I cried, wondering, what did I do, why did I do this, I should have learned to live with the pain.

Finally by April 18th, the pic line came out and I would start going back to outpatient physical therapy again.  I would only need 1 month, since I had made fairly good progress at home.  My range of motion was set at 100.  I was still doing my exercises everyday at home to build up my knee.  On the last day, I was taken for a P/T walk outside to evaluate how I could do on grass, rocks, uneven surfaces, stairs, etc.  I mentioned to my therapist that I was very depressed that I was only able to reach a range of motion of 124 degrees, I had been hoping for 130.  He stopped, looked me directly in the eye, (and I will never forget his words), he said, "Barbara, that's remarkable.  most people after 2 surgeries on 1 knee only reach 120.  You've had 4, (counting the one to remove the wound vac).  When we, (the P/T team), met with your surgeon, we told him you would only reach a range of 100 at best, and you would most likely walk with a cane the rest of your life.  And look at you.  You haven't used a cane for the last 3 weeks.  You are remarkable.  But, please use a cane for a couple months when you are outside, just for safety.
It's been over a year.  The scar is still healing.  At the top, where the wound vac was, is an indentation - there's very little tissue under to hold the skin.  I still have some pain.  But, at my annual checkup, the xrays showed all was good.  The surgeon said normally it takes 1 year to 18 months for a knee to heal, but in this case it will take 2 or 3 years for the knee to be completely healed.

Some people after hearing my story have said, "I'm not getting my knees replaced".  And I tell them, don't let my story be the reason you don't do it.  I am just the 1 in 1,000 that got an infection.  My surgeon said he had done thousands of replacements, and I was the first to ever get an infection.  He was so apologetic, and felt so bad about what happened. I was officially released by the surgeon and all doctors on May 17th.  But I must say, the one person who really helped me through it all, and was there for me was Dave.

Then 3 days later, Dave and I took what would be our vacation of a lifetime.  It was a brand new ship build for Princess Cruise line, and it was being relocated from Barcelona, Spain to Australia.  We booked a 28 day cruise for a portion of that started in Rome, Italy and ended in Singapore.  We flew to Atlanta, then into Rome, then we had stops in Naples, Athens, Santorini, a passage thru the Suez Canal, Jordan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cochin, Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpura, and Singapore.  From Singapore we flew to Hong Kong, (spent the night), then flew home to Chicago.  We actually flew around the world, (and them some).  We saw 3 of the most riches countries, (those in the UAE - where gold was piled high for sale), and some of the most poorest, (Cochin, India - where garbage lined the streets).  But we both agreed that nothing in the world compared to the beauty of our own country, and especially our own little backyard.  I made sure to visit the ship's exercise room a couple times a week to keep up my exercises.  And I wore a pedometer everyday.  When we got home, I stopped in to see my physical therapist.  He asked how the trip went.  I told him about the visit to the island of Capri, Italy, (during our visit to Naples), and that I logged 13, 200 steps that day.  He smiled and told me that I basically walked 5 miles and that we was so proud of me.  I told him about visiting a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpura and walking up 250 steps to the temple and back down 250 steps.  He high fived me, and said "You go girl.  That new knee is really working for you."  Dave and I have many, many photos and many, many memories.  We returned home on June 18th.

I did manage to get just a few plants in the garden during those last 2 weeks of June.  I knew that my new knee wouldn't allow me to kneel and I would have to bend at the waist to do most of the work.  But, Dave tilled the boxes, I bought 6 tomato plants, some carrot seeds, green beans, squash seeds and called it good for the year.  We did have a pretty good yield.  Things came on very quickly, (due to the hot temperatures and the daily watering).  I told Dave, "Maybe I've been doing things all wrong, getting my garden in early in the Spring.  It seems to really like a late planting better."

We also attended a couple of Broadway Across America plays.  Dave really loves those.

Overall, I felt like I lost the first 6 months of 2017 due to so many surgeries, various doctor appointments, physical therapy appointments, nurse visits, and so forth.  The cruise was just the thing that Dave and I needed to get away from everything that had happened at home.  And, we didn't mind the 28 days on a ship.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much, that we've talked about doing more of these long duration cruises.

Well, that ties up the first half of 2017.  I'll post July to December in the next post.

Hope this wasn't too boring, or too much information.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Rowdy's Story

Today was perhaps one of the hardest days I have ever had to experience in my life.  After 17 1/2 years, my beloved little Rowdy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to join my other beloved dog, (Gloria).  A dear friend once asked me a few years back if I thought it would be easier to let Rowdy go when her time came, since Gloria's was so sudden and I had watched Rowdy's health decline over the years.  I told him I thought it would be easier to release her from her pain, knowing that she was starting to suffer the woes of old age.  But, that is not the case.  I can not tell you what happened today.  My mind has completely blocked the entire event from existence.  I remember driving to the vet's office this morning and walking into the building.  I somewhat remember them weighing her, (she had always for years maintained a weight of 40 to 42 pounds, but was down to 27 pounds).  Other than that, I honestly can only tell you what Dave has told me, when I would ask him about it later.  I worried that she fought the process, but he assured me that I was there holding her, talking to her and calming her, and that she went very quick and peacefully.  For that I am very grateful.

Rowdy was born in January 2001 in Ogden to a farmer.  She was the smallest dog in the litter and he thought she would not make a very good working dog, (due to her size).  She was therefore put up for pet adoption, and transferred to the Bountiful Humane Society, (which was located a couple blocks over from where I was working at the time).  My golden, (Gloria), was very lonely during the day, while I worked, and the vet strongly suggested I get another dog to keep her company.  So, on a whim, I stopped by on a lunch hour at the kennel to see if any of the dogs interested me.  As I walked along the outside kennel, all the dogs were jumping, barking, and very determined to get my attention.  All except for one small black and white puppy, who walked to the end of the kennel, sat down and patiently waited for me to approached and ask, "What's your name little one?"  She then  licked my hand and melted my heart with her gentle way.  I went inside and asked about the little black and white puppy.  I still remember the receptionist saying, "Oh, you mean Rowdy, the Border Collie.  She just came in from Ogden a couple days ago."  She pulled out the file and told me the story about the 6 month old puppy.  She asked, "Would you like to take her outside and get to know her?"  I agreed that I wanted to.  She got a leash, got the puppy, and out the front door and under a tree we went to sit down and get to know each other.  After about a half hour, I returned the puppy and said, "I'll come back tomorrow and let you know."  The next day, (Wednesday), I returned and repeated the process, Thursday I also repeated the process, and again on Friday.  But on Friday, I asked, "Can I adopt her tonight when I get off work.  The receptionist smiled, and said, "We've had a hold on her paperwork for you since Wednesday."  I immediately filled out the paperwork, and told her that I would pick up the puppy after work.  When I stopped by after work, I brought my co-worker (Chris Reed), with me.  She took one look at the puppy and declared her an absolute delight.  She told me that Gloria would love her.  One note, Gloria was already used to the puppy's scent, (since I had been visiting the puppy everyday for 3 days).  Once we got home, I entered the house with Rowdy, (the kennel had already named her and I never changed it - boy did she live up to the name at times), and when Gloria came running to me, I said, "Look Gloria, I got you a new baby."  Gloria immediately sniffed her, accepted her, and mothered her from that day forward.  It was a perfect match!  Since it was the 4th of July weekend, Rowdy needed to return to the kennel Monday morning to be spayed.  She came home Monday evening, and Gloria fussed and fretted over her all evening until Rowdy finally was back to her old self.

While Gloria was most definitely my dog, and she let everyone know it.  Rowdy was everyone's dog.  She loved people.  She loved everyone.  And everyone loved her.  Even small children loved her.  And she was very patient with them.  Even last week, as I was returning from our morning walk, we stopped to talk to our next door neighbor for a minute, and her little 3 year old girl, (who loves Rowdy), walked over to pet her.  Rowdy was so patient with children, even in her advanced years.  I used to joke that Rowdy could tell time.  Every afternoon at 4 PM, she had to go outside.  Not to use the bathroom, but to stand on the corner, so the children walking home from school could all passed by her and give her hugs and pet her.  She felt it was her job to be there for them.  She also felt it was her job to be at the community mailbox, (which sits at the corner of our property), to greet the neighbors as they stop to get their mail.  She has been called the mail greeter.  Several have opened their car doors and tried to coax her to get inside and go home with them, but to no avail.  She's only there for the pat on the head and the greetings, then she's back up on the porch to be let in.

She learned the boundaries of our property, without any instructions from us ??  She never left our property to cross the street, or go into the neighbor's yard.  How she knew exactly where our property ended, I'll never figure out.  One summer day a few years back, she managed to slip out the front door, (without my knowing), and I locked the front door and headed out back to work in the garden.  After about half and hour, I started hearing a dog barking on the other side of our vinyl fence.  Thinking it was a neighbor's dog, I simply yelled, "Go Home".  The barking stopped for a few minutes, then the dog returned.  This continued for about an hour on and off.  The dog would bark and scratch at the fence, I would yell, "Go Home".  The dog would leave and then return to the exact spot in the garden where I was working.  When I finished in the garden, I went inside.  After a few minutes, I noticed Rowdy was missing.  I called for her and looked everywhere.  Finally I opened the front door, and there she stood, looking through the storm door window at me with that 'Finally you came for me' look on her face.  I opened the door, and she flew into my arms.  She was so glad that I didn't forget about her.  I learned to check for her whereabouts after that, whenever I went out back.

Our home, our street, and our neighborhood will be a little lost without Rowdy.  While some people didn't know Dave's name, or maybe mine, they knew Rowdy and that we were Rowdy's parents.  And when we were out walking Rowdy, people would wave and speak.  And Rowdy always brought a smile to everyone's face.  She was a happy dog, and she brought joy to those she came in contact with.  My grandchildren grew up with her, and my great granddaughter also had a few years to enjoy the gentle loving black and white dog known as Rowdy.

Rest In Peace my little girl.  Good chase the balls and enjoy the warm sunshine and the cool breezes on your face once more.  I shall see in once again in the next life.  I miss you so much already.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

 This year, during the last week of April, Dave and I spent a week visiting Myrtle Beach.  It was the first time either of us had ever been to Myrtle Beach.  It was a great time of year to go, (the crowds hadn't flocked to the area yet, and the weather was perfect).  It was a nice relaxing way to see the area.
We spent the first day visiting Fort Sumter National Park, (this is where the first shot that started the Civil War was fired).  The museum was very interesting, (it sits right on the ocean front with a fantastic view of what little remains of the original fort).  We also made our way over to the annual "Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival".  This was the start of the summer shrimp season, and the fisherman's boats are all blessed for a bountiful harvest.  There were many vendor tents with variety of foods, (which we had to indulge in), and crafts of all kinds in which to purchase.
Just down the road from our condo, Dave and I found a produce stand that we got some of our fresh dinner supplies from - perhaps you may recognize the name?  Dave asked me when I had time to not only garden at home, but also run a stand in South Carolina?  He asked the owner, if we were entitled to a discount, since my name was Barbara, but sadly the owner, only gave us a hearty chuckle.
 One of Dave's favorite activities during the week, was a helicopter ride over the area.  We flew over the ocean and beach front.  It gave a whole new perspective of things from the air.  Dave now wants to do a helicopter ride when we go to Maui this fall.
We did a little side trip to Charleston, and spent a couple of hours downtown at the flea market.  I found the mule pulled wagon tourist attractions interesting.  There wasn't an empty seat on any of the wagons.  It was such a hot day, (mid 80's).  The buildings were packed with people, but everyone kept moving along nicely, no one seems to mind the heat.  There was food vendors with just about anything you could think of, and crafts of every kind.  Some of the most beautiful pieces of art and jewelry.
 The Carolina area is particularly know for "sweet grass weaving".  I sort of got in trouble for taking a photo, (but I was pretty quick).  Each artist has their own handwoven unique design.  And as you are driving along the roads, you will see a stand set up with sweet grass weaving for sale.  Very small pieces will sell for $25 - $100.  And larger pieces will sell for up to $10,000.  It is a technique that dates back to the slavery days, brought over from Africa, and passed down through the generations.  The work is beautiful
And of course everywhere you go there are seafood buffets galore.  I think Dave finally got his fill of shrimp, crabs, and mussels.  We had seafood every day during our vacation.  And every place you go, they sit a basket of hush puppies on the table.  Most of the dishes are prepared using a method called "calabash", which is a fried method, (no breading is used).  It's actually very good.

We certainly had a good time.  Southern hospitality was wonderful to us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 Fair - One entry = TWO ribbons

This year, I decided to try entering my bread in the 2015 county fair.  I researched all the rules and regulations, and decided that I would enter my white yeast bread, my wheat bread, and maybe one of my artisans bread.  But, 3 days before I needed to start baking my breads I became very sick with the worst summer head cold.  I hadn't had a summer cold in over 5 years, and this one really knocked me out.  Finally the day before entry day, I finally was able to make 1 turn of dough for my wheat bread, (enough for 2 loafs of bread).  I chose what I though would be my best chance for at least 2nd place.  The next day, I filled out all the paperwork, placed my bread on the required plating, and drove over to the fair grounds and entered my bread,  I was so nervous and my hands were shaking.  That evening Dave and I cut into the second loaf of bread and each had a slice for dinner.  It was so delicious, and inside was perfect, (no holes).  I was very proud of the the 2nd loaf, and hoped the loaf I turned in was just as nice.  That's the thing about bread making, you never know what lays inside, until you cut off the end piece and then remove that first slice.  Does it have a large hole?  Did I get all the carbon dioxide out when I rolled my loaf for the baking pan?  And when you take a bite - will it have that wonderful slight nutty flavor from the wheat, that all good homemade bread should have?  All part of the criteria that judges are looking for, besides the exterior color, shape, and size of the loaf.  And the worse part was, I wouldn't know the results for at least 2 more days.  The judges all do their work in secrecy, with no outsiders allowed, (not even the fair supervisors).  And how do you know what the results are?  You have to go the the fair and look for your entry.  So three days later, Dave and I drove over to the fair, walked through all the exhibits to find the baked goods, then finally found mine!  And what do you know!
There was my bread, on the top of it's own pedestal, with a FIRST PLACE, BLUE RIBBON !!  I was stunned.

But then my heart sank when I saw the hole inside the bread.  Especially when the loaf we ate at home had no holes.  Why didn't I turn in the other loaf?  Then Dave reminded me that I still won 1st Place.  I looked over some of the other exhibits, and thought quietly to myself, "if I hadn't been so sick, I think I could have won the artisans bread division, (there was NO 1st place, and the 2nd place entry had a burnt top and was kind of sloppy), and I might even have won with my white bread, (it took 2nd place at the STATE FAIR last year).  But I was so happy with the blue ribbon hanging off my loaf of wheat bread.
The supervisor saw me hanging over the chain, (used to keep fair goers away from the entries), looking at my entry, so she walked over and asked, "do you have an entry here?".  I said "yes, and I won 1st place", (smiling big).  She smiled and said, "we're not supposed to do this, but if you want to stand by your entry, I'll take a photo for you".  Boy do I !!  She then said, if you want, you can flip over the entry tag and read the judges notes. Yes  I did, and the notes on the back said, "good taste, well made, crust just a little too brown, but overall a well made loaf of bread".

So I guess, the judge also liked my bread as much as my family and friends.  Dave laughed and said, now you can hang that ribbon up with all the other fair ribbons you've won.  Then the BIG surprise came when I went back after the fair to pick up my ribbon...
I found out that I had also won the "Mayor's Choice Home Arts" award, out of ALL then entries in all of the Home Arts entries, (i.e.:  cross stitching, baking, canning, etc.).  When they told me, I started to cry.  They said the mayor turned to the supervisor and said, "what do you think?".  She said that she replied, "What do you think, Mr. Mayor?".  And he said, "this is just like my mom's bread!, It get's my ribbon."  AND, asked the fair supervisor for my information, and said they are going to contact me to do an interview about my bread baking!.  I was so overcome with emotion.

And to think, I almost didn't enter the bread, because I wasn't feeling well.  I'm so glad I at least had one entry this year.

Friday, May 15, 2015

GREAT NEW Gardening Tip - starting tomatoes

For years, I have always planted my tomatoes from seed starts.  I would start the end of March, (using egg cartons), then move the little seedlings from the egg cartons to larger  pots in April.  By May, my tomato plants would be ready to set out in the garden.

I saved so much over buying plants from the garden and big box stores.  But I also took a chance on losing the seedlings from not enough water to too much water, and I had to harden the plants off before setting them out.  Then one day I read an article about cutting 2 months off of the amount of time needed for starting tomato plants.  I decided - hey! this is something I'm going to give a try and let everyone know if it works or not.

 First you need to find the kind of tomato plant that you want in your garden. You can go to a garden center, (here I went out to my garden), and gently pick off  a shoot stem.  NOT the main stem, (we always call these shoots the sucker plants - as the plant would mature, we would pinch them off to let the plant's energy go directly into setting fruit).
 So, here is a side shoot.
 Now place the side shoot in some water in a sunny window.  Change the water every couple of days, as needed.
 As you can see, after a couple of weeks, I now have a nice healthy tomato transplant ready to place in dirt.  That little side shoot had grown nice healthy roots.
 I've planted the seedling in some potting soil and it is looking very nice after only three weeks.  Normally, I would only have a tiny, tiny little sprout with 2 or 3 leaves still sitting in the egg carton.  But I already have a transplant sitting out in the sun.
Here is a seedling that I started THREE MONTHS ago, and as you can see - it is out in the sun, but still very spindly, and does NOT have the nice bushy shape as the side shoot I started 3 weeks ago.

NOTE:  I will still continue to start my Heirloom tomatoes from seeds, since I don't want to lose those varieties.  But for the average tomatoes this is my new method.

OH - and how will I continue this - I have decided that this fall when I pull up my plants for the year, I will pick a couple of side shoots that are the best looking and start my transplants indoors.  By January I will have very nice looking plants in pots ready to go, and by Spring I can set them outside with hot caps over them.  A much FASTER way to get earlier tomatoes than anything I've every seen.

I guess you can teach a "old gardener" new tricks after all these years.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My sister, Lorena

Saturday afternoon, I received a call from my aunt informing me that my youngest sister, (Lorena Elizabeth), had died.  She was only 53 years old.  The 5th child of 7 and the youngest girl in the family, (she was born on May 20th, and named after our great-aunt).  Out of all 7 of us siblings, she and I looked the most alike.  Most people who saw her would say that she was my reincarnation, just a few years younger.  She found out early that she didn't like the formal education system, and dropped out of school when she was 16.  So she had a pretty hard life.  She also found out at a very young age that she had a inherited the family gene for alcoholism and also took up smoking in her very early teens.  She loved her beer!  These 2 things did not help make her early life very easy.  But in the last few years she was doing good conquering the demons.  Some thought she was a hard person, and had a foul mouth, (from the years of bar hangouts).  But in spite of her faults, I saw her good side.  She was truthful, (I never found any story she told to be a lie), she didn't steal, (she would ask you if she could have something),  Although many of my family members were quick to blame her when things came up missing, she would call me and tell me how they found out that someone else took the item and no one ever apologized to her.  I know that helped to harden her a little more.  Even though there was almost 7 years age difference, she was the sister I was closest to.  We never lost touch, always talked every couple of months.  I always thought of her as the "family newsletter".  She kept everyone informed of what needed to be told about the goings on in the family.  And she was quick to tell me many times that I needed to come home for a visit before it was too late, (now it's too late).  We always ended our conversations with "I love you and miss you".  And we both really did mean it.  Sometimes I would get frustrated when the phone would ring at 1 AM, and it would be Lorena, (drunk, calling to see how I was doing).  But I always took her call and spent however much time she wanted to talk, talking about whatever she wanted to talk about.  I am grateful that I spent that time with her, I got to know my little sister so well.  I got to see things through her eyes.  She had 2 children, (a girl, Lisa and a boy, Steven).  She was a grandmother to 2.  I remember how she laughed over the phone at being a grandma and finally catching up with me.  She was divorced for the last 15 years, and about 5 years ago moved into my mom and dad's house to help out.  She was there to help my dad when my mom passed away, and for the last 2 1/12 years was taking care of everything in the house for my dad, (all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.).  She once remarked, "she felt more like his unpaid maid than his daughter".  On Friday evening she went to bed, (just fine), and passed way in her sleep, (the same way my mom did).  On Saturday, my Dad felt like she was sleeping in too long, so at noon he went to wake her and found her cold.

They say that death will strike you three times in a row.  Last month I lost an aunt who was like my mom, and this month I lost the sister I am closest to.  My heart can not take another lost right now, even though I know they are both in a better place, (and I rejoice in that thought).

 I love you sis, and I miss you.  Take care, say hi to mom.