Pink Bluebird eggs

I was so relieved when the Bluebird pair survived our 3ft snowstorm.  And I was delighted when they started building a nest in one of the boxes.

Then the Tree Swallows arrived, and they tried to claim that nest box, but the Bluebirds persisted, and claimed it as theirs.  For over a week I saw only the Bluebirds around that box.

Then I checked it and found this:

Dammit, when did the Tree Swallows sneak into the nest!

And Monday:

I was beyond disappointed.  Tree Swallows are cool, but I want Bluebirds!

But then Wednesday, when I stepped out of the back door to open up my little greenhouse for the day, a Bluebird flew out of the box!  I checked, and sure enough, still 5 little pink eggs!  Is the Bluebird sitting on the Tree Swallow eggs?!  WTF!?!

Beyond baffled I emailed the story and pictures to a couple folks who know way more about Tree Swallows and Bluebirds than I do.  The response: Its still WAY too early for Tree Swallows to be laying eggs at my latitude, and despite the color those eggs are shaped like Bluebird eggs!  I was vaguely aware that sometimes Bluebirds will lay eggs so pale as to look white, but not that they can be so pale as to look pink!  But it is a known phenomenon!

I’ll be looking to add powdered calcium to the live mealworms I feed, and I’ve contacted the local Bluebird society to see if there’s anyone who’s interested in banding the female for study.

The things you learn!

New lawn mower and stuff

Our old lawn tractor has issues.  It was second hand when we got it, though the previous owners clearly kept up maintenance.  And we did too.  But the issue became my Husband’s driving.  I know, sounds like a joke right?  But the man insists on mowing as close as possible to immovable objects.  Why I don’t know, we have a weed whacker for a reason, and a good quality 4-cycle one at that, but he does.  And since he also insists on doing so at full speed the end result was a mower deck that was in seriously bad shape.  He’s been banging it back “into shape” at least twice a summer for a couple years now.   And the wear and tear is showing.

We’ve been wanting a zero turn mower for a while now.  With two acres to mow the old lawn tractor was slow as heck, and mowing the entire yard was a 4-5hr job.  We usually did it in pieces, but it still ate up a huge chunk of the day.  But we also figured we’d be saving our pennies for a while before that happened.

Last summer my work got in a new Ariens IKON zero turn.  Sweet peice, msrp $3700.  Never happening, no matter how much we drooled.  But there was an issue, the Ariens came in missing the bolts needed to attach the tow hitch.  Supposedly the bolts were ordered from Ariens, and the mower sat, and sat, and sat……

Apparently the woman who was the dept head last summer never ordered the parts.  She also apparently never ordered the parts for a couple other things we’d been holding onto (like, the keys to the two Toro zero turn mowers).  The guy who replaced her came in just late enough in the year last year that he never even had to look at the mowers, and never even realized we had a high dollar value mower sitting there for essentially no reason (actually, three, but this is about the one).  Back in mid February management finally got a clue, and the new dept head was swapped for the guy who was running the paint dept (this was right in the middle of me being sick as a dog and so I never posted about it).  This was a good thing, the new new dept head worked in the garden dept for over 10yrs before he was promoted and took over paint (paint being the easiest to manage dept in the store).  They should have just done that in the first place….anyway!

Our new dept head was more than a bit horrified and frustrated by the undone work sitting in the dept.  And has been playing catchup since (poor guy).  Last week he finally got to the Ariens and looked it over, realized the only things missing were the nuts and bolts to hold the tow hitch on, walked down to the hardware dept, marked down the appropriate bits and pieces, and attached the hitch.  Then he went to put it on the sales floor, at which point he discovered that Ariens had made model changes between last year and this year.  The $3700 mower, that had sat around for a year because no one in charge could be bothered to figure out how to handle it, was now clearanced.  30% off.  (yes, the ASM over garden should have helped keeping the mess from being so bad, however right at the same time they changed our dept head at the end of last summer they changed also our ASM, and the new lady is much less organized….can anyone else see the pending problem or is it just me??  Apparently management can’t!)

I (im)patiently waited the 24hrs that corporate requires employees to wait before buying marked down products, and then dug out the credit card and had our new Ariens IKON zero turn delivered to the house.  No, we didn’t need to spend the money, not even a little bit, but the chance to get that kind of deal was totally worth it.

After having sat unused for so long it needed a good lubing in various spots, had to detach and reattach the spark plugs and what not, but the battery was still holding a charge, and it started right up after that little bit of maintenance.

Husband and I had a discussion about his tendency to run into immovable objects, along with a very pointed reminder about the fact that we bought a weed whacker for a reason.  And he had fun mowing the lawn Sunday.  He didn’t get the whole thing done, it’s still too wet and mucky in areas, but it took him barely an hour to do over half the yard.  Totally awesome.

Our other new piece of equipment is a woodchipper.  I forgot to get a picture, but its last years model from Cub Cadet, rated to handle branches up to 3″ in diameter.

Why a wood chipper?  Well, remember back in march when I posted about this tree that came down?  Our original intention was to rent a wood chipper, turn as much of it into mulch as possible, and maybe have a bonfire or something with the rest of it, since pine isn’t considered quality firewood (and this stuff has some serious sap too).

Then I started pricing rentals.  $180+gas+tax for a day’s rental on a woodchipper that’d handle branches up to 6″ in diameter.  And no guarantee that we’d finish the tree in a day.  Not to mention that we have a growing brush pile that we keep meaning to chip up and get rid of.  Not to mention that the big pine in the front yard is definitely dead and will need to come down and be dealt with before it comes down on the wires to the house.

So I started pricing buying chippers.  The one we bought was $700.  Or equivalent to 3.5 days rental, though it won’t handle quite as large branches.

It also arrived this week, and we ran some branches through it Sunday as well, nice fine chips for the most part.  We can now work on the tree in pieces (my FIL already helped us do the initial breakdown of the tree).

We also just pretty much blew our household budget for the summer.  But I think its worth it!

Instant Pot Ketchup

So, in browsing Instant Pot recipes I happened on THIS recipe.  My biggest issue with the ketchup recipe I use is the cook time.  The IP version eliminates alot of that.  In addition, the two are actually fairly similar, after some recipe comparison I decided to try making my original ketchup recipe using the IP instructions.

I used the saute function to heat the oil and simmer the cloves, turned the IP back off, added the thawed tomates (the extra benefit here is the amount of liquid they produce when thawing means no smushing required to get the liquid level right), added the seasonings, set the IP and let it run.

(a note on the original recipe, though the first time I made it I bought a fresh onion and a can of tomato paste, since then I’ve used tomato powder +water for the paste, and onion powder for the onion.  I generally use frozen garlic from my garden, though once I used powdered garlic and hubby didn’t notice a difference)

After the pressure cycle I did a quick release, opened it, pulled the spice packet temporarily while I pureed everything with the stick blender, then put the spices back in and set it to slow cook – high.  I had to unplug it to run the stick blender, or I’d have just left it on keep warm, as the IP recipe implies.

The IP recipe says that it only needs to simmer there for 10 minutes to reduce by half.  Half an hour after setting it mine had barely reduced at all.  And not because it was plenty thick.  Now admittedly I didn’t use all paste tomatoes or the like, infact it was barely half paste tomatoes, and my recipe calls for a bit more vinegar, but I’d have expected to see a noticeable reduction in volume based on the description in the recipe.  This is not something a bit of cornstarch was going to fix.  I ran it through the food strainer and put it into a pot on the stove to simmer and reduce.

I had to simmer it for close to an hour to get the right consistency.  I might as well just have dirtied the pot in the first place.

Husband hasn’t had a chance to try it yet, I’ll add that in once he does.  But at this point I’m not impressed with the recipe.  Yes, I didn’t follow the ingredients word for word, but I’d have expected to see SOME reduction, and I basically saw none.


My normal dose of prescription anti-inflammatory meds just isn’t cutting it with this bone fracture.  I normally take 15mg of meloxicam (aka Mobic) once a day, but two days after the initial injury I switched to a prescription strength dose of Aleve (without the prescription, but I’ve been prescribed it often enough that I know it).  Which helps more, but still leaves me aching and painful, especially if I move wrong.  But the last two weeks my acid reflux has been much worse than normal.  I can’t tell if its stress getting to me (my acid reflux is definitely stress induced), or if the Aleve is getting to my stomach.

Thursday evening I wasn’t paying attention to the time, I normally take the evening dose about 8pm, but at 11pm I was trying to figure out why my arm hurt so damn much when I finally realized I’d not taken my meds.  Took them and headed for bed.  Hurt more than usual all night, and woke up grumpy.  Which only got worse when I attempted to stretch before getting out of bed.  I know better than to try to stretch that arm right now.  But who’s THINKING of that when you first wake up and it doesn’t hurt right that second??

I think it’s finally back to “normal” now, over 24hrs after the late dose.  As normal as this gets.  Folks at work keep asking me when I’m going to be back to my normal workload.  My follow up with the ortho doc is in a week and a half.  But I’ve noticed no reduction in pain.  I’m not holding my breath for good news.  Its frustrating as hell because I’m trying very hard to be extra careful about how I use the arm to so as to not stress the fracture.  Infact, I’m probably wearing the sling to much, because I’m definitely noticing muscle stiffness in the outer edges of my otherwise pain free range of movement.  But I’d rather have to re-work the elbow back to normal movement range than spend another several weeks not being able to use it.  Not sure it’s working though.

Husband has been kind enough to help me start to clear the garden for the spring, but even with his help I’m not going to get everything done that I’d hoped.

Not to mention not getting much else done.


Coping with a Radial Head Fracture

So for folks who might find this via search engine:  Three weeks ago I tripped over my dog, and did a job on my right arm.  The diagnosis is radial head fracture.  I assume you’ve either had someone explain that to you, or you took the time to look it up and now are trying to figure out how to cope with a broken bone when the doctor told you that they weren’t going to put you in a cast.

I know that was the big question for me.  What do you mean you aren’t going to immobilize a broken bone!  But apparently the this sort of fracture tends to be very stable (ie: not likely to move around), so as long as you don’t do stupid things it’ll heal just fine on its own.  And apparently immobilizing the elbow joint is considered a very bad thing.  Which makes sense when I thought about it.  The elbow has a very wide range of motion under normal circumstances, and if you take that away for any extended period you risk locking up the elbow, and getting that motion back would be literally painful.

So they probably gave you a sling, and told you not to lift anything more than a few pounds in weight.  They likely also told you to NOT use the sling as much as possible in order to keep the elbow mobile.

You also probably quickly discovered that wearing the sling is very uncomfortable.  I have no idea how humanity hasn’t come up with a sling that doesn’t hang off your neck, but apparently they haven’t.  Not cool.  I did end up ordering THIS (Amazon affiliate link) sling for myself, and it is indeed more comfortable than the one the doctor’s office gave me, but it still hangs off your neck.  Word of warning, wearing your arm in a sling will screw with your balance and make your back hurt.  Yay.  In my case though the injured arm is my right and dominant hand.  Which means that any time I’m actively doing anything I need to wear the sling or I try to use my injured arm without thinking about it, with painful results.

Which leads to my next topic.  Pain.  As long as I wear the sling it doesn’t hurt.  Within minutes of taking off the sling my whole arm aches from just below the shoulder down through the wrist.  Attempting to straighten my arm fully, or bend it more than 90 degrees, or attempting to lift something more than a couple pounds, results in significant stabbing pains in the elbow (like, 5 or 6 out of ten, or even higher depending on what I was trying to do).  In addition, attempting to open certain hard to open jars and other containers has been painful, while technically within the weight limits I was given, apparently the torque on the arm is too much.  I contacted my doctor at the 3 week mark to find out if it was normal that I was still experiencing this much pain that far in.  They responded that not only is it normal, I can expect pain through at LEAST week 4 and possibly even week 6!  Also most likely they didn’t give you anything for the pain, apparently over the counter anti-inflammatories are the way to go.  Good luck.  I take prescription anti-inflammatories daily for other issues and they didn’t cut it either.

Sleeping…..I sleep on my sides, this meant that my injured arm was forced to either bend further than 90 degrees or straighten fully depending on which side I was on.  Needless to say the first week+ I didn’t get much sleep.  I was also unable to find a comfortable position for my arm lying on my back, and while sleeping in a recliner wearing the sling would have likely been perfect I just can’t sleep that way (I’ve tried, repeatedly).  I finally discovered that wedging an extra pillow at an angle under my arm worked to keep my arm at angle that was comfortable.  I recommend a firm pillow, steal one off the couch if you need to.  Also, if you have hair long enough to get caught under your neck or shoulder when sleeping, and you normally wear it down while sleeping, I highly recommend putting it up into a bun for sleeping for the duration.  When you half wake up in the middle of the night cause your hair is caught under your neck, you’re going to reach up with which ever arm is available to move it.  And if the injured arm happens to be that arm….well, it’s a good way to wake up suddenly anyway!  Note, the same thing counts for stretching when you first wake up…..

Speaking of hair, two tricks to dealing with hair or your head/face in general.  One, bend your head away from your injured arm, this reduces the angle your injured arm needs to bend to in order to reach your head.  Or two, bend over with your head pointed towards the floor (like you’re trying to touch your toes), apparently with gravity pulling from that direction it puts less stress on the broken bone, I found this upside down position MUCH less painful to work from for dealing with my hair.

This post was originally written 3 weeks after my original injury.  I will update and add on as things happen!

Update 1:

At 4 weeks on the dot I noticed I had a slightly wider range of motion, pain free, than I had previously.  I was able to use two hands to put up my hair without having to resort to tricks to manage it.  I’m also in less overall discomfort.  I still can’t straighten the joint fully, bend it fully, or put to much pressure on when its mostly bent or mostly straight, but its noticeably better than it was.

I saw the Ortho specialist at the 5 week mark, he was happy with the progress, but agreed that its not fully healed.  Followup in 4 weeks, continue with with I’m doing.  So much for having two hands to get the garden in!

Update 2:

At the same time that I was able to start doing my hair with two hands I was also able to touch my fingers to my face, ie-feed myself with my right hand.  However I quickly discovered that I still can’t put something in the palm of my hand and get it to my mouth (like, taking pills).  This hasn’t changed, but yesterday I discovered that if I turn my palm away from my face I can not only touch the back of the palm to my face, I can touch the back of my wrist to my face.  Interesting how much the angle everything is turned at makes a difference!

Update 3:

At seven weeks.  I can now take pills with my right hand.  I still have to be carefull of the position I sleep in, but I no longer need the pillow to prop my arm up on.  Still don’t have full range of motion back, but its getting better, almost daily improvement.

Update 4: at 9 weeks, my followup with the ortho doc, the bone is healed, now to fix my range of motion problems and re-strengthen the arm since it hasn’t been used much.  The lack of full extension may be at least partially my own fault.  For the first several weeks attempting to let the arm hang “normally” or loosely hurt, ALOT.  So I got into the habit of carrying the arm bent.  I’ve been slowly forcing myself to carry it relaxed, and it does feel like my range of motion is improving, we’ll see I guess

April showers….

And there’s more falling out of the sky, though it won’t accumulate to much, the ground is to warm and wet.  Infact the whole region is under flood watch, between the insane amounts of water falling out of the sky and the 3 feet of snow from that last storm melting……

On the other hand, its predicted to be a high of 78 on Monday…..

“acid” whey, scare mongering, and the media

Ok, a bit of background.  For our wedding anniversary we bought ourselves an Instant Pot.  Not the cheapest thing ever, but I know several folks who have one and love it, and we decided to get one.  We’ve not used it as much as we’d have liked (hello stupid PIA New Year!) but I’ve had great results from almost everything we’ve tried in it.

This also means, that since I’m running mostly one handed right now and can’t lift the thing I’ve been researching recipes and options and what not instead of actually using it much.  I’ll be very likely trying yogurt in the near future (well, once I can use two hands to lift that gallon of milk with…..).

Many yogurt recipes, especially those based off of greek yogurt, call for you to strain the yogurt.  The resulting liquid is whey.  Specifically “acid” whey.  This results in alot of FB posts from people asking what to do with this whey.  The answer being use it to replace milk in many baked goods, add it to smoothies, feed it to your four legged pets…..and pour it in your garden as fertilizer.

The last suggestion results in a massive uproar EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Seems the media has made much fuss about “acid” whey.  Its ACIDIC don’t you know!  It’ll KILL THE FISH if it gets in the water ways!!!  OMG!!!!

See here, here, here, here…..even the articles that talk about what can be done to use the whey still help participate in the fear-mongering scare tactics.

Lets get a few things straight.

Acid whey has an average PH of 4.3-5.1 depending on the exact process and milk used.  This does certainly tip the side of the PH scale as acidic.

Apples have an average PH of 3.3-4.0.  Are we going to start calling apples “acid apples”?  Blueberries run 3.1-4.5.  Cooking vinegar (the stuff you buy at the grocery) runs at a PH of 2.4-2.6.  Vinegar is actually acidic enough to kill the green portion of most plants, but won’t actually kill the roots of most things.

Dumping large quantities of acid whey (or allowing large quantities to run off into waterways) does cause severe damage to waterways.  But not because its acidic.  The same damage would be caused if you dumped equal quantities of milk (PH 6.4-6.8) into the waterways, or human blood (PH 7.4), or the like.  It has to do with the introduction of large quantities of biological mass into a system not prepared to deal with it.  Folks who are serious fish tank keepers understand this concept even if they haven’t generalized it.

The small amounts of whey produced by the average home yogurt maker isn’t going to harm things if its poured into the garden.  Pouring it directly into a stream or the like might cause some damage, for the reasons stated above, but even there, in a moving water system its going to be diluted fast.  So don’t pour it into your fish pond, but the garden is fine.

If you actually pay attention to the above articles you’ll note that several of them state that farmers use it for fertilizer and the only limit on how much they use is avoiding run off of large quantities.

Its not going to kill your garden.  Well, I suppose if you poured all of your whey in the exact same spot, every day, for weeks on end and didn’t do any watering and it didn’t rain the plant in question might not be happy with you, but really….

So can we stop the fear mongering scare tactics yet??