While we were sleeping

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Not my actual ducks.

It’s the morning of January 12, and I just woke up to a world entirely changed. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it, but the Senate’s repeal of significant portions of the Affordable Care Act still hit me like a punch to the (rather delicate) stomach.

You see, I’m one of the 20 million people who gained health care coverage through the ACA, and it’s the first time I’ve been independently insurable in my entire adult life. As a young woman, I was diagnosed with Crohns’ Disease, a condition I have struggled to manage for the following 3 decades, through an ongoing cycle of terrible flares, emergency room visits, hospital stays, and slow recoveries. I have more medical bills than I will ever be able to pay.

Without the ACA, I am uninsurable- or at least, the insurance has never been within the range of what I could manage as a working class woman and single parent. The last time I tried, I was quoted a minimum of $800 a month, and the plan wouldn’t have covered my entirely necessary daily meds.

Here’s what the ACA has meant for me: I’ve had annual checkups with both my primary care doctor and a specialist for gastrointestinal disorders, an annual pap smear and breast exam, and most importantly, regular and ongoing access to the medication that makes me able to hold down a job. I haven’t had a single significant flare of the Crohns during this time, largely due to regular checkups, better medication, and the annual colonoscopy that I’m required to have.

Without health insurance, I once ran up $80,000 in medical bills in less than 3 months, when a flare turned into a terrible abscess and then a lengthy hospital stay. Friends had to care for my child, and I was unable to work for months. When I did occasionally get access to the care and medication I needed, it was almost always through the public clinic system- a system that always assumed I didn’t have a job (I did), would desperately accept any time or place for a doctors appointment, often many months in the future, and only offered me the lowest possible tier of medication for my condition, to which I am allergic.

Like most folks with chronic diseases, I learned how to manage. When I had medication, through a combination of freebies from the clinics and assistance for indigent patients through pharmacy companies- I hoarded it, saved it for the times when I was terribly in need, and tried to manage minor flares without. I went to the emergency room when I had no other choice, and strived to exercise, eat well, and do anything else that supported my general health. Despite all of this, I was often quite ill.

For the last 3 months, I’ve been taking half the dosage that maintains my health, tucking away the rest for what was clearly coming. This morning, I called my doctors and made appointments for all my annual care, in hopes of getting those appointments through before my insurance is cancelled. I called in a refill of my medication, another precious bottle to tuck away in the cabinet for times of need. I’m encouraging my friends: writers, artists, working parents, and other uninsured contingent academic labor like myself, to get their ducks in a row. We are doing all the right things- but it likely won’t be enough.

I know that the ACA was never perfect, but for me and my 20 million friends, something was always so much better than nothing at all.

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Chicken Jail

Holy cow, y’all- it’s all broody hens all the time here.

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Spotty Chicken, fluffed up to twice her usual size. Broody hens spread their tails like turkeys.

Last summer, we started adding some Buff Orpington  genes into our Farmlet Mutt flock. They’re BIG birds, sweet, good layers- all characteristics we wanted. But of course, they’re good brooders as well. While this has been bred out of most modern hybrid chicken breeds, a broody hen wants to settle into a quiet, dark place with a nest full of eggs for 21 days, until they hatch as nature intends.

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On beds

Hey, all- I know this isn’t Farmlet-specific AT ALL, but I was away at Lesbian Writers Camp this past week, and I wrote this little thing, which I’m going to share here.

Some context: for the last 20 years, I’ve worked the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The other day, I added up the time I’ve actually spent living in the forest, in a tent: 78 weeks. A year and a half of my life, if you paste it all together.  So I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about, hauling around, and sometimes complaining about my little home in the woods. Writers camp, by comparison, has bunks in cabins- you just unroll a sleeping bag, and you’re all moved in. SUPER weird.

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The pigs are (I kid you not) growing their own food.

I swear, I didn’t forget about the blog, or its tiny but fervent readership- but I taught 6 classes this spring across 3 different school systems, so there’s been basically zero time for leisurely updating. Nonetheless, I’ve been dashing out to the garden and animals between grading and sleeping, while the NC spring breaks out into exuberant life.

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Magic.

Since we’re going to be home much of the summer (for my first time in 20 years), we’re expanding the garden, and the bountiful crops of spinach, kale, arugula, radishes, and spring onions are already feeding the humans, while the tomatoes, sugar snap peas, beans (both bush and pole) are well underway. Just squash and melons to still get in, but there’s more sod to dig out first. Next week’s project, along with installing our new drip irrigation system.

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Random thoughts on the passage of time

Happy anniversary, faithful readers!

A year ago today, I sat down at the computer and penned this little missive: Schrodinger’s Bunnies, bemoaning my inability to tell whether our new rabbits were (or were not) pregnant. Spoiler alert: I still can’t tell. But I love marking the passing of time in this adventure of ours. In fact, we just had our pigiversary (2 years) and our chickeniversary (3 years) in the last few week. Funny, since we don’t really celebrate the relationship one- but I keep a 5 year journal of farm and garden happenings, so we can look back over what worked and what didn’t.  It’s always fun to wake up and remember that, on this day, our first baby pig (temporarily) escaped, or that this is the day we accidentally captured a skunk in a live trap in the yard.

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Tofu Nuggets and the Battle for Spring

Here’s the thing about spring in the southeast- it is NOT gradual. No clear easy ramp up from cold to warm, from a scattering of snow in the oak leaves to the tender baby leaves and azalea blossoms. Instead, the cold and warm days battle it out until spring, as though by chance, wins out.

We’re in the middle of one of these confrontations right now: warm and lovely last week, lows of 12 F the last few days, and a few inches of snow and ice last night. Since our state lacks an efficient method of snow removal AND the fact that southerners seem constitutionally incapable of driving on said snow and ice, I’m off school. Again. For the fourth time this (very mild) winter- although it’s a good excuse to get a recipe up on the blog. I know it’s been awhile.

According to anthropomorphized groundhogs,  the extended forecast on weather.com, the Farmer’s Almanac, AND the behavior of our chickens, it looks like this might be the last big hurrah for this winter, which is totally thrilling. Except, of course, that we have one more cold weather task to finish before the weather turns for good: Tempeh the pig will be going to freezer camp in less than two weeks.

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Spring is coming, I swear.

Well, faithful readers, it’s 35 degrees on the Farmlet tonight. And yet, spring is totally coming. Evidence?

  • The chickens have given up their winter strike: in just a few weeks we’ve gone from no eggs to an occasional egg, to a solid handful each day. We’ve got 4 adults in the rotation, and this past fall’s pullets (the sisters of our giant rooster crop) are starting up as we speak, which will give us ten good laying hens by the time spring is really rolling. This morning, E found a tiny pullet egg next to the feed pans. I’m sure poor Ellie was SUPER surprised when that thing came out of her butt during breakfast.
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  • The first tender new leaves have appeared on the elderberry bushes, while the radishes I planted in the hoop house during last week’s warm spell are just beginning to poke up out of the ground.
  • The pigs are EXTRA frisky- unclear whether they’re playing or trying to mate with one another (a little of both, I think)- but it’s pretty fun to watch them frolic.
  • The table is COVERED in seed catalogs: porn for the gardener.

I’m starting to get so excited- I can’t even tell you how beautiful it is here in the springtime. And of course, there’ll be much more news to share as everything bursts into life- and WAY prettier pictures than a patch of bare ground with an egg on it 🙂

Stay tuned.

Until next time,

~Fae

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