Product Review: Power Pressure Cooker XL

For those who follow the Claiming Liberty Facebook page, my review of the Power Pressure Cooker XL won’t surprise you at all.  So far, it’s met or exceeded my expectations, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here on the blog.

I first heard about the Power Pressure Cooker XL over at The Survival Podcast.  Initially, I thought, “I don’t need a pressure cooker.  This isn’t relevant to me.” But when Jack started talking about using the device for canning, he had my attention.

What Is It?

The Power Pressure Cooker XL is a countertop slow cooker, pressure cooker, and pressure canner.  It’s programmable with a time delay feature, so you can ensure that meals are hot and ready when your family is ready to eat.  A computer controls the various cooking processes, so there’s no guess-work.  You simply push a few buttons, secure the lid, and forget it until it’s done.  It really couldn’t be easier!

First Impressions

I couldn’t wait to receive my Power Pressure Cooker XL from Amazon.  So when it arrived at my home, I didn’t waste any time unpacking it and familiarizing myself with the appliance.

The device came in a sturdy box, and the packing foam was perfectly engineered to prevent damage during transport.  All the accessories and documentation were packed inside the inner pot, so there weren’t loose bits inside the box to surprise me as I unpacked it.

I handed the paperwork to my daughter, and she started looking over the recipe book and canning guide that came with my Power Pressure Cooker XL.  I started pulling plastic off the accessories.  It came with a really cheap plastic ladle, a cheap plastic measuring cup, a “condensation cup”, and a “steam rack” that goes inside the pot above other food or steaming liquid so that you can cook vegetables without boiling them.

While the accessories seemed cheap and flimsy, the appliance itself seemed well made.  I had no trouble removing and replacing the lid on the first try, and the controls seemed intuitive enough.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the digital controls aren’t “soft touch” like those on a microwave oven.  Each “button” has a tactile relief, so I didn’t have to enlist the help of my family to label controls with my Braille labeler.

Another pleasant surprise was the bright, large LED display.  I can use the appliance without seeing the display because it beeps each time a button is pressed, but once I started cooking with my new toy, I liked the fact that I could look at it and see where it was in the cycle.  Yeah, I have to get close to it to read it, but that’s better than all the other digital items in my kitchen that I can’t read at all no matter how close I get.

Pros and Cons?

Keep in mind that I ordered my Power Pressure Cooker XL about three weeks ago, so my experience is somewhat limited, but I still have lots of thoughts to share.

Pros

  • Features — The appliance can serve as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, and a canner for both high AND low acid foods.  It has a sear function that allows the user to sear meats or saute veggies before cooking your dish, and the unit automatically switches to “keep warm” once the meal is done.  (I really like that because I can get distracted sometimes, and with that feature, I don’t have to worry about things getting cold.)
  • Convenience — It’s an excellent multitasker.  Because of that, I don’t mind leaving the unit on my countertop so that it’s ready to go whenever I want to use it.  The inner pot is also easy to clean, and I can control the unit with only a few button presses.  There aren’t any complicated menus or labels; the controls are intuitive.
  • Accessibility — I’m certain that the engineers didn’t design the Power Pressure Cooker XL with accessibility in mind, but they succeeded brilliantly! I bought the device hoping that I’d be able to can without sighted assistance (among other things), but I expected to have to jump through some hoops to make that happen.  With this appliance though, all I had to do was memorize the locations of all the buttons.  I didn’t have to create special labels so I’d know where to press on the control panel, and I don’t have to wonder if my key presses were registered because the machine beeps each time I press one of the buttons.  I’ve really enjoyed the independence that the Power Pressure Cooker XL has given me.
  • Safety — Because the unit is a pressure cooker, there are lots of safety features built into the device, and you don’t need a degree to take advantage of them.  When I’m using the unit, I don’t worry about those horror stories that many folks my age have heard about the pressure cooker that blew its top and put a hole in the kitchen ceiling.  This unit is very safe.

Cons

  • Size — I wish the unit were larger.  I cook for a large family, and I have to think carefully about the meals that I choose for the Power Pressure Cooker XL.  Also, as a canner, it’ll only hold 4 quart jars, so I won’t be using it for any substantial canning.
  • Inner Pot Design — While the inner pot is easy to clean, it moves freely inside the appliance.  I’ve found that while serving food from it, I need to grab an oven mit to steady the pot as I serve.  If I don’t steady it, attempts to serve food cause the pot to spin inside the unit, and I have trouble retrieving and plating food.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m glad I purchased the Power Pressure Cooker XL.  I’m certain that my family will enjoy a wide variety of foods prepared with this efficient multitasker, and I know I’ll be posting more projects that I’ve dreamed up using this handy kitchen appliance.

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Blind Lady Chronicles?

Because overthinking is the norm for me, my readers have found me all but silent on the blog for far too long. See, I’ve been pondering the direction and scope of The Claiming Liberty Blog, and there’s absolutely something to be said for “paralysis by analysis”.  I am living proof!

Yes, the past year has been abnormally crazy, but rarely has the blog been far from my mind.  I’ve considered a wider scope, a narrower scope, new topics, old topics, videos, reviews, and just about anything else that my readers could imagine seeing here.

After a good bit of thinking, I concluded that the directive to “crap or get off the pot” was particularly appropriate here.  Pondering, worrying, planning, and even conspiring weren’t going to get me readers if I wasn’t actually getting content onto my blog.

I’m here now though, and I’d like to present my readers with an idea followed by a question.

For some strange reason, those of us on the TSPN Zello channel have been joking about producing YouTube videos starring Yours Truly.  These videos would feature me driving different vehicles in different settings, and we all agreed that these videos would probably make a fortune in ad revenue alone.  After all, the thought of a blind lady driving is sort of like a train wreck.  Nobody wants to see it, but if it were caught on film, thousands (or perhaps millions) wouldn’t be able to NOT watch.

Now, to be clear, there are only a very limited set of circumstances in which I could be convinced (or is it coerced) into driving an automobile.  But it did get the gears turning for me.  What if I started a blog/video series that featured me doing pretty mundane things (most of the time) so that I could both entertain and educate folks about what it means to be visually impaired? I’d include all sorts of things from household and homestead chores to stuff that I do for fun.  I’d also like to include videos featuring me learning new skills.

For the folks who know me in real life, this whole concept might seem pretty silly.  There are very few things that I can’t do or are unwilling to try at least once.  But when my husband gets genuine questions like, “You let her use knives?”, it seems like some education done with bad humor thrown in for good measure might be in order.

Now that I’ve shared my idea, here comes my question.  What kinds of things would you guys like to see? Can you help me brainstorm some ideas because I’ve been blind all my life, so everything’s pretty unremarkable from where I’m sitting.  I get that folks have genuine curiosity, and I’m happy to share, educate, and hopefully entertain.

Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to offend me.  There’s no question I won’t answer if someone asks said question with a sincere interest in my answer.  I don’t take kindly to questions that are asked with the sole purpose of shaming or marginalizing.  Fortunately I almost never get those kinds of questions, but when I do, I just ignore them.

So what do you folks think? Any specific tasks you’d like to see? As I said above, I’ve been considering some day-to-day activities along with some that might be a bit more exciting (to all of us).  Feel free to comment here in this blog post or visit me on the Claiming Liberty Facebook page!

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Two Firsts in One Week After Three Years of Backyard Chickens

I’ve had laying hens here at the homestead for three years now.  In that time, we’ve learned a lot.  Who would have thought that we’d have TWO firsts in one week after all this time though?

Last week, we got our largest egg ever at the homestead — a monster, 100-gram chicken egg.  We had planned to film me cracking that egg to see what was inside it, and I’m glad we decided to wait ’til after our trip to West Virginia because while we were gone, we got another egg to explore.  Apparently while we were gone, one of our chickens laid a “rooster egg”, so I decided to include that one in the video too.

I was somewhat surprised by what we found in the “mega egg”.  I actually expected to find a second, completely formed egg inside the larger egg.  I wasn’t quite sure about the “rooster egg” though.  With it being not much larger than a grape, I guessed that it might not contain a yolk.  What surprised me about that tiny egg though was how easily it cracked.  That why I sound a bit startled in the video.

It just goes to show that after all this time, there are still things to learn.  No matter how much you think you’ve seen, life has a way of surprising you and keeping you on your toes.  To be honest, I like it that way.  It keeps things from getting too boring.

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Homemade Fodder System for Chickens — Think Beyond Barley

I wanted to build a homemade fodder system for my homestead laying hens, but I’ve had trouble sourcing barley.  Then it occurred to me.  Chickens eat all kinds of grains and seeds, so why hadn’t I gotten growing?

Those of us who have backyard chickens know they’ll eat just about anything.  My free-range birds are no different.  I do feed a non-GMO layer ration, but they go crazy for kitchen scraps, fermented corn, and scratch grain.  Those supplements along with access to pasture keep feed costs down, but I got to thinking after doing some research that fodder would be another great addition to our process around here.  Thing was, I was stuck on the idea that ONLY barley fodder would suit my chickens, so I spent a lot of time focusing on getting barley.

In hindsight, I feel like that was a silly limitation that I’d placed upon myself for no good reason, but at the time, I didn’t really know any better.  I thought that if I sprouted other items for fodder, they wouldn’t be “as good” as the barley and my flock would suffer somehow.  But then I got to thinking.  It can’t hurt to try a bucket-based fodder system with other grains.  Surely that’s better than offering just fermented corn and the layer ration.

buckets for fodder systemSo when I got a coupon for 10% everything from Rural King that wasn’t on sale, I decided to go ahead and get some more buckets, drill some holes, and get to sprouting!

There was a learning curve for me.  Believe it or not, I’d never used a drill before, and I kept making mistakes.  I had to remind my husband that he hadn’t used a drill perfectly the first time he picked one up, and since I’m blind, I had to adapt the process a bit.  In the end though, it worked well, and I feel a lot more confident with a drill now.  Drilling a bunch of holes will do that for you, I guess.

I have a 40lb bag of black oil sunflower seed that I’ll use as fodder.  I also have a line on raw oats and non-GMO corn that’ll cost a LOT less than barley, and they should give the chickens some variety.  I’ll have to post some more updates to let folks know whether or not things went as expected.  Even if they don’t go the way I think they will though, the seeds and grain will have other uses at the homestead, so it won’t be a waste of time, money, or effort.

Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast likes to remind folks to just DO something.  Sometimes when you sit around and ponder it too long, you’ll either talk yourself out of even trying, or you’ll waste time that could have been spent gaining experience.  While I didn’t talk myself out of feeding fodder to my hens, I’ve definitely lost valuable teachable moments.  I’m not being hard on myself about that, but I’m acknowledging it.  It wouldn’t have hurt a thing to just try SOMETHING, and I don’t know why it took me over a month to figure that out.

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Fermenting Feed for the Laying Flock

fermenting corn in a bucketLast Sunday, I started fermenting a batch of corn for my laying flock.  I’ve never fermented feed for livestock, so this has been an entirely new experience for us.  So far, so good though.

This first batch of corn came from my local Rural King.  I wanted the “test run” to cost very little while I got a handle on the process and the needs of my flock.  I guess I was over-thinking it — big surprise — but I had some doubts.

Things seem to be going well though.  I’m certain that the fermentation process will go a little more efficiently once it warms up a bit.  Right now, I have the bucket sitting on my dining room table so my dogs won’t eat it, and that’s fine except for the fact that it rarely gets over 61 there.

Today is the second time that I’ve offered the fermented corn to the chickens.  I gave them two scoops of their layer pellets and two scoops of fermented corn.  Those birds were practically beating down my front door to get the feed, and when I stepped out to place the trough on the ground, one chicken jumped onto the feeder before it hit the ground.  Another chicken ran onto the porch, and boy did she start yelling when I closed the door.  I guess she thought she wasn’t getting any of the good stuff.  It seems like fermented corn has been a success, at least for now.

Now that I’ve experienced the ease of fermenting feed for our birds, I’m certain that I’ll be doing more of it.  I’ll definitely be using some non-GMO grain and feed that I sourced this week though.  I was fine buying a 50lb bag of feed corn to start, but now that I’ve discovered that I don’t have to drive all the way to Central Indiana Orgainics for non-GMO feed and grain, paying a bit more for products from Liberty Feed is ABSOLUTELY worth it to me.

I suspect that I have some particularly happy chickens right now.  Adding fermented feed was easy, and I’m guessing that fodder will be almost as easy.  Then, my hens might actually make it through my front door to get their food though.  I better watch out!

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Spring is in the air — someplace else!

winter scene at the Wittekind homesteadThe kids had yet another snow day today.  That means that since President’s Day, they’ve had five snow days, and I want to say that there’ve only been days in that same timeframe where there hasn’t been a two-hour delay.  What’s more, Fred noticed that our county has been under a travel advisory since President’s Day.  (i’m writing this post on March 5.)

Needless to say, despite the fact that the chickens started laying again and folks are planning gardens and spring livestock, I can’t help but feel like spring is in the air — someplace else.  I know that winter’s always hard.  Usually around the end of January, folks start longing for spring.  How often is it though that winter doesn’t seem to roar in until AFTER Groundhog Day? That’s what seemed to happen here in Indiana, and to be frank, I’m over it! I’ve been over it for weeks now, and I’m ready for some subtle indication that we will in fact see spring this year.

NWS forecast screenshotFortunately for my mental health though (and that of the folks around me), it looks like we can expect a break in the awful weather.  Even if it doesn’t last, I’ll take it.  It makes planning this year at the homestead a lot less theoretical for me, and it also means that we can actually start DOING stuff (even if only in fits and spurts.)

So what are this year’s plans at the Wittekind homestead? I’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas, but there are some basic tasks that I really want to accomplish.

More Chickens

Some folks might remember that our laying flock took a pretty decent hit around Thanksgiving.  We lost our Black Australorp rooster as well as seven laying hens over the course of about six days.  We never did manage to figure out what was getting them, although based on when they were killed and the way we found their bodies, it was likely a dog that got them.

Those kills took us down to 14 laying hens, so we have some rebuilding of the flock to do this spring.  After a good bit of thought, we’ll likely add twelve to fifteen Barred Rock pullets along with some Barred Rock straight runs.  This strategy should mean that one, we won’t be overrun by cockerels while adding some much-needed male DNA to the flock and two, we’ll be able to easily identify which birds were added to the flock when.  (We have just one Barred Rock hen left in our flock right now, and I don’t think it’s that big a deal if just one runs a good chance of being confused with birds from another year.)

Feeding Chickens

Although our chickens free range, we offer a supplemental ration as well as scratch grain.  It’s not expensive exactly, but it’s certainly not free.  Pondering this fact got me thinking that if  I can decrease feed costs while offering a more nutritious food source to my flock, I’d be stupid not to consider doing so.

I fell in love with the idea of feeding fodder to my chickens after seeing a post over at The Survival Podcast on the subject.  Jack made it seem so easy, and I was determined to do it at some point, but it never ended up happening last year.

Just last month though, I was having a conversation with another member of the TSPN Zello channel who happens to have first-hand experience with fodder feeding.  He patiently answered my questions and even shared another idea for supplementing my flock’s feed — fermented corn.

After some more talking, a bit more research, some phone calls, and a trip to my local Rural King Supply, I managed to snag a bag of feed corn, and I known when and where I’ll be getting my barley for fodder.  I’m pretty confident that these feed supplements will work well around here.  I’m just waiting for “spring” because this intense cold we’ve been battling has made it hard for me to get organized.

The Greenhouse

Since Fred and I bought this house back in 2009, I’ve been eying one of our enclosed porches with a specific purpose in mind.  It measures about 12’x12’, its windows face east, south, and west, its slab is covered in dark carpet to make an awesome thermal mass, and it’s attached to an entrance that’s almost entirely unused.  What’s more,  that particular porch  hasn’t been used for much of anything other than storage and chick brooding one year.  Doesn’t this porch sound perfect as a greenhouse of sorts? That’s what I was thinking anyway.

The deal was sealed in December when two of my best friends bought a house nearby.  They’re awesome with plants, but their new house doesn’t have the room for indoor seed starting.  Because of that (and a number of other reasons), I’ve decided that this year has to be the year that I get started on “the greenhouse”.  I’d like to start and grow plants out there, I’d like to give microgreens a try, I’d like to do fodder and fermented corn out there, and I’d like to brood chickens out there again.  I just need to spend some time out there with some sighted help to get things cleaned up and organized, and I’ll have to come up with a strategy to avoid roof leaks (when it matters), but all told, the starts of that project shouldn’t be too hard.  I’m excited!

Good things’ll be happening this spring around the homestead.  I just have to keep telling myself that ‘til we actually get there!

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“Get Better” Soup

"Get Better" Soup cooking in a pot

Image courtesy of Abby Wittekind

This soup is a crowd favorite around here regardless of what’s ailing us.  Whether it’s a cold, the flu, or a nasty stomach bug, this chicken soup is sure to soothe and heal whatever has you feeling lousy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3-4lb pasture-raised chicken
  • 12-15 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 c baby carrots
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • 1 T crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 T sea salt
  • black pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Place chicken in a large, heavy pot.  Cover chicken with purified water and bring to boil.  Boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 hours.
  2. Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool.  Then add the fresh garlic, dried parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, and carrots to the broth and continue to simmer on medium-low to medium.
  3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and gristle.  Shred any larger bits of chicken before returning the meat to the simmering soup.  Reserve the bones and gristle for future use.  (I save mine to make stock.)
  4. Simmer the soup for as long as you like.  I usually simmer mine for another 4-8 hours depending on when I started the soup.  Just before it’s “done” though, don’t forget to add the can of coconut milk and the sea salt and pepper to taste.  I find that adding these these at the end gives the soup a richer, more balanced flavor, but I suppose that’s a matter of preference.

Note: I’ve also started this soup with home-canned stock and home-canned chicken or turkey.  I’ve added all kinds of veggies including summer squash, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, and onion.  It just depends on what I have around, but the basic soup always includes poultry, coconut milk, LOTS of garlic, dried parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes.

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A Work In Progress — The Experiment That Is My Life

smiley faceFor the first time in ages, I feel optimistic about a plan to get my health moving in the right direction again.  It seems like I’ve been spinning my wheels — even backsliding — since last summer.  After a visit with my doctor though, I’m confident that I have a workable plan, and I’m willing to share for those that are interested.

Some Background

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t fat.  I distinctly recall the first time that I came to that realization.  I was in the third grade, and I weighed 113 pounds.  By the time I was in the fifth grade, the reality of my obesity couldn’t have been made any clearer.  One of my classmates at the Indiana School for the Blind had somehow managed to lay hands on my size 14 jeans.  I’ll never forget how stunned she was when she asked in dismay, “Whose jeans are these? They’re the size of TEXAS!”

I knew my friend wasn’t trying to make fun of me.  She was just so shocked because not being able to see me, she didn’t realize that at 156 pounds, I probably weighed twice what she did.  My pants must have seemed almost surreal to her, and I’m guessing that she had a hard time wrapping her head around the idea that a “kid” could fit in them.

From around that time on, I tried a number of weight loss strategies.  In middle school, I tried “healthy” eating and exercise.  I tried the water diet (where I’d go for days without eating, but I’d drink enough water to make the hunger pains go away.) I ate a vegetarian diet for a year.  I even tried SlimFast.  Nothing seemed to work, and I just kept getting fatter.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally found something that “worked”.  I was fighting bulemia and I was spending two hours per day, six days a week at the gym.  At my lowest weight as an adult — 187 pounds — I was starting to look great, but I was so sick (mentally and physically.)  I remember going to the campus health clinic after a gallstone attack.  When I raised my shirt so the doctor could palpate my abdomen, she said, “Wow! Where did you get all these stretch marks?”

I wanted to burst into tears then and there, but I managed to stammer, “I’ve lost forty pounds.”  What I really wanted to say though was something along the lines of, “You don’t understand how badly I’ve treated myself to get here.  I’ve suffered, I’m still suffering, and it’s still not good enough? If you only knew, maybe you’d want to help me instead of judge me.”

It should come as no surprise, living the way I was, that my body eventually cried, “I give up!” A particularly awful gallbladder attack prompted a trip to the emergency room where I was told that my gallbladder was “full of stones” and I should be scheduled for surgery.  Having my gallbladder removed pretty much ended that crazy bit of my life, but as you can imagine, I gained back the weight I’d lost PLUS some.  I felt so hopeless.

It wasn’t until the middle of 1998 before I managed to get my head screwed on straight, and I decided to give low-carb eating another try.  I’d dabbled with it just before I had my gallbladder removed, but since I hadn’t read Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution before getting started, I hadn’t really been “doing Atkins” back then.  I had decided though.  That time was gonna be different.  Finally, I was going to lose weight, I was going to do it in a healthy way, and I was going to keep that weight off.

So how’d that work for me? Well, at the ripe old age of 38, I weigh 250 pounds, I have diabetes and an underactive thyroid, and I’m currently taking more medications than I’d like.  So I guess what “they” say about low-carb eating must be true then; it doesn’t work and you’ll just end up sicker and fatter than when you started, right?

WRONG!!!!

Actually, I know that if I’d never heard of Dr. Atkins or Robb Wolf or Jimmy Moore or Dr. Bernstein or any of the hundreds of folks from whom I’ve learned so much about nutrition, I’d probably be dead right now.  Low-carb eating hasn’t failed me.  I’ve simply failed to put all the pieces together in a way that paints a picture of long-term success.  And despite what “they” would like you to believe, that’s an obstacle that hinders nearly all fat people.  If there’s something like a 95% chance that folks who lose weight won’t keep it off long-term, how can we attribute all that lack of success to one eating approach? That’s a discussion for  another day though.

For now, the most important thing you should take from my back story is that because of my life experiences, I’m the expert on Sarah.  And as the expert, although it might take time and the benefit of hindsight, I will find that perfect picture.  What’s more, I’ve only failed when I’ve stopped persevering.

I suppose that’s why I like and respect my current doctor so much.  As part of me persevering, I sought out a health care professional that understood the importance of low-carb eating as a basis on which to build a healthy lifestyle.  I also wanted someone who was compassionate, intelligent, and qualified.  Fortunately for me, I found all those things in my current provider.

The Problem

Since low-carb eating alone hadn’t been entirely managing my health conditions, I was open-minded when it came to trying some medications alongside my menu plan.  Some of those medications worked well, but other were what I’d call an “epic fail”.  I’ve struggled with a pretty significant drop in kidney function, severe hypoglycemia, and the symptoms of a down-regulated thyroid (which aren’t uncommon for some folks who eat a low-carb menu plan, but since I was already hypothyroid, it was pretty miserable.)

I also battled some fairly severe depression, and in the course of trying to treat it, I discovered that I’m allergic to a new, ridiculously expensive medication, and most other SSRIs caused some unacceptable side effects for me — things like intense confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, and insomnia.  Needless to say, it’s been an interesting ride so far.

Right now, I find myself thinking back to my days in many a chemistry lab.  For this experiment that is my life now, I think the lab report would start something like this:

Purpose: To discover the mechanisms that will allow me to achieve (and maintain) certain indicators of health including:

  • fasting blood glucose of 75mg/dL – 85mg/dL
  • hemoglobin A1c of 5.0% – 5.3%
  • kidney function within “normal” laboratory range
  • blood pressure within “normal” range
  • weight in the “normal” range (for my frame and lean body mass)
  • TSH that’s stable at 2
  • vitamin D level of 60-70

while minimizing (or eliminating) adverse drug reactions and bothersome symptoms like:

  • allergic reactions
  • sleep disturbance
  • dehydration
  • IBS symptoms
  • orthostatic hypotension
  • severe depression
  • severe fatigue

My Plan

This experiment has actually been running for a while.  Every so often, I evaluate the data I’ve collected, and I ask myself, “Are we there yet?” Clearly, I haven’t yet discovered the “mechanisms” that’ll get me the results I want.  That’s OK though.  I still have loads of ideas!

The first part of my plan involves kicking a chronic sinus infection that I’ve been battling for months now.  As a last resort, I started an antibiotic along with an antifungal, and there’s been improvement there.  I find it hard to persevere when I feel awful, and this sinus thing has been kicking me down for a while now.

I also told my doctor that I wasn’t going to take Victoza for the time being.  I actually ran out in December, and I told him that looking back on everything I’ve faced, I can’t help but attribute a good deal of my issues to the Victoza.

See, I started Metformin, a blood pressure med, and a diuretic when I first started seeing Dr. Andry in March of 2013.  I had no issues.  Then in May, I started Victoza, and I started feeling horrible.  We backed off my Metformin, and I felt less horrible, but I still felt bad.

By June, I wasn’t feeling any better, and on my friend’s birthday, June 11, we found out why.  I collapsed in a pretty public way and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.  We discovered that my kidneys were in trouble.  Dr. Andry thought it the Metformin, and I thought it was the diuretic.  After stopping those though, I continued to get sicker.

It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that I realized (with the benefit of hindsight) that when I was less consistent about taking the Victoza, I felt better.  At that point though, it was just a theory, and I still thought I was just doomed to feel badly because of permanent kidney damage that I’d experienced earlier that year.

It didn’t hit me until I’d stopped the Victoza entirely though that it causing other issues for me as well.  Without the Victoza, I wasn’t experiencing severe hypoglycemia, and it was those episodes that were affecting almost every part of my life.  They were also making it darned near impossible for me to stay on track with low-carb eating (which also happened to compound the dehydration that Victoza was causing as well.)

I know, I know.  If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering about my plan.

  1. Take the meds that should help me kick the sinus infection.
  2. Skip Victoza.
  3. Get back to a consistent low-carb eating plan.
  4. Prepare meals in advance to support my eating on plan.
  5. Get labs drawn to see if we need to make medication and supplement adjustments.
  6. Re-evaluate after one month.

As with all things, the “answers” aren’t immediately apparent.  Patience, perseverance, intelligence, and support have been crucial, and these attributes will continue to be vitally important to my long-term success.  What I do matters; I know that.  I also know that it’s up to me whether I play the role of victim or victor, and frankly, while walking the path to victory is rarely the easier path, the destination is its own reward.  I can do this!

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Finally — Eggs at the Homestead

brown eggs from the Wittekind homesteadNot long ago, I started to wonder if we’d ever see eggs here at the Wittekind homestead.  After all, we hadn’t programmed a light this winter, so we got our last eggs from the girls around Thanksgiving.  Mother Nature came through though, and with yet another sign that Spring is just around the corner, our girls started laying again!

Ironically enough, we just purchased seven DOZEN eggs at Sam’s Club because my friends with whom we share eggs needed more.  I think it’s pretty funny, actually.  Maybe if we’d purchased that big box a little sooner, the girls would have started laying sooner out of fear of being replaced.
They’re all good little hens though, and the appearance of eggs in the nesting boxes really raised my spirits here.

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From Rural King’s Blog: Awesome Powdered Laundry Detergent

powdered-laundry-detergent-from-rural-king-recipeLast year, Fred sent me a link to a powdered laundry detergent recipe from Rural King’s blog.  At first, I thought, “I’m not interested.  I have a recipe that I like, and I can even use it to make powdered detergent.” Curiosity got the better of me though, so I clicked on the link, and I’m glad I did!

I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for years.  By doing that, I save money, and I get a quality product.  I’d been making a liquid concentrate though, and while I only had to make it every six months or so, I still found myself dreading detergent-making time.  I had to grate the soap, melt the soap, mix all the ingredients in a five gallon bucket, and then I had to wait for it to cool and set up.  THEN I had to decant five gallons worth of concentrate into bottles, and I had to find a place to store all those bottles.

Like I said, it was worth it at the time because I only had to do it twice a year, and it helped me save so much money on laundry detergent.  But I figured there had to be a better way.  Even if it cost a bit more money, I was willing to consider a process that was a little less complicated.

The thing is, using the dry ingredients from my recipe didn’t seem like a particularly cost-effective way to get things done.  With the addition of some water to those ingredients, I had enough laundry detergent for a family of five to last us 6 months.  By themselves though, those same dry ingredients wouldn’t last us more than a month.  I wasn’t satisfied with that.

I guess that’s why the Rural King recipe caught my eye.  It seemed like it’d make a lot more product, and yes, it was going to cost more, but I was OK with that.

Following the Rural King recipe, here’s what I did.

  1. I grated 3  Fels-Naptha laundry bars with my box grater that I’ve dedicated to grating soap.
  2. In a plastic storage bin,  I combined the grated soap with:
    1. 3lb7oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
    2. 1 4lb12oz box of Borax
    3. 4lb Pure Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
    4. 1lb12oz OxiClean
  3. I mixed the ingredients thoroughly with an old plastic scoop, and I tossed an old medicine dosing cup into the bin so that I could measure the powder when it came time to do the laundry.

I made my first batch of laundry detergent using this recipe back in August of 2014, and I still have at least another month’s worth of powder on hand.

The blog post recommends using 1-2 tablespoons of powder with each load, and that amount seems to work well for us.  I haven’t added anything for “scent”, but in the future, I plan to use lavender-scented homemade soap instead of the Fels-Naptha.  At the moment though, I still have a large quantity of the Fels-Naptha on hand from when I bought an entire case back in 2010.

As for the cost, using this recipe cost me about $13.50 and it’ll end up lasting about 7 months.  The other recipe cost around $2.00 and would last 5-6 months, BUT:

  1. The powdered detergent takes up MUCH less room.
  2. I can mix and store the powdered detergent in the same container.  That means I don’t have to scrape up extra containers for my excess detergent that isn’t being used at the washing machine.
  3. I use a lot less OxiClean now because it’s actually in the detergent.
  4. I find the powder easier to measure.

It hadn’t occurred to me ‘til just now that the powdered detergent might actually be cheaper in the long run.  I’ll have to keep track of how much OxiClean I actually use.  In the end, the two detergents might cost nearly the same since I’m only adding OxiClean to the loads that have stains or tough dirt.

All told, I’m extremely happy with this new method for making laundry detergent.  I don’t ever want to go back to the store-bought stuff!

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