Friday, December 30, 2016

My new car - and my other new car

I drove my Prius for nearly 200,000 miles, longest I have ever driven any car. It was very useful on the farm. I hauled hay and straw in it, during greenhouse season I could squeeze 17 flats of plants in it. More than one newborn calf took a ride in that car. I got it stuck in fields, had to pull it out of the mud more than once with the tractor. And I hauled milk to the farmers market, where the shareholders picked it up. Occasionally there was a spill. But it soldiered on.

I finally traded it in after moving to town. The guy at the garage told me gently that the car had some odor issues. Oh, really? LOL

I had done my research, and I bought a VW Jetta, diesel, SEL, which was the top of the line. I loved it. On the highway, it got 57 mpg on one trip to Rockford to visit my grandson and his family. It loved to go fast, and the faster I drove, the better the gas mileage!

I had owned it about six weeks when the news hit. VW had deliberately programmed their diesel cars so that they sensed when they were in a testing station, and emissions all met standards. Once the car was on the road, the computer sensed that they were NOT in a test station and reprogrammed the car to run like a deer and get great mileage. They were also producing between 10 and 40 times the allowable amount of nitrogen oxides. That's smog, and that's what irritates lungs.

In Indiana, where we can boast having the worst air in the nation, there are no emission tests for automobiles, of course, so I could have kept driving my car. But being a tree hugging progressive, and remembering a granddaughter with asthma when she was a baby, how could I keep the car, no matter how much I loved it? So I opted to sell my car back to VW.

The local dealer didn't have much choice on the lot for a replacement car, but there was one I fell in love with. I could have waited until I got my refund and bought a different make of car, but I had driven a dog (let's face it, you don't buy a Prius for a power trip) for six years, and my Jetta was fun to drive. So I bought a 2016 Jetta GLI, 2.0 liter engine, drove even better than the 2015 diesel! It sat in my garage, in storage, to keep the insurance down, until the VW dealer pointed out to me that if I wrecked the 2015, which I was continuing to drive, it would no longer be eligible for the buyback program, and even if I was not at fault in the event such an accident should occur, the car would be valued at book, which ain't much, thanks to VW's chicanery. So the diesel went into the garage in storage, and the new 2016 GLI came out. The VW buyback program accounted for the loss in value, and we are being compensated quite well for that difference.

My appointment to return the 2015 diesel Jetta is January 18. I will finally be able to put the new car in the garage. I never dreamed I would own two brand new cars within 15 months of one another. But as of January 18, this single person household will finally be a single car household again.

GLI waiting for its turn in the garage

Friday, December 16, 2016

My dear, dear Tashi - have I found the solution?

Tashi has had a rough couple of years. Shortly before we left the farm, she developed small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which went undetected for months. Her weight dropped from 63 to 44. I complained, took her to the vet, but answer was she needed to lose weight anyway. But I hadn't changed her food, she had no physical symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting and still ate with gusto. She was down to about 55 when we moved from the farm. So I did attribute the continued weight loss to her depression. She HATED city living. Her depression was obvious, nearly palpable.

Weight continued to drop. I finally asked to see the head vet at the clinic I went to, and he was alarmed. A 15% loss of weight is cause for concern, and she had reached 30%. Dr. Hoeffert is a great diagnostician, and he immediately thought of SIBO. Tests confirmed it was most likely the problem. Meds didn't help much. I started feeding her kefir. I think that helped as much as anything. It helped to get good bacteria into her system to combat the bad guys. I started making her food so that she got a low carb diet, since SIBO loves carbs. And since she had become a very picky eater, she ate better if the meal was chicken gizzards, liver and turkey that mom made just for her.

Little by little, she gained weight. Then I went on vacation. The person whom I hired to watch her had specific instructions on how to feed her - it took a lot of coaxing. Against my specific instructions, he put food on the floor and left the house for his sister's most days, leaving her alone. She had finally gotten up to 48 pounds when I left her, but in two weeks was back down to 44. Poor thing.

Feeding her was a big deal. Spoon feeding the first few bites was helpful, but then I had to stand beside her. If I left, she left the bowl. If I stayed there, I could watch her, and if she quit eating I would spoon feed a couple more bites. Gradually we got her weight back up to 54, which is the maximum optimum weight for her. I was delighted.

Eating? Well, it had to be home cooked. That worked for a bit, and it did help her to gain weight. But her BUN numbers weren't looking good because I didn't have enough carbs in it, so Dr. Rock suggested adding sweet potatoes and rice or oatmeal, which I did. He also thought she might be having stomach aches, so she got Pepcid twice a day. Nothing really helped.

Through all of this, her behavior was becoming what can only be described as aberrant. In the midst of all this, she lost her lifelong companion, Ayn Chee, to cancer. We got another dog, and while they got along okay, it was not the same for her, and I knew she missed Ayn Chee even more than I did. The behavior got worse. There was much clawing at me, pushing my hands off the computer keys, and nights were hell. The vet prescribed Xanax for her, and it seemed to help for a bit, but then it made no difference at all. She would circle around in the bed, panting pitifully. She would scratch at me, sometimes right across my face. There was no locking her out of the room; she would claw at the door to get back with me. I seriously considered putting her down. I was also sure she was suffering from dementia. based on all of the crazy behavior. Many trips to the vet, many tests run, nothing apparently physically wrong with her led me to that conclusion. It was time to suck it up and accept my old dog was in her final days, and they weren't going to be pretty.

There would be a good day or two now and then. Cooking for her was time consuming, and didn't seem to be all that effective anyway. I started buying grain free soft food, salmon and sweet potatoes being her favorite. I also bought grain free dry dog food with freeze dried wild game bits in it, and mixed the two with the last of her homemade food. She would eat a little of both with coaxing. Gradually all of the homemade dog food was eaten up.

She seemed to be doing better. In fact, we went six days without the crazy behavior, and mealtimes, while a little slow, were better. She would even occasionally eat some of the dry dog food with nothing on it. It was good to hear her crunching away.

Last Saturday, I had some leftover sweet rolls from the market. She loves, loves, LOVES bread! I gave her some ends, which of course she scarfed right down. That night, we had another very bad night. In the morning she was trying to crawl in my lap as I sat at the computer, and she clawed at my arms to get my hands off the computer keys.

Duh! My dog is allergic to grain. In the ensuing week, I have not given her so much as a bite of bread. I am checking her treats for grain - no grain for Tashi. Life is good.

What kind of distress has she been going through? I kept saying to her, "Tashi, I wish you could tell me what is wrong, what hurts, what you are feeling." She is asleep at my feet right now. No more trying to pull my hands off the computer keys. No more panting and circling in the bed. No more lying on top of my body or scratching at my face at night. My dog is just fine, thank you! Dementia? I don't think so. Tashi and I are both at peace again.

Tashi enjoying her food - without coaxing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First U Service Auction fundamentals

The First Unitarian Church of South Bend has a fund raiser each fall. We offer things, and other members and friends bid on them. We provide the work or the food or whatever, and the church gets the funds. It is our biggest fund raiser. Everyone has a great time, and since we all pretty much like each other, we know we are going to enjoy sharing a meal or a game night or a croquet match with people whom we like.

Everybody wins.

I buy gardening help every year from one of our members. Well worth it! Kathy is great, knows her stuff, pointed out last night that I had sweet woodruff in my rose garden and made sure it stayed. I've never cleaned up what obviously was the rose garden. This place sat empty for seven years, all gardens untended. One by one, I have recovered them (with Kathy's help) or taken them out and put grass seed in. Only the rose garden remained, wild and unattractive. This year, I got two lovely tea roses. I'm sure they were Mr. Lincoln - deep red, velvety petals and that lovely scent. I had a rose garden in Chicago. If the rose didn't have a pronounced scent, it didn't make the cut in my garden. Peace Rose, no scent, no dice. Chicago Peace rose, wonderful scent, made room.

My rose garden was a mess. Yesterday Kathy attacked it with her usual vigor. By the time she left, with our early darkness creeping in, it was cleaned out, edged, three rose bushes discovered and pruned, and all was right with the world!

Kathy at work

Lotsa rocks!



I am imagining sitting on the bench next summer, with tea roses scenting the air around me.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Where did Holly go?

As many of you know who follow my blog, my cat, Holly Berry, doesn't like the new dog Figgy Pudding, a.k.a. Fred.

Holly loves Tashi. They often kiss. When Holly was a little kitty, she even let Tashi carry her around in her mouth. But Fred? It was hate at first sight. In fact, when he first joined the household she disappeared for days at a time, and I feared she was looking for a new home, one without Fred. But she always came back, in spite of frequent absences.

She has gotten much better. She now lives on the first floor of the house a good bit of the time, and she even has been spotted about half way up the stairs to the second floor. She will stay in the same room with Fred, sometimes for an hour or so. Sometimes if Fred looks at her - that is all it takes, just looking at her - she's off. But this morning she was in the Christmas Tree box and was enjoying it enough that she stayed put even when Fred got within a foot of the box, even when (gasp!) Fred looked at her!

I went down to the basement for another box of holiday stuff and found one of Holly's collars between a couple of boxes. I was pretty sure she had spent a little time back there, but I didn't realize how much time until I pulled out a box with holiday hand towels and candles. Everything was covered in white cat hair! No wonder I couldn't find her; she was living inside a box, not on top of it or behind it. Little rascal!

Some of the stuff had to go. It was beyond salvaging. Hand towels are in the wash. Runner - I don't want to wash it, hoping a pet hair roller will take care of it. Candles, some I was able to clean up with a damp paper towels. Some went into the trash.

Goofy cat! Gotta love her. Fred will celebrate a year with our family in a couple of months. I wonder if Holly Berry will be sleeping with us by then. Maybe?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Do you remember Jumer's cinnamon rolls?

My Illinois roots are showing. When going through my mom's recipe box recently, I found her recipe for Jumer's Castle Lodge cinnamon rolls. I remember my mom saying this was the real Jumer's Castle Lodge recipe. So even though Jumer's has closed its doors for good, their rolls can live on! If you know anyone from Peoria or Bloomington in Illinois or from Bettendorf, Iowa, they will remember Jumer's and these tastey little cinnamon bites. We hope they become a favorite here in South Bend-Mishawaka as well!

The famous Jumer's cinnamon rolls

Want to try some? Available at my booth at the Farmers Market in South Bend today! 

50¢ each or 3 for $1.00.  

Jumer's was an Old World attraction with its Bavarian theme. Elegant, yet it was always within reach of the average person. The lodge was known for its eclectic collection of antiques and German bric-a-brac that included a stuffed black bear. It was truly a unique experience in the Midwest.

I think this was the Peoria site

Need a little bling in your life?

Not too shabby

Dine in style - lots of German dishes.