Update Long Overdue

Hi, everyone.

After the encouragement of friends, I started this blog.  After a few weeks of blogging, life hit us hard.  We fought through it and didn’t give up… but we also picked our battles, and blogging wasn’t one of them.

If you look at the date of my last post… that was on April 15th.  On April 20th, my 37-year-old husband entered the hospital complaining of chest pain, and didn’t leave for three days.  His right coronary artery had been 100% occluded with plaque, causing him to have multiple… MULTIPLE! heart attacks for the past two weeks.

Now, I could begin my novel right here.  Chapter one, why this happened, because people seem to think you can’t have a heart attack unless you chase your bacon with a lard smoothie.  Chapter two, what we should do about it, because people who have never dealt with it are the best tomes of advice you can come across.  Chapter three, why all the changes we made are wrong, because our practices edge upon the morally sensitive (read: vegetarianism.)

So here are the Cliff’s Notes:

Why this happened: genetics, pure and simple.  The last time we had eaten red meat was over a week before the heart attack.  Most of our meals are vegetarian, and my husband exercises regularly.  In fact, the doctor said that exercise saved him.  The cardio had strengthened extra vessels in his heart, which had taken up the work when the big one failed.  As for a second reason why he didn’t die, that delves into our personal testimonies of our Heavenly Father and the plans he has for our lives.

What we did about it:  First of all, I doubled the garden and bought some baby chicks.  Let’s take trials and compound them with extra work, right?  And it was EXHAUSTING!  (I’m planning to sleep in when January rolls around.)  But we knew that the easiest, cheapest way to prevent a recurrence was to replace every single animal-based food source with a plant-based food.  So why the chicks?  Because though they’re animal-based, eggs are a super-cheap way to add a lot of protein to a mostly plant-based meal.  My husband referred to them as living food storage.  Their names are Original, Extra Crispy, Rotisserie, Barbeque, and El Pollo Loco.

They're only cute for a short time.

What else we did about it:  We thickened our skin.  This conversation actually happened on the day my husband and I returned to church after his hospitalization:

“You’ve lost weight, what are you doing?”

“Just extra work.  My husband had a heart attack so I’m taking the load for a little while.”

“Well, stop eating red meat, then!”

“Actually, we haven’t had red meat in over a month-”

“Well, stop it!  You’re going to kill him!”

And this was from a well-intentioned person.  People are going to preach what they want to preach, often without thinking about what they’re saying.  Imagine what we got from busybodies who barely even knew us.  And, as I said earlier, most people who are educated solely by the media (Cheerios will save your life!) believe that you cannot have a heart attack unless you’re eating Baconators for dessert.

And what a summer it has been since then!  Here’s the general timeline:

April: Heart attack.  Oh yeah, as I mentioned, and we doubled the garden and got chickens.  My husband’s heart medications cost $100 a month AFTER insurance pays their share, and one of my weekly clients just moved out of town.  We’re now down $350 per month.  My husband puts aside all job prospects he has been looking into, because we can’t afford to be without insurance, and nobody in his right mind would approve “heart attack at 37 years old” as a pre-existing condition.

May: Our “last frost” of May 15th didn’t occur until after June 1st, so each night I hauled the seedlings inside to keep them nice and cozy.  And my side-business of professional artist got put on hold because gardening and cooking from scratch took up all the extra time.

June: At 3am, we woke to our dogs going crazy.  Apparently someone had crawled over the back fence, stomped through the garden, and come into the yard.  The dogs chased them off, but one of the dogs got into the garden and the gate closed behind her.  In her attempts to get out of the fence (she is very obese and couldn’t jump) she finished off what the intruder had left behind.  Massive damage, over a thousand plants destroyed if you count every corn seedling and pea plant.  What did we do?  Replanted, of course.  What else could we do?

Two months of onion growth, with carrot seedlings in between, and peas along the fence. Gone.

July: HOT and DRY!  We haven’t seen rain since the first week of June!  We place buckets under the shower, and recycle our dishwashing water.  We put up a very ugly shadecloth to keep the blackberries from dehydrating on the vine.

Saving the antioxidants. Apparently, 3 watering days a week isn't enough for the lawn in this weather.

August: My husband’s cardiologist wants him to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, and 50 pounds within a year.  I take that as a personal challenge, and I start engineering every single thing he eats.  Poor guy.  Thankfully, I know how to cook.  Thankfully again, we now have fresh food coming out of the garden.  He eats homemade yogurt with homegrown blackberries, tomato/cucumber salad with balsamic vinegar, 1-2 servings of whole grains a day, and only lean proteins.  And since it’s not fair that he has to do this while I sit and eat bonbons, I follow the same diet/exercise program I expect him to follow.  If it wasn’t summer, this would have gotten really expensive.  But we ate mostly from the garden, made the yogurt, and used legumes and egg whites for most of our proteins.

One day's harvest. The work starts to pay off.

September: It’s canning season, and the yard is bountiful!  20 hours of work produced 9 gallons of grape juice.  12 hours of work made about 8 gallons of plum puree.  One gallon of blackberries for jam, enough tomatillos for two dozen jars of salsa verde.  The boxes of canning sit five feet high in a corner of the dining room.  I even managed to snag two friends for slave labor.  (They said they wanted to learn how to do it… they thought it would be fun.  Ha!  Actually, it was fun, but they didn’t expect 20 hours of work for just grape jelly.)

A friend told me, "Don't real women squish grapes with their feet?" Yeah, well... I'll think of a comeback for that . Just give me time.

October: It still hasn’t frozen yet!  The zucchini are still straggling along, and green beans slowly appear on the vines.  We got our first monthly fill of fuel oil for heating.  Only $300.  A client invites us to take all of her apples that we can pick, so we give her 20 gallons of the best ones and take… 80 gallons?? of them for ourselves.  I also prepare for a craft fair at the end of the month, where I hope to sell my home canning and my soaps to fund our winter heating habit.

"Organic" means "Prepare to cut out a few worms."

By the end of the month, the garden will freeze.  We’re ready.  The potatoes are in, and most of our peppers are in portable containers.  Bring it on.  We’re finishing up with the applesauce this weekend, then making pounds of soap to fill Christmas orders.

Mother Nature was gracious this year. The garden finished producing before the frost.

Did I mention I’m going to get a LOT of sleep in January?

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