2018, my year in Photos

2018 was started the right way, with movement in my of my life.  I had begun walking just before the New Year had arrived.  I kept it up in order to reach a goal which was to participate in a 5K!  I not only participated, but I shared my story about getting free of pharmaceuticals as I walked the streets of Grants Pass just 4 days before my 56th birthday!  I created a shirt about my journey and wore it proudly!

 

I also was on the move with my bags packed frequently this year.  Between moving back to S. Oregon, various house sitting gigs, a trip to Little Cultus lake and then to Salem a couple times, my bags got used a LOT.

 

I enjoyed a variety of local events.  Music, merry-making, activism and fun.  I am beginning to enjoy being social now and then.  This is just one of the indicators that slowly yet progressively, I am healing!

 

 

Always there are animals around.  I enjoy them all.  I seem drawn to them and they seem to enjoy me as well.  I make friends wherever I go.  Often they are 4 legged or feathered.

 

I was drawn to water many times.  It soothed me.

 

Especially when I needed to escape the smoke again.  Summers are getting hard in Southern Oregon due to so many fires.

Cannabis was always part of the day.    I shared my story in order to help others know that it does work and you don’t have to be high!  Well…maybe high on life!!!

I had so many blessings such as being reunited with my brother, getting a couple kitties, becoming a surrogate Nana…..and of course….my lovely tiny home on wheels.

 

I enjoyed some art projects this year.  Thanks for the art supplies ladies.  You know who you are.

 

I cooked for others and myself

Not everything was always dandy.  There were a few things that were hard.  But I never let them get me down for too long.

 

But at the end of the day there were so many beautiful sunsets.

 

And of course….the one constant in my life….the most amazing and wonderful #ShastaTheWonderdog.  And Lulu…who is her sidekick!

 

It has been a year of blessings and I am very grateful!  I am ready for whatever 2019 has to bring!

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18 months since I jumped: An update on healing

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I am able to recognize my blessings each day and be grateful for all I have and have hope for continued blessings in my future!

Greetings from a highly improved me!   It has been eighteen months since I jumped (abruptly discontinued) from taking Ativan 1mg daily after tapering from taking Ativan 3mg daily. I tapered over the duration of two years. My severe detox and withdrawals period was exacerbated by the fact that I had jumped off Oxycodone 10mg only two months prior to stopping the Ativan.  I had tapered off a daily dose of 45mg-90mg over a 2 year period.   What had started in 2010 as a prescription for Percocet 5/325 one every 6 hours as needed for pain, grew until it became a monster in my life that ate all the goodness up. It was just one of the numerous medications that I was prescribed over two and a half decades.

From my records dating 2010 until the fall of 2017 I had 19 pharmaceuticals prescribed to take on a daily basis. Many of them for longer than the recommendations written in those little tiny informational packets you get sometimes with a bottle of pills. Many of them were also prescribed for things other than what they were originally created to treat. Off label uses.  My PCP (Primary Care Providor) also had recommended numerous over the counter medications and supplements as well.

 

                                                                I can smile so much easier these days 
I had been quite aware of the perils of addiction as I have personally witnessed and experienced it in my life in many forms and throughout many experiences.  My own addiction (maladaptive coping mechanism for suffering) was gambling. I knew what it felt like to not only crave something, but would go to great lengths to have that need fulfilled.

That is NOT how the medications were for me. I was dependent upon them. I took them as prescribed. I was trying to check IN to life. I was trying to find a way around the pain (both physical and emotional) so that I could participate in life. Yet the conditions continued to mount until the amount of medications my PCP prescribed became toxic! They didn’t work anymore.  In fact, some of them created a paradoxical effect, causing the exact symptom they were meant to treat.

When I recognized that the use of all these chemicals was harming me more than they were helping, I knew it was time to make radical changes in how I was managing (or letting my PCP manage) my health. I took back the reigns and sought a different path
It wasn’t really a conscious choice, embarking on the journey through the hell I have been through.  It was simply the act of starting a forward movement towards change by doing just one thing differently. Then it grew to more things differently. Things like spending a lot more time outdoors. Activities such as interacting with animals and being creative with a camera. Making very conscious choices in what I put into my body. Eliminating as much negativity as I could. Yet, there were still struggles as I didn’t know all that I would face along this journey.

No one had warned me that there was a possibility that I could have psychotic episodes coming off these medications. No one had warned me that I could reach tolerance and have paradoxical effects like a severe case of insomnia that lasted for 20 years. Only now, after being off every single medication for 40 days, am I beginning to have occasional bouts of normal sleep. No one told me about excruciating bone pain that left me curled up and rocking and crying on my mattress. No one told me of the incessant need to move, the rocking and bouncing legs and full body restlessness that was exhausting and robbed me of any rest for my ravaged body and brain. No one prepared me for how shunned I would feel and how that would further the crippling agoraphobia and paranoia so that I could not tell who I could or could not trust. This further complicated the entire process.
No one else knew how bad this would be either. I know now that there was NO one in my life anywhere close to prepared for the wild and horrifying symptoms and behaviors this would create.  It was terrifying to go through and I can imagine it was scary as hell to watch! In fact, knowing many others who have endured the hell I have, some even worse, I know that very few people in the world have been prepared to be of any assistance for someone going through this type of severe and lengthy mental and physical anguish.
That first year was a doozy! Fraught with the loss of health and home and any stability I believed I had, pretty much everything was gone in my life! Friends, family, belongings, any sense of dignity was gone.  I was robbed of all hope by the Benzodiazepine demons that lived in my head. All I did was bounce where the winds took me, trying to protect myself from me, and from others who were ill-equipped to be of any help.

Unfortunately, sometimes due to their lack of understanding or skill, those I most hoped would help were only able to add to the pain and suffering by their responses and reactions to me.   Those that truly care would have done different if they had known how.  I believe this is true for all of us suffering from this.  Yet they are the ones who just mostly stood by and watched and felt helpless. They had nothing to offer except recognizing the pain was there.  Today I can feel bad for their experience in watching all of this hell.

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This last 6 months I have turned a corner. I can feel it internally and others have commented on it externally. I have been more focused on myself and finding healing and seeking the path to wellness than ever before in my entire life.  The tools and skills and interactions and experiences I have participated in have helped me have a sense of acceptance and peace.  I truly feel more equipped to deal with whatever life may bring to me from here on forward.   More than ever before in my life I have a sense of direction and purpose.
I still have much work to do. Both of my current therapists are recommending intensive treatment for Complex PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) including modalities such as ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), and EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). Both of them say it is imperative for me to do this work for complete healing and the ability to get past the things that haunt me regardless how much I try to not let them.
I personally have taken it upon myself to learn life skills that I have found are helping me tremendously. I have adopted the practice of meditation. I meditate at least once daily, but usually twice a day. MY meditation is very much connected to my spiritual practice and prayer time. I also do Conscious breathing, utilizing a timer to just stop and breath once an hour. These skills have reduced my anxiety tremendously and are excellent for staying in the moment which is so necessary for those with PTSD.  I eat at least an 80/20 whole foods diet, primarily organic in nature and from sources as local as possible.

Since the New Year I also have been working on having the habits of movement (exercise) and drinking more water daily. I have also begun light jogging. This I am doing still with living under the fact of pain is in my life. I have nerve pain in my feet that is non-stop 24/7. I also have pretty severe back and neck pain. Yet after a 10 week-long session at a pain clinic, I have learned some wonderful new ways of looking at pain and living with it. This is why I now am more encouraged and hopeful than I have been in an extremely long time. I feel very empowered.

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Yet I still need help. I am still homeless. I still have no vehicle.  I am still awaiting a determination on my most recent filing for Social Security Disability. I still have a couple of years ahead of me doing some really difficult personal therapies. I still have limited energy and endurance.
After careful consideration, counseling with others, and making efforts to find stability and a place to live and work both where I am and where I last came from, I have decided to go back to S. Oregon.  I have more work I can do there than I have been able to find here.  I ran an ad and I have already booked 3 house-sitting gigs. I also have a couple of clients that want me to do periodic light work around their properties (gardening and housekeeping type chores). I have a friend who has offered me the use of her trailer for 11 months, and I have a couple of possibility of places to put it in exchange for helping on a person’s property either with care taking or with farm type chores.  I am willing and able to do this. It won’t be enough to get ahead, but I will have a roof over my head and some security for at least that time period.

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I have been offered a trailer like this to use for about 11 months if I can get a secure place to park it! High living for a modest gal like me!

What I need more than anything right now is a vehicle and maybe the first 6 months of insurance paid.  Or even the first 3 months. Then I can get to the house sitting jobs and the clients who have other chores to do. Then I can earn a few pesos each month. My goal is $600, which is 30 hours a month. I will most likely have to do that many hours again where ever I end up parking the trailer in exchange for rent.  That works out to about fifteen hours weekly of being up and moving and doing some sort of physical activity.  15 hours a week is about all I can do without being where I can lie down and rest intermittently.
I know I will keep improving as I continue to do the habits I’ve created and use the tools I have obtained. I know my energy will increase as I continue to lower the stress of dealing with PTSD through the time invested in treatment and as my body continues to heal from the damages done by the medications I took for too long!


I also am involved with Vocational Rehabilitation.   They are going to help me pursue the reinstatement of my nursing license. It is my short-term goal to utilize my nursing license in creating a health and wellness mentor and coaching business. I believe I have a vast amount of knowledge and experience that can be used to help many others who live with physical and emotional pain. I believe my new-found enthusiasm and gratitude for a new opportunity can encourage and inspire others to pursue their truest selves! I have been a helper and have had a healing nature throughout my life. Now that my true self (not drugged by pharmaceuticals) is re-emerging stronger than ever, I trust that God and the Universe will allow my best self to help others possibly find their way out of suffering too!

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Participating in an online Health and Wellness coaching program. It is self directed and self paced. Perfect for me right now. As well as it is FREE!!!

I am so grateful I am still here on earth and alive. I am so grateful the benzodiazepine (and other pharmaceutical) demons did not completely destroy me. It felt like I was destroyed at times, yet here I am smiling and grateful and caring for myself….and others!

After such a dark and seemingly endless foray into the depths of psychological pain so deep I felt life wasn’t worth living, I now have hope!!!  I also am able to develop goals.  It is the first time in many years I have felt capable of even thinking of having a goal, let alone taking the necessary steps to get there.  One of my goals is to  jog/run in a 5K event the weekend of my 56th birthday.   My new walking habit inspired that goal.  I have never enjoyed running or jogging, even as a child.  Yet now, when pushing through the chronic pain, I find that I reach a point of some real clean current pain and it is a desirable experience.  Pushing past the pain to get going is worth it.  The daily steps I am taking are to keep me focused and to build my skill and strength level to reach that place of being able to complete the race.  After the race,  if I still feel it is something that is adding value to my health and life and wellness, I may try for a 10K.  It is a measurable success.  There are other goals as well so each day I purposefully do actions to bring me closer to the prize…..WELLNESS and HEALING!

I also have a great aspiration to help others like me!!! I have a big dream of someday creating a healing place (long term inpatient facility) for those like me who have suffered in their lives with DIS-ease of any kind.   People wanting to come off pharmaceuticals that have become toxic to them, especially opiates and benzodiazepines; those who suffer the consequences of addiction; those who have emotional pain that requires that they be loved on and guided and encouraged to health! I envision a place of many woods and streams and much beauty where people can rest their tired minds and bodies and take a few deep breaths for a period of time. I see gardens and animals, some of them providing companionship, others there for their food source to provide healthy nutritious meals. It will be a place where there is patience and tolerance and gentle trauma-informed guidance. People will have a time and place to explore their suffering and learn skills for finding peace and acceptance of what is.  I dream of it being a place they will also find a sense of purpose and the ability to create goals and plans for achieving them. It is a big dream. It will require a big tribe to create it. That will be a huge focus on the next portion of my journey. Creating a healing caring loving tribe that can share this vision! 🙂
oh….btw….it feels great to be able to write a bit! That is one skill that has suffered during this time and it is another sign of my healing!

Self love is selfish

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The river runs fast and with power, 

carrying with it all the debris of the things gone wrong with it – away!

Though dark and gray the afternoon sky

There is a fresh new hope building,

as I know that after the darkness light follows!

Today was a long, enlightening, fulfilling day.  The entire day was filled with doing things to take care of myself.  The entire day.  I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned, I prepared and enjoyed healthy foods, I went to Pain Clinic (which is 3 hours of intense therapy) and then had my first visit with the psychologist and my first EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) session.  I also came home and did an online  SMART Recovery meeting.  All for me.

For the last year or so pretty much everything I have done has been an concentrated effort to love myself and take care of myself.  Many view selfishness as a negative thing.  I know I used to.  Today,  I know that to love myself is the only way I am going to heal, and that is the only way I am going to have the life I deserve and desire.

It feels good.  I don’t do it perfectly.  I have probably said and done many things in ways that were less than ideal during this time.  Yet, I am evaluating it all and making every attempt to learn from it.

So what things are included in my selfish life?  What are the activities of self love?

  1.  Caring for my body by being mindful of what I put it in.  Plenty of hydration, the best food I can get with the resources I have available, resting, being mindful of anything that isn’t food or water and is it going to cause any damage.  It takes time and energy to create healthy foods to eat.
  2. Meditating has been a lifesaver.  I spend at least 10 minutes in the morning and fall asleep each night while meditating.  I purposefully choose to meditate to sleeping meditations due to a long history of insomnia.
  3. Getting fresh air has helped in so many ways.  Getting out, even if only for a 5 or 10 minute sojourn to the front porch connects me with nature.  Nature is a natural anti-depressant.
  4. Exercise.  See above.  Getting in touch with building my body back to health and connecting with the knowledge that I have a part in my health gets my mind straight.  I have begun walking 4 out of 5 days for at least one mile distance.  However long that takes is how long it takes.  I also have been doing an exercise program for 10 days now.  It also is 4 out of 5 days taking approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Mental health therapy is allowing me to process some extremely difficult situations, thought patterns and coping mechanisms as well as teaching me new tools to manage physical and emotional pain.  I currently have 2 therapists and am getting filled up with new understanding.
  6. Community.  Finding folks to hang out with and then spending time with them takes courage and time and energy.  I need to connect with others who can show me that I am not alone, that can help me with things that I can’t manage on my own and bring me a sense of belonging.
  7. Reading and learning.  I spend 30 minutes a day at the minimum to learn about something I am interested in and that will improve my lot in life or the life of another.
  8. Being of service.  Ha ha.  How is that selfish?  It is selfish in that it gives me so much joy and satisfaction that the more I do, the more I want to do.  Sharing encouraging words, finding the answer to a health question, giving support to someone struggling make me feel a part of.
  9. GRATITUDE:  Spending time each day being grateful for what is in my life at the moment is so selfish.  It is realizing what has been provided for ME!

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7 tips for managing symptoms while coming off mind altering pharmaceuticals

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This is a list of a few positive helps I’ve noticed that seem to be helping myself and others. Observing those in the groups that are coming off various medications, including Benzodiazepines, Opiates, anti-depressants and anti-psychotic has helped me learn. These observations are not scientific in nature and I have nothing to back them up except from what I’ve observed and experienced myself.
This list is not comprehensive in nature. Each individual observed may have been doing one or many of the listed actions in helping themselves manage their symptoms through detox and withdrawal.
These are the actions that folks are taking that seem to help them MANAGE their symptoms better. WE are unable to control them and time is a big factor. This list is things you can do NOW to help yourselves.

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1. Get outdoors!!! Even if it’s only to sit on your front porch and feel the sunbeams on your face or smell the fresh rain that just dropped or to shiver in the snow. Increase the duration over time. Maybe after successfully sitting on the porch for a week, you can walk to the mailbox the next week and then complete the activity by still sitting on the porch for 5 minutes. My personal experience with this was that, over time, I went further and further and felt so much better each time I got out to walk! Fresh air is crucial and this activity will also give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

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2. Exercise. As noted above, it starts small. Walking back and forth to the mailbox. Then walk to the end of the block and back. Then around the block. You get the idea. Mild exercise is excellent for boosting mood and for helping break the trail of lies our mind tells us that we are too sick. Yes, we are sick, but nearly every person is capable of doing something to stretch and strengthen their body! I personally have been trying Yoga and Qi-Gong and find them very helpful for me.

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3. Eat clean and stay away from sugars, gluten (I eliminated all grains), processed foods and many are sensitive to dairy. I personally eat a diet consisting of local and organicially grown meats and eggs and vegetables. When folks say they can’t afford to eat organic I remind them, I don’t do Starbucks, sodas, fast food, and I have no vices. Food is fuel for my body and it ranks high on the budget. Eat nutrient dense foods and you will feel better. Check out the book “It starts with Food”.

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4. Find a support group or a supportive group of folks you can talk with and be authentic with. This is probably the hardest, as our minds tell us we aren’t worth anything and we feel so brain damaged. Yet, those who are most functional have peeps! I go to a variety of support groups and have found a family that way. I highly recommend Refuge Recovery. It is a Buddhist based recovery program for ANYONE who is suffering. While many of us do not in any way fit the description of addict, we were dependent on our medication and not having it anymore creates huge anxiety within us. These supportive groups can be a place to learn coping mechanisms and learn tools at managing emotions.

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5. Don’t take supplements or OTC remedies. Each pharmaceutical that is touted to help one symptom has at least 2 if not more toxic potentials. I personally am not completely against all pharmaceuticals, but reaching for one every time something doesn’t feel good is not a healthy solution.

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6. Learn coping mechanisms. Regardless the reason you were started on one of the medications I listed above, it has left you with a state of anxiety and various other symptoms. Those who are practicing meditation, working with a therapist, reading books on emotional regulation or some sort of personal responsibility for managing their emotions seem to fair better over time. While it may not eliminate the symptoms, it will alleviate them.

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7. Find acceptance for the situation and have patience. The days and weeks will pass (for some months and years) but we can’t change that. Accepting it lessens the fight. There is much to be said for time. It does heal so much.

I truly hope for each that these tips are encouraging. They are things you can DO to make yourself feel better. They are things that YOU can do for YOU! We must be kind to ourselves through this process. We didn’t ask for it, but we still have to learn to maneuver it. We can’t control it either, but we can manage some of the symptoms. That is what this list is for, some management tools that I have seen helping those who are healing and moving forward.
Peace and Namaste

 

The hum of bees soothes me!!!

Bee hive

Bee hive

I can’t hardly believe it’s been 4 months since I last wrote a blog post. I guess life just got busy. That my friends, is a very good thing. I am feeling better than I have in so very long. Full of gratitude for each day.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I have recently had to move, yet again. Today marks two weeks since the occasion occured. I am really enjoying my space. It’s off the road and very peaceful.

Last weekend one of the property owners who lives off site visited in order to tend to the bees. Did you read that??? TO tend to the bees!!! I have wanted to learn about bees for a few years now.  Two of my BFF’s had come to visit and the invite was extended to all of us to observe. I could hardly believe the wonder of this opportunity!!!

One of my BFF's...suited up for enjoying BEE time!

One of my BFF’s…suited up for enjoying BEE time!

I have no fear of the bees. I’ve become accustomed to working with them over the years of my love of gardening. I learned some time ago that if I don’t show aggression towards them and remain relaxed, they don’t bother me at all. I was very comfortable sitting just a couple of feet away from the hive while it was receiving attention.

Elwira, the beekeeper, has been doing this for well over 10 years. These hives are a few years old. She tries to tend to them regularly, at least once every 3-4 months. They had been checked earlier in the month and she knew it was time to harvest her honey! That is where this opportunity came into play.

I had company and so they got to enjoy this process as well. My friend Vicky covered her head, as did Elwira. She told us that stings to the face and head hurt the worst. I figured if I was just sitting quietly I wouldn’t be approached and so I had no covering.

My private personalized lesson....a zen moment!

My private personalized lesson….a zen moment!

The smoker was lit and she applied some smoke to both the hive and to her own body. She explained how by appying it to her exposed skin, it decreased her probability of the bees getting on her and stinging.

For those of you who have watched the Bee Movie over and over and over with your kids, or in my case grandkids, some of it isn’t true. It’s a cartoon….duh! Anyhow…the smoker is not so bad. It’s like if you or I had an anesthetic or something for anxiety before having a tooth extracted! It is there…and then it’s gone!

Also, in the movie, male bees worked. That was the first thing Elwira told us, was that males in bee colonies do not work. They rely on the females to tend to them. They are of no benefit to the hive except for a reproductive issue. They are all users!

Elwira was very methodical in her removal of each frame and it’s inspection.  She noted that there were many males in the top frame which explained so many cells with babies in them.  She was not bothered by this.  She doesn’t care if the bees are producing honey, or more bees.  She is just happy they have stayed and are happy in their home.

Bees have specific purposes. Obviously what we typically think of is making honey and pollinators. They also make wax, propolis, and of course reproduce. For such little things they really are quite amazing and so necessary for our survival on this planet!

Each frame is inspected for what type of activity is occuring. Are there eggs for babies, or is there honey? Is a queen evident? After inspection she did some rearranging of the frames, taking certain ones for honey extraction and leaving others behind to hatch out more bees. It was fascinating!

We didn’t stick around for the extraction process, that will have to wait for another time. She said 2 gallons and 1 quart were retrieved. She does not harvest the wax, as the energy to produce it for the bee is quite heavy and so she would rather they just do what they do and not have to work so hard. She loves the bees. So do I!

I love what they do as well as the honey they provide which is a wonder drug in my estimation! It is good as a sweetener, but also has antibacterial properties, is soothing for the skin and nourishing for the hair! It also has been purported to reduce the miseries of local allergens if taken daily year round.

Sitting there, listening to the hum and buzz of the bees, with the warmth of the air relaxing me, and this knowledgable woman’s soothing voice created a somewhat meditative time for me. I look forward to learning more about bees and maybe build my own hut for some of my own. Until then, I will enjoy pulling weeds in the bee yard and relaxing in their presence!~

Change happens.

I can’t even begin to tell all of you how much has changed in my life over the last few months. The people I have met, the food I eat, the way my days unfold and endd, how I push myself, how much Shasta loves the country…..there has been a LOT of change.

I stopped by last weekend to check on my Layers (who used to be Littles but are now Layers) where they have been staying. Thelma and Louise look a bit small up next to some Americauna’s and Lavandar Orphingtons. Yet they are holding there own. Unfortunately Miss Diana met an undetermined demise. She was found dead one morning in the coop. These things happen. She will be missed for her regal presence among the other lovely ladies.

Thelma and Louise

 

My friend at Applegate Valley Lavender Farms https://www.facebook.com/ApplegateValleyLavenderFarm?fref=ts is the one who has been caring for my girls since late winter when I couldn’t provide for them due to my circumstances. Fortunately, plans for a coop have been chosen, the area for the run has been cleared, the wood has been delivered and building should begin this next week for our own coop here on the property where I am living. I can’t wait to wake up to gathering eggs in the morning again.

While I was at my friends farm we enjoyed a visit with the sheep who had given birth to a beautiful black lamb the week before. I also enjoyed the antics of the baby Sebastapol Geese and the three ducklings on site. And of course, there was the Lavender. Some of it is in bloom and the rest is just about ready to unfold it’s lovely fragrance and color for all the world to see.


My newest and dear friends Jess and Gil who were here for about 5 weeks. You can follow them at http://adventuringsouls.com/. I have no doubt in my mind that our friendship has just begun and we will be sharing some adventures of some type in the future. Love these two folks…they are good people.

We welcomed a new comer that was found using the site https://www.helpx.net/ . This newest helper has come to us from Seattle, WA. She has only been here a few days and I am looking forward to getting more acquainted as time goes by. It has become customary for us to take a dinner photo when we welcome someone new or say goodbye, and that is what the last photo is. Goodbyes and Welcomes all in one night!

folks coming and going

I also had my SSDI appeal consultative examination on Tuesday.  It only lasted 30 minutes and I left feeling frustrated that the MD whom I was seen by didn’t really seem interested in anything I said, but rather found delight in probing all my tender spots even after I told her where I hurt the worst. I am doing my best to remain hopeful that with the input from my NP (nurse pratitioner) as well as my counselor that maybe I will be granted my disability and not have to endure any more prodding and probing. God knows I need a break.

I am enjoying the things I am doing for the most part, although I have had to push myself to a much greater degree on a constant basis than I have in a number of years now. How the toll will be weathered over time is yet to be seen. I am trying to keep my faith, do my best and trust that God has me covered no matter what happens.

There is much more to write, but today was my first day off in quite some time and I make a cake, made jelly and dehydrated bananas and I am a bit tired. So….for now that is all. I will be trying to be more consistent in my postings again. It’s just taken me awhile to get settled and get a routine where I have a few extra moments to spare and the energy to walk to the community cabin to make a posting. The next posting will be a compilation of spring photos I’ve shot of nature and flowers and wildlife and the country. I hope you’ll check back for it.

Capturing wild yeast and making sourdough bread!

This starter was created the beginning of the second week in May.

My list of new things to learn to do is always growing. When spring approached my research said it was a good time to capture some yeast and start my own science experiment on my counter. I read many different articles on how to make a good sourdough starter. The one I decided to follow was this one Sourdough Starter from Scratch: Collecting Wild Yeast.   My first capturing yeast was done in early April and it was growing well and I had been feeding it for a few weeks. I had put it in the refrigerator while I was gone from home traveling and when I tried to “fire it up” and reactivate it after a few days it developed some pinkish yuck so I threw it out. I started a new batch around May 10th and have kept it going on the counter ever since. I have tried four different Artisan sourdough bread recipes over the last few weeks and this weeks batch turned out the best in my humble opinion. My starter lives on the counter and I feed it daily with 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup WW flour. I toss 1/2 the starter about every 3 days. I feed it with AP flour the day before I intend to use it as that seems to create more yeast. The rest of the time the feeding is done with WW flour.

I have a little experience in bread baking over the years and anyone who knows how I am about recipes knows I have to go with my own flow and typically just use a recipe for some inspiration. That is what I did this time. I found yet another slightly different recipe and tweaked it to suit me using traditional American measurements since I have not acquired a scale yet. I found my inspiration with this recipe at Them Apples and I hope you take the time to check out this writer’s blog. He and I share a similar taste for foods! Lots of yummy stuff to be found and I love his layout!

I made my sponge using 1 heavy cup of my starter, 1 cup WW flour and 1 cup AP flour and 2 1/3 cups water. I mixed it with a fork and covered it with a cloth and it set on the counter from noon until 8pm. I wanted to have my bread ready to give a loaf to my physical therapist and my appointment was scheduled for noon the next day! I have learned over the last few weeks that baking good sourdough bread really is about taking your time and allowing the fermentation of the yeasts to develop. I love my set of Vintage Pyrex bowls and the large one was just perfect for this process!

While the sponge was doing it’s thing on the counter I tidied up my kitchen and prepared for an interview I was schedule to do at 2pm one of the reporters from the local newspaper. They are doing a full spread article on compulsive and problem gambling. I have been interviewed about problem gambling a few other times in the past.  I am happy to say this is the first interview I have had where I have significant recovery under my belt. The two other times for newspapers occurred when my life was in a shambles or I was literally sitting on my hands white knuckling it so I wouldn’t go place a bet. There was also a time I was interviewed for a TV newscast, and that occurred when I had been at a treatment facility and was at about day 45  and still trying to figure out how I was going to manage life once treatment was done. This time I am doing well today and it felt good to know that.  I am sure the article will focus more on the devastation that occurred during my 16 year battle rather than all that is good, and that is ok if the story helps educate the general public on the devastation that gambling can bring on a life. One other thing that is significantly different about this interview is that I chose not to remain anonymous. I am allowing the paper to use my name as well as my picture. Not because I am anyone special. Quite the opposite. I am just another person, who lives in the country and raises chickens and likes to cook and bake and has life challenges and loves people and is emotionally and mentally sound and happy with life. In a nutshell that is. I have nothing to hide anymore and it felt very liberating to say yes when asked if my name and photo could be used.

After the interview I hoped on my motorcycle and ran to town to check the mail for my guy while he is out of town and then back out to Applegate Valley Lavender Farm. I had promised my new friend Deborah Thompson, the proprietor, that I would help her do some preparing for the upcoming Oregon Lavender Festival. Check out her webpage and learn more about the Lavender Festival. Aside from enjoying this sweet ladies company, who wouldn’t want to hang out at a lavender farm and enjoy the scenery and the scents and the animals? I love it there. We played with her farm animal friends and pulled some weeds and ate some watermelon. It was a great couple of hours.

At 8pm I was back home and done with phone calls and little things that occupied my time for a while. It was time to make some dough! I dumped the bubbly mass of sponge into the bowl that goes with my standing mixer. I added 1 cup of WW flour, one cup of AP flour and 1/2 cup of oatmeal flour (that I grind myself with Organic Oats) and 1/2 cup of whole oats. I sprinkled in 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and started up the mixer. Nice and slow at first. I didn’t want flour all over the place! It is a very wet batter as you can see from the photos. I added maybe another 1/4 cup of oatmeal flour after about 3 minutes because it was still sticking too much on the sides of the bowl. Once it all started to come together I amped up the mixer and let it fly for about 5 more minutes. I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It probably is the most used appliance I have ever owned. It is started to get a bit wobbly from so much use. When I use the dough hook to knead bread I have to hold the thing still because it bangs all over the place. I just use it as a resting place for the time it takes to knead it! After about 8-10 minutes with the mixer into an oiled bowl it goes!

Now to let it rise. I always pre-warm my oven to 350 degrees for just ONE minute and then turn it off and set my bowl inside with a tea towel or loose lid on it. I have a gas oven so it always stays a little warmer. It is a good thing I am a bit of a night owl because this dough still needs attention. As Rich at Them Apples states in his blog, this dough needs attention for about 4 hours or so. I would just stick my hands in the bowl and punch it down and turn it over and punch it down a few times each hour. At about 1:30 in the morning when I was just about ready for a good sleep I shaped the loaves into nice rounds and left them on a piece of parchment paper. I did the tea towel trick for holding their shape and it worked well. I covered them up and went to bed!

I awakened at 9 and padded out in my bare feet and turned the oven on to 450C degrees. I had a few things to do to put my “Barter Basket” so set to that while waiting for a good solid 30-45 minute pre-heat. I placed my rack in the middle of the oven and had a loaf pan full of water underneath that was heating with the oven. I also threw in some oiled new red potatoes to let them roast utilizing the pre-heat temps! I had my favorite Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone preheating in there too. For those who are curious my “Barter Basket” is a basket of home cooked and home canned food I put together each week for my physical therapist. She is treating me sans charge except for whatever I choose to bring as a barter gift. It is working out well for both of us. She and her betrothed are getting married in September and she has just asked me to provide some of the food for her dinner, which is a BBQ as well as highlight her bridal breakfast with some quiches and muffins and such! I have been so excited and honored about this. I have been enjoying cooking for most all of my adult life and to have someone ask me if I will cook for them for their most special occasion is just wonderful!

At 10 a.m.  I was ready to throw them in and have them bake. I had covered the bottoms of the loaves with a good layering of the oatmeal flour before letting them rise and so they moved about on the parchment paper I had set them on pretty well. I opened the oven and gently lifted each one with a nice long spatula and closed the door gently! Baked for 10 minutes at 450 and then turned the oven down to 200. The loaves were  just barely brown after 10 minutes. I checked on them after another 20 minutes and they didn’t sound quite hollow when tapped so I gave them an additional 5 minutes. On to the rack to cool while I got ready for my appointment with my PT.

My “Barter Basket” contained a jar of Marsala Chicken that I had cooked overnight in the crock pot, the roasted potatoes, a jar of canned peaches, a jar of Blackberry Plum jam, a plateful of Lemon Bars a loaf of this lovely Artisan Sourdough Oatmeal bread and a dozen of eggs from my Layers! My wild yeast starter is still growing on the counter and I believe I will make this same recipe again next week. I had a slice of this bread and it is very good, but I will add a little more salt next time. I think with the WW and Oat flours salt requirements increase! I hope you enjoy learning about Capturing Wild Yeast and making some good sourdough bread!