Sunday, March 28, 2010


It has been 4 years and 8 months since that day in Ramadi,Iraq that changed our lives forever. We have been through 4 med boards,and played the "hurry up and wait" game that military plays.

Now,finally,Rick is heading towards military medical retirement. He will be considered "temporarily" retired on April 23. Hopefully that will be quite temporary and they will be put him full time retirement sooner than later.

This means adjustments as well. We will be making less than we are now. We have been through worse,however.

Rick finally has his sleep apnea machine. The problem is his knees are causing him so much pain,he can't sleep.So he hasn't been using it. He is up till the wee hours,and when I get up he is asleep in his recliner. It is very difficult to wake him up in the morning. Today he said he should just go off the morphine (albeit in stages,because one just does not quit that stuff cold turkey)because it's not doing anything. 120 mg a day,and it doesn't even touch the pain.

His primary physician has been gone the last couple of weeks.Rick called Fee Basis (who OK's major surgeries that might take place outside the VA system)to see if they had received the results from Dartmouth ,but they haven't as of yet. Which means his Primary has not sent them the results. This could actually happen with the VA system,though. The Dr who saw Rick at Dartmouth is also outsourced to the VA in White River Junction,VT. So that could work. We just need to get the ball rolling again.

Rick's memory is still a problem,and he continues to lose blocks of time. The other day he mentioned that he wanted to play some solitaire on the computer ( it helps his brain function to play games like that),but only for a few minutes. He wanted to wash the dishes and get the house situated while I was grocery shopping. He mentioned this because the week before when I went grocery shopping,he lost two hours. I came home and he was shocked that I was home. He lost two hours and it freaked him out.

It happened again.

I came home and he was on the computer. "No! Not again! How long have you been gone?" he asked. I looked at the clock." An hour and a half," I replied. "I thought you just left about 15 minutes ago," he said,shaking his head." I hate this stupid time loss stuff."

Now, we all can lose track of time. However, we tend to lose maybe 15, 20 minutes. Not a couple of hours or a day or two. It really scares him when he will have no recollection of a few days at a time.

The other day he asked me if I was born while my Dad was in the Pacific during WWII. For some reason he was confused about the time line. He knows that I was born in 1967,and I am 5 years younger than he is ( he always jokes that he would never leave me for a younger woman because I am his younger woman!)but for some reason he asked. Not sure what brought that train of thought up.Sometimes he has to say something while it's in his head,otherwise he will forget. It doesn't matter if it's on topic or not. It can be frustrating when trying to discuss something I feel is important,or even important to both of us,and all of a sudden he will switch topics and discuss what's in his head. At first,it was quite disconcerting and it made me feel like what he had to say was more important. However, now I understand that it is how his brain now works. It can still be frustrating at times,I admit. Especially when it's something we have discussed over and over-because he forgets that we have discussed it or he needs affirmation.

Today he and his brother Brian took down the old turkey cage in anticipation of building a bigger one.That will be a good project. Our turkey lurkeys should be arriving in a few weeks.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gearing Up for the Garden

Yesterday I started seeds for my peppers and for my kitchen garden. I never realized how freaking tiny some of those seeds are! I wear bifocals (mostly for reading,seeing up close and being able to read road signs from a distance while driving) and even with them on I had a real hard time seeing where one seed begins and the next one ends. The biggest (or should I say smallest?) offender is Spearmint. Tiny,tiny seeds. I couldn't even pick one with with tweezers. I had to literally just pour them out into the dirt,and tried not to pour too many out in one area. I am not sure how these plants will come out,and I know I will have to do a bit of thinning. We shall see what we shall see. One can only learn from each experience. Maybe I need a magnifying glass!

Today I need to make some more hand soap. We are getting a tad low,and have broken out our Irish Spring backup. The one thing I will need to do is get some sort of grid to put on top of the soap dish. The soap breaks down quickly when it sits in the water that accumulates in the dish after each use. The soap needs to sit up high out of the water.

Today I tried Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" exercise DVD. It is quite the workout,and I could not keep up. My arms ache just from the first level,and I couldn't finish the reps!!! I am trying to get back on the wagon after losing 10 lbs and falling off the wagon. Happily,I only gained back 3 lbs since I stopped working out. I am optimistic that this program will yield good results. Since we have started working outside,I haven't had the urge to snack and my appetite has actually been curbed somewhat.That is always a good thing.

Well, I'm off to make soap. This time around I am using the recipe my Dear Friend Michelle and I used last Fall. The recipe includes Crisco,canola oil,coconut oil,water,and lye crystals,plus any coloring or scent . I am going to make Oatmeal Milk and Honey scented soap.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Here!

It is now officially Spring,even though last week it was what we here in NH call a heat wave. The temps soared up to about 70 degrees. That is balmy for our neck of the woods at this time of year. Usually our temps are hovering around the upper 30's to the 40's . Raking the yard started getting mighty warm with a sweatshirt on,so we were going around with short sleeves on.

As soon as the snow melted,we were confronted with this in our front yard:

All the tiny dots are acorns,but I had no idea what those tracks and mounds of dirt were from. Chipmunks? No,trails are too small for those suckers. Plus,they live in our stonewall. These formations were all over our front yard. I didn't take a picture of the worst of it,though. I had trails and mounds EVERYWHERE! No,come to find out it's MOLES. Yep. Which means we must have had some tasty grubs once the snow fell,because before the snow was on the ground,none of that trail system existed. So now we have to perform grub control. At least when I raked it smoothed out the trails and knocked down the dirt mounds. My neighbors had been having a mole issue all along-this is the first time since we moved here in 2003 that we have had any evidence of them.
Now that decent weather is here (even if our heat wave has disappeared for now) it's time to get the yard in order,redo the turkey cage,build a new chicken coop,and get my seeds started. Right now just thinking about everything we need to do is making my head swim.
Today I am starting my peppers,thyme, rosemary,spearmint,oregano,marjoram,and basil. I have always wanted a kitchen garden. I believe that I will put this raised bed in between the house and the garage-it's a great spot with lots of sun,and there is nothing going on with it. I have my fluorescent lights,my heating pads,my starter soil,and my seed tray. I just need to do it to it!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Maple Sugaring Part II

It appears that our maple sap season is kaput. It wasn't the best. The daytime temperatures kept fluctuating, so that the sap didn't really run that well. Last week we pulled our taps and buckets. The buds started coming out on the trees,and the sap (what little there was) was yellow colored-which means it's time to call the season over,at least,until next Fall. However, we did get one more small batch,which netted us about a quart of syrup.

Above you can see our little (and I do mean little) set up.We purchased a larger propane tank (which we can use for BBQ and for the propane heater in the garage-yes,it costs a bit,but winds up being cheaper in the long run than constantly refilling the smaller tanks).This is the opening in our garage,and outside you can also see a juice barrel that we got for free to use for a rain barrel this year. Needless to say,we haven't done our annual garage cleaning yet.

We strained the sap before we started boiling-cheesecloth,a strainer,and another sap gathering bucket. Once it was boiled down,we re-strained it in the house into Mason jars. The batch before this one was boiled down a bit too we bought maple leaf candy molds and made candy.The taste as not quite as sweet as the candy one would buy in the store-it had a more mild flavor,but delicious nonetheless!!

One cannot be rushed when making maple syrup. Our cook down time averages about 7 hours.

We begin our seed starting this week. So a new adventure begins!!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Happened?

The last time I posted a a couple weeks ago,and I had every intention of posting photos of the boiling down of the sap the next time we did it. Well, I did take pictures,about a week or so ago,and tried to download them into my computer. didn't work. At all. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Rick and I have come to the conclusion that our old Northgate computer has had it. It was our first computer,purchased in eary 2003. I know the way technology has changed in that time that it makes this computer...what....about 50 years old?? (chuckle).
We have been having problems with it for quite a while,at least 3 years. It would freeze up,whether it was online or off. Sometimes photos would download,and sometimes they wouldn't. And if they would,sometimes it's would take a couple of hours to do so. ( We do have dial up,but nothing is that slow,not even AOL). I can no longer burn pics onto a disc.I tried it not that long ago,and my computer informed me that they disc was incorrect-even though a year before I burned several using the same type of disc.
Alot of websites use new technology and my poor old computer doesn't support it,and when I tried downloading the new files ( such as updated Adobe),my computer didn't like it and kept freezing up.
So Friday we bit the bullet and bought a new computer system,an HP. We got the computer home,and was shocked to realize that there was no port for dial up. We called the store and they said that most computers are no longer set up for dial up,but that they had something that plugs into the USB port that our phone line could plug into. So we went back and bought that.
The bad thing is we can't get internet! We use AOL,and I don't have a disc to download into my new computer. I tried downloading it on a memory stick and transferring it,but that didn't work. I tried entering the dial up phone numbers,my screen name and password in the appropriate place,and it said they were incorrect (which they are not).I tried Windows Easy Transfer,which I had to download to my old computer,but because it required certain updates before it would work,I tried they updates. Uh,it would take 42 hours. Not going to happen. We considered high speed. Fairpoint,our phone carrier,does not offer it here, I don't believe we are three miles from
the area's main office. Time Warner will only do packages-I don't want a package,I just want internet. So... my options are to call AOL and see if they will send me a disc,call Fairpoint and double check about the Highspeed,and if none of those work,go to WalMart and pick up a Net Zero disc.
This is why I put off getting a new computer. :(

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Maple Sugaring Time

It's that time again...when daytime temperatures are above 35 and nighttime temperatures are still cold...that's right...the sap is running!

We tapped our trees a couple of weeks ago,and as soon as we drilled a hole in the trees,the sap started pouring out.

The hole should not be more than an inch into the tree,and between 2 and 4 feet up the side of the tree. The measurement should be from the ground,not the top of the snow. The hole should be at a slight upward angle. Once you have your hole,you tap in your spout. Some people use plastic tubing and and the sap drains down the tubing into the gathering bucket. We use the old galvanised style buckets.

Below Rick gives the thumb's up. Bring on the sap!!!!

Sap immediately starts dripping into the bucket. Before you put your buckets and spouts out,make sure you clean them with hot water. Don't use soap or any type of cleaner. The residue will make your syrup taste funky.

We wound up with 10 buckets,and three of the trees were double tapped. We have Silver,Red,and Sugar Maples. We did buy covers for the buckets so little "treats"don't find their way into the sap. Even though we strain the sap before boiling and after,there's no sense in having more debris to strain out than necessary.

We tapped the trees on Feb 22,when the weather forecast called for a week in the upper 30's to low 40's. The day we tapped it was nice,40 degrees and sunny,but shortly after that our forecast changed and the days were chilly and overcast. We also had some periods of snow. It hindered our sap flow. The next day we gathered the sap ,and had 5 gallons. Then the following day we gathered 2 1/2 gallons. Since you should boil down the sap within a day or two of gathering,we boiled it down on Thurs Feb 25. Out of the 7 1/2 gallons, we got 1 1/2 pints. It took 7 hours to boil it until it reached the proper boiling point ( which is determined by a good foam).

We do not have a fancy maple shack. We have a stock pot,a standing propane stove,and a large propane tank. Next post I will show you how we boil down our sap. Oh,and by the way....our sap was Deee-licious!!!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to Sue Weber who has given my blog the "Sunshine Award"! The Sunshine Award is given to blogs that make your day a bit brighter. Sue is from New Zealand,and I follow her blog, "Living The Good Life." This is my first award from a fellow blogger,and I am quite pleased that she thought of me waaaaaaayyyyy down there on the other end of the world.

Now that I have received this award,there are some other things I must do,as this is a "rolling" award:
1. Post the Award
2.Pass on to 12 bloggers
3.Link to nominees
4.Link to givers

I am not that computer literate,so hopefully I will be able to figure out how to do this!!!

I don't follow 12 blogs,so I shall have to send this award to just a handful.

1.http://Little House in the Suburbs
2.http://A Homesteading Neophyte
4.http://Living the Good Life (right back at you,Sue!)
5.http://Lizzy Lane Farm
6.http://Our Wee Farm
7.http://Candid Country Life

Thanks again to Sue,and keep up the good work on your blog....New Zealand looks like a beautiful country.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dartmouth Has The Answers

On Thursday Feb 18 Rick and I went with some trepidation to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon,NH. The hospital is "down the road" from Dartmouth College one of the oldest colleges in the US,making it one of the "Ivy League" schools.Daniel Webster,the famous lawyer,went there and is something like a 10th cousin many times removed from Rick.( Ok, it's a tad distant,but he is still in the family tree!)

Dartmouth Hitchcock has an excellent reputation as one of the best hospitals in the country.This being said,we were still nervous,especially Rick,who kept wondering what we would do if they said that there was nothing they could do for his knees. We had been so hopeful before only to be told there was nothing that could be done for him. Would he have to be in a wheelchair? Would there come a point where he could no longer walk at all? We needed two answers: an actual diagnosis,and a plan to fix it.

The trip took 2 1/2 hours,which went by fast. We pulled into the parking lot,finally found a space,and walked up to the building. The photo above was taken from our car. The first thing we noticed was how big the building was,and how many cars were there. The lobby was quite big,with four massive archways. To the left was,among other things,xray,planning,and a small food court. Straight ahead was orthopedics,and to the right was Dartmouth College Medical School. Right in the middle was a friendly receptionist who pointed us down to the left and told us which room to go into for Rick's xrays. We brought some MRI's and Xrays from the VA with us,but they wanted do some of their own,which was understandable. They called Rick in about 45 minutes early. After the xrays,we went right to Orthopedics. We were hoping they would take us early again,but that was not to be. Rick was impatient. I kept telling him that we weren't scheduled until 1:30,and he said he was just nervous about what they were going to say,and that he wanted it over with. He forgot to bring a book with him ( I was rereading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon)so the time seemed slower to him. Finally,we got called in.

The first person we sat in with was a resident student,a very nice guy,who's name I unfortunately can't remember. He asked alot of questions,regarding the pain,when it started,what the symptoms were like,and what might have caused the problems. He then pulled up Rick's xrays,and showed us Rick has lost joint cartilage on the inside area of his knees,whereas the outside areas are fine.He also showed us how Rick's legs are now bowed. We felt we learned more from those xrays than all the visits combined in the last two years. Mr Resident then said he would go over the xrays with Dr. Bernini and they would come back.

After about 10 minutes,Dr.Bernini and Mr.Resident come back in. Dr.Bernini is a knee and shoulder specialist,and had written a paper regarding the benefits of simultaneous bilateral knee replacement. He was very friendly and engaging." folks need a diagnosis that is long in coming,don't you?" "Yes, please!!!!" I said. He went over some of the information with Rick again,and said the one thing that no one has said,"I want you to know that you are not crazy....your pain is very real and I know it's real. I have seen worse arthritis,but some people can have bad arthritis and not feel any pain;some people can have very little and be in alot of pain. You appear to have moderately severe arthritis." This was amazing. We have been hearing,"For what we are seeing here,you are claiming to have too much pain." Finally! He then asked if Rick's knees gave out on him,did he fall,did his knees make this sound,did they catch,and you could hear enormous relief in Rick's voice,as he responded "yes"to each question. Usually he would have to tell Drs what was going on,and they still wouldn't figure it out. Dr Bernini knew what was going on,we could tell by the way he asked the questions. He had Rick walk,try to stand on his toes and his heels, He had him sit on the table,and he commented at how loose Rick's kneecaps were.He asked Rick if he could stand up from the table without using his hands to push himself up.He could not.

" I have a diagnosis for you," Dr Bernini said,"and this is not what I think it is,it's what I know it is. He has all the symptoms." He turned to Rick and said,"You have Post Traumatic Degenerative Arthritis." The symptoms are the same as Osteoarthritis,in that it wears away the joint cartilage,creating bone on bone,which causes the grinding and popping that Rick hears. What makes it Post Traumatic is that it's caused by trauma to the body part. (Being a paratrooper,two knee surgeries,and doing 85 lb ruck sack runs in Iraq not to mention carrying that crap all day in the sand led to his problems.)There is no cure,it will only get worse over time. He said we have a couple of options:#1 Rick could get his knees drained and steroid shots in his knees two or three times a year.He would have some relief,but it would be very temporary and the fluid would just come right back, or #2 he could have joint replacement surgery. He is not a candidate for doing both knees at the same time because of his stroke history and his heart disease,but Dr Bernini said that he would do the right one first,since it's the worst,then after 6 weeks he could do the left knee.

I asked him about the bone infarctions,since there had a been a theory that this was what was causing all the problems. "It's a symptom,not the problem,"he informed me. "The infarctions were caused by the pressure from the inflammation and the loss of ligament." So the whole thing is caused by the arthritis.

Come to find out,Dr Bernini is also outsourced to the White River Jct,VT VA Hospital.He said he would send his report and health plan to the VA,and that he would talk to Rick's main physician.He said he would gladly perform the surgery,but the VA might want to do it through their hospital. Rick and I wondered if we could request Dr Bernini at the White River Jct VA.

So....we finally have a diagnosis and a doctor officially saying that he needs surgery.He also asked Rick why he couldn't exercise,and Rick informed him he couldn't move his knees in the proper rotation! He also asked about Rick's activities before his pain.All this is part of the making the case for surgery.

Now we wait for the VA...yet again. Since they are Rick's primary source of medical services,we have to go through them first. I told Rick if we have to pay $20 a month until we are 80 it doesn't matter,he is going to get his knees fixed,come hell or high water.