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When your fingers go walking………..

8 Dec

Way, way, way back in July, my fingers were doing some shopping without consulting “the man” and ordered fruit trees online. My reasoning was simple;  In order to make jam I need fruit, why buy fruit at the market when we can just as easily grow it ourselves.  If we have our own fruit trees not only can we sell the fruit, we can make jam too.  I mean come on, it was just a couple of trees, three actually: 1 apple, 1 peach and 1 plum.  What could it hurt, these three little trees, and they’re dwarf so they won’t take up much room.  Due to arrive after wedding #3 (Oct 6), I had plenty of time to inform his highness and make preparations.

A few weeks later I received a nice little pre-printed note from the nursery informing me that since my trees could not be shipped for several months they were “giving me” 4 free trees as a way of thanking me for my early order.  I looked at the list of potential freebies and selected 4 free Raspberry bushes, what the heck it’s free right.

3 fruit trees + 4 Raspberry bushes = 7 living plants needing site preparation (not too bad, I can handle this)

A few more weeks go by and I am needing a break from pre-wedding planning so I figure it’s time to do a little research on my recent purchase.  Yeah, well, shoulda done that first.  What I discover is that my apple and plum trees will benefit from a pollinator, which also means I need more trees.  Pollinator research completed, my fingers go back to the nursery to order companions for the aforementioned apple and plum trees.

I’m not real sure what happened after that, the poor things must have been tired after all that research or maybe just a little frustrated.  It could have been a spasm of some kind or side effect from ordering all those invitations, truffles and sparklers for 200 people.  I printed out my receipt and stared at the paper.  What on earth have I done?

2 apple, 2 plum and 2 peach (I mean really why not make it 3 of each?)

and then the freebies I somehow got to order at the end of checkout:

2 raspberry, 3 blackberry, 5 grape and 3 sweet bay magnolia for show (and how is this company  making any money?)

FOR A GRAND TOTAL OF:

3 apple + 3 peach + 3 plum + 6 raspberry + 3 blackberry + 5 grape + 3 sweet bay magnolia =  26 living plants needing site preparation, followed by planting, watering and TLC over winter!

I take a deep breath and find a way to gently let the man know we have an orchard on the way.  At the time he was working on his “Father of the Bride” speech so he may not have actually heard the numbers, on account of he took the news so well.  I wasn’t going to rock that boat so I just eased on out of that conversation.

The wedding comes and goes without a hitch on October 6.  Two weeks later daughter #4 gets engaged.  Two weeks and two days after that the phone rings and all hell breaks loose with Maw.  (and) Two weeks and two days after THAT the orchard arrives.

Was I ready? %@&&, NO!

By the time the orchard arrived, Maw was recovering from her surgery, and Uncle J had arrived for an extended stay to look after Maw;  going back and forth from the big hospital and then back and forth from “the hospital” every day.  I was taking a much-needed break from tending to Maw to clean house and get ready for the kids to come home for the weekend, and to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 27 people.  Just as the mirliton sat in their box for a while before I found time to get them in the ground, the orchard wound up in a bucket to chill out over Thanksgiving weekend.

We managed to get the apple, plum and peach trees in the ground the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The raspberry and sweet bay magnolia followed a few days later, although I’m thinking about relocating the raspberry as I’m not completely convinced we chose the right location.  The blackberry and grape are now in a smaller bucket on the kitchen counter, placed there on purpose to stare me in the face.  You would know the best spot for them will require several hours/days of ground work to remove overgrowth, weeds, grass and work the soil.

Wouldn’t you know it, the forecast for today and tomorrow:    Rain          🙂

When the phone rings……..

7 Dec

So I am anticipating the arrival of my new seed, the phone rings and all hell breaks loose…………….

first a little background info:          Maw is my husbands 99-year-old grandmother.  On February 23, 2013 she will be 100!  Maw has lived in what is now our home, since she was 3 years old.  She gave birth to her children in the main room of the house where the 110 year old fireplace is located, and in the room that for lack of a better word we call the dining room, although we don’t actually “dine” there.  In her better years she was a homemaker, a seamstress, crocheted many a blanket, tended a garden, canned and/or preserved vegetables, fruit and meat, she was a wonderful cook, and a remarkable artist in many mediums — pencil drawings, pastels, acrylic and oil paintings, ceramics and even jewelery making, she read bible stories to her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and even her great-great-grandchildren and gave art lessons to them after school.  To top all that off she was a hairdresser until she was 90 years old.  A remarkable woman who had(has) a positive impact on many, many lives.

In her 96th year after a hospital stay for low potassium, followed by a fall that resulted in a broken wrist, all complicated by a growing Dementia, the decision was made (by her son) that she would be better off with 24 hour a day supervision.  Therefore she was admitted to “the hospital” to live her remaining years.  We call it “the hospital” because (back in the day) when you put someone in the nursing home it was referred to as “the dying place” and that just wouldn’t do, so “the hospital” it became.  Having spent the previous 3 years taking care of Maw in her home, I volunteered to be one of her primary contacts for any emergency at “the hospital”.

Okay so……….

The phone rang, I look at the caller ID and it says “The Hospital”, &%^$ what now.  Over the weekend we had a call concerning a “possible fall” (nobody witnessed it), Maw was complaining that her right leg was hurting as a result of this fall.  They ordered an x-ray which came back negative for fractures or breaks.  Both myself and my husband inquired as to the possibility that her femoral artery bypass (performed 30 years previously) was failing and were both assured it was not in question.

On the other end of the phone is the “wound care specialist” informing me that as Maw had continued to complain about her right leg hurting, from “the fall”, she had been called in to check things out, ordered a sonogram and found none other than a femoral occlusion!  &%^$ could ya have maybe looked for that on Saturday after me AND my husband asked about it?

I made several pone calls as I rushed to get to the ER where they were sending her, informing my husband, my sister-in-law and Maw’s son of her condition, plus a mass text to the great-grands.  Four hours later the ER doctor is confirming this diagnosis and offering me (us) 2 choices of treatment:

Choice 1:  perform surgery to repair the occlusion. (okay)

Choice 2:  give a round of IV antibiotics and send her back to “the hospital” where the antibiotics will relieve the pain and swelling for (oh) about 3 weeks, then it will become inflamed and painful again.  At that point they would repeat the antibiotics for another 3 weeks of comfort, until gangrene set in, at which point they would simply make her comfortable until the gangrene took over.

NO &%^$, those were my 2 choices!!!

We’ll take the surgery thank you very much!  Who in their right mind would “choose” to allow their grandmother to endure the horror of Choice #2???

Several hours in an ER is long enough for any patient to have to bear, let’s remember however, that Maw has the added bonus of Dementia.  All this time she has been her normal sweet adorable self, so I delude myself into believing that all is well and I am in control of the situation.  This was NOT the case after making the 1 hour trip to a larger hospital where the surgeon was located.  By the time they let me into the cubicle where they had put Maw, Dementia was in full swing and I was in for the ride of my life.  Eight hours into Maw’s ordeal I am exhausted, and my phone is on fire from the calls and texts when my husband walks in.  By this time and after several more tests have been completed, we learn the artery is so deteriorated it can not be repaired, there is nothing viable left to bypass, and an amputation must be performed!

To say her hospital stay was uneventful would be a total and complete lie.  First of course there was the amputation, a major deal in itself.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there was the “discovery of the amputation” multiple times, thanks to the dementia.  Then of course we had “phantom pain”, which is even more confusing for a Dementia patient!  Change of any kind is difficult for someone with this debilitating disease, even something as simple as a new room-mate can be complicated.  The trip to the first ER, followed by the second ER, the loss of her leg, nurses in and out, and the morphine drip had our sweet, sweet Maw in a total and complete dementia episode to the point she barely recognized anyone.

We were greatly relieved when they returned her to “the hospital” and she entered all smiles; actually recognizing her room, and belongings.  She completely enjoyed the attention her return brought her as one staff member after another, and one fellow resident followed by others came to tell her they had missed her.  Dementia aside, our little Maw has been a real trooper throughout her ordeal, and we are ever amazed and oh so proud of her.

This past week I traveled with her to the surgeons office for her 4 week check up and staple removal.  We laughed together in the waiting room as she informed me that now she only needed 1 shoe, but they made her buy 2 anyway.  Here she is, our 99-year-old grandmother making jokes about having only one leg.  Gotta love our Maw!

I look back over the stories of Maw’s life and see that it has been blessed.  A few days after surgery she looked at me and said, “All I want to do is go to sleep and not wake up, but God hasn’t taken me home yet so He must have a reason why I’m still here.  What do you suppose that is?”  I held back the tears as I gently kissed her face and said, “Maybe God knows we still need you here with us honey.”

The mirliton seed arrived right on schedule, but of course I simply set them aside.  They sat in the box for nearly two weeks as we tended to our sweet and precious Maw.  They are now safely encased in their little hay filled holes (in the ground) to over-winter until spring.  The fruit trees arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, which has come and gone, and with it a house full of company.   Somehow during all of this we managed to scout out and secure a barn for daughter #4’s reception and set the wedding date for July 29, 2013.

Hhmmm, the fruit trees arrived, one day I might just learn to plan ahead……………………….

Hunt for the elusive mirliton

6 Dec

The last 8 weeks have been busy.  Not too busy to write in the evening, just too many things going on to not get them all jumbled up.  Which would be really confusing for whoever chose to read my blog.  Things are progressing rapidly and I do so want to share so you’re just going to have to bear with me while I untangle the mess.

I have been on a Mirliton waiting list for so long I almost gave up on finding some.  This plump, sweet vegetable also goes by many other names.  The Aztecs, who domesticated it, called it chayotle.  It is christophine or brionne in much of the West Indies, chochoute in Madagascar and Polynesia, xuxu in Brazil, and chocho, custard marrow, pepinella, chayote and vegetable pear in various parts of the world.  Not too shabby for a little pear shaped squash with a thin green skin, crunchy white flesh and edible seed.

Since I grew up in New Orleans, mirliton casserole was one of those holiday dishes we enjoyed.  Not seeing any of these wonderful little squash at the Farmers Market I made up my mind that we should be growing some.  Not knowing anything about the plant or how it grows, I began looking for “seed” in every online catalog I could find.  Many months of unsuccessful searching made me more determined that I simply “had to have” this plant in our farm portfolio, if you will.  Finally one day I hit on a site with more information than I bargained for, only to find out how scarce these “seed” were and that I would have to be on a “waiting list” to get just one.

Here’s the thing, you can’t just “take the seed out of the fruit” and plant it.  You plant the entire fruit, the seed then gets its nourishment to grow from the fruit itself.  The problem is, the fruit you find in the store (to eat) won’t grow here in the states. Or so I am told.  The fruit in the store (being mostly imported) is acclimated to a higher elevation and thus will not grow successfully.  Oh, it will grow, just not well, plus it will be susceptible to many diseases making it a low producer of fruit and a headache for the grower.

There is however one exception, the Mirliton grown in Louisiana (my home state).  Apparently the Cajuns of Louisiana found a way to acclimate this squash plant many, many years ago and it has since been considered a “backyard staple”.  People just have them in their backyard, growing for their own enjoyment, passing seed down to their children and neighbors to in turn plant in their backyards, and on an on this tradition has gone.  Until nature decided otherwise.  The heirloom mirliton of South Louisiana were nearly destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.

There was a huge part of me that considered going to the store, buying a “chayote” and sticking it in the ground to see what happened.  Then again, around here, you can only find “chayote” in the specialty stores and during a blue moon at Wal-Mart.  The spiritual side of me believes everything happens for a reason so I decided the waiting list was the way to go.  I mean seriously I had a million other things going on, waiting wouldn’t kill me.  Plus it would mean so much more to me to have an actual “heirloom mirliton” from my sweet Louisiana home.

November 3, 2012 the waiting came to a halt.  The Bywater Mirliton Festival was taking place and there would be a limited amount of “seed” available.  Fortunately this information came a week or so before the event.  Now, Bywater is a tiny community in New Orleans, Louisiana and therefore a 6 1/2 hours drive from our farm. 😦  I contemplated driving to the festival and back in one day, a crazy idea I know.  Fortunately I have an absolutely adorable sister and brother-in-law living in Lakeview (20 minutes from Bywater) and they agreed to go to the festival.  Honey, they scored me 5 Mirliton seed fruit.  Whoo Hoo!

The following Monday morning, after carefully packaging up these 5 precious seed, my sweet sister shipped them to me next day express mail.  Of course that will take 2 days to get to me as we are so far into the boonies it’s not funny, 2 day mail takes 3 days and so forth and so on.

Tuesday morning I got up anticipating the arrival of my new seed.  We had a busy weekend with the newly engaged couple and I was still trying to decide on a good planting location as these 5 mirliton would require 50 feet of trellising come spring.  Being election day I wanted to watch as much of what was happening on the political front as possible, so I decide to double up on the “house chores”, which would free me up for planting when my package arrived on Wednesday.

At noon, all hell broke loose with a phone call.

To be continued………………………………..