Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011

For the love of Pets 

I’ve always had pets. I don’t think much time has ever gone by in my life that I didn’t have some kind of critter in my care. We had dogs, cats, fish and a sky blue parakeet  while I was growing up. When I got married, there were more dogs, cats, fish and an aviary of rescued and bought birds, and the usual assortment of pets for my children.

That last fifteen years have been filled with cats. My hubby had one when I met him, then I brought home a loaded stray. She was a sweet little bob tail that seemed to love us both. Then she had her kittens in the bedroom closet. For awhile we had 7 cats at once! Crazy, but they were soon part of the family.

My youngest was born when the kittens were 2 years old. We had sent the momma to the SPCA and managed to give away one kitten. So, we were a family of hubby and me and baby makes 3, plus 5 cats to entertain us. Every step of my young son’s day was punctuated by the love of a cat. One slept with him for naps, another chased balls he would kick from his walker, one tried to share my lap during feedings and story time and one would lay with him until he fell asleep each night. They were there when he cried and never hurt him, even when I would find his fist full of cat hair.

Today we are down to one cat and a gerbil. The cat seems to have adopted me. I am the only one who can pet her just right. She chases me down when I try to stay up too late. She checks on my son to make sure he is in bed, but no longer lays with him each night. The gerbil is very sweet, but has clearly lost its shine. My son usually checks on her each day and even holds her for a few minutes. But he forgets more often than not to secure her cage or check the level of her water. I guess that’s what moms are for, to remind or to fill in so the poor critter doesn’t die.

He wants a dog. Actually, we all do. But I have had a hard time justifying it since we are gone from the house 10-12 hours a day. Seems like it would be cruel for them to be alone all day. I already know that the cat is terrified of dogs. When we got her, she stayed in the spare bedroom, literally, until the last of the other cats died.

But, every boy needs a dog, right? I guess the silly cat can stay in my room during the day. I started reading about therapy dogs for Aspergers kids and how they help in social situations. But my boy has no trouble talking to people at all. Usually, he can’t tell when to stop talking J

Then there are the plans to get more chickens. My son fell in love with the black chicks at the barn. I don’t even know what they are, but the owner has told him he can have one. But the coop is still not built and I am not sure I am ready to bring them into the kitchen every night again. I hope to finish it soon, since I think I have everything I need.For now, the critters at the barn will have to do. It’s wonderful to be around the horses without incurring the expense. But I have a feeling that when we go to ride this Saturday, we will be coming home with a new feathered friend.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Song and Garden

Saturday Song and Garden

It’s 9:00 pm. Hubby is volunteering at the school and my youngest is in the shower. Usually, he sings all sorts of songs while he is there. But tonight he is just making sounds and noises. Probably from the games and cartoons he watches.

He loves to sing, but won’t sing for an audience. He has perfect pitch. Every since he was a baby, he could repeat a sound and match its note perfectly. When he was an infant, he would be on his back while I was changing him and the phone would ring. He would mimic the sound exactly. So, my phone would always ring in stereo.

When he was in preschool, one of his favorite shows was Little Einsteins. They would introduce young children to the Classics, both in music and fine arts. Then he would sing instrumental pieces by Mozart, Bach or Beethoven. Then came Veggie Tales and contemporary Christian music. Sometimes he will hold a note and his voice sounds so beautiful. But, he doesn’t seem to see it that way. It’s just something to do I guess.

I did get some things done in the garden today. My compost in the tumbler went sour. The chicken feed I had got bugs in it so I dumped the whole container into the compost bin. I guess that knocked the balance off because today it smelled like ammonia. So, I emptied it and dumped it around the grapefruit tree. It needs all the help it can get and it is in a remote part of the yard where no one can smell it! Then I reloaded the tumbler with fresh scraps and partially rotted oak leaves.

Then hubby got home and whisked me off to a school that has closed down. They were selling everything and he knew I would want things for my classroom. Our principal met us there and we ended up pulling our resources to buy several desks and chairs for our classrooms. Our enrollment is up this year and we did not have enough desks to go around. “These are good problems to have” my pastor would say.

So, there I was, still in my garden clothes, representing our school. Then we were off to the school to drop off our purchases. Once at the school, there was much to do to put all the things away and get ready for the Back to School Picnic later that day. I had to come back home and change and pick up bathing suits and towels. We always rent an awesome waterslide!

We were about 30 minutes late for the picnic. We stopped by the stables to drop off my son’s paperwork so he can continue riding this fall. When we arrive at the picnic, it was in full swing. My son jumped right into the festivities and headed for the waterslide. A few years back, he would have hid behind me for the first few minutes until he was used to the noise and the crowd. I lost track of him and went to locate family and friends.

About forty five minutes later, my son came to me upset. He said his stomach was bothering him and everything was spinning. He could not pull himself together, so I located my hubby so we could get ready to leave. Twenty minutes after that, he decided to eat to see if it would help. It did and we ended up staying for most of the event. That’s just the way it is. Something will overwhelm him and it’s time to leave, or, he just recovers and we get to stay.

When we arrived home, we watched a bit of tv before my hubby went back to the school. As we settled into our evening, I decided to make my worm bin. I had purchased the perfect sized bin from the sale for a dollar. So I got out my drill and created a proper home for my wigglies:  This is pretty much the way I made my bin, but I only put one hole in the bottom at a corner. My daughter made hers this way. Then you can set it at an angle and place a bottle under the hole to catch the moisture (worm tea). More goodies for my garden!

“You who dwell in the gardens with friends in attendance, let me hear your voice!”                        Song of Solomon 8:13

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Of Haircuts and Worms

Of Haircuts and Worms

My daughter called me at lunch today to tell me about the pumpkin plants I gave her. She said they were infested with “cucumber worms”. This was our second day of the seminar to prepare us for the school year.  She managed to pick them off and salvage the plants but wanted me to know that my garden may have a problem.

 The irony in all this is that on the same day we had our plant swap, she brought me some worms to start my own bin with. I really should have waited since I didn’t have a bin set up, but I couldn’t resist the chance to start right away. I did the best I could with a plastic bin and some wet shredded newspaper. I was concerned it wasn’t dark enough for them, so I put it in a paper bag. I then gave them some kitchen scraps, but not much seems to be happening.

After work it was time for my son’s haircut. One of the issues that Asperger’s kids have to deal with is hypersensitivity. The last haircut was at the beginning of the summer. It was quite the circus! The clippers buzzed and tickled his neck so much that he wiggled and squealed through the whole thing. The barber was beside himself. After the ordeal, we gave him a nice tip.

They did do a nice job on his hair, and were very nice through all the frustration. So, we went back to the same barber this time. He didn’t recognize my son until he was already in the chair and had the smock tied on ready to go. He kindly, but firmly told my son that they closed in 35 minutes. Whatever haircut he had at that point was the one he was stuck with.

Well, I don’t know if it was what the barber said or the fact that he was distracted by the tv, but 15 minutes later he had a handsome cut for his first day of school. Hopefully, that is the end of the squealing haircuts!

When we got home, I found it had rained quite a bit today, so I went out back to check on my new rain barrel. I had placed it under one end of the gutter that protects our air conditioner.  I knew the placement might not be perfect, so was waiting for a good rain to tell me how I did. It was full to the top! My son and I tied a piece of screen on the top and it is complete. No more city water on my plants!

I checked the garden and found no worms. I did find one watermelon vine that something seemed to be eating, but I could not find anything on it. Not even with my glasses on, LOL!

The worms in the bin however, seemed to need a bit of attention. I pulled out the bin and they still seemed to be staying in the clump of dirt I got them in and were not moving to all the yummy scraps I put in there for them. The shredded newspaper also seemed dry. I poked around a bit and confirmed they were still alive. So I got some fresh newspaper shred, wet it and squeezed it out. Then I laid it across the mud and scraps to make it darker and damper. We shall see how they do.  If I am successful, I will have some lovely worm tea and castings for my food garden.

 Now if I could only find some time to work on that chicken coop.

“ Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”                                  Isaiah  40:30 - 31

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Food Dye Nemesis

The Food Dye Nemesis

When my youngest was born, he was a bit of a late life surprise. But he is cherished never the less. His bright eyes and cheerful disposition always make my day.

He was such a good baby. If he cried, he usually had a good reason. When I laid him on his back, he would flap his arms like a bird and draw his knees to his chest. I thought it was unusual, but he was having so much fun that it never occurred to me that it was a symptom. I know now it is an autistic trait.

As he grew, we followed the doctors’ advice and kept him current on his immunizations. When he was almost 3, we were told that we were behind. He had to have 4 shots that day! I remember thinking how ridicules it was that with all our medical advances, we still have to stick babies with needles! But he had to have those shots to start preschool.

Preschool did not go well at all. He had no tolerance for the other children when they would take a toy from him. His response was to bite them. After several warnings, we were asked to remove him from the preschool.

So, I kept him with me and we went to a different story time each day. Many of our local book stores and libraries have them. Then we would go to a park for an hour or so, then home for some snuggle time. He had stopped napping at age one, so some couch time with mommy while she watched some food network seemed to be all he needed.

During this time we also attended church and family gatherings like any other family. Sometimes my son did fine, running around and playing with friends and cousins. Other times, he would start out fine, but within an hour or so would seem to lose all patience with the world around him. He would scream and cry, throwing himself on the floor in tantrums until we excused ourselves early and took him home.

Usually he would be running a fever, so I would put him in the bath to ready him for bed. Then I would see the rash, usually in his diaper area and sometimes spreading beyond. After several reactions like this I asked myself “What did he have to cause this?” Then I began to piece the puzzle together.

After leaving my sister’s house early one evening, I remembered that we had been at my parents’ house the weekend before and there had been no incident. We had chocolate cake that day, or maybe it was brownies. But now, here we were again, rocking my boy fresh from the bath, still sniffling in his sleep. Then I remembered what he ate.

My young niece had been there with her children. Trying to be a health conscious mom, she had given out fruit treats to all the kids. At first I wondered what on earth fruit gummies could have in them, then I read the label; Food Dyes.

From that day, I simply decided to keep anything with food coloring in it away from my boy. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Some things are obvious: powdered fruit drinks, popsicles, cheetoes, anything that dyed my kids lips was not going into him. But I found food dyes in strange places. Like baby shampoo (yellow), marshmallows (blue) and chocolate ice cream (red).

Now we eat organic foods and use earth friendly products whenever we can. Years of label reading and watching our son suffer has taught us that we can do better. So, I shop carefully and am learning to grow what I can. He has not had a severe event since.  With God’s help, I will do everything I can to build a healthy future for my family, and maybe help save the planet along the way.

Genesis 1:29

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life with Asperger’s

Hope in Horses and Gardens

This evening when we came home from work, my husband and I settled down in the living room to plan our evening. My son bustled around doing his chores and chattering each time he passed. Finally, his chores finished, he announced he was going out to climb a tree.

Tree climbing is somewhat new to him. About a year and a half ago, he used to climb the lower branches with one of his classmates, but was never more than six feet off the ground. But since she moved away, he stopped climbing altogether. He is so sensitive to, well, everything! Hot, cold, soft, scratchy, taste, sounds, so many things that just being outside seemed to irritate him. Then he started riding horses.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding. I can still remember our first day. He was bright and alert, taking things in. He followed instructions and chose a safety helmet to wear. Then he watched as another child climbed into the saddle from the ramp and he froze. He then drew close and stepped a bit behind me. “I don’t think I can do this!” he whispered. They called his name next, so I turned and said “It’s your turn.” I saw him take a deep breath and walk toward the ramp. He climbed in the saddle and the teacher stopped and looked at him. She started to speak to him, too soft for the rest of us to hear. I saw him nod, then relax a bit and they were off. He was never afraid again. That was almost a year ago.

Now, he asks to jump in the pool without others swimming with him. This summer he finally taught himself to ride a bike. Once this week I caught him shooting hoops with the kids at camp.  And now, he climbs our oak trees. Not the low branches, six feet from the ground, but straight up high fifteen feet in the air, I think a tree house is in order.

 He is so proud of the ribbons he won riding in last years’ Challenge Show. He also wears his boots and helmet whenever he can. He loves visiting the other animals at the stables too: chickens, rabbits, pigs, but his favorites are the goats! He visits with them and brings them treats after his ride.

It’s wonderful to see him in the great outdoors! Otherwise, he is tending to his passion, reading, or playing video games like other kids his age. He has grown in so many ways. He also started playing chess with anyone who will play with him.

Now if I can just control the food he eats a bit more. It’s so frustrating. Every time I think we are doing well, I find some new ingredient or something in food that I once trusted. That’s why I want to grow as much of our food as I can. Then I know where it came from and that no pesticides were sprayed on it. And I am enjoying it too. Seems I enjoy getting my hands dirty.

And caring for the earth. The soil in my yard is getting better all the time. Every load of compost I dump into my garden makes the soil darker and hold the moisture better. It’s taking a while, but I am growing things we enjoy the way God intended. I feel so blessed! Having my son has opened my eyes to a better life for all of us.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night will never cease.”

Genesis 8:22

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunday August 7, 2011

A Giant Orange Weed

Up early, so after a cup of coffee and ‘puter time, I went back to work in the garden.

Now the allamanda, jasmine and grape vines are all planted on the back fence. I planted them about 10 feet apart. I am hoping that is enough for them to cover the fence and not compete with each other too much.

Then it was on to the orange tree. Sadly, it had to come down. My husband’s Granny gave us a Valencia orange tree shortly after we bought our home. That winter we had a nasty freeze and the tree didn’t make it. In the spring, an orange tree sprouted right where the other had died. We were so excited and made all sorts of jokes about how the tree was as tough as dear Granny. But soon we realized that it was not the lovely Valencia we had planted.

It grew tall and weedy and had thorns that were two inches long. If it ever did bear fruit, we weren’t sure how we would pick it. Several years later it seemed to have some sort of disease. The leaves curled and twisted and little wasps and grass hoppers moved in. I now know that trees are sometimes grafted onto “root stock”, also an orange tree, but grown for its strong roots. Not to bear fruit.

So, now it is down and pulled from the ground. We cut what we could then wrapped a chain around the trunk. We attached it to the back of our SUV and pulled as much of the roots out as we could. Now I can prep the ground for my first Papaya seeds. Hopefully, my watermelon vines didn’t get too trampled in the process of pulling out the tree. It seemed like we kept bumping into them.

So, I finished the morning off by dragging some oak logs around for raised beds. The first bed I made is pretty big, about 6x7 feet. But, it has watermelon and a few struggling cantaloupe in it, so they need the room. I’ve turned some of the composted cow manure into the place where the tree was. Prayerfully, whatever was bugging the orange tree weed will not hurt papaya trees!

“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.”

Matthew 21:18-19

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shopping for Supplies

Saturday August 6, 2011

One thing about a trip to the store for supplies, you find more projects you want to do.

This morning I was tilling one of my garden beds when my husband returned from the men’s breakfast. He asked if I wanted to go to the store, but I needed that early time to work before the sun hit the yard. He agreed to wait a few more minutes so that we could go together.

I found the organic composted cow manure they carry. I sometimes use it when I can’t make compost fast enough for my big projects. I also picked up a bag of organic garden soil. I mix it with soil from the bed to start seeds.  I also picked up a flat of marigolds to deter some of the garden pests.

My impulse buy for this week was a grape plant. I plan to grow it on the back fence.  Now that we are home and talking things over, I wish I had read the label first.

I found the seed section with a bit of difficulty this time. It had been downgraded to one display. About an eighth of it was organic. Apparently, the nice people told me, this isn’t the season for seeds. I explained to them that Florida Gardening calendars have us starting some seeds now, but that is not when the seed companies send them to the store.

I looked through the organic seeds and found no corn, so I settled on a conventional pack. While we waited to check out, I read the seed packet. It said “sugar enhanced”.  Really? I thought corn already had sugar naturally. That’s why we have corn syrup. Well, I don’t want enhanced seed at all, so I put them back.

When we got home, I read the pot the grape vine came in. It said nothing about being organic, natural or conventional. But it did have a website listed. They claim to be a leading supplier of premium blue berry plants, but had nothing at all about any other plants. Most of the site was dedicated to how wonderful they were and it was because of their scientific yada-yada.

So, I will keep the grape plant for now and buy my corn seed somewhere else. Or maybe find someone to swap seeds with who has grown corn successfully in this area. Sometimes it’s hard to draw the boundaries around what I want in my yard. I want to grow the things my family will eat, but I also want it to be as healthy and clean as possible. Organic items are not always available. My yard needs to be amended constantly it seems. So, I will keep trying and learning along the way. My family and our earth are worth it!

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Genesis 2:15

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stayed home sick today, but couldn’t stay down. Frequent trips to the throne room kept me agitated and unable to rest. So I walked outside to visit my garden.

I actually accomplished more, a few minutes at a time, than I do on a Saturday morning. Our swimming pool is completely out of balance with all the recent rainfall. So, I sprayed out the filters while my son picked up around the yard.

When I was able to sit down in the shade, I planted about 12 pumpkin seedlings into starter trays. After taking a break for rest and water, I sat near one of my planting beds and pulled weeds. While I was at it, I replanted some basil seedlings which had come up too close to the walkway. Later, I planted my Tarragon that had outgrown its pot. Now in the herb bed, I have basil, parsley, thyme, mint and tarragon.

Closer to the kitchen door, I have lavender, rosemary and a struggling sage plant. Seems I always have trouble with sage. Maybe I just need to find the right variety.

After lunch, I had a bit of energy, so my son and I loaded up the compost tumbler from the half full bin. Then we got the cart and transferred some leaves from the side yard to the back and divided them between the tumbler and the bin. We still had some left over so I used it as mulch here and there.

Well, all that activity was enough for me, so I came back inside and watched “Food inc.” If I wasn’t upset enough about our food before, I sure am now. But I know we are one the right track. We buy as much organic food as funds and availability will allow and I am starting to grow as much of our food as I can. Our chicken enclosure is built and my husband surprised me today with enough wood to finish the coop.

Along with the herbs, I have already planted blueberries, strawberries, lettuce, watermelon and cantaloupes. I also have avocado, loquat and banana trees and two different heirloom tomatoes in topsy-turvy planters.

Now I am getting ready to plant seeds for my fall garden.  With the seeds I saved from years past, the ones I have purchased plus the ones my friend shared with me, I could plant an acre! My garden tending time is limited to before and after work and weekends, but I love it! Walking along my plants keeps me grounded and gives me the quite time I need to spend with the Lord.

Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow-perhaps they all will.                                                                                    Ecclesiastes 11:6

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roots in Eden

 I am a wife and mom to three great kids and Grandma Beth to two grandsons. My youngest has Asperger’s Syndrome and one of my grandsons has Celiac.

My dream is for our home to nurture us in every way. Not just creature comforts, like air conditioning and a comfy chair. I want it to be more. It should be more than good meals and cable tv. I want it to hug us and heal us and be the place we want to be. Not just at the end of the day, but forever.

 Our world seems like poison. Stress, pollution, additives in our food, there seems to be no end. I have decided to take as much as I can into my own hands, with God’s help.

I want to do more than clean and organize my home. I want to plant and grow our own food as much as possible. I want to rid my house of chemicals and pesticides .It needs to be a place where my family is safe from the outside world.  In short, to live a more sustainable life that is pleasing to God.

Follow me as I share my adventure.  Please pray for my family as I will pray for those who read along. May this new venture bring us all closer to Him.

God Bless!