Our sweet boy had a rough day today. The results of Micah’s tests were not what we had hoped for. The issues to this point were in the left side of his urinary tract only. This scan showed severe reflux, a large ureter, and a smaller than normal kidney on both sides.
We can not schedule a corrective surgery without ruling out bladder disorders or blockages since it is now a problem on both sides. We also need to have a better idea of kidney function, so new blood and urine tests are being run. The hospital is having a radiology clinic tonight with radiologists, nephrologists, and urologists that will review Micah’s history and scans to better treat him.
We will be seeing a urologist in 2 weeks to rule out other disorders or blockages. Other than waiting on more test results we don’t have much else to report. Please keep Micah in your thoughts as we continue on this journey.
Micah, our 14 month old, has an important nephrology appointment coming up next week and I wanted to do a little update on him. As some of you know, Micah was born with some urinary tract issues.
During pregnancy the doctors noticed that he had a large bladder that never seemed to empty and hydronephrosis (fluid in the kidneys). When he was just 1 day old, Micah had an ultrasound and a VCUG. The VCUG is a series of x-rays taken while a catheter is inserted with contrast fluid. The contrast shows the flow of urine and fills the urinary tract structures in order to see their shape and size better. We learned several things from this test.
- Micah has reflux (VUR) from his bladder to both kidneys, much more severe on the left side (Grade 5). When his bladder fills up it also fills his kidneys and ureters (the tubes that go from bladder to kidney) with a back flow of urine . This makes him at greater risk for infection. Micah has been on antibiotics since birth for this and will continue until we can surgically correct the reflux. If Micah were to get an infection it would damage his kidney significantly.
- Micah’s left ureter should look like a small straight tube, but instead looks more like intestines. It is thick, long, and meandering. They call this a torturous ureter.
- Micah has renal dysplasia on the left side. His left kidney is small, has a cyst, and has some limit to it’s function. Renal dysplasia makes Micah at greater risk for high blood pressure, so we monitor that at every appointment.
It was determined that nothing could be done while he was so small. Micah was seen again at 6 months and had an ultrasound and blood panel taken. He had some signs in his blood of kidney malfunction. His creatinine was higher than normal and his CO2 was low. This along with other factors shows some decreased function from “normal”. The kidney did grow some between birth and his appointment around 6 months and we are hopeful it has continued to grow. The scan at 6 months also showed a cyst on it that did not appear at birth, although that is not significant on it’s own and can be fairly common (but more so with age). A cyst IN the kidney would be more of an issue.
We have been playing the waiting game for a while and he is finally getting to the age we can move forward with treatment. We did a new blood draw a couple weeks ago and were sorry to see the createnine and CO2 numbers as well as some other indicators for kidney function have gotten slightly worse. This could indicate kidney failure on the left side or the growth of the left kidney may have slowed or stopped.
Next week Micah will have an ultrasound and another VCUG. The VCUG will tell us a lot, especially since he hasn’t had one since birth. We will see if he has grown into the extra large ureter at all, we will see if his kidney is growing, and we should be able to see if the reflux on the right side has resolved.
Grade 5 VUR is the most severe and requires surgery. We are hopeful that Micah can have his surgery sooner than later so that he can be taken off of the antibiotics. The surgery will entail re-positioning where his ureter enters the bladder and tapering it so fluid can not back up so easy. He may also need the upper part of his ureter tapered where it meets the kidney. We are hopeful that his kidney is still functioning enough to not need it removed, but the tests will tell us more.
Once surgery is complete, he will remain on antibiotics for 3 months and until another set of tests are done. This is unfortunate because Micah gets sick from his antibiotics and we have been fighting acid reflux and vomiting since he was born. He still doesn’t sleep through the night, but he has gotten better since we switched his antibiotic to the morning rather than bedtime. We might be able to try a different antibiotic after seeing the nephrologist.
We are looking forward to having a healthy baby boy and putting this behind us. Please keep Micah in your thoughts and prayers over the next week and I will update when we have more information.
I have been busy, busy getting our garden put in this year and I am excited to share with you! Our first summer in this house (2015) I had a 4’x4′ raised bed garden and some tomato plants in pots on the deck. Last year, I doubled my garden bed space by adding 2 4’x2′ garden beds. Needless to say, we didn’t have all that much success with that small amount of space.
This year I decided to step it up and put in my “forever garden.” I added 2 large raised beds. One is 27’x3′ split into 4 sections. The other is 13’x4′ split into 2 sections. We went from a total of 32 square feet to 165 square feet! We also added an 8’x8′ green house and have several pots of tomatoes and herbs. It is still a work on progress, but I am happy with how far it has come.
We have planted green beans, zucchini, pumpkins, sweet peppers, green peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, rhubarb, asparagus, tomatoes, chives, basil, oregano, dill, marjoram, and parsley.
So what’s next? I bought a great metal arbor and a really cool bamboo gate that will be installed soon. I am also planning on laying down landscape fabric and mulch between the boxes. The greenhouse will eventually get a brick floor and some built in shelves. It may take a while to finish the project list, but everything is functional as it is and our plants are doing great so far.
Over the last 48 hours we have received almost 5 inches of rain. We were lucky to not have any storm damage and the garden seems to be loving the extra water. I am excited to see what the garden will yield this year. I am definitely not a professional, but I learn a little more each year. If nothing else, it sure is pretty and Harrison loves it! He is becoming a little gardener and even has his own wildflower garden.
We have a busy summer, but we love our little homestead so much. We love to see the apple trees and blackberry bushes blooming with flowers. We love collecting the eggs every day, especially the beautiful blue ones! The roses and wildflowers are blooming. We are really, really lucky to raise our boys here. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
People often ask us how many animals we have, so I thought I would do a little update of our creatures.
I will start with our most beloved animals, our blue heeler mixes, also called Australian cattle dogs. We have 2 and both are adopted from shelters. Sadie is estimated to be about 7-8 years old, but her age was unknown when we adopted her. She is a sweet dog with some quirks. She hates wheels and is very attached to Ryan. Sadie also sticks pretty close to Micah’s side but has never taken much interest in Harrison.
Kelty is our rambunctious dog. She is sweet but full of energy and likes to bark. We adopted her as a puppy in June 2012. We try to discourage our dogs from barking, but they protect their flock in the backyard, so I can’t complain too much.
We currently have 18 egg laying chickens and a rooster. We do lose a few chickens every year to predators. It is sad every time we have a loss but it is the cost of letting the chickens live a free-range life. We could keep them safer in their run, but they really love digging up treats from the forest floor. We have had issues with coyotes, fox, and bear (more on that later). Our biggest predator prevention is allowing our dogs outside for most of the day. Every spring we get more chicks to replace any loss we predict for the summer. We currently have 6 more chicks in the brooder, bringing our total to 25.
We have 7 ducks. 6 are females that lay eggs nearly every day. The ducks nest on the floor of the chicken coop. They love swimming in their pool (when it is above freezing). Ducks are messy with water and have added a little bit of adventure to our homestead. We originally had 15 ducks, but we butchered the males. Our ducks are 2 years old.
We also currently have meat chickens. We had a tragic run in with a bear that killed several of them before we were able to get rid of it. The bear ripped the locked door open on our garage and helped himself to the birds (which were about 2 weeks old at the time). We assume this is the same bear that killed our turkeys last year when it climbed on top of and collapsed our tractor coop. The bear will not be returning… Anyways, we currently have about 35 chickens left. The remaining birds are doing well and gaining weight like crazy. We will put them outside next week with an electric fence.
Every spring we talk about getting a few milking goats. We won’t be getting them anytime soon, but I guarantee they will be part of our homestead in the future. I would also love a cat, but Ryan is allergic so it would have to be a barn cat. That means we need a barn…..Ryan?… I mean, the kids will love it.
We raised turkeys last year. The bear got our first batch, but we did successfully grow a second batch. We ground most of the meat and it is delicious. We will grow turkeys again in the future, but they take a bit more work than the chickens and we wanted to have more time to travel this summer. Between the chickens, fresh eggs, my garden, and our fruit trees we should have plenty to put in the freezer for the next year. I’ll be sure to update throughout the summer. Thanks for reading!
First of all, I want to send a big thank you to everyone who attended our Lumberjack brunch! I love throwing birthday parties for my kids. Getting everyone together and celebrating the two best things that have ever happened to me sounds just about perfect. Besides, I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict and love to fill my evenings with projects when I have the time. While this party wasn’t exactly Pinterest worthy, I would love to share some of the fun things we had.
Lucky for us, Hobby Lobby has a whole section of lumberjack party supplies. If you know Ryan and I, you will understand that we are kind of lumberjack people. I majored in Forestry, we live in the country, plaid is a staple in our wardrobes, and Ryan has the lumberjack beard. We pretty much didn’t have any choice but to have a big ol’ brunch with plaid on every surface. I still had some birch disks and lanterns from our wedding center pieces, and they fit right in.
I made some simple envelop pillow covers in some “Bearly Beaver” fabrics I found on Fabric.com. Micah has some cloth diapers made in this fabric and it was too cute not to use it at the party. I have a bunch of mismatched pillows that I’ve been meaning to made seasonal covers for and I think these will look great in the fall/winter next year. You can see them in our family picture.
I made a progression banner of Micah’s monthly pictures, which hung above our drink station (complete with paper birch straws from Amazon). All it took was a little bit of card stock, pictures, and some plaid ribbon.
We had all of the good brunch foods, including pancakes, french toast, farm fresh eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade maple syrup, fruit, juice, coffee, mimosas, and beer. What could be better? We bought some great red chaffing dishes from Party City that fit the theme perfectly and labeled the food with some plaid card stock.
Oh, and several posts on Pinterest got me interested in s’more mix, a tasty treat of marshmallows, chocolate chips, and golden grahams. I highly recommend it.
Like I mentioned before, Hobby Lobby had an assortment of lumberjack decorations and party supplies.
We finished the day with a lumberjack cake and some cupcakes with ax toppers, also from Hobby Lobby.
The boys had a great time and I hope our guests did too! Ryan and I enjoyed having everyone here. Now we have to think up a theme for next year! As any parent knows, the months go by fast and it will be here before we know it. As always, thanks for reading and check back soon for more fun!
This spring we decided to venture into making homemade maple syrup. The good news is, as long as you have access to a maple tree, it is a really simple process! The boiling can be quite time consuming (more on that later), but the final product is worth every minute of it. We started by getting a starter kit from Tap My Trees with a great book with all of the information you need. I’ll give you a little summary.
First, you need some basic equipment to get started. This part is actually very simple and affordable. For collection you will need:
- A Tap: We purchased our taps from Tap My Trees. Most taps are created about the same, but I have only used these. We loved them.
- A Hammer: To tap in your taps
- A Drill: Taps can come in different sizes, so make sure you have a drill bit that matches the proper size for the tap.
- A Collection Bucket: You can buy buckets made specifically for maple sap or you can make your own from a milk jug or other food safe container. We used both plastic and metal buckets from Tap My Trees. We loved the classic sound of the metal buckets, but we liked the cheaper price of the plastic buckets. You really can’t go wrong!
- A Lid: Debris will get into your collection buckets if you don’t have some kind of lid.
- A 5 Gallon Bucket for Storage: When you collect your sap you will need a large, food safe bucket for storage. You can keep sap in these buckets refrigerated or packed with snow for up to a week. This is great news if you only have a few taps and want to wait until you have a substantial amount to boil. Remember, it take 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup!
- Cheesecloth: It is best to run your sap through cheesecloth before putting it in your storage bucket to remove any large pieces of debris that may change the flavor of your sap.
Once you have these few simple pieces of equipment, you are ready to get started.
This can definitely be a family event. We took the boys out in the sled and tapped our trees. It doesn’t take long (unless you have a lot of taps). We only had 6 taps this year.
Putting out your taps is as simple as drilling a hole about 2 inches into a maple tree at chest height at a slight upward angle. Insert the tap with a few gentle taps of a hammer, not too hard. Hang your bucket and you are good to go. If the temperature is right, you may see sap flow immediately. The sap flows the best when it is in the 40’s (F) during the day and freezing at night. The freeze-thaw pattern is what causes a pressure change in the tree. This can mean that syrup season can last a week or 6 weeks. It all depends on the weather.
Once we had about 6-8 gallons we started the boiling process. This is the long and slightly more difficult process. Assuming you do not have an evaporator you will need:
- A Candy Thermometer: Water boils at 212 Degrees F at most elevations. You can test your boiling point with a candy thermometer. Maple syrup boils at 7 degrees above water.
- A Stainless Steal Pan: We used 2 different pans for each stage. We used a large buffet pan on our gas grill and a stock pot in our kitchen to finish the syrup.
- A Fuel or Fire Source: You can find all sorts of DIY evaporator plans online, many of which use the buffet pans. We did not have the time or firewood to make our own evaporator. Instead, we just used our gas grill.
- Filter Paper: Once you are done boiling your sap you will need to filter it before it is put into the final container.
- Canning Jars: Boil your jars and put the syrup in hot to properly can them.
We started boiling sap on the grill. This process took a lot of propane and I would not recommend it for a large amount of sap, but for 8 gallons or so a day on the grill will work just fine. Keep the lid cracked so the steam can escape. Remember, your goal is to get rid of as much water as quickly as possible. When you add more sap to the already boiling pan, you need to preheat the sap first. This will help you maintain the boil.
Once the sap is down to about a gallon, transfer the remaining “almost syrup” to a stock pot and finish indoors. This will give you better control over the temperature. Some people use a hydrometer to measure the sugar content, but for a small operation a candy thermometer works just as well and can clip right onto a pot of sap.
As the sap cooks down it will take on an amber color. Sap collected early in the year will remain an amber color and sap from later in the spring will appear darker. As long as the thickness and taste is to your liking, can it and enjoy it!
Everyone should try making maple syrups at least once. At the very least, it will make you appreciate what really goes into making it and you will appreciate your local syrup so much more. We made a gallon of it and will definitely have a larger operation going next year. Maybe I can even talk Ryan into a $2000 evaporator…? Anyways, stay tuned for more homesteading adventures. Thanks for reading!
About 1 year ago Ryan and I bought a camper. It has already taken us on many adventures and we are very excited for more to come. We bought a 2005 Jayco 25RKS, which is code for a 25 foot camper with a rear kitchen and a slide out living area.
One of my favorite bloggers, Bower Power, recently wrote a post about the vintage camper they bought and the remodel they are going to take on. I love the idea! Our camper isn’t vintage, but I decided that if we are going to spend so much of our summers in it, why not make it our style? I have found that campers generally don’t fit our style, but I also don’t want to do any major renovations, mostly just fabric and wallpaper changes.
After discussing it a bit, I did some searching for patterns and designs we love. We have decided that we want to cover the wallpaper border (1), add some throw pillows and recover the valances (2,3,4), put a peel and stick back splash in the kitchen (5), get a new quilt (6), and recover the dinette cushions (7). We have narrowed it down to 2 options.
- Sweet JoJo Designs Wallpaper Border – Diamond Grey
- Michael Miller Backyard Baby Birch Forest
- Let’s Go Camping Jargon
- Premier Prints Feather Silhouette
- NuWallpaper Shiplap Peel and Stick
- Lush Decor Shelly Stripe Quilt
- Art Gallery Hello Bear Buck Forest
- Sweet JoJo Designs Earth and Sky Wallpaper Border
- Michael Miller Backyard Baby Birch Forest
- Quilt Camp Bias Check Blue
- Kaufman On the Road
- Pearl Hexagon StickTiles
- Room Essentials Arrow Print Duvet
- Premier Prints Arrow
We are excited to get started on this new project, but it is a big one and will take a bit of time! To be honest, I’ll be happy if we have a good hold on it by the end of summer. Which is your favorite? We’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading!
Our smiley boy is already 1 year old! Sometimes it seems like he was just born yesterday and other times it seems so long (especially when I think of how many times I’ve seen 3 a.m. this year). Micah is learning and growing every day. This month was a big one for him. He took his first steps, got his first haircut, and celebrated his first birthday.
Micah weighs 23 lbs and measures 30.5 inches. In the last year he grew 14 lbs and 8 inches! He is right at the 75th percentile for all of his measurements.
Micah is such a daredevil. He loves to climb anything and gets especially excited if he sees the baby gate is open to the stairs. With supervision he can easily climb all the way up. Micah loves Harrison’s toys (which we are still learning to share). He has really started to like books, which makes me very happy. He also loves music more than I thought a 1 year old ever could. He has a hard time getting anything done in a day because he has to stop what he is doing every time he hears music, which is a lot in our house. He loves to dance.
Micah is a terrible sleeper and loves to nurse. He still wakes up to eat and I can’t quite get him to quit, but we are working on it. I am happy to say I have been breastfeeding for 30 of the last 35 months, but I’m ready to be done whenever he is. I think we have quite the journey ahead of us though, because he is still nursing about 7 times a day. He also eats 3 solid meals a day. It’s no surprise why he’s in the 75th percentile!
Every time I talk about my kids being close in age the first question I get is “How do they get along?” I am pleasantly surprised that these boys love each other so much. Harrison loves being a big brother. They fight over toys but Harrison is starting to be more understanding, We are very blessed having such a laid back kid for our first.
Our baby has come so far in the past year and we are so excited about what the next year will bring! Happy birthday Micah!
I am so excited to hear so many people I know are considering backyard chickens. I mean, how can you resist those little puffs of happiness when you visit them at Tractor Supply or your local feed and hardware stores? I think most people are surprised to find out that backyard chickens don’t have to be a huge investment or a lot of work. You can decide for yourself how much you want to put into building or buying a coop and their care is generally pretty simple. I have put a list together of a few things everyone should know when they bring home their first chickens.
- You will need a good brooder. For some people, this is simply a plastic tub or even a bath tub. If you want to build a brooder that can be reused for years to come, check out our tutorial. The brooder needs dry pine shavings, a thermometer, feeder, water, and a heat source. It is best to have the heat source set up a day or two in advance so that you have a nice warm home for the chicks when you bring them home. The brooder should start at 90-95 degrees (F) and be reduced about 5 degrees a week (by raising the lamp) until the birds feather out. We find it best to put a block of wood in the bottom to hold the feed and water containers, as the little chicks like to kick the shavings into them.
- For egg laying chickens, you should start your chickens on a chicken starter feed with a protein level between 10-15% for about 3 months. For months 3-5 a grower feed with a protein level around 15% is best. Layer feeds, which contain an increased level of calcium, should be fed to layers older than 18 weeks. The extra calcium can be harmful when the birds are younger, so it is important to wait until they reach the recommended age. So just remember: starter feed –> grower feed –> layer feed.
- Water should be available to chickens at all times. A small chicken waterer is perfect in the brooder, but a large one is more appropriate for the coop. If you live in a cold climate where it freezes often in the winter, I recommend just going ahead and buying a heated waterer. You don’t have to always have it plugged in and it is so useful in the winter.
- You will need a coop and outdoor run for your chickens. You can buy a small coop (usually for about 4 birds) at your local feed store, or you can build one of your own. There are so many recommendations and plans online, but just remember a minimum of 3 sq ft per chicken in the coop, 10 sq ft per bird in the run, and 1 ft roosting space per chicken. The coop needs to be sheltered from the cold, but not airtight. Cleaning the coop is the biggest job and how often you do it is really up to you. We use the deep litter method, meaning we scoop out under the roosts 1-2 times per month and then we add more shavings and stir it in. We do a full coop cleaning 2-3 times a year. The run needs to be protected from predators (which will vary based on your location.) We recommend using hardware cloth as a fence and burying it 6-12 inches under ground to keep out predators that will dig. We are lucky that we have only lost chickens while free ranging and nothing has ever gotten into our coop. Our first coop was very large, because we wanted it to be multi-functional if the next owners didn’t want a chicken coop. You can read all about our first coop in this 4 part series.
- It is a good idea to have a chicken first aid kit. We have had a couple of chickens with issues, such as bumble foot or sores from being picked on. While the issues don’t happen often, it is better to be prepared than to have to run out and buy supplies once you discover an issue. I recommend having gauze, vetricyn wound and skin care, stretchy bandage for wrapping, and rubber gloves. Sometimes when a chicken seems sick or lethargic all it takes is some water with electrolytes. Since I am not a veterinarian, I recommend doing some research or asking your local vet if you have any questions about chicken care or a specific sickness/injury.
- After your chickens reach about 6 months old the hens will start laying eggs! You do not need a rooster for hens to lay eggs, and if you do have a rooster any fertilized eggs can be used just like any other egg, as long as you aren’t allowing your hens to become broody and sit on them. You can encourage them by making cozy nest boxes and using a wooden egg or golf ball in the boxes to make them see what it is for. I wrote a nest box tutorial a couple of years ago that I recommend checking out.
- Eggs can be stored with or without refrigeration. Eggs that have been cold or refrigerated should be kept cold, as temperature changes can cause them to spoil. If the eggs are fresh from the coop, feel free to keep them on the counter. If you are concerned about egg freshness, you can try the float test. Fresh eggs will sink. Eggs that are still ok, but should be used soon will stand on end. Eggs that have gone bad will float.
- Once you are settled with your chickens, get about 20 more. Then get ducks…and maybe a goat. Just trust me.
Since your baby only turns 1 once, you might as well go big! We did a cake smash for Harrison’s first birthday as well and it’s just so much fun. We had to do Micah’s cake indoors, which was a big mess but completely worth it! Get ready for picture overload!
We decided on a lumberjack party theme when we got this Best Bottom diaper cover in burly beaver plaid. It is one of my all time favorites and the fabric is available on Fabric.com, which we used for our backdrop. We bought the wall hangings from Hobby Lobby and the lantern is from Amazon.
I made a cake shaped like a bear using a round cake and 2 cupcakes. I bought 2 different frosting colors, which turned out to look the same, so it wasn’t quite what I was going for. Since it was cute and about to get smashed to bits, I didn’t worry too much.
Both kids gave us the same look when we set them up for their cake smash. (This devious look combined with “Can I actually eat this?”)
Micah started out slow and got a good taste. Turns out, he’s a big fan of cake.
He didn’t eat much cake before he decided it would be fun to see how much he could get on the walls and ceiling.
The mess was totally worth it. About 3/4 of the pictures were blurry because Micah is a mover. He is very different than Harrison in that way. While Harrison takes his time with things, Micah is all over the place.
He ended up with a pretty epic lumberjack beard.
I’m not a professional cake decorator or photographer, but these moments will be some of my best memories with the kids. I can’t believe Micah will be 1 next week. It is incredible how much kids change in that first year. Micah, you will always be my baby. Happy birthday!