Permaculture.

I had heard of permaculture but had no idea what it meant until I read an article about it in Mother Earth News this summer. Turns out, I’ve been accidentally practicing permaculture for years!

Permaculture is the development of an agricultural ecosystem that uses less energy and resources and is self-sufficient and sustainable. In my mind, who wouldn’t do that? I have called it lazy, cheap, and resourceful farming/living but permaculture sounds more like you know what you are doing. Yeah, sure I planned all of this.

I collect rain water because it is free compared to the $0.08 a gallon I pay to have it delivered since we don’t have a well. However, merely collecting rainwater doesn’t make an ecosystem.

The rainwater is used to fill the duck ponds, duck water, and water the garden. The duck pond is also a substantial dog water dish (ewww), and for the puppy, the best way to drink out of it is standing in it (double eww). They have a plenty of dog dishes, but the ponds are their favorite. The pond water is used to water our Arctic cherry tree. According to the tag, it should start to producing cherries here soon. I highly doubt it, but I’m holding out hope. A grill that is no longer able to grill is now a goose-proof flower bed (tall enough the goose cannot reach to eat all of my flowers).

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The garden is used to feed us and the birds, saving us money both in buying the produce and duck feed but also gas by not having to go to the grocery store. The ducks and chickens maintain the weeds and keep the mosquito populations in check – they free range when we are home. We eat the duck eggs and the drakes. We’d love to keep them all as pets, but too many males disrupt the peace in our ecosystem. The chickens are for meat this year, but we plan on overwintering a few next year with the hopes that they’ll make more chickens the following year, so we no longer have to buy chickens. The birds also provide hours of entertainment. I never get tired of watching them.

One of the ideas of permaculture that this ecosystem supplies everything one would need “including entertainment to fuel”. Trees cleared for the house were used to heat our home. Much more affordable than heating oil though we use that too since winters here are long and oh so cold plus I like my house at 70 to 80. I can’t bring myself to set the thermostat higher than 60 though (oh so cheap), so the woodstove makes the house comfortable to live in. The trees we cleared last summer to expand our garden are going to heat our home.

The excess garden gets frozen or canned. Garden tidbits like stalks, roots, and such gets fed to the birds, this year made into stockĀ or composted. I’m an oh so lazy composter and do the slow compost method which does cause a fly issue. BUT the chickens love hanging out by the compost to eat the maggots – gross, I know but PERMACULTURE! Shane just shakes his head and walks away when I say that to farm grossness. Like the dogs licking duck shit off the pavement. PERMACULTURE!

In the garden the last two summers, I have increased the number of flowers we have since we now have honey bees. Plus I hate having to hand pollinate, so I wanted to encourage my bees to make the trek up to the house. I love the increased color and watching our bees pollinate all of my plants. We eat the tomatoes and raspberries that our bees pollinated and honey they stored away. Also, notice that I used birch trees for part of the posts to make our garden fence.

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Part of permaculture is still retaining native plants and animals. Squirrels surround us in the woods. In the spring (when the cat refuses to go outside due to snow) we have bird feeders which also feed local moose (ugh). Occasionally, the neighborhood fox makes off with one of our birds, double ugh but part of living in the woods. Our bees take advantage of all the wild roses and wild raspberries. We enjoy both. Most of our lot is still heavily forested providing both shade and a buffer from the road.

Feed bags become weed control in the garden path. Dog food bags become trash bag liners. Wood crates scavenged from work became a chicken coop. An old dog run wrapped in plastic is our greenhouse. Boxes from a CSA have become drawers in our entry way. Old clothes become patches and rags. New sheets for us are old ones retired from the vacation rental. They’ll eventually become painting dropcloths or dog blankets. Old milk crates organize the back of my car, are cubby shelves in the garage, a seat for weeding in the garden, my office standing desk is made of them and old shelves, they are the perfect size for a small propane tank, and two milk crates and a 2×4 makes an excellent chicken roost. Uses for old towels are endless.

My husband calls me Half-Penny Hildebrandt [my maiden name] since I’m always looking for ways to stretch a penny or use what we have around the house. I guess my new name should be Permaculture Powers [married name].

Shane shakes his head and walks away. I triumphantly yell PERMACULTURE!

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A Somber Epiphany

I stumbled onto a new to me infertility blog and it goes back to 2013. I was like, holy shit that was a long time ago and they still are childless. It was discouraging, heart breaking, but I honestly felt a bit relieved that it wasn’t me. Then it hit me, we’ve been trying since 2013.

 

Seasons Done Right.

Alaska does nothing half-ass. Fall is crisp, golden, brief, and foreboding. Winter is dark, cold, snowy, and pure magic. Spring is slushy, muddy, and full promise. Summer is hot but not too hot, the sun refuses to sleep, and it is simply splendid. The people soak up the sun as much as the plants do. We all thrive and push ourselves to exhaustion, knowing we will all get to hibernate here soon.

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The other day as I stood in the kitchen watching the big puppy splash in the duck pool while an annoyed flock of birds watched her antics and admiring my flowers, it hit me that it was the end of July. Where has summer gone? Then I thought of winter and snow and -40, then I went outside to lay in the hammock to soak in as much summer as I could before the snow flies. Yeah, I know I got a few more month before that happens but it will zoom on by as June and July have. Before I blink it will be January and I’ll be dreaming of summer.

Recap and Game Plan

We are a little over two weeks post of our last egg retrieval. And I can officially say that that was our last round of IVF. There is no way in hell I’m putting my body through that again. Pretty much from the day after my first injection, I have to stop running because my ovaries go gangbuster on the hormones. I can feel my ovaries when I walk and have this irrational (perhaps rational) fear of ovarian torsion. No trampolines for me during IVF. Everyone, even fertility nurses, tells me that I’m doing so well and I’ll have plenty of eggs. Whoopie fucking do because that means shit.

Eggs out of here

On this third round, the protocol was modified yet again to avoid ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Yet again, I developed OHSS. I have no idea how people go back to work the day after the transfer. I’m large, uncomfortable, and in pain. By the time I went back to work four days post transfer, I was using a rubberband to close my pants. Beats the first round when I had to wear maternity pants.

When I start to deflate and piss out all that water I retained (8lbs of it this round!), all day daily migraines begin as my body crashes from the hormones. This is followed by the heaviest period in history. Ten days post retrieval, I went to my local clinic for a polyp check so we can start on the transfers. “Holy crap, your ovaries are huge,” the Dr. remarked. That was 10 days after retrieval, after deflating, and after my period. Yup, IVF for me is weeks of pure hell.

The best thing about this round is our clinic did not give us a blow by blow about how shitty our embryos were doing as our previous clinic did. They told us how many fertilized on day two then gave us a report on how many they froze on day five. We went from 26 eggs retrieved, 25 mature, 23 fertilized, to four to freeze. A bit crushing but better than the other two rounds where we got 1 to transfer and 0 that implanted.

While I wish we had more in the freezer, a part of me is glad that we do not. After watching others go through transfer after transfer, the heartache and the money spent, I’m glad this purgatory is limited to four.

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It is hard to wonder as we start the embryo transfers if we picked the right path. A friend of my husband had their adoption finalized today. They started adoption process when we started fertility treatments. It is hard not to second guess our choices especially when our house seems oh so quiet today and a bit too clean. I need to accept that this is our journey and we are on the right path even if it is a bit longer then we’d prefer. The next hurdle is going to be doing a natural transfer while living 4,000 miles from our clinic. This should be interesting yet I’m so glad the clinic is willing to work with us on this. A natural cycle transfer means no progesterone in oil shots. None. Zilch. Kein. I’m polyp free as of this week’s check. Now waiting to hear back on my thyroid values. Then once my period starts in a few weeks, we are on.

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As a side note for a friend that is thinking about heading down the IVF path that reads my blog: While IVF has been no cake walk for me (though I have consumed a lot of cake on this journey), I will say I’m glad we have done these three rounds of IVF. And I’ll still be glad even if this 3rd one fails because I will never wonder if. I will know. Everyone has a different experience with IVF and how their body responds. I don’t want my experience to deter you from trying, if you want to try. It is hard but doable.

Jammin

Make sure to hit play on the above mood music before you start in on this post.

In anticipation of 23 chickens going into the freezer in a little over a month, I started to clean out the freezer this past weekend. Old and freezer burned berries went to the birds. Good berries that we haven’t polished off, jammin! We had some rhubarb to harvest and use, so pretty much all the jam was fruit plus rhubarb.

Salmobarb Jam –> salmonberry (picked in Cordova, Alaska) and rhubarb; turned out too runny in my opinion but Shane says it is his favorite. I think it will be good more as a syrup over pancakes.

Peabarb Jam –> peaches (leftover from last summer’s Oregon trip) and rhubarb jam. One of my favorites! I made a ton last summer and ate it all, so glad to have more in the pantry! This goes great with plain yogurt.

Blubarb Jam –> wild Alaskan blueberries (smaller and tarter than what most Americans know as a blueberry) and rhubarb jam. Another of Shane’s favorite since he loves tart foods, this may have ended up a bit thick but still delicious.

Cranberry Butter –> Alaskan highbush cranberries with homemade applesauce. First time making this and it is a keeper! I used my juicer to get the seeds out and simmered it down with baking applesauce (a batch of the applesauce I made last year that doesn’t taste stellar, so we simply use it for baking). It turned out this deep red color. We were putting it on dark chocolate as it simmered down.

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I don’t know if we save much money canning. Everyone says they do, but I’ve never tracked it. Shane said we at least eat better since we tend not to buy the high priced yet delectable jars of jam at our Farmer’s Market. Plus, I’ve never seen pickled watermelon rind for sale. I’m making this for my dad for Christmas. I guess his grandma use to make these when he was a kid.

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And in the words of the late Bob Marley:

“Ooh yeah, we’re jammin’, hey
To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past
We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’
And I hope this jam is gonna last”

 

A Literal Pity Party

Pity. We have all at one time or another thrown ourselves a pity party. You know, hiding in a closet screaming into a half empty ice cream carton, “why me?” About six months after my husband’s hypopanpituitarism diagnosis (summer 2015), my husband was in the midst of a major pity party for one. He was a joy to live with. The treatments were not working fast enough or actually working at all or causing horrible side effects, we were always battling insurance companies, and we were both utterly frustrated. There was a lot of “Why me??” going on. He was feeling pretty alone in all of this – kind of how depression (pity) works.

I decided to host a surprise pity party for him. He needed to feel some love. My mom and I got crafty. It turns out a pituitary looks like testicles. I kid you not.

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Old Juneau Dog really got into the party spirit with her homemade pituitary pity party hat!
His mother was late to the party which made my blood boil. She was not into the idea of the pity party, thinking Shane wouldn’t like it. Boy, was she fucking wrong. Shane loved it. Perhaps this is not how she wanted her pity party to look like for she was also dealing with the fact that her son was diagnosed with a disorder that none of us knew that much about. It was good for everyone to have this elephant in the room dragged out for the world to see. This is life, and we can’t pretend that it always goes as planned. In fact, I’ve noticed it really never goes to plan.

 

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Nothing as therapeutic as smashing something that represents what you are so mad at.

The party was a hit – literally as we all smashed the pituitary pinata. Shane even had a friend drive 7 hours to come to the party. Sometimes, a pity party is best with friends. And cake.

 

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Flowers (leftover from our wedding) had little pity sayings like this one that reads “You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Really? Watch me!”

 

22 jars of radishes on the wall

While grocery shopping this past week, I noticed they were having a screaming deal on radishes but didn’t have many in stock (maybe 2 bunches). I mentioned this to Shane as our radishes in our garden do okay but not enough to make radish pickles. They are excellent on sandwiches, but we haven’t made any for about two years.

I get home Wednesday to find that they had restocked them and that my husband bought 22 lbs. of them (weight post stem removal). I guess he has been jonesing for some radish pickles. He said he bought some, then decided we needed more so went back for a second batch. Then when getting beer, he decided we needed even more.

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I scrubbed and trimmed while he worked the mandolin. They then got to soak overnight in brine. A few we set aside to make radish kimchi. That evening I made three large jars of the kimchi.

The next night, Shane simmered the radishes in the vinegar seasoning. It took three large pots to hold them all. I hot packed the jars, and Shane got them in the water bath. By the end of it, we had 22 pints of pickled radishes. Thus this begins Summer 2017 Canning Palooza!

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