Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Personal Guide to Managing Night Time Anxiety

This post has little to do with homesteading but it is relevant to my life so I am posting it.  Once a week I have problems with getting to sleep due to anxiety.  It happens usually Sunday night - Monday morning due to my mind getting ready to go back to work.  I been a social worker for the past 12 years and waking Monday morning is basically putting a lot of peoples problems on my shoulders.  There is usually no good solutions and I have little control over the outcome and this is very a stressful job.  (Probably the reason I have fantasies about living on a homestead.)  The job has given me a lot of practice with dealing with stress and anxiety and so here are some of my insights into how to deal with anxiety at night when you are trying to sleep in no particular order.  (I'm not a doctor or a psychologist and I'm not giving advice so beware if you decide to try some of these things.)

1.  The first thing I always try is to roll on my stomach and try to go to sleep with my face down.  Seems like when I have a lot of anxiety that I tend to lie flat on my back.  A big problem when I have anxiety is my mind will go over a thought like a broken record.  My mind stops thinking when I lie face down.  I do not know how the position of my head in relation to the earth stops me from ruminating on a thought but it does work.  Problem is that my back starts to hurt so I can't do this for long.  Sometimes I fall asleep before my back starts to hurt and I then I move to my side when I sleep.

2.  Pouring  ice cold water over my head in the sink or shower is another thing that lowers my anxiety.  I read about this somewhere and I tried it with a lot of skepticism but it does work for me.  I have now clue why this works but this has gotten me to get to sleep.  Not my first choice of action because the cold water also tends to wake me  up but as far as lowering anxiety it works.

3.  Taking an over the counter allergy medication with antihistamine like Benadryl lowers my anxiety a lot but I rarely use it.  Benadryl makes me tired for a long time (over 12 hours) and I have problems with getting up in the morning.  I also find that I do not have motivation to work the next day so this does not work well with my job.  Seems like I need some level of stress to get in the zone to get things done.  This is a last resort when nothing else works.

4.   Playing video games like World of Warcraft before I go to sleep can also lower my anxiety and get my mind into thinking about something else.  I make sure that I play something that is really easy.  My theory is that by doing this my mind feels in control which lowers my anxiety level.  Nothing like kicking the butt of computer animated toons.  If I do PVP or try to do a challenging dungeons then playing World of Warcraft increases my anxiety and it backfires.

5.  I have a kindle and if I wake up due to anxiety I play 5-10 minutes of Tetris and this really helps.  It gets me to stop thinking about things and puts my mind in a less emotional and more rational state.  I also feel sleepy after playing awhile so it really works.  I play marathon mode so I don't let it get to fast because then it would be more stressful to play which is the opposite of what I am wanting.  I have also read that playing Tetris after a traumatic event helps with PTSD.

6.  I have the kindle app Sleepy Time on my Kindle.  I play a peaceful sound and then try to imagine that I am there.  For example I will play "rainy drive" and imagine that I am back in Portland on vacation.  This works really well and gets my mind focusing on the environment and not on whatever is causing the anxiety.   This one is one of the things that works the best.

7.  In the past I have done low carb diets and after a couple of days I will have general anxiety and it doesn't feel like it's connected to work.  If this happens I know that I am going too extreme on the diet and I need eat more carbs.

8.  I have tried flexing each muscle groups from my feet up to my neck to relax and this does work.  What you do is try to flex the muscle as hard and possible and then try to relax the muscle and focus on the difference between the two feelings in the muscle.  This works but it is a lot of work and is counter productive when I am trying to sleep so I don't use this one much.

9.  Praying helps my anxiety a lot with my job.  I usually say the Jesus Prayer for a couple of minutes.  If I'm really tired sometimes I will just say Jesus' name over and over.  If I know why I'm anxious I will say a rosary and imagine that Mary is there with me praying during the rosary.  Something about holding the rosary helps me a lot.  I try to focus on the words I say the words with my heart.  I also try to see the situation from the point of view of salvation history and things look different when I do this.

10.  Another thing that I will do if I know why I'm anxious is to imagine that I am at the crucifixion.  I walk up to Jesus and hug his feet and tell him that I need him to take the burden until I am ready to pick it up tomorrow.  I then ask him to give me peace so that I can sleep.  This does work and I have gotten grace from doing this.  The hard thing is to not go back and pick the issue up again.

11.  I have started to take vitamin D3 (5000 UI) at 7:00 am every morning and this has significantly helped my sleeping.   Vitamin D3 is what your body makes when it's in the sun.  Taking this in the morning and not any other time of the day is critical.  Before doing this I would get home from work tired but by 10-11 I would hit my second wind and not be tired.  This has not happened since I have been taking D3 and my sleep has been deeper.  Hopefully this will last because I have only been doing it for a week.

I have not taken prescriptions for anxiety or therapy because I feel that it is due to my environment and not due to my biology and I have been able to manage it.  What has helped your anxiety?

Economies of Scale and Competitive Advantage on the Homestead

Last weekend I got up bright eyed and bushy tailed to do some work on the homestead.  There is a chinese elm that is south of our garden and it was going to block the sun light so I cut down.  There were limbs in the road and I was working to get them cleaned up.  I have been on a low carb diet and my tank was on empty but I kept working.  I have a very small truck and the branch that I was putting in the back was longer than the bed but I figured I would just let the majority hang out and then pull it to a pile where I was going to burn it.  The branch was thick and heavy and I was thinking to myself that it was going to be a tight fit against the cab and while thinking this I tossed the tree in the back and it went through the back window.  It was one of those incidents that goes in slow motion.  All day that image went through my mind over and over and it made me discouraged.  The family motto is "what we don't break...we shit on"  so the situation was fitting.

It got me thinking about the economy of scale and how it was very hard for a small garden to come out ahead against a large farm because little things add up and there is not a whole lot of room to come out in the black. The window was going to set me back a couple of hundred dollars and that is probably going to be more than what it would cost to go out to the store and buy the same amount of vegetables that I was going to try to grow.  Then I was thinking about the comparative advantage and how my location is not ideal for growing vegetables.  The season is too short compared to other parts of the U.S.  I can't really plant until after Memorial Day due to frost and other blogs on the internet are already harvesting stuff by that time.  The smartest thing to do would be to use the land to graze some cows.  Grass and alfalfa is easy to grow and takes little work.  The wife is excited about the garden though, so all the risk and benefit calculations needs to be put on the back burner because it would make her happy to see stuff grow.  I just got to realize that at this point the homestead vegetable garden is a money sink and hobby more than something that is going to be profitable.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Redneck Hot Tub

In January I made a redneck hot tube in the back yard that my girls had a fun time with.  It was made out of  the wooden frame of an old love seat.  I basically tore everything off the love seat except the frame and filled in the empty spaces with 6 X 1/4 wood slats that I had gotten from my father in law when he tore down his garage.  Then I put a tarp in the middle and filled it up with water.  It was too cold to use the hose to fill the tub up with water and this was a good thing because I then could use the hot water from the house.  I also used a fire to heat the water with a couple of large canning pots and I heated rocks that I put in the tub.  It was a little stressful keeping the kids away from the tub and fire, while I ran back and forth with buckets of water from the house, but it was worth it in the end.

 Here it the picture of the redneck hot tub / hill billy hot tub.

This is me taking a rock heated by the fire to put in the hot tub after I had filled it up with hot water from the house.

And these are pictures of the kids playing in the tub.  The water stayed warm for a long time and after a couple of hours they didn't want to come in even though it was cold outside.  Last month I filled up the hot tub again but didn't use hot water from the house.  I was planning on using more rocks and more heated water by the fire.  What I found out was that it would have taken all day to heat the water this way and I wasn't able to get the water hot enough to use.  The hardest part of the whole thing is getting the water hot and in the future I would use the heat from the house again or I would have to find larger metal containers to heat the water up with.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Homestead Fail: Pulling a Dexter on the Rooster

Last year I had a rooster and around 12 hens.  I had them protected in cages until they were around 9-12 months old.  I got the chickens through mail order and to get the chicks you had to have no less then 15 of them.  This was way more chickens than I wanted and when they were full grown I was getting tired of paying to feed them.  I decided to let them roam free in the field behind our house to see if it would work and if I lost a couple of chickens then it wouldn't be a big loss because I had more than I wanted anyway.  To my surprise the chickens didn't have any problems and after around 2-3 months none of them died.

My two oldest daughters were helping me feed the chickens and they would look for the eggs. The problems was that the rooster was very aggressive and would go after my daughters.  I tried to explain that they needed to be aggressive towards the rooster for him to leave them alone.  The more they acted afraid though the more the rooster would go after them.  I even tried to have them use a broom to keep the rooster at bay and told them to hit it but it was no use and the rooster pecked at my daughters.  

Seeing the rooster go after my daughters got me a little upset to say the least and in the back of my mind the rooster was just a waste anyway.  It didn't do anything but eat and bully the hens and my daughter.  So with having so many chickens and not interested in trying to have chicks, I decided to pull a Dexter on the rooster.  After the ritual killing of the rooster all was good with the world.  He tasted good and it was going to be cheaper to to feed the chickens in the future or though I thought.  
Literally the next day I went outside to see that there were feathers all over and it wasn't from me.  Something had killed 3 of the hens.  I had a good thing going and I messed up the balance.  Without the aggressive rooster there something must have been emboldened to eat my hens.  After this I had to keep the chickens caged all the time to protect them and it probably took more feed because I didn't move the cage around often enough to let the chickens find food for themselves.

Anyway that is my rooster story.  The moral of the story?  If your a radical feminist, be careful what you wish for, you never know when that useless male is actually providing a function.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From the Ground Up

This blog will be a reflection and investigation into creating a homestead in the hope that this will lead to a good life for myself and my family.  I'm not totally sure what the good life is or how to design one but the pursuit will be documented in this blog.  Maybe by planting some plants in the ground and raising some animals we will get a little closer.