24 October 2013


Getting my brain to focus these days is like trying to do obedience training with a beagle in the midst of a field full of rabbits.



18 October 2013

The new sheep feeder

Today was the first test of the new sheep feeder, designed by me but built mostly by The Boy (I did help a little).

The prototype was built earlier in the summer, as I mentioned here. We did modify things a little: instead of cutting the hog panel in half, we bent it, so that if you look at it from the side it makes sort of an L shape, with the long side of the L coming off at an angle. This way the feeder is deeper and can hold more hay – the smallest squares of wire are along the bottom (and yes, some hay will fall through but they will eat it off the ground under the feeder … if it becomes a problem I can always lay boards in there, as well), and then the larger squares are up on the angled piece where the sheep poke their noses through to get the hay.

I’m hoping that because of the height of the feeder and the way it angles down, they will stop pushing their heads all the way through the wire squares, which is seriously annoying (and not good for either the sheep or the feeder). The feeder looks like it’s taller at one end than the other, and it is, but it’s level in the larger scheme of things … the pasture itself is on a bit of a slant. We went with level as opposed to ‘even height from the ground’ so that one end is closer to the ground than the other, which will make it easier for sheep of different heights to eat comfortably.

There’s still a bit more to do out there – those posts leaning up at the end are going to be needed for fence repair and to get the cow’s feeder built – Sasha is out on a tether munching the long grass in the ditch this afternoon, she’s easy to lead out to other grass, so she will be fed that way for a while longer. The grass is free (hay is not!) and she’s portable, so that just makes good sense. Plus it makes her easier to catch when she knows that “most of the time when the person puts that long leash thing on my halter I get to go out and eat all the grass I want”.

Rolling a couple of bales over (with a lot of help from The Boy, whew those are heavy bales!) and feeding everyone and picking up a few things was all I had energy for today. But, I had energy for that, and I did it, and so yay.

Oh, did you notice the bales are all up by the feeders? We didn’t have to move them! My Hay Farmer was able to drive the truck right up the hill and drop the bales where we needed them. Yippee!

Now I can do some indoor work on the computer, which is tiring to the mind but not the body. Oh, but first I need to call the butcher and arrange for some of those sheep to be turned into lamb meat – anyone want some? :)

13 October 2013

Getting ready for the snow

Before we know it, the snow is gonna be here. The pressure to get the summer jobs finished is now at maximum.

I split a pile of wood today, and then stacked it all (we really really needed that done - and the splitter is borrowed from a neighbour so I had to do it in one go, and then send it back).

This is what I did:

I am very happy with the new wood shed. Much tidier than what we had before, and it was pretty easy to build - those are giant long fence posts (which I got by accident, I didn't think to specify length when I ordered them) with scrap wood for the ends and a piece of metal roofing on the top. We did have to stand on something to pound in the posts, but the resulting structure is tall enough that I can stand in it. There are pallets on the bottom, to keep the wood up off the ground, as well as one in front so you can stand on that to get a load to take inside. The kindling goes in rubbermaid buckets that are kept outside – there’s bits of wood and bark all over the ground after splitting, I will ask the Small People to pick that up when they are here next, it’s a good job for people who start off closer to the ground than I do.

The Boy was outside working, so after I came in for lunch, I went back and helped him get finished. We now have finished sheep feeders, and the steps to securing the winter pasture are about 75% done, maybe more. All that's left is to get a gate mounted, so that the barnyard can be locked off from the rest of the pastures, make a feeder for the cow (that's easier than the sheep feeders, just needs a couple of posts and some existing panels and pieces of wood attached in different places than they currently are), and clean up of the barn and barnyard (i.e. shoveling and raking, and moving stuff around).

Then we have hay to be delivered and that'll need to be moved from where it gets dropped off, and the water trough will need to be put into it’s winter box (there is a lid that covers half of the trough, keeping the evaporation down). If I get organized enough, I’d like to set up a recirculating heat reservoir, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen in time. Hmm, I’m not actually sure we have a working trough heater, either – need to check on that too.

The plan, of course, was to have a lot of this done earlier in the summer, but plans have a way of just doing their own thing and so … well, here we are. Further ahead than in many other years, thankfully, but we still have a few more important jobs to finish up before the snow comes. I still remember one October when it snowed and I said “oh well, that’ll melt in a couple of days” … and it didn’t melt. That was the start of winter that year! So, I try to be ready by the end of September if possible, mid October at the latest … just in case Mother Nature decides to pull a fast one on me again.

We’re not quite there … but we’re close. Whew.

07 October 2013

Weaving with bamboo and organic cotton

I have some lovely bamboo here in a nice bright green, and I thought it would be great woven up into some baby blankets or something similar. I ordered some organic cotton to go with it, and wound my warp bouts this morning.

I didn’t have enough yarn to do the full width for a blanket, so I warped up what I did have and pondered a little. It is about 25” in the reed, which will shrink down by 10-15% once it’s off the loom and washed, so the width is just about right for a placemat. I leafed through the weaving drafts I have printed out by the loom, and found this one, from LeClerc, for a tea towel. The fabric is a nice texture, and it really shows off the different threads nicely … plus the treadling is easy.

Note for other weavers: I do the tie-up so that I can “dance the treadles” – left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. In this draft, I tie up as shown, but to treadles 4,2,3,1: that way the treadling is 1-3-1 (left-right-left) and then 2-4-2 (right-left-right). It makes knowing where your feet are on the treadles a lot easier: I can tip my foot sideways a little to feel if I’m on the outermost treadle or if there’s another one next to my foot, which makes confirming that I’m on the right lever a very quick, tactile thing. I’ve been weaving a 1-2-3-4 twill lately, so I have to concentrate a little to keep the alternating pattern on this one, my feet automatically want to move across to the next treadle after each throw, so being able to check quickly without bending over or having to raise the shed and then look to see if it’s right is a big bonus.

Here’s a picture of the first sample piece:

I put on around 12-15 feet of warp, and each placemat takes one full 50 gram ball of the cotton. I have ten of those, so I should be able to weave most of them on the warp I have. I may do a set of six placemats and then a few longer pieces (table runners, centre pieces, tea towels, something like that) if I get bored, and I think I should have some variety for the craft show … which is coming up soon, so I have to get this weaving underway!

I wasn’t planning to head back to the loom, but maybe I will do just a little more. It’s such enjoyable “work”!

04 October 2013

The Next Step: self-care

At my counselling session earlier this week, we talked about Scared Girl and Selfish Girl and Mean Girl and the rest of the crew. I realized that Scared Girl’s been in charge for a long time: we’ve been in our own little “war on terror”, and the one best suited to the Generalship in a war like that would, of course, be Scared Girl, who is always on watch, always on guard, always ready to call up Mean Girl to bully the recalcitrant (whether self or other) into doing what is necessary to keep us safe.

And, since it wasn’t safe to express my own needs, Selfish Girl was shoved under the bed and told to hide. “Don’t you dare poke your head out from under there”, said Scared Girl, “or he will get mad and hurt us more. Just stay there and be very, very quiet.” And Mean Girl was put in charge of shoving Scared Girl back under that bed any time she made a move. “Needing things is bad,” Mean Girl would say. “You are being self-centered and rude. Suck it up, Sunshine.”

And so Selfish Girl hid under the bed and stayed very, very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that it became impossible to ever know what I might actually need – because saying “I need this” is Selfish Girl’s job … and she was in hiding. So I couldn’t hear my body saying “I need to rest”, I couldn’t hear my spirit saying “I am lonely and I need someone to care about me”, I couldn’t hear my heart saying “I am broken and hurting and I need to be comforted”. We’re not talking about the hissy fit, whining, overwrought, selfish sort of fussing, but true, honest, real needs. Couldn’t hear them. Didn’t know I needed anything. Didn’t take steps to meet those needs. And thus I got flattened when eventually, from her little spot under the bed, Selfish Girl silently grabbed the rug and yanked so I’d fall on my butt and have no choice but to start listening.

I still have a hard time hearing those needs. It’s hard for me to recognize “tired” – I always think it’s “laziness”. It’s sometimes hard for me to recognize hunger – it’s easier to skip meals and just not pay attention to what my body is saying. Taking the time to make good food for myself seems … overindulgent. Wasteful. Shameful, somehow.

A lot of people dealing with trauma learn to be kind to themselves early on in the healing process. I did a little bit – at the beginning I was so knocked out that I had to rest more, I simply couldn’t do anything else. Then I did the hard work of remembering my story, working through the memories and processing the narrative through the writing of Just Keep Knitting. But once that was done, I shoved Selfish Girl back under the bed and returned to my old bad habits, abandoning therapy for a whole year and trying to pretend I was “all better”. Yeah, it didn’t work.

I’ve been working hard in therapy again, and the next order of business is not so much work as rest. My body is still reeling from the effects of long-term overdoses of stress hormones: I was walking on wounds that never seemed to slow me down* for oh, about sixteen years … but all that time, I was flooding my body with adrenaline and all the associated chemicals that are necessary in an emergency – and toxic in chronic doses.

The way to detoxify involves taking care of myself. And this is the last, the absolute last thing, I want to do.

I know. It sounds stupid. It sounds like I am being an over-dramatic martyr queen or something. But the truth is, I am really bad at looking after myself. I don’t like doing it. It scares the crap out of me, and so I resist it with all I’ve got. I can feel myself pushing away from the idea, saying “no, no, that’s not good, that’s dangerous, we’ll get in trouble!”

Scared Girl still wants to be in charge, you see. She’s the General of my little army and we are *at war*, dammit. Well, she thinks so. When the memo arrived that told her the war was over, she shredded it and said “NO! It will NEVER be safe! There is no peace!” She’s been offered an honourable discharge, full pension, benefits, heck, she can even stay on as a contractor … she just doesn’t need to be in the office full-time anymore. Really. On-call is more than sufficient (it’s not like her response time is ever going to be very long – she’s honed her skills over a good chunk of my adult life, and they aren’t going to get rusty, much as she fears they will.) Scared Girl is not happy about her forced retirement. She keeps trying to sneak in and give orders like she always has.

But it’s time for Selfish Girl to come out from under the bed and have her say – we really do require her input after all these years of silence. She’s poked her nose out a little ways, but she’s not very comfortable with this whole idea yet, because, well, she’s been under that bed for a long time. And Scared Girl keeps saying she really ought to stay under there, because it isn’t safe to come out, and Mean Girl reinforces this by repeating the old mantra about how “everyone else’s needs must always come before our own, or else we are sinful, self-centered, greedy, nasty people who deserve punishment.”

My task, according to my counsellor, is to coax Selfish Girl out from under the bed, remind Mean Girl that Jesus said we are to treat others as kindly as we treat ourselves and thus we need to treat ourselves just as kindly as we treat others, and oh yes, keep Scared Girl from coming back to run the show.

And how do I do this?

I have to be good to myself. I have been ordered to be kind to myself.

This is not going to be easy, but I am sick of being sick – I’m terrified of doing this, but I have to try.

I am now following a regimen of kindness and rest, based on the treatments for adrenal fatigue. Admittedly this is not a diagnosis that most GPs are comfortable with, but the general idea is fairly sound and the treatment protocol is reasonable whether you agree with the underlying hypothesis or not. Peer reviewed scientific studies have shown that the hypothalamic-pituitary axis is mucked up in people with PTSD – some have too much cortisol, some too little, but basically, it gets out of whack, and when it’s out of whack, a bunch of physical symptoms happen … and to fix it, you have to make life easier for the stress response in the body. That’s what the treatment for adrenal fatigue is all about.

The short version of the treatment strategy for someone as far down the path as I am looks like this:

  • eat every 2 hours: high protein, low sugar, no caffeine, no junk / processed food
    low blood sugar stresses the body: keeping blood sugar levels stable says “the environment is safe”
  • exercise 1-3 times per week, just 5-20 minutes of gentle exercise, nothing strenuous
    exercise is good for you, but only when it does not exhaust you: at this stage of the game, strenuous exercise would be interpreted by my body as ‘danger’, so only gentle exercise is allowed
  • sleep at least 8 hours per night
    using herbal sleep aids as needed
  • take two 10-15 minute rest breaks during the day
    this is not as hard for me, as I am not holding down a full time job, but I do have to remember to stop and rest
  • take appropriate supplements to encourage the body to reset
    for me, this is a stress-formula multivitamin, as well as hops and St John’s Wort
  • drink tea, all day, every day
    green tea is especially healthy
  • practice deep breathing
    shallow breaths say “worry!”, deep breaths say “safety”
  • eliminate environmental toxins
    a stressed body cannot cope with extra burdens – we don’t have many to eliminate, but there are a few things to clear out
  • make recovery a priority, do not overbook
    learn to say “this is all I can do today” and stick with that

So, that’s the new strategy. It’s hard work. Stopping to eat (mindfully, purposefully) every two hours, resting, purposefully balancing my chores with my energy … it’s hard for me.

But I’m trying. Because as terrifying as this is, things have to change.

Gotta go, it’s time to eat again.