Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sorry about the poor quality of the photos - we used my cell phone camera to take them! Hannah lacks fine motor skills, but she was definitely interested in these babies! She just needed a little help to fine-tune her snuggles!
In fact, I think our visit excited Hannah enough that she quickly tired out, as you can see below. Look at that sleepy face! The lovely lady in the photo is Hannah's nurse, Bobbie, who graciously agreed to help Hannah enjoy her visit with the chicks AND to have her photo published on this blog.
And, yes, everyone involved made sure their hands were clean after we played with the baby chicks! With the nurse and Mom, Dad and Big Brother on patrol, no germs had a chance!
One thing the visit highlighted was Hannah's desperate need for a new room. She's growing fast and all of her equipment and supplies take up most of the space in her room. Hannah's Mom is working on fundraising for a new room, but these things take time, so Hannah, the nurses and the family are making the best of the situation for now.
The family suffered a serious setback a few months ago when someone broke into the family van and stole Hannah's wheelchair. If you know anyone with any kind of physical limitations, you know that the equipment that keeps them mobile is a lifeline. You can't look at a specially-designed pediatric-sized wheelchair and NOT realize that it belongs to a special needs child. What kind of lowlife steals a wheelchair from a special needs child?
At any rate, it looks like the wheelchair is being replaced, and the fundraising efforts are still ongoing. If you get a chance, stop by Hannah's blog and say hello!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
We have several hummingbird feeders that we hang every spring. By midsummer, it's a veritable hummingbird buffet and we're refilling the feeders every couple of days. The little birds are fearless - they'll feed even if people are sitting on the porch a few feet from the feeders.
We love watching them - they swoop and dive and have epic battles over access to the feeders. A couple of years ago we even had a white hummingbird - she stayed for most of the summer, but hasn't returned since.
We make our own hummingbird solution using one cup of sugar to four cups of water. We don't use food coloring - the feeders attract the birds just fine without it, and some experts think the coloring might be harmful to the birds. Some websites advocate boiling the sugar solution, but we use well water, so it doesn't contain some of the impurities you might find in water from a municipal supply.
Last year things really got busy after the babies hatched - we had young birds and older birds visiting the feeders, and taking advantage of all the hummingbird-friendly plants I put in the flowerbeds. At one point I counted twenty birds at the various feeders and perching on the flowers. No wonder we were refilling those feeders so often!
I can't wait to see how many show up this year!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Potato plants are actually attractive, and they look good in containers. Only these containers can help cut your grocery bill this fall, and growing your own potatoes is fun!
If you want to grow your own potatoes in a barrel, select your container first. You can use a barrel, or a large pot, or a growing bag, or one of the commercially available potato barrels. I've even heard of using old tires, and stacking them as the plants grow. Potatoes are remarkably versatile and will grow almost anywhere.
Make sure there are holes or an opening in the bottom of your container for drainage. Put three inches (or so) of dirt in the bottom of the container. Season your seed potatoes by cutting them into chunks with one or two eyes per chunk, and let them sit and dry for a day or so. Then plant your seed potato chunks in the dirt.
When the potato plants get three or four inches high, cover all but the top inch in more dirt, Keep doing that until your container is full of dirt. This essentially creates a very long root, and little potatoes will sprout all along the length of it.
When the plants have flowered and the flowers have died back, your potatoes are ready to harvest. Tip the barrel and pick up your potatoes. It's that easy. You can harvest new potatoes in the summer by gently reaching into the soil and pulling out the baby spuds before the big harvest in the fall, but we usually don't do that. We wait for the big motherlode in early fall - taters everywhere!!!!
We dump a barrel every couple of weeks when it's time to harvest the potatoes. This helps keep the potatoes from spoiling, as they might if we harvested all the barrels at once.
I don't re-use potato barrel dirt from one year to the next. This year's potato dirt will go into the compost pile and spend a year or so helping the worms break down vegetable wastes and chicken and horse manure before I put it back into circulation in a raised bed or container or tilled into a flower bed. This is because potatoes are susceptible to blight and you don't want to allow the blight to establish itself in your dirt.
If you want more information on growing your own potatoes, here are some links:
Monday, April 5, 2010
So, many of the things we do around here are joint ventures. Melissa and I garden together, care for the horses and chickens together, and generally collaborate on all manner of things. I made it through anesthesia school, in part, due to the support of everyone here at Thistledew.
And my standing joke during my senior year in anesthesia school involved a tractor as a graduation present to myself, and to everyone else for putting up with me during those long years. It wasn't entirely a joke, though - we really do need a tractor around here. And now we have one! We went to the local Kubota dealership and debated the merits of the various tractors. Here's Melissa, trying one on for size:
Everybody had different priorities for the tractor - the guys wanted a backhoe for some of the heavy work, and Melissa and I wanted a tiller. We needed a tractor that was big enough to handle the heavy work but not so big that we couldn't maneuver it in tight spaces around the farm.
We finally settled on a tractor that fit everyone's needs. We hope! And here we are at tractor school, with the perfect specimen! Isn't she gorgeous?
Melissa and I wanted to name her Bunny, because she came to us at Easter Weekend. But the boys vetoed that, and suggested an alternative - Smokey. This isn't a bad name - we live on the edge of the Smokey Mountains, after all. And I went to anesthesia school (and now work part-time) at The University of Tennessee, where the mascot is Smokey and the school color is bright orange.
Here's the real Smokey in his regalia:
And our own Smokey has already been hard at work, tilling the ground for our spring garden. But I haven't had the nerve to drive her yet!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I replanted my porch containers and got a flower bed cleaned out in the interim, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Oh, and I finally got my (our!) graduation present - but that's for another post!
Friday, April 2, 2010
Thank Goodness It's Friday! I have the day off today and I'm on call tomorrow, and I'm really praying that nobody needs surgery tomorrow. I know that's unlikely, but can you imagine being in the hospital Easter weekend? I don't wish that on anyone.
This has been a very busy week. I worked, of course, but during all of my normal down-time I helped with interviews for the new class of student nurse anesthetists. That was an eye-opening experience! I had no idea how much work went into it.
All of the candidates send in their files - transcripts, work histories, application essays, and various other items. Each item is given a numerical score. All of those numerical scores are tallied up and the top forty or so candidates are invited for an interview.
Then the interview takes place. We ask a series of questions and each answer gets a numerical score. These scores are tallied with the pre-interview scores and we come up with the top fifteen candidates, who are then invited to join the program. I've simplified this here, because the process actually took several weeks and involved some discussion/debate - each faculty member had different ideas about what makes the perfect candidate!
We had a really great group of applicants this time. We honestly could have taken anybody in the top thirty or so, and had a strong class. This makes it difficult, because sometimes the thing that separates one candidate from another is simply a few points on a test. I really hope that some of the folks who didn't get in this year will be persistent enough to re-apply next year, because I really liked so many of them!
And, essentially, I've taken on a second job with this faculty thing. I'm excited about it - I love working with students and I love to teach and I think I can be good at it, but we'll see. For the moment, I have the day off and there's a chicken coop to clean and garden beds to build and I really ought to muck out the pastures. My pretty suit is hanging in the closet and today's uniform is old jeans and a t-shirt. Have a great weekend, everyone!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Well, I have fallen off of the Wardrobe Refashion wagon before I even got started. I'm doing some teaching at the university (guest lectures and such) and I will be involved in candidate interviews next week.
So, I started going through my closet and realized that the last time I bought a suit was five years ago when I interviewed for anesthesia school. Looking out-of-date doesn't bother me, but ill-fitting clothes do, and since I haven't lost that last few pounds I needed something that actually fit.
I'm ashamed to admit that my sewing skills aren't up to producing an executive-level suit. So, I bought a nice, neutral year-round suit. And, since I was off the wagon already, I bought two blouses to go with it.
And, then I bought some new workout clothes, because although my ratty sweats are fine at the farm, they do look kind of out of place at the somewhat upscale (but cheap!) gym we belong to. Although eventually I think I can learn to make workout gear - it doesn't look terribly complicated.
So, there's my sad tale. I whined to my husband about it, and he was unimpressed. "It's about time you spent some of the money you earn on yourself!" No sympathy from that quarter, I'm afraid!
Have a happy Palm Sunday, everyone!
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I just watched this series today on DVD, and I loved it. It was a fabulous portrayal of life in England during World War II, complete with air raids and food rationing. I am tempted to buy it and watch it every time I feel the urge to wallow in self-pity. The deprivation was astonishing! I knew there was food rationing during World War II, but I had no idea to what extent. This series was eye-opening.
In my experience, the people who lived through the 30's and 40's are some of the most stoic and sensible people we see, and viewing this series made me understand why that might be the case. There simply wasn't time to whine and feel sorry for yourself. If you survived, it's because you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and made do with what you had.
I think that's what I love about all of my blogging friends. We may not suffer under the same deprivation as our mothers and grandmothers and fathers and grandfathers did, but all of you are smart and resourceful and creative, and I am sure that any of you would manage beautifully if you found yourselves in a situation where everything depended on your intelligence and resourcefulness and ability to survive.
So, give yourselves a pat on the back, from me, and if you get the chance to see 1940's House, I highly recommend that you watch it. With your kids, if you can, so you can point out to them (as I did to my son) exactly how spoiled modern children have become! :)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
spring is finally here, and we have baby chicks coming in a couple of weeks! Nothing says spring like baby chicks! They are so cute and sweet - I can't wait!
And then there are my favorite type of spring chicks... I know they have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever. But I don't care. I love them. I don't eat very many of them, but every Easter I treat myself to a little package of Peeps.
And I have a Cadbury Creme Egg. But not both at the same time. Well, not every year, anyway! Okay, one year I didn't have them both at the same time. I ate some Peeps first and then I ate the creme egg. And then I ran ten miles.
One part of that last paragraph is a complete fabrication; you'll never guess which part! :)
What's your favorite Easter candy?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Luckily for me, they've had lots of good press lately (much of it from Pioneer Woman) and they're sold out of almost everything, so I have time to mull it over a bit while they replenish their stock. But wouldn't you love a pair of those pants to sleep in this summer?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Okay, if you know us here at Clay Hill/Thistledew, you know we hate waste. And you know we think that, global warming notwithstanding, humans have not been very good stewards of the wonderful environment we've been given. And we're trying to make small changes where we can to do our part to change that.
So, I've been toying with the idea of signing on to the Wardrobe Refashion for several months now. I do think modern Americans own too many clothes. And many modern clothing manufacturers rely on sweatshop labor to produce their wares, which I find extremely distasteful. Also, the manufacturing process used to turn fibers into wearable garments is not environmentally friendly, by any stretch of the imagination. But I've been reluctant to take the final step, for several reasons.
Reason number one: I am not a very skilled seamstress. I can sew straight lines. That's pretty much it. Constructing garments is very different from constructing tote bags or pillows or quilts, and, frankly, it's intimidating. Yeah, I'm a chicken!
Reason number two: I have no (I mean ZERO) sense of style. A person who is creating her own garments really ought to have a little idea about how to make said garments fit into a stylish wardrobe. Don't you think?
Reason number three: I am carrying around ten extra pounds. I know ten pounds doesn't sound like a lot of weight, but I am very short. Ten pounds is nearly two dress sizes for me. If I lose the extra weight (as I certainly hope to do this spring), I'd dearly love some new clothes as a reward.
But, the truth of the matter is that I can learn to do anything that anyone else can learn to do. I know this because I have learned to do all manner of crazy things over the past several years. I can take over a person's bodily functions almost entirely and still keep them alive, and wake them up comfortably at the end of a procedure. I can surely learn to sew some clothes.
And, there are lots of resources out there for the fashion-challenged these days. There are books and magazines and websites, and don't forget my stylish friends! And, the older I get the less I care about being stylish, anyway, so that excuse is gone.
Finally, the weight thing - if I sew the garments, surely I'll be the best person to alter them if (WHEN) I lose the weight. Or I can give those items away and make/refashion some more, because there is no shortage of old clothing around these parts!
So, in between gardening and quilting and cooking and animal posts, I'll be posting occasionally on my progress with the wardrobe. The next "official" round doesn't start until May, but I'm starting my own pledge now. I'm going to try - no, I'm going to DO this for six months, and then re-evaluate.
I'll make an exception for undergarments and socks, for now, although I may learn to make those at some point, too! I've truly gone over the deep end, folks - I'm going to sew things and wear them! Heaven help us all!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
This was forwarded to me, and I thought it was really cute.A Lovely Story About Me
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
My last patient of the day was an emergency case flown in from a smaller hospital. The odds were stacked against her, and we all knew it. She would have known it, too, but she had already suffered a cardiac arrest and had been resuscitated, so she was still unconscious. If she had surgery, she probably wouldn't make it. If she didn't have surgery, she had no chance. There was really no choice.
So, we took her back, hoping for the best. And we worked and we worked and we worked, for hours. And, in the end, her poor little heart gave out. We couldn't save her.
When you lose a patient, even if you haven't cared for the patient for very long, the sadness is visceral. It hits you like a punch in the stomach. Except that the pain from the punch might go away in a few minutes, while the pain from the loss lingers for days or weeks. You go back over everything you did, over and over, wondering if there was anything else you could have done. Wondering if you could have changed the outcome.
I guess my face showed how I felt as we cleaned up the operating room after the case, because one of the nurses said to me, "Terri, you have to accept the fact that you do not have the final say over who lives or who dies!" And I know this. But knowing it doesn't help.
My feet hurt, my back hurts, my head hurts and my heart hurts. I'm going to bed. good night, all.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Look at those - aren't they gorgeous? Wouldn't you like to make them? And have them not turn out soggy? They're easier than you think. I got brave on Valentine's Day and made a batch for the hubs, and he loved them. Raved about them. Promised anything I wanted if I'd only make eclairs again.
You can find the easy technique I used here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/eclairs - the instructions are very clear.
Oh, and if you don't want soggy eclairs, let them cool completely before filling. That's the secret! We were always too impatient for that, growing up!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
But, hey - at least I have the day off today. With pay. So, I can't whine too much!
And, I always love a quilt-related giveaway, so I have to tell you about the one over at V and Co.. She's hosting a sponsored giveaway by The Quilt Shoppe. The winner will get precut Moda fabric AND a $25 credit to spend on anything they like at The Quilt Shoppe. If you sew, or you know someone who does, check it out!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I enjoyed the book very much, but I'm a little bit ambivalent about some aspects of it. First, the author has a sailor's mouth. Now, I'm not a prude, but the people that I hang around with aren't usually given to gratuitous cursing. So that was a little bit off-putting.
Second, the author seems to care a great deal about a person's political leanings. Maybe that goes along with living in the Northeastern United States, though. Around here, we tend to vote more for the person and the issue than the political party, but maybe that's just my little group.
Finally, the author is just a little, well, whiny. I don't have any room to complain about that, though, because I have to confess that I'm rather whiny myself. Especially in the winter. Reading about her whininess reminded me uncomfortably of my own whininess, and made me resolve to do better. We'll see how long that lasts!
Those details aside, though, it was a good read. If you haven't read it, it might be worth hunting down a copy. And it made me want to cook! Specifically, it made me want to cook French food. Since I don't own any French cookbooks, I looked online for some simple recipes.
My first effort was Oeufs en Cocotte aux Fines Herbes. This is simply eggs baked in cream with herbs. I used fresh eggs from our own hens. Where have you been all my life, Oeufs en Cocotte aux Fines Herbes? You are delicious! And so easy! I found the recipe and tutorial here: http://www.amandascookin.com/2009/08/eggs-baked-in-ramekins-wit-herbs-oeufs.htmltml.
For dessert last night, I made Chocolat Pots de Creme - essentially a rich chocolate custard. Again, very simple and incredibly rich and delicious. Where have you been all my life, French food???? I found the recipe here: http://www.latartinegourmande.com/2008/07/07/chocolate-vanilla-pot-creme-french-dessert/
I think I may need to travel to France. Purely for educational purposes, you understand. Because if the French food I can make in my little kitchen is this good, I might need to try the real thing!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
And, given my wimpy nature with regard to pruning, I certainly shouldn't grow climbing roses. I know this, too. So, against all reason, I brought home a pretty little climbing rosebush two years ago and put it in the flower bed next to the house.
I had this image of a trellis, and greenery with yellow roses shading the porch on warm summer afternoons. I was going to sit out there with a cold drink and a book, and the fragrance of the roses all around me. It was a pretty fantasy.
The reality has been somewhat different. That rosebush hasn't produced a single rose. She has, however, produced dozens of horrible spiky branches that reach out and try to grab you as you carry groceries into the house. She grabs at the dogs as they go out the door, and she's even invaded the porch with her horrid spikes. I've named her Audrey.
Audrey was the carnivorous plant from The Little Shop of Horrors. While my rose bush hasn't eaten anyone (that I know of, although I haven't seen that skunk around here recently), she is a hazard. And she has to be moved.
I thought I'd wait until later in the spring to move her, but upon talking to some local gardeners who specialize in roses, it seems that you need to move the plant before a series of warm days in a row cause the sap to start running and the plant to come out of dormancy. We're expecting a warm-up this weekend, so Audrey must go to her new home before she gets too warm.
Wish me luck. And if you don't hear from me in a couple of days, send a rescue squad armed with hedge clippers and pruning shears!
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
These are just a few of the beautiful images I found on Google. Aren't they gorgeous?
Just look at all that lush green vegetation. Imagine carrying a picnic lunch to that little outcropping on a sunny spring day. I could just sit on those rocks like a lizard and soak up the sun!
And, of course, vegetables. The White House garden? Hopefully, it won't be a one-time thing.
Yes, garden season is coming - and it can't happen soon enough!
Monday, March 1, 2010
So, we'll throw some extra feed in to the hens and sneak a bit extra to the horses, and hunker down inside to try to stay warm. And hope that this lion is followed closely by the lamb of spring!
Stay warm, everyone!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
But, we're roasting some coffee as I write this, and it smells wonderful. We started roasting our own coffee this winter after I emptied yet another plastic coffee container. I tried to reuse them, but they're ugly and we're trying to get away from the use of so much plastic. So, I started researching ways to get away from packaged coffee, and I came across Sweet Maria's. And our coffee-making was changed forever.
This is a photo of a coffee plant. I stole all the coffee photos in this post from Sweet Maria's website, and I will do penance for my theft by buying some Kona coffee beans. Wait, penance should be unpleasant, right? So maybe that's not such a good plan!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
To add insult to depression, (heh), my youngest son was injured during a field training exercise at Ft. Stewart. He's okay, but it looks like he'll need surgery and will have some downtime to heal, which might affect his ability to deploy with his unit. He is NOT happy about that, but what can you do?
To all of you that I've neglected - please accept my very sincere apologies. I will do better. Oh, and Fabio says hi!