Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lower Back Update

I stopped talking the celebrex and flexeril Friday night. I had started walking the pups in the woods a bit on Thursday. I've been able to sit in my recliner again, getting in and out of bed no longer hurts, I'm being very careful though when it comes to bending (with the knees!) and not lifting anything heavier than 5 pounds or so and keeping it close to my body. Yesterday I started feeling really good and today even better. The dogs are happy they are being walked again and so am I.

Not counting the idiotic attempt at walking with crutches the day I hurt my back I've only walked 3 days out of the past week. It explains why I did not lose any weight this week but I didn't gain any either, It may have helped that on a couple of days I had half sandwiches or yogurt for lunch instead of whole sandwiches. But I'm still down 11 pounds for the year with a goal of 20. So still only 9 to go and quite doable if I don't screw my back up again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Bird on Suet Photos

Took these about a month ago on the suet cake outside the kitchen window. They really do enjoy that suet.
Bluejay checking out the camera
Male Downy Woodpecker
I know I posted a photo of a pileated a year ago, but this is a much better photo. No idea if it's male or female although it is small. Same problem with bluejay, no idea what gender it is.
Red Bellied Woodpecker - male
As you can hardly see any red on their bellies, I think it's a lousy name for the bird but red headed was already taken, but something could have been said of its wings.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Forty Eight Hours Later

My back is still in pain. I did find some hydro codone left over from my shoulder surgery 9 years ago and it's helped a little, but what I really need is a muscle relaxant. I called the clinic as soon as it opened this morning. But the recordings all say not to expect any help for 3 business days, didn't matter if I called my own doctor's triage nurse or the prescription line. I sure better get something sooner than 3 days from now.

In the meantime I use heat or ice and lay on my back a lot. I try sitting up a little in bed but generally can't do that for very long.

Hal has been very good trying to take care of me. He fed me sandwiches all weekend and arranged to get some macaroni and cheese for tonight from the general store in town. We've had their turkey dinners before and enjoyed them. He has been feeding the chickens and the dogs and even took the dogs on a short walk a few minutes ago to make sure they did their business. That was a wonderful thing to do as Luna is notorious for holding in the solids until she gets her walk and I'm not ready to walk for a while yet.

For amusement I have my laptop and the internet, I'm getting to chat with my eldest sister fairly regularly. Almost never hear from the younger one. Even heard from my brother yesterday via email, and he's once in a blue moon but he has a good excuse, no internet access at all. He may be visiting us later this summer. That will be fun.

Until then however, I shall continue to lay here in bed and try not to get too bored though it isn't easy. At least I also have my crochet. It's possible that king sized afghan may be finished sooner than I expected.

update: The clinic called, and Hal has gone to get my muscle relaxant! YAY!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lots of Pain

And I mean the excruciating, makes you cry kind of pain.

I was collecting sap yesterday morning, lots of bending down and pouring liquid into buckets. Hal had gotten bigger buckets from the Wal-Mart bakery so we could make fewer trips. I had already brought in a couple and was literally on yhe next to last tree. But this tree is in the old duck pen which is covered with netting about 4-5 feet off the ground so I had to bend over to walk in and out, then kneel down pour the sap, lift the bucket, turn around and get back out. It was that lifting and turning motion that did it. My lower back muscles spasmed, I dropped the bucket (managing to save the sap somehow) anh was on my butt dialing my cell phone for Hal to rescue me.

Since then I have done stupid things, trying to walk it off using crutches, walking the dogs through the woods. Twice. Been downhill from there ever since. I'm taking celebrex, 400 mg at a time. I can barely get to the bathroom. Sitting up for any length of time is agony, flat on my back is the only pain free position I have. Tried heat with the mattress hater yesterday, a mistake. Using ice again today, when I can get it.

I hate being trapped like this but there is little I ca do but wait it out. Could be days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our First Maple Syrup

Not counting the 2 gallons test batch that dropped to 4 ounces of syrup and in my opinion wasn't very sweet, Hal next boiled down 15 gallons of sap. This time he used our old 2 burner gas grill, popped out the window for steam evaporation and set the old aluminum turkey roaster inside. 
Because there was so much sap and so few hours in the day, he also started the smoker unit running and between them got the sap down to about 2 quarts to cook in my big pan on the kitchen stove.
After boiling this down for another couple of hours he transferred it to an even smaller 2 quart pan for the final boil. This one you have to watch carefully to not go too far and burn it.
Then he decanted it off into mason jars filtering through a piece of cotton and a jelly bag. After cooling, the minerals/sediment, aka sugar sand settled to the bottom.

 This is what we did with it the next day. Poured it over my cinnamon, blueberry oatmeal pancakes.
One more shot of those pancakes with Ziggy as an interested bystander.
Poor guy, I wouldn't share though he did get to lick the plate.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

It's PI Day!

I really didn't think it was such a big deal, but what the heck as everyone, including NASA seems to be posting about it all over Facebook, I'll just mention that today's date, taking out the 20 for 2015, is 3.1415, the first 5 digits of PI, a very important number. For those who don't remember, it's one of those numbers that has no end (as far as anyone's massive computer has figured it out so far), it's also quite useful when playing with circles.

Everyone also says it's a good excuse to eat pie. Good thing I made a pumpkin pie yesterday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hal's Smoker Sap Cooker Experiment

To boil the sap down to syrup we needed something outside because the steam given off boiling gallons and gallons of sap would coat the walls of the house.

First thing Hal did was put up a tarp off the back door on the deck. Then we shoveled off the snow a few days later when the weather warmed. That black thing is his camp stove.
Then after testing out the old BBQ grill (not enough BTUs) and his camp stove, (also too few BTUs) he took my old Brinkman bullet style smoker that my dad had given me many, many years ago and attached an old gas water heater burner, drilled a couple of holes next for combustion air, set the grill on top and hooked the whole thing up to our 250 gallon house propane tank (yes, he is quite capable to do this sort of thing) and fired her up. Wind turned out to be a bit of a problem so he tucked the whole thing into a beaten up 55 gallon HDPE plastic drum to use as a wind screen.
Gas water heater element inside smoker body
My 12 qt Farberware stainless steel pot
Our Back Deck Sugar Shack
We collected just over 2 gallons of sap on that first day from only 2 trees (3 taps). Hal and I boiled it down to about a quart then he cooked it down on the kitchen stove watching carefully to ensure it did not scorch and the result was 4 ounces of maple syrup. After sitting in the fridge over a day it is nice and clear, all the "sugar sand" having settled to the bottom. Tastes a little weak to me, but perhaps this will improve once the trees are flowing better. We may find out today, there are already 2 more gallons of sap in the fridge and 13 of our 15 taps are now flowing.
4 oz maple syrup

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tapping Maple Trees for Sap

While I was in Massachusetts in January my sisters and I visiting a place they go to a lot called Klem's. It seems to carry a little bit of everything from clothing to chicken feed and, lo and behold, spiles and buckets for collecting sap for maple syrup. I'd wanted to to try it for a long time so I bought one set and the pamphlet on how to do it.

The sugar maple is considered the best maple tree to tap but we only have ordinary red maples, and plenty of them. A few days ago, March 6th to be precise, Hal and I tapped the tree next to the chicken coop. I used a 7/16" drill bit to drill a slightly angled hole about 2 inches deep, then tapped the metal spile in with a hammer, hung the bucket on the attached hook, put on the lid to keep out rain and as much tree debris as possible and sat back and waited.

Yesterday the sap started flowing. The temperatures have risen into the 40s the last couple of days and the nights are dropping into the 20s, apparently perfect weather for sap. You can see a little over an inch of sap at the bottom. Today there was 3 times as much, and when we collected it, it amounted to almost a gallon.
Hal made 4 taps out of a piece of half inch copper tubing (jut need to remove it after the season is over) and attached some vinyl hose to plastic juice bottles. None of these have started flowing yet.
Here is the one in the old duck pen.
I also ordered 10 5/16" plastic taps and 2 foot sections of blue hose which arrived today and we tapped 9 more trees, placing 2 in the big maple in front of the house, that tree is 81" in circumference and can easily support two from what I've read. It started flowing immediately and Hal collected about a quart from it after just a few hours.

We need more than 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup. I don't know if we'll accomplish that with just 15 taps in 14 trees, but it's a grand experiment. We just have to get more jugs and food grade containers to hold it all. Then we have to boil it down, that will be interesting.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Three nights ago just after 11 pm, my toothache just stopped. It was wonderful. It came back for an annoying few hours Saturday afternoon and evening and was gone again Sunday morning. The relief is incredible. Having that consistent dull ache for two and half weeks (and those few days where it was much more than a dull ache) was draining. I'm feeling much better and was able to take the dogs one extra loop (3 total) through the woods yesterday. I suspect they enjoyed it. Today I managed to make it 4 times through even though the snow is getting mushy and hard to walk in (yes, I think winter's back is finally broken, it reached 50 today for a couple of minutes!) I just hope my sinuses continue to improve which they should as I got a new prescription from my doctor today. I've still got pressure in the top of my head, behind that tooth, popping ears and a minor cough.

And tonight a friend whom I haven't talked to in years suggested hydrogen peroxide in my ears. I Googled it, still sounds fishy but I'll give it a shot. If nothing else it will clean out any wax buildup and maybe even stop my ears from itching which has been a thing that's gone on for years.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Still Surviving But Wanting More!

The remnants of the flu just keep hanging on. My tooth still aches though not as much as it had but it's still keeping me from feeling great or chewing on that side of my mouth. I can tell my head is still stuffed up, so my sinuses are still whacked, and I've only 4 days left of these antibiotics. I just have to hope it's enough to finish off the problem.

I am recovered enough to take the dogs on at least 2 walks per day even if a walk only consists of one loop through the woods. Each loop takes 8-10 minutes depending on how much energy I've got. I keep thinking I'll go around twice but by the time I get to the end of the first loop I am pretty tired, so home we go. At least we are going out twice now. I know they will love it more when it's back to 2-3 loops 3 times a day. I know I'll be happier, too.

This bug did help me to lose 3 more pounds. I've probably gained back one or 2 since I'm eating again without the benefits of exercise but I'm not eating tons of junk food so that's good. If it does stay off for the next weigh-in that will be 5 pounds of the 9 gained over the holidays. When those are gone I can tackle the 15 pounds gained over the previous holiday, then the 11 from the holiday the year before that. That's 35 pounds and a lot to lose in one year so I will settle for 20. A nice round number and more doable with the dieting method of just eating properly 3 times every day and cutting out most junk food. No more skipping lunches for me, I think my body was tricked into thinking it was starving and thus hoarded calories.

This diet will also see me dumping things with high fructose corn syrup, refined grains and excess sugar. I'm reading Jillian Michael's book "Master your Metabolism" (Christmas gift from my favorite older sister) and lots of what she says makes sense. Heck, I even bought a package of organic cherry tomatoes. They were $3.99, almost double the price of regular but as I got sick I couldn't eat them for more than a week. They were sitting on the counter all that time and when I finally got to them this week they were tasty and still fresh. Usually the regular ones are dead and gone. I bought these because the other ones looked bad in the store! My money did not go to waste. Hopefully getting my weight down, and Hal's if he doesn't keep on eating cookies, will also bring our cholesterol down. I really don't want to try pills for that yet.

But it would be awfully nice if my sinuses would clear up soon!