Sunday, April 13, 2014

Aero Garden Seed Starter

To help get our seedlings started Kevin took advantage of a special he found online and ordered the Miracle Grow Aero Garden Seed Starter.  It uses a wicking hydroponic system with a small grow light to get seeds started quicker or grow bulbs.  Some advertisements showed this being used for small apartments to have a small hydroponic garden.  Our purpose for this is to get seeds started for transferring to our tower gardens.

The setup was very simple with all the pieces snapping together quickly.

Kevin then placed the unit on the old trunk in the sun room where we planned to have it set up and he added the water and nutrients as well as the prepackaged seeds that came with this unit.  We plugged it in, turned the light on and there it was ready to start growing the herb seeds.

Seed starters in place and grow light on.

It's now been a week and here is the progress so far.  Once these get a little bigger I'll transfer them to our tower gardens and start some other seeds.  This has proven effective in jump starting the seedlings for us.

As a side note here's a quick Bea update.  We had her to the specialist 3 times following her laser surgery last Monday.  They took extra fluid out of her eye on each visit and with the medicine and drops she has shown improvement and still has sight in both eyes.  So we keep praying for her healing and doing all we can to see her get the best results possible given the dangers that glaucoma presents.

Bea this morning out for a walk.  She's definitely been taking advantage of and enjoying the extra attention.

I'll show the amazing growth we've had in our tower gardens and vertical hydroponic units in my next post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saving Bea's Sight

I've been behind on my posts as we've had a bit going on lately.  First and foremost has been working to help our dog Bea.  On Saturday morning Hannah was petting her and said "there's something wrong with Bea's left eye".  I took a look and it was very inflamed and had a cloudy area in the center.  I went online and everything I read told me to get her to a vet immediately.  So I called our local veterinary office and they only had one vet in that day and were booked solid.  I was given an appointment for the following day and took that, but decided I'd call other clinics to see if I could get in faster.  As I was completing the call the receptionist asked again what the trouble was and I explained about the condition of her eye and all I'd read warning to get her in right away.  She asked me to hold and went to talk to the vet.  When she came back on the phone she asked if I could come in right away and they'd fit me in as soon as possible.  So Kevin and I headed over and after waiting a little while Dr. Ed Dworkin came in to see Bea.  He's had serious eye problems himself and was very sympathetic with her.  He used a tonometer designed to give the pressure reading on the eye.  Normal should be in the range of 12, and can even go into the 20's without real concern.  Danger zones were in the 40's and if the eye remained in the upper 40's for more than 48 hours irreversible permanent damage was certain.

Bea at the vet and not happy to be here.  This eye is quite enlarged and cloudy.

Dr. Dworkin, D.V.M.

Bea's left eye was 70 and right eye was 22!!!   He said she definitely had glaucoma and gave us the phone number for a group of specialists.  He then went out to try to call and get her in.  Unfortunately they are closed for the weekend, so he prescribed some drops to help relieve pressure and said to call them right away on Monday.

On Sunday both eyes were swelled and partially closed. We began using the drops in both and gave her a little aspirin to help with the pain .  Poor baby, you just feel so helpless.
First thing Monday morning Kevin got the Animal Eye Associates group on the phone and after explaining Bea's diagnosis was told to come on in and though they had a full list of appointments they would squeeze her in.  After waiting a bit she was taken in and her eye pressure in the left eye was at 57 (better than the 70 on Saturday) and the right eye was 12.  We were given a few choices that were available for treatment.  After having already spent a lot of time looking for answers and treatments over the weekend we decided to have Laser Cycloablation Surgery done that afternoon to help control the glaucoma and try to save her sight.  Unbeknown to us glaucoma is a disease that is very prevalent in Basset Hounds and can come on quickly as hers had between the ages of 4-6 years of age.  She's just over 6 years old.  There is no known cure so it's something that becomes a life long treatment for management.  Needless to say I have been doing a lot of research to try and find out ways  that can help in this with diet changes, especially since we've recently been dealing with yeast infections on all the dogs skin.  We thought it was external contributors we've encountered since our move and this is probably part of the problem, but I've been reading too about food allergies and changes in the formula of our long used food products that have caused allergic reactions in dogs.  GREAT!!!

Bea after surgery, eye is clearer, but swollen.

She hated having to wear this cone!!!
Dr, Noelle McNabb D.V.M. , her surgeon

Out of it on the ride home

We will head back again to the vet today to have them check her eye pressure.  They had to remove a little fluid yesterday, and we're hoping the pressure results will have improved today.  The surgery is not inexpensive, it ran $1700.00 and that included the surgery, meds and all follow up visits and treatments that pertain to this surgery.  The alternatives were using meds only and this has a much slower rate of eliminating pressure or traditional surgery that has a lot of complications.  If pressure can't be relieved then blindness occurs and in most cases surgical eye removal is recommended to relieve pressure.  To maintain eye appearance prosthetic eyes can be inserted, needless to say this costs about 3 times what the laser surgery runs.  Bea is still not back to her old self, but she's definitely better than she was last weekend.  Will give updates as she continues treatment and makes progress.

Eyes are clearing and reacting to the unwanted flash from the camera.  That's actually a good sign.

Just let me sleep please!  Her appetite is still off, though she's always been a picky eater.

That's it for now, will bring updates on all our projects as well as news on Bea.  The kids are definitely happier and relieved as they were really worried about her.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hannah's Celebration

As promised yesterday, I have pictures of our celebrations for Hannah's 10th birthday.  She chose the Animal Kingdom as her favorite park to go to so that was our destination.  What a beautiful day to go there too.  It was a nice sunny day, yet not too hot.  The park wasn't that crowded and with Kevin having used Disney's new online program to link Fast passes to your annual pass, we were able to go on the Safari ride shortly after arriving in the morning while it was still cool enough for the animals to be out and about.  That made it a really nice ride!!

We walked and really got our exercise as we experienced the beauty of this park, all the amazing animals and the various activities like the fascinating ability of the wood carver I have pictured as he nimbly used the hatchet to carve a branch into a beautiful walking stick.  This is a park of music, and rich atmosphere with all the incredibly intricate detail of plants, buildings and their ability to create buildings that replicate their originals from various locations in Africa and Asia. It is a sensory rich experience.

Asian peacock sunning himself.

Girls on safari ride, the wood carver and in "Asia"  one of several monkey exhibits.

Disney's Mt. Everest

Girls by Tree of Life sign, and us on the Hannah's favorite Dinosaur ride

Girls waiting for lunch

Bird on her nest and the male rushing in as I was photographing to put himself between she and I.

After several hours spent at the Animal Kingdom our feet were ready for a break, so we headed to the truck and home. I looked back to check on the kids as we drove and the girls were busy playing with leap pads and an iTouch and Cameron was using the time to catch a few ZZZZZ's  .

Once home we had Hannah open presents, then after dinner it was time for some birthday cake. Baba and Grandpa called after we had dinner to wish a "happy birthday", then we sat and watched her new video of the movie Frozen, before it was finally time for bed and an end to the birthday celebrations.   Hannah said it was "a great day and a great 10th birthday!!!".    Love to hear that.                        


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Happy 10th Hannah

It's our purple loving princesses 10th birthday!!  Can't believe how fast she's growing up and now the birthdays are out of the single digits and we begin double digits, or as Hannah puts it she's a "double digit midget!!!".  Love our princess Hannah!!

     To celebrate we're heading to Disney's Animal Kingdom.  This is our last month for our annual passes and it will be awhile before we renew, so we'll make the most of this last month starting with our visit today. Will post pictures of the day in a later post. Right now need to get ready to go!!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Conference Getaway

This past weekend Kevin and I were able to participate in a conference we've wanted to attend for years. Past conferences always required extensive travel and made it unreasonable to plan for, so when we found this one was going to be held this year in Orlando we were excited and began to make plans to attend!!

Cameron graciously watched the girls and kept the house running for us as we were away for the weekend. It was so nice to be able to get away and enjoy this time together listening to a wide array of wonderful speakers, enjoying a beautiful hotel and of course just spending time together.

The conference was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Orlando, Florida.  It's a beautiful facility and everything was well run and so orderly.  We participated in the meal service the conference offered for a few key meals and enjoyed some of the other restaurants, snacks we'd brought to have as we relaxed in our large and nicely decorated room, and of course took advantage of the Starbucks there in the lobby.

Lobby view from the fourth floor just walkway just outside our room.

The various speakers were really interesting and since there were far more than you could see, because they had a wide variety to choose from in various conference halls, we ordered a DVD set to be able to see them all here at home and to watch again the speakers whose messages we may have attended, but would love to hear again.  On Saturday the weather changed and the light rain fore casted turned into a downpour with lightening and thunder and also a tornado warning.  We checked in on the kids as it was the same there for them, and we watched the wild weather from our room while we took an afternoon break.

Kevin's on the phone with the kids and though hard to tell through the heavy rain, the wind was REALLY blowing these trees near the pool area below.
 Then after a few hours, it all stopped and the sun made a brief appearance before beginning it's descent in what created a lovely sunset.
The sun as it was setting, colors were more vibrant than appear in my photo.
Photo of the evening view overlooking the pool from our room. Quite a difference from the crazy weather just a few hours earlier.

Had a great time and loved getting away to enjoy this event!!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

4-H Update

As we do our weekly feedings and meetings we watched the chicks grow and thankfully all have survived and are doing well. Here they are progressing at 3 and 4 weeks.
The chicks at 3 weeks

At 4 weeks they are starting to lose their downy feathers and get their adult ones.

This last week as we went to feed, we were told there is a pygmy goat in the Rabbit area that likes to jump on you.  As a herd animal they do not like to be without company, so this little guy REALLY wanted attention more than food.  We spent some time loving on  him as we fed the chickens, chicks, rabbits, doves and pigeons all part of the 4-H program.

Don't know whether this goat is a permanent part of their collection or they are just watching it for people. It has a collar, so has been someones pet.  It definitely needs to be around others of it's kind or people who can dote on it.

He really liked Kevin!!!

Made friends with all of us
Looking more to getting our own chicken area started now, and after meeting this guy the girls really would like to include pygmy goats to our homestead.  Hmmm, will have to see about that.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tower Gardens - Our Newest Garden Addition

Living Towers, Eustis Fl.
I've had several posts about preps for our garden here in Florida, and the challenges I've found trying to figure out how to grow in the sugar sand that is this State's dirt, as well as to deal with the HUGE amounts of rain that will fall in such short periods of time!!  SOOOOOO, very different from my past garden and landscape projects I've had for so many years in California.
I set about to tackle this by trying to educate myself on how others manage this in our region.  Florida itself falls into several different climate zones, our's is in Central Florida and it's listed 9b.  In addition to the climate, there are so many more factors, the invading grasses and pests, including larger animals to deal with in my garden.  So Kevin and Cameron further moved to create the hydroponic systems we'd looked into and had begun in our greenhouse in California.  Here though they moved it up a notch from the half barrels we'd used there to this beauty that is now beginning to produce the first of our plants.  We've been working to get the flow of nutrient rich water right to ALL the plants, and have been seeing success.

Our current hydroponic system Kevin and Cameron have been working on, and initial pictures from the barrel system we had in our greenhouse back in California.  It was one we'd hoped would eventually lead to an aquaponic system using first gold fish, then later Tilapia.  Still planning to eventually have this, but will probably not use the barrels again.

Living Towers commercial lettuce production.
A week ago Kevin and I toured a greenhouse garden known as Living Towers where they feature their commercial systems of aeroponically grown vegetables and some of the Tower Gardens that we decided to purchase after our tour.  We had initially gone to the display to see their greenhouse setup and to buy starter plants.  We were so impressed with the design and performance of these garden towers that wet the root systems of the plants then to allow a timed shut down and airing out  of the roots, that helps to not drown the plants as has been the challenge in our hydroponic gardening.  This makes for large, healthy plants that grow remarkably fast.  The designer of these systems Tom Blank worked for Disney's The Land at Epcot and became expert at growing aeroponically for them and their collaboration with NASA.  Not wanting to get into home sales Disney gave him the go ahead to bring this technology to everyday home owners for their use.
The Land at Epcot - our "Behind the Seeds" tour we took in October of 2013
He worked to simplify the garden towers by giving his early prototypes to his grandmother for testing.  He figured if she could put it together herself and get it running without incidents then he had a model that would work for the general public.  With that the Tower Gardens were born.  We decided to order their set of 3 and these arrived Wednesday.  They were as easy as they said to put them together and with the starter plants that we got at the Living Towers center , we dropped those in and our gardening in these was started.

This is the system as it's designed to operate.
Our Tower Gardens arrived in 6 boxes - to level the area they would sit Kevin and Cameron made these wood bases with the extra center brace to set them on, because our yard slants they used a system of shims to level the bases.

Cameron looking over 1st assembled tower garden

1st tower with plants and our hydroponic system behind it
Bases for the next two towers in place

Leveling the last tower garden

Here they are - all 3 towers with plants in them.  The tomato cage is around the closest in this picture.

Kevin has started a new blog found here: Project 128 and I will be putting a permanent link on the side of this blog, so that they can display the progress of this garden system, as well as the others that we have been working on and will be adding in the future.  Our desire still remains to really make this property produce well for ourselves and to have plenty to share.  This will include eventually having our Tilapia in our own aquaponic system.  So excited to see the progress!!

I'll post more as we continue to watch our "modern" garden grow.  Meanwhile check out Kevin's new blog
Project 128.