Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Kindness Protocol

Today, a name for what I often offer as advise to my friends came to me.

The Kindness Protocol. 

What is this? How does it work? Why would you think of that?

It stems from this post I wrote around the holidays, which came about because of something another friend was doing, which she had heard about from another friend, and so on......

It is Mercy in a Ziploc, but on a smaller more personal scale.

So say you are having a really bad day. I mean like your babies diaper exploded all over your new boots and couch, while you cleaned it up your lunch caught on fire, your best friend called and you were rude to her and she decided never to speak to you ever again because she's sick of your shit, and then your favourite aunt dies, your car won't start, and your checking account is at -6$ with payday 7 days away and no milk in the fridge.

Friend, many of us have had days like this.

It is easy to get online and pick fights or say "It must be nice" to someone who had a good day and start the bringing them down too cycle, because it spreads like a viral plague, and leaves no one unsullied.

If you let it.

So, when a friend listed off her mindblowingly bad day and then asked.....What do I do now? That is when the Kindness Protocol was born.

It goes something like this:

1)Start small. Go to 5 friends' facebook walls and tell them how much they mean to you, what you like about them, why you are grateful for their friendship.
2) Do it again.
3) Make a meal for someone you know, for no reason, and bring it to them. Or cookies. Cookies work.
4) Make a list of nice things you could do for people in the next week.
5) Do them.
6) Ask people about their lives, not just how are you? but how is xyz going for you? 
7) Call someone you miss and tell them that.
8) Hold the door open for others.
9) Pay for a stranger's coffee.
10) Make an effort to say/do/be kinder when folks are having a rough day and are outwardly rude. They need grace, love, kindness more at that moment.
11) Push a kid on a swing, blow bubbles for a baby, read a book to a toddler. 

*Listen when someone starts to share what is on their heart.
*Pay attention to people around you. Start seeing their suffering. Be the person that brings calm instead of adding to the pile. Even if you are just as broken, this effort will turn others to you as well. 

You get the idea? You can take a friend out to lunch. You can send someone a post card, just because, you can do all sorts of small things with great love that make a huge impact.

You know what? These things come back to you, when you are kind, when you make the world better by your own actions and words and deeds and self.......people reflect it back on you and are there for you when you need it. This is how community is built, this is how we can begin to heal.

This is the Kindness Protocol.
It works. It makes the world a little better instead of worse.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

This Otherness is My Superpower

Most people don't know.  I am a mermaid.

No not really.

I have gone my whole life feeling like I was not in this world, that I was alien, something too different to belong here.

Longing to be back in the water, wondering if I'd feel more at home there. Wondering if I was meant to be on dry land or if it was all a mistake. (Hey, no freaking out, just a metaphor...)

I get sensory overload. I get panic attacks when things change in a visual way and I am not expecting it. I cannot deal with large noisy crowds.

Sometimes I zone out. Sometimes I lose a chunk of time to daydreaming or just lose it to nothingness.

I hear all the background noise that others zone out and can't hear. All of it. Every appliance buzz, every light fixture. Every beetle click. Living in the city was so very hard.

Sometimes I can't sleep. I stay up playing over and over in my head things I wish I would have said or done. Undo social mistakes. Sometimes I wish I knew how to be a friend or how not to say just the wrong harsh thing at the wrong time. I wish my apologies would be accepted.

I get overwhelmed.

I sensory seek to cancel out. I run my hands under water to calm down.

I crank up music. I dance. I write. Then I hide it all.

When I burst into tears in the cheese aisle because Hy-vee has just remodelled and moved everything and the lighting is super bright and the new freezer cases are LOUD....I just feel like a failure. What is worse is someone seeing it. What is her problem, she can't find cheese?

I hold it together, moderate drama, softly soothe broken hearts, and generally know a lot about a lot of things....but I am not always put together and solid. I hate that about myself. I hate that I have this overwhelmingness that happens.

So when the man of steel locks himself in a closet in grade school? I get that. I used to hide in my own closet or under my own bed to try and make the world smaller. I try to practise and plan and make the world the kind of world I can be in.  I notice details though that others don't and sometimes that is just too overwhelming.

Somewhere along the line I realised that I can actually be different, this otherness is my own superpower. So, my apologies to the kind folks in the cheese aisle last year, I will get the hang of the new layout. I go in the mornings, and I almost have a comfort zone about it now.

Just know. Just know. Being different isn't something to be ashamed of, to medicate away, to pretend isn't part of my life.

My life is beautiful and overwhelming and wonderful and just big enough for now. I will continue to try and make it a world I can live in.

I began to understand this more as I have raised three children who are also experiencing this great big world and all of its beauty and noise and structures.

So, friends, be patient with each other, be gentle, be kind. Apologise when you can. Make this world better and not bigger.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Yummy Learning

Lily insisted that I take action shots of the whole process. Future food blogger!

Blueberry muffins= math lesson in fractions, chemistry in cooking, reading instructions, bonus sanitation and life skills lesson. Learning is life. Life is learning! And yummy.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Winter is Coming.....Again.

Preparing for this round of winter weather. This is iron wood and it burns long and hot. My favourite to burn right now, though I would have preferred it as a tree. It died two summers ago, suddenly with no indication of a problem. We lost a maple like that too. So it now serves a new purpose on our farm, heating the house and providing cooking heat too. Oh and it smells wonderful.

Lily had been a grumpy girl this week. The last two days of working with her dad outside turned that around. She really is a wonderful young lady.

She has also discovered an app on my phone called Polyvore and has been creating collages of fashion and home decor. It is fun, but I think I am bugging my facebook friends because her creations go straight into my newsfeed. Grandma likes it though, sorry friends!

That's all for now, we are busy preparing for the polar vortex part 2 or whatever it is they are calling this new round of weather. Just 3 weeks left before I set out on my cross country adventure and I have a lot of work to do in writing to prepare for that. Not to mention cleaning, cooking, and general laundry tasks that have to be done before I go. I am so excited!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Freezer Meal Preparation: The Thaw Stage

So far what we plan on making with this: 

Sloppy Does (like Joes but with venison)

Both pork roasts will be cooked together and be made into enchiladas, pulled pork sandwiches, and more enchiladas
Beef roast: flautas 

Ground lamb: Shepard's pie

A huge batch of meat balls

A sausage and broccoli stir fry with rice


Organized and will now move into the fridge for thawing. I will cook the ground meats from frozen (I have a trick) tonight, the roasts will get thawed in time to cook all day Sunday, and the sausages and meatballs will get made tomorrow.

There is also a beef shank hiding in there for Saturday night's dinner.

Thursday, 23 January 2014


The specs on this: Manic Panic, the lighter colour is Fuscia Shock, I used that on my dark roots because this colour lasts and holds its vibrancy longer than regular purple. The darker purple is Purple Haze, vegan MP. I applied, then used the hot blower dryer to set it. I braided up the length and wrapped my head with a headscarf over night. In the morning, I hot air blow dried it again to get the braid all the way dry. Then I rinsed and rinsed with cold water until the water ran clear. Towel and blow dry again. Now I have to be careful about shampoo and using products, even leave in conditioner, because each soap application will take some colour with it. Cool water rinses are ok. This is how I keep my colour really vibrant for longer.

Now, why my 36 year old, work at home, rural Iowa farmer self dyes my hair purple?

Because I love it. I love the way I look with purple. Some women like blonde or red or dye a darker brown, but I LOVE purple. What is not to love, look at the colour! This is the colour I had on my wedding day. This is the colour I wore in my hair when I used to perform on stage at a local coffee house. Why not put this back on reawakening my inner artist?

This. This is who I am.

Let me say this though, it isn't easy. Last Spring as I was dropping off my five year old at ballet, a minivan pulled up in front of the studio, loaded up two ballerinas, and then was waiting in line to depart the parking lot when I heard.....Daddy! That's Holly's mom, she's not a WHORE! She's nice!

Excuse me? What on earth?

Purple hair trumps that I am a mother of three, college professor, farmer, and married for 15 years to my high school sweetheart. Purple hair means that I am a sex worker? AND that a father of little girls gets to call me that in front of his children and in earshot of everyone waiting at ballet class? *I was in a long sleeve high neck sweater and a long skirt with boots, lest any of you think that my appearance other than purple hair warranted such a comment.

Way to stand up for me little girl. I hope that spunk and truth in you stays strong and being raised by a person like that doesn't damage you. No worries though, I got this. I own my purple hair and some random dude calling names only startles me, it no longer hurts me or changes my self value. May you be blessed with such fire of spirit.

I also get followed at retail stores. I get rude remarks from middle aged women. I sometimes have to remind folks in authority that I am an artist, college professor, and educated. I am not invisible, but purple hair certainly sends a message to others of many negative social codings. If I was someone trying to navigate social or economic tides, I would have a disadvantage. When I worked a minimum wage job, I was threatened with being fired. I called the corporate office and it was never mentioned again, though my hours were shifted. It didn't matter to me, but to many it would have been horrible. I know this. I dye my hair anyway because I can. If I can and do more people will start to see me and see that hair and other appearance markers do not tell the character of a person. I also have the safety of being able to change this about my look, back to something natural.

I can only feel the tinglings of what it must hurt like to be treated as dirt for something unchangeable.

So, know me. Know that I am not what you think. I am a brave mother, a farmer, a women with a voice, a writer, a really good and loyal friend, I do not play dirty ever, and I love so fiercely that it hurts. I am purple.

And just for the record, none of the sex industry workers I have known ever had purple hair but they certainly have more class than the dad in the minivan at ballet class. Just saying.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

So Long Rosie, May You Graze Greener Pastures, Always



"Final update on Rosie (our Brown Swiss) for those who were asking about her. As of last week she had been down for 30+ days. She was still eating, but had just begun to show signs of getting worse instead of better. I put her down on Monday afternoon - it was quick and painless.

Her behavior leading up to this week and what I could tell from examining her seemed to indicate there was an injury of some sort to one of her hind legs. She did not seem to be in any pain, but she had full movement of only three of her legs. If we'd been able to identify that sooner we might have done something different, but I don't know what that might have been.

The girls said a prayer for her and we thanked her for what she provided us. We will take what we've learned from this and continue.

If folks have specific questions about what was done / how you can PM me and I'll share. I don't want to go into it in detail here, but if our experience can be of help to someone then as always we're willing to share information and answer questions.
" -Chad from our farmpage on facebook.

Chad went out to check on the animals and Poppy, our lead ewe, was grieving. She refused grain, would not come out to eat hay. She is sad, Chad thinks a little afraid too. We double checked her for illness or injury and she's healthy and strong. Just sad.

Rosie never really liked me, would often pin me against posts in the pasture. Not an aggressive pinning, just a you shouldn't stand there silly girl, see? I loved her though, and I wanted to milk her and make cheeses from her sweet cream always. She was a good mother, easily birthing and nursing. She was kind to the sheep and the children. She loved to have her nose and forehead scratched.

Rosie. Thank you for the gifts you gave us, the farmer's you made us. Thank you for your milk, your calves, your motherhood. Our fields are emptier without you and your friends are grieving. We will  take care of them, I miss you too.

May you rest in greener pastures, always.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

This Week Has Been Hard

This week has been hard. Rosie our family cow had to be put down after a long 30 days of trying to nurture her back to health, Chad got sick after being gone for two days hunting, and school started in earnest for DMACC which means I spent my days answering emails and getting students settled in to classes and redirect textbook searches.

Tired. So today I took the kids to the Science Centre, only it was closed.

There were tears.

We ended up down the street at the free Historical Museum.

The docent at the welcome desk remembered us. Last time we visited Isaac was not yet walking! That was what, 4 months ago? How time flies. How grateful we are for his daily progress! He started running, actually running!

Holly was still sad though, and not much we did helped. Lily and Isaac danced for her and sang songs and nothing helped. She went to bed early too. Poor, sweet Holly.

As for me, my grief is harder to deal with. I'll pick up writing in a few days I am sure.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Instant Kid Friendly Oatmeal

Each Serving, 1/4 cup of Instant Oatmeal
1 Tablespoon of Sugar Spice

Sugar Spice Chocolate: 
2 cups of raw sugar
1/4 cup instant hot chocolate mix
optional, caramel chips

Sugar Spice Cinnamon:
2 cups of raw sugar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground lemon peel

Then I make as many little packets with the spice and instant oatmeal as I can. I got the little bags in the craft section of target to hold soup seasoning for our rice and bean mixes. They happen to hold just a little more than the instant oatmeal packets you can buy at the store in the cereal isle and they make a full kid size serving, which the store bought ones fall just short of. The price for a giant bag of the oatmeal was $2.50, the spice and sugar I used cost less than $2 too. I have half a bag left and this made 25 packets and three test servings.

Bonus, the chocolate ones taste like my Dad's Christmas no bake boil/drop cookies. Just like. Really. Holly gobbled it. So did Isaac. Lily was less impressed and says she likes old fashioned oatmeal better. It has yet to pass the Chad test which is....can Chad make it at 4 am before he's had coffee and will it make him sick? I think it will do fine, but I think he will prefer the spice over the chocolate. 

Gratuitous adorable kids eating chocolate oatmeal pictures:

Half Fail, Lessons Learned

 This looks fantastic, right? Mozzarella and feta, eggplant tomato sauce, lamb sausage. Those parts came together like a spicy, cheesy, melty dream.

 The problem was the crust. I bought a mix, a gluten free stir in water mess of a mix. It looked like pancake batter. All was going well though, it smelled pretty good while it was baking, before toppings were added.

Oh, and the entire thing looked like a success! It smelled good, a nibble off the edge gave me false witness to its true nature of.....yuckness.

The crust was soggy and spongy and...... moist. Like a gross thick noodle. Fail. FAIL.

Just about everyone in at the table ate the toppings off and tossed the rest to the dogs.

To make it just perfectly clear how awful it was? Holly quietly came to the kitchen and asked if I could maybe make a peach pie because she was still hungry and please mama because that was NOT pizza. 

Freezer gold, peach pie was on the table an hour later. Ready to eat. I didn't even get any.

Next time I will use my own go to for pizza crust, though it may be harder to make and take a bit more time. Lesson learned.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tuna Salad- Pantry Style

Today, I had promised the kids tuna melts. We were out of bread. Out of crackers. I had intended to make bread but the morning got away from me. What to do?

Tuna salad. On sliced tomato! Yes!

One package of tuna, in water
Handful of dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 Braeburn or Granny apple chopped
1/2 cup of sour cream
salt to taste- salt is important here

Serve over sliced tomato and top with pretzels for crunch! (or walnuts!)

An easy, really good lunch that we pulled together from what we had. Week 2 of grocery spending strike and we are still going strong.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My Other Love

Last night I fell asleep wondering about my last 15 years. How did I walk away from poetry when I so clearly and deeply adore it? What happened? It wasn't motherhood. I had closed my books long before Lily was born.

Ah. Then this morning a picture of a lovely abandoned house, three storied, Italianate lines.....peeling paint, five gables, a hybrid Stick, Queen Anne style beauty. I wondered about the balustrade inside.

I fell for architecture. When I graduated college the first time, BA in hand, wisdom my adviser had given me casually, haunted me. Sure, you know how to write....but about what? What do you really know of the world? Don't write for a living, be a brick layer or farmer by day. Let the salt of the sweat of your days season the writing you do at night when the day slips away. Let writing be the mistress you run to, not the drudge of the mundane.

So, I fell forward into restoring houses. It was a family business but I am a solitary creature. We bought a three storied Victorian, plaster collapsing, floors unstable and moved in to live like homeless teenagers. It sometimes snowed and gathered drifts in the bedrooms. There were rooms we didn't know about when we bought it. Sometimes we would get lost inside the house. It was an amazing project. I interned at the State Historical Preservation Office. I got hired at a local museum. I spent my days and nights deeply immersed in old house restoration, history, and technology. I got so intensely involved in starting the restoration that I started taking graduate architecture classes. Then, easily slipped into the graduate programs for history, architecture, and non fiction writing. One thing flowed into another and I was in love.

Soon motherhood entered that world too. That was hard. Balancing my day job, a newborn, graduate school, and the house restoration. So very hard.

Why did I abandon poetry for the crumbling plaster and splintery fumes of the hard labour and physical work of house restoration? Because there is poetry in the grain of the wood, because the stories of the people who haunt these places with their lives are intoxicating, because the words of architecture filled my soul the way that Shakespeare and Leonard Cohen do. I was not without.

Even now, my heart quickens when I oil the hardwood of our old farmhouse. I mourn brokenhearted when I see an abandoned turn of the century barn that will soon fall with the seasons from neglect, slipping from our collective memories and memorialised with corn and bean chemical fields. Sometimes I break down and cry.

Now, as I re-open the poetry part of my mind, I have a life I can write from. That was not a waste, that time was not idle. I need not regret my chosen path, as sometimes I have in the dark when sleep is stolen by babies and frozen pipes.

Tell me, where is the poetry and beauty in your life?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Taking Myself Seriously

When I started reviving my wild mind, listening to the writer's voice again, and taking up the pen.....I was unsure. I still am. I am falling in love with word craft again. I know much more about love than I did 20 years ago though, and this time around I know that love is hard work and not all intuition and applause. So I set to work to learn this skill again.

I surprised myself. I was startled at how much of the vocabulary of poetry I actually remember. I was reminded of the parts I never understood and took to puzzling it out this time around instead of haughtily moving on, nose upturned.

I set a schedule. I stuck to it.

Then, I let go. I let other people read my work instead of hiding it.

At some point I was researching something for the farm, we raise Ossabaw Island hogs, and I came upon a website for the Ossabaw Island Writer's Retreat. Ah, that looks neat, I said. Aw, it is also way expensive and 2,000 miles away. I clicked the page closed and moved on.

A couple days later my father in law sent me the link to it. Again, I sighed heavily and closed the email.

A week later or so my dear husband Chad brought it up over dinner. Why this retreat? There are others close by! At better times of the year!

A conversation with a friend led me to the realisation that the piece I am missing to publishing is networking, is knowing people who publish, is being out there with published folks. I brought it up with Chad and he reminded me of the retreat again. I set aside money to travel later in the year, had almost reached my goal....why not use it for this instead?


I went to bed grumpy.

I woke up thinking of an island off the coast of Georgia.

I brought it up with Chad again, we looked up travel cost. Well, that nixed it. Travel there was WAY expensive. Train, plane, rental car....all of it too expensive. So I lamented to a friend and she said, MEGABUS.

Wait, what is that? 5$ to Chicago from here is what that is. Another friend said once I get to Georgia she will drive me to the ferry (4 hours from her house!).

So.....I applied. I sent in the best work I had as an example for the application. I waited.

I waited. Waited. Days and days of waiting. I hate waiting.

Today, friends, I got the notification that I was accepted.

I nearly shook with fear. Yes, fear! To do this I have to ride a bus for 36 hours over the whole of the United States and take myself seriously as a writer.

The bus ride is easy compared to that last part.

Easy Broccoli Skillet With Other Veggies and Sausage

A simple skillet meal of red bell, broccoli, mushrooms, onions,  butter, a squirt of lemon juice, and salt. High heat, stir a lot to keep from burning. Delicious. I served it with a side of sausage links. 10 minutes of prep and cook combined.

Did I mention easy? And fast? Oh yeah......

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Touchy Subject of Touch

I do not make my children hug or kiss people they don't want to. I don't make them hug their friends after a fight to make up. I don't make them accept it when other people want to hug them. I early on taught them to say, "This is my body. I don't want to be touched/tickled/picked up."

They are the sentient occupants inside that mammalian machine we call a body, they are the owners of their flesh. Just as I don't like unwanted touch, even affectionate touch, especially affectionate touch sometimes, I don't expect them to allow it when they don't want it either.

It is called consent. This is how we teach it. This is how we model it.

Sometimes I have to walk the walk and that means when an adult thrusts a toddler at me for a hug and that toddler does not know me.....I have to step back. I always explain that I am a stranger to that child and forcing affection from a stranger is not acceptable. It is dangerous.

Wait, what if you are a relative? No. That part does not matter. In fact, it may even matter more. The majority of abuse and sexual abuse is committed by adults related or known to the child! Being related by family does not entitle affection. Teaching children that it is? Oh, that is so scary. If I am a stranger to that child, I keep my distance. If the child offers me affection while I am still a stranger? I gently redirect and look them in the eye and remind them that I am a stranger.

You see, it is also my body. I get to choose when I am touched too. People I don't know touching me does not feel good to me, even handshakes between strangers makes me uncomfortable though I see it as a necessity of fitting in to our community. Touch can be healing but it can also be destructive and invasive.

When a child says no, let's all respect that. As a community, let us also take a minute to think about how we touch others and what kind of lesson we are teaching our babies.

I am also going to make the jump here into discipline. When a child is struck with a hand or object (spanking) that is also an unwanted touch. When a loved one does it? Is that the message we want them to learn? That violence from someone who loves you is acceptable? That they have no say over their body at that moment, and it is because they have done wrong and you love them? No. No.



Touch should be loving. Touch should be welcome. Touch should be from people they trust and know.

So, when my relatives went all a flutter because I stepped back from a toddler niece who I have only seen maybe 5 times in her life and four of those times were when she was a newborn, and she was not asking for affection on her own but being ordered to and physically picked up and thrust at me for a hug? This is why I stepped back. I said at the time, I am a stranger to her at her mother's choice. Let's all respect that choice and not teach her she has to give affection to strangers.

There is a history of sexual molestation and violence in our family. I am not about to take part in a cultural norm that grooms children to give affection to people they don't know or to trust people just because they are related to them.

I will not back down from this. I will not shut up about it either. Respect our children's bodies and minds and let them choose who they give affection to AND model for them appropriate affection.

What? You thought the feminism label on the blog was the silent undertone? Hardly. I am the mother of two bright and beautiful girls and a lovely boy. Consent is one of the most valuable lessons there is. Hug your children today, give them a million kisses, tickle them until they can't stand it.....but when they say, enough, no, stop!......listen and let go. When they hesitate to hug an aunt they have never met, don't force them to. When they act or even say they are uncomfortable around a certain cousin, let them follow their gut and keep their distance. Do not let people who are known child abusers babysit just because they will do it for free.

Let us do better by our children and really teach them consent.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Taking The Kids Out to Eat

As part of teaching my children to be well adjusted and polite members of our community, we eat out once a week. Usually on grocery day, but instead today was just a treat for working so hard on the farm this morning. Chad was gone and we had to do all of his morning farm chores. This required all three children to do extra work and cooperate. It also meant that I didn't have time to cook lunch. We came under budget on our weekly shopping, so I felt I could justify the $15 for all of us to eat lunch. It was lovely!

Couple things we do: we bring crayons and doodle mats if we know the place won't have them. This one did. We play tic tac toe, name three things, and free draw. I usually have to remind them of their manners if they get squirrely. The thing adults often forget about children? They actually do not want to embarrass anyone or themselves, they want to be civil, but they don;t know all the rules yet and even if you have told them a million times, they are kids and may not remember. I gently remind, usually Holly, that even though she is excited...she needs to sit and eat because we have a limited amount of time. The booth next to us may well want to see her song and dance she just made up. Don't assume they don't. Still, time is in short supply and food is yummy.

I keep my calm. I redirect. I model for them saying please and thank you but I do not force them to. They see me and they follow that lead.

We practise at times that are not busy so that when we ever end up somewhere more formal or more chaotic, they have practised and know what to expect. I need that as an adult, why wouldn't a child also need that?

I often hear folks online complain about kids in eateries or other public spaces. Not all kids are like the crazy explosion of childhood described. Even so, that parent probably really needs a break from cooking food and cleaning up, so just be graceful and continue on, ok?

Today, this was our lunch. We played games, talked about fancy lettering and scripts, played name three things that are onomatopoeia, and then talked about what kinds of meals they would like Chad to feed them on nights I am not home. Not tacos, they said. They want lasagna, fried eggs, and cheese noodles only. As an afterthought, pizza. Eggs reminded them that we are out, so we called our local egg friend and picked up 10 dozen. We eat a lot of eggs. One dozen will be just one breakfast alone. We did some math with how much money we had and her two types of eggs and prices......pullets are less expensive but smaller vs regular eggs at full price. So a wee bit of math. We ended up with all pullets! 10 dozen! Lily estimated that it would be the better egg for dollar option and.....she was right!

So that was our lunch out. Isaac only ran from the table once and Lily caught him and redirected while I was putting on my coat. He's three. It happens.

One more thing, Holly looks sad in this picture. I had no idea until I uploaded them! She was all smiles and I didn't expect such a somber look from my sunshine girl.

Supplies for a Well Stocked First Aid Kit for Homesteaders: Guest Post over at Simplify, Live, Love

I am Danelle, mother and farmer at the Stamps Family Farm. I write about my family's adventures in sustainable farming, special needs parenting, and learning to cook over at My Total Perspective Vortex.
 In 2009 we moved to a 40 acre farm in Southern Iowa with no experience and a BIG dream! Our blog is the story of how that happened and how we live our way through it and all the blessings that have happened along the way.  We now have a llama, Icelandic sheep, pigs, a cow or two, ducks, chickens, peafowl, cats, dogs, a parrot, and a corn snake.....oh and thousands of bees! SO MANY BEES.

On our journey we have had many mishaps, many bloody mishaps. This has caused me to slowly and thoroughly revise the contents of my first aid kit. I'm not talking about choosing one bandage brand over another, rather, changing the way I look at emergencies all together.

We live 5 miles from the nearest hospital. That hospital is not a trauma centre. Emergency care will require life flight to the nearest urban hospital 65 miles away. Our fire department is 5 miles away and crewed by volunteers. The one time we have had to call them out to our farm, the response time was 3 minutes. THREE MINUTES. When we lived in the city, 10-15 minutes was standard even living blocks from the station.

No, in the countryside I live in, the local farmers drop their tools and run to help. Lucky for us, our event was not life threatening or even bloody. Lily (age 6 at the time) was wedged in a hole and could not escape it, nor could I pull her out. It took five full grown men, firemen at that, to dislodge her. She was not in danger of dying, not bleeding out, just scared and angry.

The bloody events at our farm have involved livestock and it was those experiences that led me to rethink what supplies I needed for my kit.

1) Bandaids are useless. The are psychological tricks made for calming freaked out toddlers. Ok, not really, and I do keep a box on hand, but they are not much good in a real emergency.

What do I use instead? Disposable Diapers. One side is absorbent and the other non stick. Pair that with "med wrap" which is a stretchy bandage that sticks to itself and you have a decent blood stopping bandage. We have 10 rolls of it on hand. That is why I keep disposable diapers in my glove box and first aid kit. We had to wrap a ewe's (sheep) leg after a predator attack and this was the bandage the vet told us to use. The local pharmacy didn't carry sterile pads or gauze big enough. A real wound would need more than a 2x2 square. If I am doing field triage for livestock or people, I need to plan for it to be big enough. That may buy us enough time for help to arrive.

2) For our livestock we use "vet spray" to clean wounds. It is basically a gel alcohol with a numbing agent. It could technically work on people, in theory is a good solution for skinned knees of children running by....but the local pharmacy carries a similar and wildly more expensive wound spray that is approved for people. So use that one. Vinegar works pretty well too, but stings.

Basically, clean the wound (soap and water works well) pat dry and then bandage if necessary.

3) Epi pen. We keep bees. None of us need an epi pen, but a guest might and minutes count. For minor stings without anaphylactic shock, clean the sting site after the stinger is removed (or bite site since some wasps bite instead of sting). I apply a gel benedryl directly to the bite. I find this more effective than oral dosing. I keep the oral on hand for our cat though. She has had an allergic reaction to a vaccine and has to have this. The same is possible for people, but we've never had to dose for it.

4) Honey. Honey has a lot of good things going for it. We keep honey sticks on hand for electrolytes for people in heat stroke or shock AND for livestock in shock. I learnt this trick from a our goat keeping friend walking us through our first traumatic night after a coyote pack attacked our sheep. If we could keep them from going into shock, they might survive. In a major accident, the same is true for people.

5) We also have a variety of things on hand for the livestock: needles and syringes, injectable penicillin, various vitamins and minerals that can save their lives based on specific illness or trauma, wormer, iodine, lube, and pesticide sprays (animal safe, screw worm is the stuff of nightmares).

There are not human equivalents for these, but generally if people need these they can get them once under care of a physician. Livestock care requires quite a lot of instances where the vet is on the phone ans tells us to administer xyz. 
6) Industrial BURN GEL. Water-Jel is the brand. This is what Chad was given when he worked with giant print machines and it works like a miracle. We have a wood stove and Chad has had one too many mishaps with hot engine and electric arcs. I have scars all over my hand from oven grates and cast iron pan handles. Ugh. We buy this in bulk and have travel packets.
7) I have a lot of other things in our people kit too. Scissors, rubber bands, tums, razor blade, tweezers, coconut oil, asprin, advil, rash cream, alcohol wipes, floss, eye flush, nasal saline, ear cones, baking soda, citric acid, and mineral oil. Peroxide for puncture wounds. Customize for your own needs. I also have a lot of tinctures and herbal salves. Those are not for bloody, call 911, emergencies though.

I do know this though, the pre-made kit that can be bought at the grocery store won't cut it at our farm.

I would also recommend taking first responder classes when the opportunity presents. Get CPR trained. Even consider full on EMT certification. Technology has certainly changed the landscape of emergency care and first response, but the memories of my aunt's rural farm in the 1980's haunt me. There were no cell phones. She owned her own ambulance and firetruck. She was a paramedic. If she had not been medically trained so many people would have died. Too often car accidents on tristy rural roads had tragic endings, more would have been worse if my aunt had not been there. Now, cell phones and GPS and helicopters make for better outcomes, but I would not rely too much on such things. Helicopters can't fly in a blizzard and cell phone reception is still iffy out on the prairies.


So, what would you add?