Saturday, November 19, 2016

Brick Dust: Late Fall, Health, Holidays

We are having the weirdest fall!  It's very, very cold at night, but it's still getting up into the 70s some days!  I'll tell you:  My body is not liking it much!  I was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the erratic weather almost always sends me into a flare.  No good!


As  Autumn moves toward Winter, we're just taking advantage of the good weather days and putting by as much wood as we can--and by "we," I really mean "he."  We've fallen into a good rhythm, one that works for us. Due to my limited energy and random aches and pains, I tend to take care of the inside of the house while he takes care of most of the yard work.  I do get out there once in a while, but it's been a few weeks.

We are almost completely unpacked and moved in, and we've gotten rid of most of the junk we needed to clear out of the house.  We have about a truck load left in the garage to take to the local thrift shop.  I hope to do that in the next few days. Cleaning is becoming a less daunting task, as I get used to my "new normal" and build my routines.  I'm on a weekly schedule of sorts, but I don't yet have a cleaning schedule made. I just fit it in where I can. 

One thing that really helps, though, is cleaning as I go.  Most tasks, when you break them down, only take a few minutes. If I'm doing one thing and see that another, small thing also needs doing, I go ahead and take care of it.  Overall, our house is very clean.  I usually only need to deep clean about once a month, and it's never the whole house at once, unless we're throwing a party or something.


The garden is not yet finished for the season, thanks to the unnaturally warm weather.  We are finished with peppers and tomatoes, but we got a huge harvest this year!  We have jalapenos hanging from the catwalk over the living room to dry, and we still have a few baby bells in the bottom of the crisper.  We've only had to start buying tomatoes again in the past two weeks, and I think that's only because our last batch has not ripened yet.

We now have arugula growing, and it's the best arugula I have ever tasted! He is hoping to put some garlic in, and while the weather is mild, he's getting the holes dug for the garden gate.  The fencing is not all the way up yet.  I imagine we'll make progress on that as we can.

I wanted to till in my beds for the corn I want to plan in Spring, but he said to wait, as I'd just have to do it all over again when Spring comes.  I don't know that I agree, but based on how my health is right now, waiting might be my best option, anyway.


We aren't planning for the holidays.  Part of it is that neither of us celebrates the traditional holidays that most Americans do, and part of it is that it's just going to be the two of us. For us, the usual Winter holidays are just regular days.  We do usually decorate, but not a lot, and I still like to send out cards.  We had our "traditional Thanksgiving dinner" (the vegan version) last night, because we like the food.  I give thanks in August.  This is also going to be my first year celebrating as an orphan.  It's up to me now to plan holidays, and I just don't know what that's going to look like yet.

We'll probably spend time with friends, and his family has a standing invitation to come and visit whenever they want (and vice versa.) I'll be honest:  It' strange being on my own and having to make up my own traditions.


As for the election here in the US, I will just say this:  The election did not go my way.  It  stopped going my way long before we went to the voting booth.  The aftermath has been very emotional for everyone, and I'm trying not to let myself get caught up in some of the negativity.  I plan to speak out when I see things going wrong, but I really don't want to get into the whole "X voters are bad/stupid/evil" ugliness.  I'm trying to keep a positive outlook, but I am not going to bury my head in the sand when things are scary, and I am not going to pretend that everything is OK.  I feel that things are very precarious right now.

All of that just strengthens my resolve to continue to learn how to be self-sufficient and live more simply.  Most importantly, I am determined to treat people with respect and kindness.  I hope that everyone else will do the same.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 16, 2016

DIY: Personal Wipes


I've never liked the idea of disposable anything, and until recently, I found the idea of "wipes"--wipes for any purpose--to be, frankly, stupid.  My line of thinking was that you put a plethora of chemicals on your skin, and then you just throw away the pad.  I thought the concept was wasteful and harmful to the environment and our bodies.

Now that I am getting older and dealing with some health issues, however, I have come to appreciate the idea of having something on hand to give my hygiene regimen a boost.  Today, I decided to make my own wipes.  At home, I can clean myself up just fine. I wanted the wipes for days when I am out and about, when I don't have easy access to extra water, for instance.  When I travel, if it's just quick and overnight, I'll use them for that, as well. For longer trips, I'll opt for other methods, in order to keep things simple.

Most sites recommend using a roll of paper towels cut in half, but if you've been reading Sage Alley for any length of time or you know me personally, then you know that I just have to add my own eco edge to it and go with reusable.  For reusable wipes, you want fabric that is not stiff, but soft.  You don't want anything too thick.  Most people use flannel (recycled from old shirts, pjs, sheets, etc.)  I chose towels, because:  1) We have a huge surplus of towels in a range of colors and patterns, and we are giving away a lot of them, 2) I like something thick and absorbent--I like a good barrier between my hand and any messes (believe it or not, as much as I talk about recycling, scavenging, animals, and the like, I'm squeamish and don't like to get my hands gooey-dirty,) and 3) they will last a long, long time.  Terry cloth is very tough.  The downside to terry cloth is that it soaks up a lot of the liquid I'm using for my wipes.  (More on my "road test" later.) What you want to look for is soft, absorbent, and all-natural fibers, like cotton. If you are someone who is squeamish about reusing things, then by all means, go with the paper towel method.

My own wipes are a variation on this recipe.  Scroll down to the Baby Wipes recipe. That's the one I modified. To clean the wipes, I use the same method I use to wash my reusable menstrual pads. (I recommend always rinsing pads or wipes before cleaning them, putting some sort of non-chlorine bleach in your soaking bucket--I use hydrogen peroxide if I'm out of my favorite bleach alternative- and I recommend washing them in hot water.  If your washing machine has a "sanitize" cycle like mine does, use that.) I also transport them the same way, except that, instead of one zipper-type plastic bag, I will have two: One for the unused ones, and one in which to bring used ones home and wash them. (Unused pads are dry.  Wipes, however, are never dry.)  I have a waterproof zipper pouch I use for this.  It keeps everything discreet.

My wipes are the terry, cut into roughly 4" x 4" squares (again--I like good hand coverage.  You may not need them to be that size. It's a matter of comfort.)  Since my partner is not on board with any of my reusable hygiene ideas, I wanted to make absolutely sure to use colors and patterns that could not possibly be mistaken for any other type of rag we use (we use rags for just about everything now.)  I will even be washing them separately from any of the other laundry, just like I do for the pet rags/beds/etc. (I realize brown is an ironic choice, and I did not do that to be funny, but there it is!) If you find that you have other household or family members who are on board with this, make sure everyone stores their personal wipes separately, and make sure that everyone has their own signature colors.  In our house, any rag that is  brightly colored or that has flowers on it is one of mine.

For storage, I keep the dry wipes--my little squares of cloth--put away until I know I'm going somewhere. The day before, I'll soak 2-3 of them, so that they will be ready to pack up in the morning.  The reason I'm choosing to do this is to avoid mold.  There is no need for me to have wipes soaking all the time, if I'm just going to be at home.  This will help the liquid to last longer, and it will keep everything clean.

I did a first run today, and here are some things I have learned:  1.  I used too much soap.  I did not monitor how much I was putting into the mixture, and I ended up with a product that left too much residue on my skin.  As my liquid runs out, I will water it down.  2. I won't be using peppermint oil next time.  While my mixture left me feeling clean, it was also a little uncomfortable.  I will either try lavender instead or just skip the second oil and stick with the tea tree only. 3. I may need to leave out the rubbing alcohol.  I used very little, but it may have contributed to my irritation.  The reason I changed up the recipe to which I linked is I wanted to use only what I had on hand here at home and to avoid spending any money on this.  I was successful in that sense--I just need to tweak my recipe. 4.  Terry cloth absorbs a whole lot of liquid.  When I pulled out my wipe, I wrung it out a lot, but I still ended up with a little too much.  There's not much I can do about that.  Since I have already cut up my squares, I'll just stick with using them.  I just need to work on wringing them out better, but hopefully this information will help you to decide whether or not you want to use terry cloth (we all have different needs and different preferences.)

Whether you use reusable wipes or not, making your own liquid will take you a long way toward cutting household costs and waste and toward taking better control of your home environment and your health. Industry has so many people believing that we need chemicals in everything in order to be clean and healthy, but the truth is, we only need the right chemicals, nutrients, etc.  If you can't pronounce it or if it smells like nothing you would find in nature, then it's pretty likely you don't need it.  That is the truth.

***CAVEATS: I urge caution if you are sensitive:  Do a spot test for the tea tree and peppermint oils.  Dab a tiny, tiny bit on your inner arm, right near your elbow.  If either or both burn or tingle, do not use them.  Do not use rubbing alcohol if you are sensitive, either.  If you are someone who is super-sensitive, stick with the Xovain recipe for adult "baby" wipes.  I know my own body, so I am OK with experimenting with my own variation, but I am not comfortable posting my recipe. Finally, if you have serious health issues, I don't recommend doing this without talking to your doctor.  While I advocate for minimizing chemicals in the home environment, I would never recommend doing anything that would harm anyone's health!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Garden Update: Late Summer 2016

Photo courtesy of my partner.

We've had some challenges this year, but our garden is coming along really well.  We don't even have half the beds tilled in yet, either.  I think this garden will produce really well, and I don't know what we will do with the excess yet!

The kale and collards we initially planted did not make it.  They were ravaged--I mean destroyed--by insects, mostly Japanese beetles. We have multiple traps hanging around the yard, but I guess that wasn't sufficient. We got a few meals out of them, but my partner ended up digging up what was left and planting carrots in that plot.  That was a few weeks ago.  They are slow to come up.

He has replanted some greens in different beds, and he no longer has the beds planted side by side. He's mixed up the crops in the hopes that maybe that will help with the problem.  He also has started using a jalepeno pepper spray on the plants, which seems to be keeping most beasties at bay...for now.

The tomatoes are doing very well.  We have been having a problem with stink bugs eating them and causing them to rot on the vine. Our solution--besides the spray--has been to pick them early. We pick them when they are just starting to turn yellow, and we are ripening them in bowls in the house. They are yellow Best Boys, and they are delicious!

We messed up at first with the okra.  We didn't know when to harvest it, so the first harvest was a little late.  Only a few pods were edible, but we got some seeds from them.  The plants are very prolific, though, so now that we know what we're doing, we'll have plenty, and it's also delicious!

Today, we had a huge harvest of jalepenos and bell peppers.  My partner's been pickling the jalepenos, but we'll probably dry some, too.  He isn't growing other chiles right now.  We harvested our first bells today and had one for lunch.  Yummy!

Today, I am focusing on weeding around the outside of the house.  It's a huge job, and some areas are going to have to be completely tilled under and replanted.  Right now, I'm trying to save what's left of the fern bed along the west side of the house.  I want to preserve that in my mom's memory.  We're also planning to plant herbs in these beds.  In the process, I'm also rescuing, repurposing, or getting rid of various garden ornaments my mom had.  There's a bird bath at the base of the porch steps, which will get moved out to the edge of the garden.  The birds will use it more there, I think.  A large piece of quartz I brought from Maryland and a rabbit statue will decorate the southwest corner of the house.

I have finally started to research the process of growing corn, and I've learned that it's pretty involved.  I'm planning to start my corn in the spring.  My partner and I are going back and forth on whether I should till in the beds before Winter or wait until Spring.  I'm inclined to get the beds laid out now and maybe mix in some compost, so that the soil can season a bit.  I also want to make sure I have enough energy to follow through on the plantings, because it's something that requires a lot of attention.  With my health issues, it's better for me to do things in smaller pieces.  If I lay in the beds now, sure, I'll have to clean them up in the Spring, but that much more work will already be done.

We are now producing our own mulch, as well as our own compost. If our harvests keep to our current levels, we'll be well stocked for Winter!  :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Dog You Want VS the Dog You Get

OK.  I admit it:  The little one is my favorite!

When I inherited Sage Alley, I also inherited my mom's pets:  Two dogs, pictured above, and a cat.  The cat is a piece of cake.  We came here with seven of our own.  I've been a cat lady for decades.  I know what I'm doing here.

The dogs are another matter.  Over the years as I've visited and stayed with my parents, of course, I've been around and handled numerous dogs.  I've trained dogs.  What I have not done in over twenty years, however, is lived with dogs.  I like to believe that, way back when when I was a dog owner (I still miss my Charlie!) I was a good one.  I was always very attentive to my dogs' needs and to the dogs themselves.  I trained them and housebroke them and took them everywhere with me (that I was allowed to, anyway!)  I know dogs, but over the years I had gotten used to not having dogs.

These dogs are--how can I put this?--a special case.  Living with them has been a challenge.  They are senior dogs, but they are not housebroken. We have to have baby gates in place all over the house, or they will soil the carpets.  I have to put puppy pads down at night in the area they live in, because otherwise, they will ruin the hardwood floors. They respond to their names and come when they are called (most of the time,) but they have NO obedience training--at least none that has stuck.  The big one doesn't even have appropriate boundaries. He's not content to just get attention.  He has to be the center of attention.

We are at the point now where we are trying to start to introduce our cats (one at a time) to the dogs and to my mom's cat. These dogs behave as if they've never been around cats, even though they have lived with one all of their lives.

In short, adjusting to being dog owners and of these dogs in particular is requiring a lot of patience on my part, and I admit I struggle.  My mom's last words to me that I remember were "Take care of my dogs," and I intend to honor that.  I will not let any harm come to these dogs, and I have even upgraded them to better food.  They also have a large, beautiful dog pen now, so that they no longer run loose and put themselves in potential danger (this was a problem when my parents were both still around--they let them run free, which I always objected to.)

These dogs have a good life, but I can't say that I love them.  Most days, I don't really even like the larger of the two dogs.  I have to work very hard to be even handed with him and to make sure I'm giving him equal attention (equal to the little dog, whom I adore, and equal to the cats.)  This dog is very socially anxious and extremely needy.  He can't handle anything, really.  I feel badly for him, and I keep his challenges, as well as his recent stressors in mind, but I'll be darned if he doesn't do something each and every day to irritate me!

All I can really do about this is take each day one at a time, as well as each situation that comes up.  I need to keep in mind that it is not the dogs' fault that they are not trained, and it's not the big dog's fault that he has issues. As they are both senior dogs, training them has been difficult, but I need to slow down and build consistency.  If they never fully "get it"--and I don't think they will--I need to be thankful for the small victories along the way.  I need to work at loving this dog (and I do! I work really hard at it) and to try and remember that I'm doing this for my mom.

One day, we will have the dog(s) that we want,  but right now, I had a duty to the dogs that we have, and I will do my very best not to let them or my mother down.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Link: Food for Thought: Ideological Purity

This post got me thinking: I never realized it before, but I, too, have fallen into this trap.

There is a lot of negative rhetoric on both sides of the major issues facing us all. Emotions everywhere are running hot. I feel that it would be of benefit to everyone to step back and examine our feelings and figure out what is at the base of our angst. What is really upsetting us?

I place a high emphasis on maintaining my inner peace, yet here I've been messing it up for myself all along!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Garden Update: Summer 2016

What you see above is the beginnings of our new garden here at Sage Alley.  When we're finished, it's going to be massive.  This was taken about two weeks ago.  At this time, we've added tomato cages to the 2nd beds in each row.  The two beds off the the left by themselves are peppers, as are the first beds on the right.  Besides tomatoes and peppers, we currently have beets, kale, collards, and okra planted.  We're planning carrots, green beans, melon, and eventually corn.

The corn will have to wait until next year.  As you can see, we have a lot more tilling to do yet, and we're too late for planting this year.  I need to do research and learn about growing corn, anyway.  The corn is my idea.  I've wanted to grow corn for a long time. 

We have even entertained the idea of planting a mini orchard, because there are many fruits we'd like to grow, but I don't think that will happen.  We're not sure how long we're going to stay here.  I'm thinking 3-5 years, but we just have to see how things go. (I DO love it here!)

We are also growing several herbs, but as of now, they are in pots on our porch. We were going to plant them up against the house, but unfortunately, we can't.  We've had issues with snakes recently, and spiders are a problem, so the beds around the house are being treated with we-don't-know-what.  We refuse to compromise on our no chemicals rule, so we'll figure out another place for the herbs.  They will probably get their own beds in the main garden plot.

Only one of the sage bushes survived, and it's planted out front.  As of now, there's sparse greenery on it.  We don't know if it will make it at this point.  The other two will go into our burn/mulch pile and continue to give of their energy in other ways.  We have several new sage plants started on the porch.  My partner has identified a few spots in which he'd like to plant the new ones, and I have some ideas, as well.

We will very likely end up with excess produce. Some, we will preserve, but the rest will need to go somewhere,and I'd rather it not be into the compost heap.  There's a little organic market in a nearby town.  I've thought about maybe contacting them when we have said excess and seeing if they will buy it from us.  We don't want to go through the rigmarole of becoming a full-blown farm, so we will tread carefully.  There are always friends and family who are happy to have produce from our garden, so there is that.

Normally, we have scads of raspberries growing in the woods around our property.  Unfortunately, this year has been very scant in that regard.  Our neighbors, who had our permission, said there are no berries in the woods back near their property.  None. We have noticed that there are very few growing along our driveway, as well.  I think it's due to the unusually cool Spring we had. What a shame!  The neighbor was going to make us jam!

We'll see how the rest of the year goes.  We've been incredibly busy, or the garden would be much further along, but I believe that everything happens in its time.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Link: The Rise Of Nonperfectionist Veganism

Today, I came accross a very good article on taking a balanced and objective approach to veganism and to sharing our experiences with others.  While it's true that the article is four years old, everything the author has to say is just as valid now as it was when she wrote it.

Her approach to veganism and vegan activism is the exact approach I try to take each and every day.  This does not by any means mean that I am perfect--the whole point of the article--just that I do my very best.  I firmly believe that our best is all that we can ever do.

Here's a quote from the article:

Questions of why people attempt veganism may, in the end, be far less important than why they attempt and fail, i.e., dietary recidivism. Erik Marcus discussed one tiny study on vegan recidivism on his late, great blog, but recidivism is a huge problem for all kinds of dieters. Search on “dietary recidivism” and you'll find that most experts believe it happens when people don't have a good plan, or enough support, or when the diet itself is rigid or extreme or deprivational. In other words: when they get perfectionist about it.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Recycle It: Our Yard in MD

Trash?  Not all of it!

We recently (finally!) went to MD to complete the cleanup of the yard for our tenants. For such a small yard, we sure hauled out a LOT of debris!  Four bags of yard waste, a stack of old tires, countless bricks, and all of the pavers we had laid down.  We had to haul it all back here to Sage Alley, because we no longer have MD plates on our vehicles, and the tenants' vehicle was not at the house.  (They are friends and had said we could use their SUV to haul trash, if it was there.  We ended up going over on a week day, though, so they were at work.)

I figured we'd just make a run to our own transfer station later in the week, but to my surprise, we did not.  We are reusing everything we brought back!  The bags of yard waste were emptied into an open pit in our yard. It's sort of a dry compost or mulch pit.  A couple of the bags will be reused, as they did not have holes in them.  The tires will become potato boxes--I think we're going to have two.  The pavers will be used around the fire pit, which is currently just surrounded by grass, and the remaining pavers and the bricks will be used wherever we need them on the property.

Unfortunately, I don't think my large, old sage bush made it.  When we dug it up, it turned out to be three bushes, growing together.  We were going to replant them here, but now, we're not sure they are going to make it.  This makes me very sad, but we have a lot of new plants started in pots.  My partner did manage to replant one of the bushes.  We'll see how it does.  It's not the end of the world--just the end of an era.  Another reminder that I am, indeed, on a new path.

Our tenants now have a clean, if raggedy (temporarily) yard, which they can start to enjoy and design the way they want to.  They have asked for grass, and for simplicity's sake, we'll be hiring someone to lay in sod.  To seed would just create a mess, especially with all of the rain our region has had lately.  (At least I can write off the expense!)

Remember to be creative when you are getting rid of things.  Many things can be made into or reused as other things.  We really don't have to throw out as much as we do!

Monday, April 25, 2016

DIY: Fire Pit!

Every piece of rural property should have one!  Large or small, fancy or basic--a fire pit is a wonderful thing to have.  As  you can see from my photos, ours has already seen some use.  We've used it twice, so far, and it's lovely.

It does double and probably even triple duty for us.  We get to enjoy a nice, toasty fire while burning yard waste.  It's not a huge pit, but once the fire gets going, we can get rid of a lot of waste in a very short time, while enjoying the heat and the glow.

As always, this pit was made from reclaimed materials.  The bricks were inside of what is now our compost bin, and the larger, flat stones were pulled from the woods on our property by me and my partner. He built it, but I helped to pull it together.  It's a great feeling.

The three hooks are also reclaimed from my mother's gardening supplies.  They are metal, and they will be perfect for heating soup or a hot drink as we enjoy the fire.  It's a nice touch.

This space wasn't planned or designed.  We simply worked off the bare piece of ground that was the burn pile before we moved in.  It's not very big, and it's not very deep.  It's deep enough to keep things contained, including the heat.  Fires in that pit get very hot! It's big enough for a dozen or so people to gather around it, and it's small enough to keep things manageable. I think it is also big enough that we can get a grill for it and cook over the fire, if we choose to.  It's perfect for us. Best of all, it cost us nothing!

Of course, we are always mindful of burn bans in our area.  Whenever we think of having a fire, I check to see if there's a ban specific for that day.  The pit is not far from our neighbor's meadow, so I want to play it extra-safe!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Recycle-It: Compost Bin

Our "new" compost bin.

Way back in the day, what is now our enclosed porch was a deck.  My parents had wonderful, luxurious deck furniture with thick cushions that could be removed and stored.  This was the storage locker for the cushions, and we used the heck out of it!

When they had the porch enclosed, the furniture no longer needed to be "de-cushioned," and we just never got around to getting rid of the bin. It has sat in the woods for years, holding bricks.  Just bricks.  (They were probably put in there to keep the cushions up off the floor of the container to keep them dry.

As my partner and I have been cleaning up the property, we've been finding new uses for a lot of things. Out where we live, recycling--beyond the traditional curbside stuff--is not an easy task. Reuse is usually the best and often the only way to recycle.  When he came to me with the idea of using this bin as our compost bin, I was thrilled!  We didn't need to do anything to it, except wire the doors shut.  We didn't need to drill holes for air, because air gets in through the crack between the doors, and we prop open the lid with scrap wood.  The prop for the lid still works, so we can open it up in order to turn the compost.  We've even reused the bricks for the fire pit we're building.

Best of all, it's very large, so we can compost everything from a teabag to larger yard waste!

We've been using our new compost bin for a few weeks now, and it seems to be working out just fine.  We'll know more in a few months.

Bottom line:  As you're doing your Spring cleaning--or any major cleaning out--take a second look at the items you're thinking about tossing.  You just may save space in the landfill--and a few bucks!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Walking Away

Not our home.  This is a photo I took in MD in 2009.

Now that my mother is no longer with us, I am faced with my future.  It is big.  It is open to me now...and I have no idea what I want to do with it.  One thing I do know is that I don't want to go back to Life as it Was Before.  I don't want to go back to Suburbia, to Big Oil, to The Grind, to shopping malls and mindless television.  I do not want a full time, permanent job.  I want my life to be different--even greener and more frugal. 

I'm tired, and losing one's parents tends to make one more tired.

This process of walking away, as I'm calling it, will require some initial spending, but in the long run, I believe our costs will come down. My mother's car and pickup truck are to be sold.  I had thought she would leave the truck to us, as we have been living here, but she did not.  We have the opportunity to buy both vehicles, but we're going to buy our own instead, and the truck is out of reach for us, financially. 

Instead, we are going to invest in a used electric car!  I have a maximum price in mind, and from what we've seen in our browsing, we'll be able to come in under it.  (We also still have our Mini Cooper. Where we live, we need to have two cars.)  This is exciting to me, as I've never driven an electric car before, let alone owned one!  We will not be able to buy a Tesla, as I'd hoped, but we've found a make and model that's reasonably priced and gets very good reviews across the board (including safety ratings!) This car does have a gas engine, but the engine's main purpose is to charge the batteries, so for local driving, we may end up not using any gas!  We're even going to research charging stations for when we travel to New England and take it on that trip at least once, as an experiment.

We need a truck or something to manage our property.  We are on several acres, some of that wooded.  Our driveway is very long, as well.  We need a vehicle that can haul wood and other yard waste, etc, and we need something that can get us out when it snows.  We're debating whether we need a truck at all, because we plan on buying an electric tractor for mowing.  My partner seems to think that we can get by with the tractor if we get a plow blade for it.  We have a trailer in the garage already, which may or may not fit the tractor we have in mind.  If it does, money saved!

When my mother's estate is settled, I'm going to be talking with my financial advisor. Not all of the money she has left me is in retirement accounts, so I'm going to see what we can arrange, so that I can draw a minimal monthly or yearly salary (I want to make it last and keep it earning money for me, after all,) so that I don't have to go back into the workforce full time--if at all. I've come to enjoy having control over my time way too much to give it up, and as I've mentioned before, my working life was traumatic, to put it politely.  It would be nice to be able to maintain that control over my schedule and to minimize my stress in the years to come.  What I am trying to avoid is high taxes.  West Virginia is a bit predatory when it comes to taxes. My financial advisor is good, so I trust that he'll be able to tell me what's what.

The good news is that the house is paid off, so all we need to come up with is taxes and insurance.  Between the two, we'll still be paying considerably less than my mortgage on my house in Maryland, which is currently covered by renters. Overall, we should be in OK shape, but it has become clear to me that I won't be able to forego traditional work altogether.  If I can keep it minimal and temporary in nature, I'll be happy.

I'm finding that the name, Sage Alley, fits this place really well.  So well, in fact, that we'll probably get or make a sign to hang at the bottom of the driveway.  We still plan on moving our old sage shrub from Maryland, and we may even be adding one or two more.  The garden is not planned or marked yet--we haven't finalized the location--so we'll see how it all shakes out.

(The most profound thing that has struck me, having experienced the loss of my mother, is how, when we die, we are reduced to our stuff.  It all comes down to "who gets the stuff?" and "where's my stuff?" and "I want this stuff, but not that stuff" and "let's just sell the stuff." It's as if, in handling the person's belongings--which really have no use or meaning now--people try and hang onto that person.  Memories are fleeting. Our belongings ground them. It's fascinating to me, because I don't care about the stuff.  I miss my mom.

That was a tangent. Sorry!)

All of this is to say that I am continuing to reduce my dependence on The System.  I won't be completely free of it--far from it--but I plan to learn all I can about homesteading and living independently.  I plan to unapologetically structure my days as I see fit and say "no" to things when I need to. I plan to be more myself and less the person I think society wants me to be. Most importantly, I plan to get back in touch with my spirituality and let that bolster me and help me through this transition period.

It's not that I don't like other people.  It's more that I just do things differently, and I like that about me.  I like living simply and not worrying about The Latest and Greatest and Flashiest.  Do we buy stuff? Yes, but usually secondhand.  Do we watch "mindless TV?"  Yes, but we do it on our terms.  We pick and choose what we want to watch and when. We minimize our exposure to commercials.  We watch shows that inspire and educate us.  Sometimes, they are the popular ones.  Other times, they are oldies but goodies.  What's important is that we are in control of it.  We also pay about a tenth of what most people pay to watch TV.  I'm even spreading the word to people I know, hoping to help them save hundreds of dollars a month.

Our society right now is a shallow and phrenetic one. It makes me tired. I'm not cutting myself off, but I'm definitely ready to walk my own path. Now is the time. I like to think think my mom would be happy for me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Caregiver Road Kit

Leaving Vernon, VT-October 2015

I've learned a lot since Mom's been home. (That happened just before Christmas.)  One thing I have learned is to always have ready--or ready to throw together--what I'm calling my Caregiver Road Kit.  The kit includes items to keep Mom safe and cared for properly and items for me.  The object is to make sure Mom's information is up to date for doctors and such, to make sure my own productivity is not impacted too badly, and to keep us both nourished and entertained.  (There's usually lots of waiting!) 

My kit is pretty simple right now, but I'm sure it will change over time.  Right now, I usually have:  A folder with Mom's information (prescriptions, surgeries, and any other information that may be needed,) a book, a magazine, my phone, sometimes Mom's phone (she's unable to use it, but I read her her texts and respond based on her dictation,) a device (tablet or netbook,) snacks for both of us, and (sometimes) water, and chargers for everything.  I even have extra chargers, because my guy insists that I not go anywhere without a Solio charger. I make sure the tote I use is big enough to hold my purse and even extra clothes if needed, and of course, I always bring at least one extra oxygen tank.  Mom is on oxygen 24/7, and you just never know when a valve is going to stick or a regulator isn't going to work, or a gasket is going to give out or whatever.  I hate working with the tanks, but I've quickly learned how to stay prepared for anything!

The only thing I haven't quite gotten right is knowing at what point to call the home care agency to dismiss the incoming caregiver. Sometimes, you want them at home, even if it means they spend some idle time, in case you come home on the same day.  You will be very tired from your day's adventures and may need to go to sleep.  Your charge will be tired as well and will still need care.  It's important to have a safety net in place.  It's also much easier to cancel a shift at the last minute than it is to find a caregiver at the last minute.  With this most recent situation (the reason for this post,) I was lucky and had an experienced caregiver at home when Mom was taken to the hospital last night.  She walked me through what to do.  Now, I know what to do about today's care shift.  (HINT:  Good caregivers are like gold, so they should be treated like family.  Never treat them as simply "the help."  They can be life savers, both literally and figuratively!)

As a family caregiver, I'm learning as I go.  Though I knew Mom would be coming home and would need care, no one took me by the hand and told me what to do to prepare.  I'm walking this path alone, so my goal with posts like this is to help others who, like myself, feel overwhelmed and don't know what they are doing yet. I know it will not get easier, but I also know that I will get better at it.

If you are in a region hit by or expecting major snow, please stay safe!  Luckily, the hospital where we currently have Mom is close to home.  I don't know yet whether Mom will weather the storm at home or here, but my goal is for her to be safe.