Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 8 - Of babies, plants, and Ph levels: growing in hard conditions

When we bought our first house (our only house), we bought it for the spacious back yard. It was February. The house we were renting had had a patch of raspberries in the back yard, and fertile soil all around.  But the yard was small. We figured we'd have the same good soil at our new house only a few miles away, and lots more of it. After all, the land it was on had been farm country not too many decades before.

Except that they'd sold off the top soil.  We discovered this in May when we went to plant. We lived on clay.  A nice large lot of clay.

So I've spent the last four and a half years amending that clay. We built a raised bed and added soil. We invested in a composter and have slowly turned our kitchen scraps into more soil.  We have bought hardy plants like raspberry bushes and mint that will grow anywhere. We've learned to make it work.

And we've made some mistakes.

Like me mistakenly thinking that blueberry bushes would be very nice along the side of the house, they'd give such a nice red foliage in the fall and berries in the spring.

Foliage, yes, but berries, no. Blueberries don't like clay.  I'd known that much and dug them a pit of peat moss. They also like acidic soil. You know, like the kind of soil you'd get in a pine forest. Not the alkaline soil that surrounds a house due to the lime in the foundation.

After two years of amending the soil in the bed by the house to make it more acidic and less alkaline, but with no berries to show for it, my daughters and I decided to do a science experiment and see how acidic the soil was.

The answer: not at all acidic. The measures we'd taken hadn't lowered the alkaline levels at all.

So we made a new trench of peat moss in the back yard, under where a pine tree had been just a few years before. We replanted the blueberries. The first year after the replanting we had a few handful of berries to show. This year the rabbits thought it would be helpful to trim the bushes for us over the winter, so we have no berries to show. But the plants (even with the trimming) are healthier. And next year, I am hopeful that we'll finally bring in a crop of berries.

Hang in there buddy! J at 8 days old.
About a year ago I learned we have Ph levels too. And Jonathan's were off. In the NICU they'd test the levels in his blood.  They then design his total perenteral nutrition (TPN) to help keep the levels where they wanted them. TPN was like Jonathan's IV version of Gatorade. And without it, he wouldn't have grown.

The girls and I had had a little tablet, soil, and a small vial to test the soil. I don't know how they tested his blood, but the results were the same: the conditions weren't great for growing, so we needed to find a way to help improve growing conditions.

And for both my berries and my bitty baby -- it has taken time. Longer than if they'd started out in an ideal environment.

But both have proven to be hardy.

I guess we are more like plants than I thought. I am amazed by modern medicine. I am amazed by science.

July 2013 -- a year later

Ella is my 6 year old. She coped with the insanity of last year by educating herself. She used all available resources to figure out as much as she could about Jonathan's life and care.

The result was one sturdy six year old who is terribly interested in medicine and science.

We saw a "Squishy Human Body" at a specialty store last weekend. That got Ella and her twelve year old cousin to talking. Ella wanted that squishy human body SOOO bad, so that she could learn all about anatomy and practice doing surgery. Bec thought it was a disgusting proposition. "Ewww" she said.

"What?" Ella replied, "It's just blood! Everybody has blood. Some people think it's disgusting, but we need it to live, so I don't think there's anything wrong with it. It doesn't bother me!"

Today she asked if she could watch a YouTube video with me on how to change his feeding tube. I said no.  Not because I am afraid of exposing her to that sort of thing, but because I'm afraid that if she watches the video, she'll think she can change her brother's feeding tube herself. Thing is, she probably could. But let's not chance it.

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