Recovering Health and Fitness

Recovering Fitness Potatoes Should be Eaten, Not Sit on Couches!

In the Lessons From a Dangerous Situation post, I briefly touched on our decision to do more to recover our health and strength. These are the actions we are taking to expand on that decision.

Fitness and strength:

We joined a local gym. $28 a month for the two of us (Rahn as member, me as “buddy”) is a pretty fair deal. We can go to any of the area clubs. Some have different facilities, which we may take advantage of later.

We are also starting to work with a personal trainer. This is a more substantial outlay ($100 for 5 sessions in a month), but we both need work on the basics!

Our free assessment session was both enlightening and somewhat alarming. While the trainer said that I did better than he expected, I was alarmed at how little I could really do. Different perspectives, but it also gives a good baseline for future improvements.

Most of my first session with the trainer was spent on some exercises to both assess and improve balance and foot and ankle strength. Truly impoving fitness from the ground up.

I was also given a couple of exercises to work on the limited range of motion and inflammation in my bad shoulder. These are the same exercises that a physical therapist would have given me, so I feel that the trainer’s fee was amply justified!

I’ll be taking “before” pictures of both of us, but won’t be showing them unit we have some progress photos to post with them. Improving fitness and strength is a process, rather than a destination.

Since I first wrote the above we did complete our first set of sessions with the trainer. I thought we were making progress, but then Rahn re-injured his back, and I caught a cold that put me out of commission for over a week. We need to get back to the gym this week.

The good news is that I have been more able to pick up the slack. I was able to take care of the birds and bunnies on those days that Rahn was was not capable of handling. I’ve also been able to take care of some of the chores that I was slacking on because of bone-deep fatigue.

That fatigue! Google results are pretty vague, but one cause is listed as simply “ageing”, which is simply unacceptable.

My plan to address this fatigue is a combination:

Improve nutrition. Lower consumption of inflammation-causing foods, increase probiotics, increase protiens. In particular, replace coffee with ice water and lemon and eliminate sugar-laden soft drinks. In addition, I need to make sure I have my daily kombucha. I’ll also be starting daily consuption of pineapple. The idea there is to take advantage of the enzyme bromelain. Increasing protien is fairly easy with a slow cooker. A pot of black eye peas and smoked pork is a tasty anytime meal.

Scheduling: This kind of fatigue can easily lead to immobility on an emotional level. Perhaps the best answer is to be able to see progress and production happening. Making a to-do list and daily schedule and then check items off and take photos of things made or done can improve morale.

Increase activity: This is best done on an easy gradient. Do physical chores in short sections. If working in the garden for 15 minutes is too much, work for 10 minutes and take a break. Go back to it later, take another break, etc..

More on Healthier Eating:

My opinion is that we do better at proper eating than many. There is still plenty of room for improvement, and here a few of the actions we are taking.

I skipped getting any pastry and junk food for myself when I shopped. Rahn still wanted some this week, but as he gets more gym time, I think he will be deleting those requests.

I did get some starter yogurt so I can make some slow cooker yogurt for morning smoothies. I also got some frozen unsweetened fruit for those smoothies.

Slow cooker yogurt is super easy to make, saves a bunch of money, and doesn’t require special appliances.

A pint of Greek-style yogurt as a starter, and a gallon of whole milk will make about three quarts of Greek-style yogurt, and a quart of whey to add to soup, bread, or rice. Future batches will need about a pint of the last batch as starter.

I use an oval ceramic-lined slow cooker. It has a capacity of about five quarts.

Method is super easy.

Place a gallon of whole milk in the slow cooker on high for two hours.

After two hours, unplug the slow ccoker. Let it cool for about an hour, then put a pint of room-temperature Greek-style yogurt in a bowl. Add about a cup of the hot milk to the bowl, and stir. This warms the yogurt more slowly than just adding the pint to the milk all at once. Trust me, it makes a difference!

Mix the warmed yogurt and milk back into the warmed milk in the slow cooker. Put the lid back on, and wrap the whole thing in a thick towel.

Now walk away and leave it undisturbed for at least eight hours, or overnight.

When you come back, you should have regular yogurt. You can use it as is, but I like to take one more step to make it Greek-style. I find I like the thicker texture, and slightly more intense flavor.

Place a large strainer over a big bowl. Line the strainer with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and pour the yogurt from the slow cooker into the lined strainer. Cover with a lid, or another towel, and let the watery whey drain into the big bowl. This can take several hours, and the yogurt cultures get a bit stronger and more intense flavor.

There are several approaches to eating healthier, and we’ve decided on a simple version.

Mainly, we are working toward eliminating processed foods, and eating home cooked from scratch foods.

With the garden getting started, the meat rabbits getting numerous enough to start sending some rabbits to “freezer camp”, and getting more chicks and ducklings for eggs and meat, this process has a good start.

The first deep raised bed is built, and will get planted today. Many of the seeds will also get started today. More raised beds need to get built, filled and planted.

Last year’s garden was only in a few pots. While we got some vegetables, it was not nearly enough to feed us all year. I really do plan to vastly increase garden production.

Preserving that produce is also a major target. If I can 100 quart jars of home grown tomatoes, that allsows for tomatoes twice a week all year. If I pickle / dehydrate / freeze 100 pints of home grown peppers, I have spicy foods available for any number of recipes. Other vegetables and herbs also figure in my plans.

How Much To Raise To Eat All Year

I’ve been working out how much to raise to feed us both fresh and preserved foods for the year. From there, I can work out how much square footage of garden needs to be built, and how much animal housing needs to be created.

Another thing to consider is food storage. We’ll need to make sure that most foods won’t require cold storage. I have plenty of experience with canning, drying, and pickling of foods. The Gentleman Friend is a champ at smoking meats.

Part of my research involved old agricultural extension bulletins, and I compiled this list of quantities of foods needed per person over a year.  The original resources were based on a family of four, so I worked the figures to reflect amounts per person.

Milk – 75 gallons – 5 ounces of cheese counts as 1 quart

Meat / Poultry / Fish -100 lbs broken up as: 40 lbs fresh, 30 lbs cured, 30 lbs canned (5 quarts)

Eggs – 30 dozen

Fats – 60 lbs as butter, bacon, oils

Sugars – 50 lbs (includes 5 lbs honey and 15 lbs molasses)

Vegetables – 300 lbs Tomatoes 2.5 bushels, can 30 to 40 quarts. Green vegetables 60 lbs fresh, 125 lbs stored (includes cabbage) 25 lbs canned (about 10 quarts)

Potatoes – 180 lbs sweet and white potatoes

Fruit and juices – 100 lbs fresh, 20 lbs dried (which is about 5 pounds after drying), 100 lbs canned (50 quarts)

Flour & Cereal – 160 lbs wheat (for bread and cereals)

Dry beans – 15 lbs dry peas & beans

Nuts – 10 lbs – 5 lbs each of peanuts and tree nuts

When I started looking at these numbers, I realized that when broken down to a weekly amount, I was not eating sensibly in far too many categories.

Here are the numbers:

Milk – Initially, we’ll still be purchasing most of our milk and cheese. Our plans do include getting a couple goats.

Eggs – One of the first additions to our new homestead is going to be chickens and ducks for meat and eggs.

Meat / poultry / fish – We’re also going to be raising meat rabbits. I’ve had experience with angora rabbits, and feel confident that meat rabbits would be a nice addition. Ducks in the poultry category. Our new place is very close to Lake Texoma, so the Gentleman Friend is going to be doing a fair amount of fishing to fill the freezer.

Fats – Yes, we are thinking with either getting some “bacon seeds” or finding hunting area that will let us get some wild bacon and lard. Since goat milk needs a separator to get cream for butter, butter will most likely need to be purchased until the equipment budget can support getting a milk separator. Vegetable shortening and vegetable oil will need to be purchased.

Sugars – We like the thought of raising bees. With the numbers of fruits and vegetables to be grown, having pollinators is necessary. I have grown and processed sorghum for molasses before. It’s a fascinating crop with plenty of uses. I will likely grow some sugar beets as a fodder crop for the animals, and I’ll put some time in on experimenting with home-processed sugar. I expect we’ll still be purchasing most of our sugar.

Beans – Broken across several varieties for both eating fresh and drying for storage. 45 plants total. Kentucky Wonder, Pole Lima, Speckled Calico, and Jacob’s Cattle Gold.

Beets – Succession planting for beet greens, baby beets, and beets for storage. 100 plants (or more) Using a beet mixture that has a wide variety of colors, sizes and days to maturity.

Cabbage (and other brassicas) – I like Gonzales Mini Cabbage, but I am also getting a mix packet for other sizes and days to maturity. I will likely have 10 plants. Brussels Sprouts are a treat when roasted with some Italian dressing, or simply garlic with olive oil. I’ve never had a lot of luck with cauliflower, but broccoli has produced for me in the past.  Turnip, rutabaga & kohlrabi are also good bets. 10 plants each.

Corn – One of my favorites. There are lots of heirloom seed options for both sweet and flour corn. 5 rows each, separated by a couple weeks to avoid random cultivar crosses.

Cucumber – I have experience with Lemon Cucumber, and the Poona Keera variety has some of the same qualities that I particularly enjoy. Both are never bitter, even if heat-stressed. 6 plants.

Eggplant – I’m growing a variety called Turkish Orange. They resemble orange tomatoes on tall, productive plants. 7 plants

Lettuce – I’m using a mixture of leaf lettuces that will be used in succession plantings. Per medical advice, I should be eating a salad a day, so I’ll be growing at least 70 plants.

Melon & Cantaloupe – I’ll be growing 2 plants in each of 4 varieties for 8 plants total. American Melon, Green Nutmeg, Minnesota Midget, and Hale’s Best. The Gentleman Friend is quite enthusiastic about watermelon, so 1 or 2 plants will probably be added.

Okra – I don’t particularly care for okra, but the Gentleman Friend enjoys it. At least a couple plants will be in the garden.

Onion – I’ll need to get sets locally – 100 sets. I’ll also plant a packet each of chives and bunching onions.

Pea – 70 to 100 plants in succession planting for both fresh eating and drying.

Peanuts – I’ve always wanted to try growing peanuts, and the Gentleman Friend enjoys peanut butter. I think 5 plants per person.

Peppers, HOT – This is Texas. I’m just not interested in bell peppers. 5 plants of Chinese 5 Color, 5 plants of Black Hungarian, and 10 plants from the hot pepper mix packet.  Chinese 5 Color & Black Hungarian are both jalapeno-level peppers that have nice color and flavor.

Potatoes –  I am planning on having several plants each sweet and white potato plants.

Radish – I really like radishes. A little butter, some sea salt… Radishes are so quick to grow, I’m not even going to put a number on these. I’m using a mix of colors, sizes, & days to maturity.

Spinach – I’m ordering a mixed packet. Again, I’ll be sowing these in succession for fresh eating and freezing. 180 plants overall.

Squash – I’ll be growing 2 plants each of Butternut, Acorn, Yellow summer squash, and Eightball zucchini. Possibly a Hubbard variety for animal feed.

Swiss Chard – I like a variety called Bright Lights. The different colors are interesting, and the ability to harvest repeatedly from the same plant is great. 20 plants total.

Tomato – I expect to end up with at least two dozen tomato plants. Rio Grande is a small paste tomato that tolerates a fair bit of heat. Aunt Ruby’s German Green and Kellogg’s Breakfast are two of my favorites. Both are great producers with fantastic flavor.

Fruits – We plan to add several fruit trees and vine fruits. Mulberry, grapes, blackberry, peach, plum and cherry are my first choices. Strawberries are a must.

Wheat – I haven’t grown grains for home use before, but we’ve decided to put together a fodder growing system for the ducks and rabbits. Adding a 60 x 120 patch to handle some of this may or may not be possible initially. It may be better to find an organic grower that would be willing to trade for our specialties.

Herbs – Cutting celery is my answer to the difficulty of growing celery in this climate. I’ll have a couple plants of it, and will try to keep one plant in a container so as to keep it growing over winter. The other edible herbs I’ll be growing are dill, oat grass, nasturtium, rosemary, cilantro, mint and several varieties of basil.

I’ll also have several varieties of sunflower, Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, Elcampane, Golden Marguerite, Indigo, Henna, Woad, and Black Hollyhock for use as dye plants.

A multiflora petunia mix and some marigolds will add to the appeal of the front yard, and I’ll be growing three varieties of gourds for crafts. Bushel gourd is used to make storage containers, Luffa gourds can be eaten like a summer squash when young, but the main use is as vegetable sponges / scrubbers. Spinner gourds are tiny bottle-shaped gourds that are useful for a number of crafts.

I’ll be having a patch of cotton for fiber use. I have two varieties – Nanking Brown, and Red-Foliated White – that I grew a couple years ago. I have a fair amount of seed, and will see where that gets me.

A number of foods and spices will still need to be purchased or traded for. Black and green tea, coffee, black pepper, salt top the list here. Surprisingly, ginger and turmeric can be grown in pots and are actually quite attractive as houseplants in the winter.

I haven’t yet worked out how much space that will take, so I am going to keep building raised beds until we do figure it out.

These are some of our first targets to get on the road to recovering our health and fitness.


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