“Now, Laura, you gotta hunker down.”
-my former boss
At one of my previous jobs, my boss would sometimes feel frustrated at my enthusiasm. He was from central Pennsylvania. I never heard the term “hunker down” until I met him, so I don’t know if it was his expression or a central Pennsylvania thing. He’d tell me to “hunker down” often. We had different points of view on a lot of workplace issues, but we got along well.
Now I hear his words echoing in my head at times like this- times when we’re preparing for severe snow storms. We really hunker down, but I think my boss and I have different definitions.
In this blogpost I will give you a quick summary of what we do here at Kevin’s and Laura’s Little House on the Prairie to hunker down when we’re expecting bad weather…
1. We already have flashlights and candles in the house. We don’t use a whole lot of battery-operated things, so we don’t have too many batteries. I have tons on candles.
2. We kind of count on loosing power, and that’s OK. We live a pretty simple lifestyle, so it’s be OK if we lost power for a while. We’ll loose the computer, the oven, the lights, the appliances and the water. That’s OK. We’ll be fine.
3. We prepare for not having water. We shower so we’re good to go there, at least for a little bit. We have some outdoor plastic containers with water that can be used for flushing. We keep bottled water in the house.
4. We put away our vehicles. We have a garage for them all but rarely use them. We put away our vehicles when we’re hunkering down.
5. We feed the critters extra. We give extra food to the goats, pigs and cows. It’s a lot easier to do a quick checkup on them in a blizzard and not have to feed them, too. We give them enough food to last a few days. We make sure they’re all snug. We make a backup plan if we loose power and have baby chicks (which we don’t have right now).
6. We make sure we have plenty of wood. We heat with wood, so loosing power won’t affect us. Our backup heat is a floor furnace, which also doesn’t need electric. We make sure we have a lot of wood next to the front door and in the indoor wood box. We overfill the indoor wood box with enough wood to last as maybe 36 hours, even if the temperatures are cold and we need to constantly feed the wood burning stove. (I have a huge deck box that I keep in my living room for wood. It holds enough wood to get us through blizzards, is durable and not too tacky and keeps all the wood debris and dirt contained.I seriously recommend a deck box like this to anyone else who heats with wood everyday. This deck box is the best I’ve found and I’ve tried a few different indoor wood holding systems.)
7. We have a propane stove. We can use the stovetop to cook without power. We can also cook on top of the wood burning stove. I’ve done this in the past when we used to have an electric stove.
8. We catch up on everything beforehand. I try to be caught up on laundry. I’m never really caught-up-caught-up, but I make sure mostly everything is done and dried before we’re expecting bad weather. Even if we don’t loose power, we don’t use the dryer and we can’t dry clothes on the line outside in a blizzard. We’re a family of seven and laundry is critical. We burn the trash, take out the compost and what-not, too.
9. If Kevin has to work, he prepares to be stuck there. He takes the pickup which has four wheel drive. He packs extra food. We hate for him to be stuck there, but it’s happened before.
10. We’re always really supplied. Living out here, it’s a road trip and an all day adventure to go to real stores. We always have stuff in the house.
What do you do to hunker down? How do you prepare for blizzards?
Posted in A Day In the Life, Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Heating the House, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Laundry, Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged blizzard, wood burning stove by Laura with no comments yet.
You may remember that I had lamented about the lack of obstetric options available to me here on the Colorado prairie. I’m due with my sixth baby this May. My former midwife retired. There is no hospital or birth center within 85 miles of my house. There is no place to get prenatal care here either, unless I saw a certain doctor (or his partner) who had previously defamed my character. The birth centers in the Denver area won’t take me because I’ve had too many babies. Most homebirth-midwives won’t come out here, as they are concentrated on the Front Range. The local Nurse Practitioner won’t take me because I’m over the age of 32.
Out of desperation, I decided to go with the hospital-midwifery practice at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. It’s 101 miles away and they take my insurance. I thought hospital-midwives would be a good compromise.
I have changed my mind. I am having my baby at home with a homebirth-midwife. I’m going to explain why…
One day in November I had a prenatal appointment. I scheduled it for my husband’s day off. It was at the main campus of the University of Colorado Hospital. We were running late. Yes, I hate to run late and I have no one to blame but my own disorganization, but it’s not an easy feat to get five children out the door and on the road for a road trip. (When I lived in South Jersey, going 100 miles [in different directions] would get me to New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Maryland. Those were whole different states and they involve bridges or tunnels. 100 miles here just about gets me to a doctor. It’s just different.) Because I was running late, I called them on my way there. After being on hold for about 30 minutes, I finally got someone. That someone was an appointment-maker at the UCH call center. I explained the situation.
“I can put a note in your chart,” the appointment-maker replied.
“Can you let them know?” I asked.
“I have no way to contact them,” the appointment-maker explained.
After this merry-go-round, I realized the conversation wasn’t going anywhere. When we
finally arrived at UCH campus, I ran in while Kevin found parking and brought the kids up. I practically ran all the way through the hospital to the tippy end of the hallway where the UCH midwives were. Then I waited in line for ten minutes to speak to a secretary-receptionist-lady.
“You’re thirty minutes late,” the secretary-receptionist-lady said. I’ve spent ten minutes of those thirty here in your line ma’am. “They can’t take you.” I explained how I lived over 100 miles away, how I tried to call, etc. I had to reschedule.
“How can I call you better in the future? Is there a way to call directly?” I asked. No there was not. There was a phone on her desk, just two feet away from us both. I just walked away. Ran away crying actually. Blame it on pregnancy emotions or something, but how can I trust these people to bring my precious baby’s new life into this world when I can’t even call them? At that point I came to the realization that I. just. can’t. do. it. I can’t do the hospital.
The next day I sent an email to the UCH midwives through their secure online system. It was something like, “Please call me. Here’s my number. It’s not an emergency, but I need to talk.”
A hospital-midwife called me. I explained the situation.
“Well maybe we’re not a good fit for each other,” the midwife said. “Maybe you should try a closer provider.”
A closer provider?! I wish I could try a closer provider. It never fails to amaze me how Denver-area-people know that the Denver suburbs don’t really go east of Aurora, know the Kansas border is a good 180 miles from Aurora and yet not realize that there is a whole lot of prairie in Colorado. People live on this prairie. People have babies. Those babies have to be born somewhere. Yes, she was right. We’re not a good fit. I cannot do the hospital. I cannot handle not being able to contact them to tell them I’m late, to tell them whatever. There are times where I need to talk when I’m not in labor.
I swallowed a lot of pride and rescheduled a prenatal appointment for their satellite location over by Park Meadows Mall. At least that campus isn’t a zoo, although it is another 20 miles further away. I still needed prenatal care for my baby. I was determined to find a homebirth-midwife, but I needed to be taken care of meanwhile. Kevin and I figured a way we could financially finagle the homebirth-midwife. I posted to my area’s swap group. Someone there put me in touch with someone who’s not on facebook (who is actually an acquaintance of mine) who has had her babies at home. The aquaintance actually lives about 25 miles from my house, but she’s still “out here” on the prairie. I called her midwife, who was used to going out here. I met her, TheHomebirthMidwife, talked it over with my husband and we made the change.
I also sat down and figured out the cost of my free birth. My chief reason for choosing the UCH midwives was that I could have my baby there for free. Although a hospital, they had birth tubs and I could have a water birth. At a hospital, I would want a doula. I was speaking to a potential doula and she told me that they charged for the birth tub. I checked this with the UCH midwives, and yes, they charged $275 to rent the birth pool. This $275 is not covered by insurance. (A scheduled-unnecessary-Brittany-Spears-style-caesarian is covered, but no water. This makes no sense.) And then if I hired a doula, I’d be out another $700-ish for her services. Doulas are also not covered my insurance. My “free” birth would cost me about $1000.
Although we have a $3000 deductible on our health insurance, we also have an out-of-pocket maximum of only $4000. We “make” our out-of-pocket maximum no problem, every plan year. I was semi-recently chatting with someone who was in disbelief over this. As I explained to that person, we have more medical expenses than most and all seven of us are on the same insurance policy. We all share that deductible and out-of-pocket number. Vince is in speech therapy, which insurance pays for. Vince has MRIs and followups from his brain tumor. Another child of mine has a bone deformity in his leg. This requires an annual brace and semi-annual followups and x-rays. My baby, at the beginning of the plan year, required some followups from his hospital stay last March when he nearly dehydrated to death from the stomach bug. (They think he outgrew whatever caused him to go down so quickly. He’s doing great now.) We make the out-of-pocket maximum in just a few months from all that, forget about actual illnesses and my prenatal care. Because our plan year is from July through June, the baby is due in May and we “made” our out-of-pocket maximum in December, all of our covered health services are free until the end of June, including having this baby. Because I do not live within thirty miles of an in-network obstetric care provider (or any at all), my health insurance covers my homebirth. (It’s called a gap exemption.) Yes, I’d have to lay the cost out (because of the way homebirth midwives bill), but I would get it all back. They would reimburse at 100%, since I’ve made my out-of-pocket maximum.
My biggest fear was having my baby on the side of I-70 in Agate. Agate is a ghost town off I-70, about 20 minutes west of Limon. They have a post office and the remnants of a school and that’s it. (There are less than 20 students in the whole school.) It is a depressing 85% abandoned falling apart little town that’s way past its prime. Agate makes Hugo look like a thriving metropolis. There is nothing there. Even cell phone service is spotty, and I’ve tried GSMs and CDMAs. Having a baby in the car in Agate would be the absolute worse place to have a baby, as if having a baby in the car isn’t bad enough. With my luck (or perhaps my pride and God would humble me) I just know I’d have the baby in the car in Agate. It’s my worst fear. Having a baby is Agate is a risk I’d take if planning a birth with the UCH midwives or at any other place in the Denver metro area.
I’ll take the comfort of my own home over having a baby on the side of the road in Agate. I’ll take the comfort of my own home over a thousand dollar “free” birth. I’m having this baby at home and I’m excited about it and I’m not dreading it, like I was before.
Posted in Lincoln County: A Case Study of the Sad State of Healthcare in Rural America by Laura with no comments yet.
Today I came across this blogpost
from Fabulessly Frugal. The gist of the blogpost is that the author called up her mobile phone, internet and satellite providers and had them lower her monthly service charges. She will save $1000 this year from the combined total savings. OK, great, however, while I’m happy that she is saving $1000 per year and that strategy may work for some, it won’t work for all.
The bottom-line of what I’m saying here is that there’s only so much to cut. Yes, there’s only so much to cut. I’ve been struggling with this issue when I read money saving tips from Dave Ramsey, Fabulessly Frugal and similar places. They have great money saving tips, but they don’t work for everyone. They don’t work for me.
We’ll take the example of the above mentioned blogpost.
*We already don’t have satellite and, honestly, have no desire to. We’ve never had a satellite bill during our marriage.
*We have the cheapest phones we can find. We have Wal-mart Family Mobile (through T-Mobile) service. Both of our phones have unlimited talk and text and the bill is about $55 total per month. I used to have a pre-paid, but this is actually cheaper. For on-the-go internet access, I use my kindle and grub stores’ wi-fi.
*Because we live in such a rural area, our available internet services are limited. We’ve periodically gone through the two or three options available to us and have concluded that our internet now is the best deal available to us. It’s not the best price if you compare it to what’s available in metropolitan areas, but for out here it is. The internet is a necessity for us, which is another expense of living out here.
Sure, I’d love to cut from our budget, but where can I cut? We heat exclusively with wood, so we don’t have a heating bill. I’m super frugal with our meals. Our house is small already and cannot be downsized. Our vehicles are older and paid off. We rotate vehicles to save as much gas as we can. I have shopped for the cheapest car and homeowners insurance. I shop in thrift stores and at garage sales when I can, but sometimes I do buy new clothes for the kids because sometimes it’s cheaper. We don’t have many gadgets. We cloth diaper. We dress like ragamuffins sometimes. We hardly eat out. I exclusively hang clothes on the clothesline and do not use the dryer. We use googlevoice to make long distance calls. Kevin cuts the kids’ hair.
There’s really no where to cut the budget.
A part of me gets frustrated over this. Every time I see some money-saving tip, like the one above, and it doesn’t apply. I really have no where to cut.
I’m sure there are others in my situation. I don’t know what I can suggest to you, to cut where there is no where to cut. Let me know if you find out. I’m all ears.
Posted in Money Saving and Cheapskate Tips by Laura with 2 comments.
I call my outrageously long trips to the Front Range areas Marathon Days. I absolutely hate Marathon Days, but for me they’re a necessity.
I don’t live near real stores. The local town has a wonderful (not very super) supermarket. For what they are (a small supermarket is a small town), they’re great, but they don’t always have everything. What they do have is expensive. Their selections of fresh produce and organics is limited. For my size family, it pays to make the trip to the wholesale club for just groceries. The same goes for the hardware store. And that’s not counting other items that plain just aren’t available here. For example, since ALCO is closing, there is now no where within maybe 70 miles of my house to buy a pair of jeans. I do a lot of shopping online. Amazon Prime is a necessity for living out here. However, there are just some items that need to be touched or seen in person and these items also mean a trip to a real store.
I don’t live near real doctors.
I have already written about the lack of obstetric options here in rural Colorado.
We also have some unique medical needs in our family.
My kids have speech problems. The local speech help is almost non-existent. Years ago for one of the older ones, we tried the Early Intervention help. The lady showed up only half the time. Speech problems need consistency.
One of my children has a rare bone deformity. One time I brought him to the orthopedic doctor that comes down from Colorado Springs monthly. It was for a second opinion. “I’ve never seen this in person before,” he told me. “There’s not much in the literature about this either,” he said. Um, duh, I knew that. “I can’t help you.” Well at least he was honest.
My son Vince had a brain tumor resected last year. He needed a pediatric neurosurgeon. There are a few in the Denver area on the same team. Before surgery when we wanted a second opinion, we had to take him 500 miles to Kansas City. Needless to say, there ain’t no pediatric neurosurgeons or pediatric neuro-oncologists in Lincoln County.
Even the local ER isn’t a real ER. When my baby was sick last year with dehydration from the stomach bug and I brought him to the ER for an IV, they could not get his vein. Meanwhile two more hours went by where the baby got sicker. I finally walked out of the local ER and drove straight to Children’s Hospital where they got the IV the first time, admitted him to the PICU and kept him in the hospital for six days. In retrospect I believe if we had stayed he might not have made it.
There is a doctor’s office about a half hour away. They never have the same doctors twice. They are in and out of there like Grand Central Station. They’ve had a few good ones now and then, but they leave. There was one here for maybe two years that was an awesome doctor and awesome with the kids and now she’s moved to another state. Now they literally rent out doctors. It’s like a temp agency for doctors that they hire their doctors through. Talk about inconsistent care.
Traveling to the Front Range to see real doctors is a necessity for us.
Now that you know about the necessity of Marathon Days for us, I would like to walk you through a Marathon Day with us. Yesterday, we had a Marathon Day. I will share yesterday’s agenda with you as an example.
7:25 a.m.- The bus picked up Vince and took him to school. I didn’t want the day to be a total loss or Vince to miss his class St. Valentine’s Day party.
The other children and I did our normal morning routines. We did our morning chores. We did about half our schoolday. They all took baths and changed into “town” clothes.
11:00 a.m.- We picked Vince up at school. I chatted with the teacher to touch base on how he was doing.
11:15 a.m.- We left the local town and headed to suburban Denver.
1:00 p.m.- We arrived at Costco. The children and I sat down at the Costco Cafe and ate lunch there. We grocery shopped. We changed diapers.
2:05 p.m.- We arrive at the satellite campus of Children’s Hospital (five minutes late) for Vince’s speech therapy. Vince normally receives his speech therapy on the computer like Skype, however, at the stage he is in, he gets more out of speech in person. Speech in person seems to hold his attention better. I would say an in-person speech visit is worth three telespeech sessions. This is just for the stage we’re in. I think there is an equal benefit at other stages.
2:15 p.m.- The other four children and I leave. We all went potty.
2:25 p.m.- We arrive at Sprouts. The older two children and I had previously discussed an action plan on who was to grab what item so that we could be in and out. We just needed a few fresh things to get us through.
2:38 p.m.- We arrived at Lowe’s. It was maybe a quarter mile from Sprouts, just far away enough to make it quicker to take the car and necessitate being in and out of car seats. We had previously discussed action plans on quick buckling ins and buckling outs. We had an item to exchange there and one to return. It was difficulty to find a new item for the exchange item. This delayed us, as well as painstakingly checking the replacement to make sure it did not have the same defect as the original.
3:05 p.m.- We arrived back at the satellite campus of Children’s Hospital. We were late. The speech therapist was just finishing up with Vince and we actually observed a few minutes. She then reviewed his progress with me in person. We all went potty.
3:40 p.m.- We left the Children’s Hospital parking lot. I really wanted to stop at IKEA but I resisted the temptation since I had just about enough time to get to the midwife on time. We headed south on I-25 and left suburban Denver for Colorado Springs.
4:34 p.m.- We arrived at the midwife (four minutes late). I had a prenatal check. Everyone went potty and we changed diapers. The midwife has tons of toys and they got an hour of playtime.
5:52 p.m.- We were back in the minivan, all buckled in and ready to leave. I looked at the time and realized that in spite of my best intentions, we wouldn’t make Mass. Mass was in 8 minutes on the total opposite end of Colorado Springs. It was rush hour, too, and weekday Masses are quick. I reluctantly headed to Costco to get gas.
6:30-ish- After filling up, we stopped at Culvers and bought a chocolate milkshake. I distributed it into separate cups so everyone could get a little bit. This was their treat because they were so so good and cooperative for me. I stayed in the Culver’s parking lot for a few minutes to make sandwiches. We headed out of Colorado Springs towards home, eating our sandwich dinner on the way.
8:10 p.m.- We arrived home. We unloaded a few things from the car. I readied everyone for bed and didn’t get everyone in bed until nearly nine.
260 miles. We were only gone 9 hours and 15 minutes. Usually our Marathon Days are closer to twelve hours.
Before I moved out here, I never understood the actual reality of not living near real stores or real doctors. I never understood what nearly a two hour ride each way to a metropolitan area really meant, or what it meant with little children. I didn’t anticipate that my children would have such unique medical needs. I didn’t understand how limited access to quality healthcare could really be when I still live in the United States of America and not among an aboriginal tribe. I never imagined that I could live in a farming community, yet still live in a food dessert. I never knew what it meant to be 100 miles from everything and the circumstances that would make Marathon Days a way of life on the prairie.
Marathon Days are a way of life for us. I’ve become more efficient at Marathon Days over the years. I am hoping that if you are perhaps considering buying a little patch of heaven way out west left of Nebraska and over a crest that you will take the reality of Marathon Days into account when planning your move. I didn’t and I’ll add Marathon Days to the “What I Wish I Had Known” Category.
Posted in Also Known As Logistics and Management in a Large Family, Knowing What to Do to Feel a Little Bit Less Like the Woman in the Shoe, Lincoln County: A Case Study of the Sad State of Healthcare in Rural America, The Irony of a Food Desert Surrounded by Farms, What I Wish I'd Know Before Moving to My Little Patch of Heaven Way Out West by Laura with 2 comments.
Today I made vestedda. I’m going to share to recipe here as well as three reasons vastedda is important.
If you’re new here on this blog, let me tell you that my name is really Laura and I really do live in a little house on the prairie. I am a Jersey girl to the core and I live here because of the enticement of cheap land and the opportunity for my children to farm land that their ancestors (on my husband’s side) have farmed for generations. I struggle all the time. Although New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Colorado Prairie are all part of the United States of America, I sometimes doubt this. I am also 100% Italian. To say that there is a lack of Italian culture on the prairie is an understatement. Most people here don’t even know how to say “Italian”. I’ll chalk it up to the dialect or the accent or something, but many people here say “Eye-talian” and it drives me nuts. Where I grew up, it seems most families were Italian, Irish or Jewish. We had a strong Italian culture. I miss it.
Both of my parents are from Brooklyn. I grew up visiting both my grandmothers in Brooklyn frequently. Although I was born in Staten Island and that perhaps means I loose street credit, I’m a Brooklyn girl, too. I grew up with Brooklyn pizza and Joe’s. Joe’s of Avenue U is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. They have been in business since forever in the same location. They sell Sicilian Italian food. I am half Sicilian. I miss Joe’s. My favorite dish at Joe’s is vastedda. Vastedda is basically a spleen sandwich. I miss vastedda. Making vastedda, copycatting Joe’s, is a small way to alleviate my homesickness. It’s an ethnic dish, right on the prairie.
Vastedda is spleen, which means it’s offal. We try to follow the Weston A. Price diet. A big pillar of the Weston A. Price diet is the consumption of offal. The experts can explain the whys and wherefores of the benefits of offal. Logically it makes sense that since people have eaten offal for millennia, and we should, too. Our bodies and biology haven’t changed. If offal was good enough for my great-great grandmother, it should be good enough for me.
I am a cattle rancher. I raise grass-fed, grass-finished organic beef on the beautiful prairie of Colorado. Shouldn’t I use it all? We eat our own meat of course. Isn’t it most efficient to use all of the meat? The steer, after living a happy life eating grass with constant access to pasture and sunshine, looses his life to provide us with food. Isn’t it being a good steward to eat all the offal? Didn’t Jesus Himself tell everyone to gather up the scraps after He fed 5000 men? Is spleen a scrap? A scrap that can feed my family four more meals out of a steer than we would have otherwise. It makes economic and environmental sense to eat vastedda. Or maybe I’m just cheap.
So let me recap why everyone should eat vastedda:
1. It is a way to bring Sicilian Italian culture to your own kitchen, even if you don’t live in Gravesend in Brooklyn.
2. Vastedda is spleen which is offal. Mankind has eaten offal through the millennia. Weston A. Price people say this is a good thing. It just makes good logical sense.
3. Vastedda is a great way to make an animal stretch, especially if you buy your meat by the whole animal. Why not turn the otherwise unused spleen into a few more meals? It makes economic and environmental sense and doesn’t cost extra.
tallow (which can be doubly cool if it’s from the same animal as the spleen)
yummy rolls of your choice
parmesan or other cheese, shredded
ricotta (of course homemade is best)
1. Soak thawed spleen in milk to remove the organ-y taste. Change out the milk twice.
2. Boil the spleen for about 30 minutes.
3. Slice it thin.
4. Fry the spleen in tallow.
5. Prepare rolls by slicing in half.
6. Place spleen ricotta and parmesan cheese on rolls and bake them in the oven until just hot.
You have copycatted Joe’s of Avenue U. You have eaten good-for-you offal. You have stretched your beef into a few more meals. This is a win-win-win.
Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie, Recipes, The Irony of a Food Desert Surrounded by Farms and tagged Joe's of Avenue U, offal, spleen, vastedda, Weston A. Price by Laura with no comments yet.