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News from Stark Raven Studios: Dan and Saga's blog about blacksmithing, art, and daily life and  work on their tiny Wisconsin Northwoods homestead.

Saga's Blog - Hitch in my Giddyap and Ethical Decisions

The Beginning of November 2018

Over the past year or so, I have been encouraged by several of my friends to restart my blog. Every week, I have intended to do so, only to get distracted or was too…any number of complaints, to follow through on good intentions….that road to hell, lol.

 At Z Place Gallery in Ironwood Michigan with my faithful companion, Willow

At Z Place Gallery in Ironwood Michigan with my faithful companion, Willow

So here,  in the beginning of November,  following a Celtic new year celebration, it is a good time to start anew. I have been wondering whether or not to pick up where I left of with my blog or to start a blog incorporated with our home business. I worried over this for months. My husband Dan actually suggested I restart the blog through our website as so much of daily life has direct effect of how our business runs. So after a mutual decision, this blog will be accessible through our website, www.stark-raven-studios.com and linked social media pages.

From time to time, I will be pulling excerpts from my old blog as some of their content is relevant. Everything in our worlds, after all, are ripples in the pond.

As many of those who follow our journey know (and those who join are to find out,) we have been striving to live a sustainable lifestyle. More often than not, through stumbling, fumbling, trail and error, we achieve successes. Sometimes it is a very slow process.

A hitch in my giddy-yup

I stopped blogging when an MS relapse hit me. It happened after a really delightful thanksgiving trip. Every year, we go down to the Chicago area to stay with Dan’s family for a few days. It is always a great time. Good food, lots of love, good conversation and laughter. Then, on the trip home, we get together with however many of my siblings are available. This past thanksgiving, I was feeling on top of the world. I had been powerlifting for almost two years, had planted a small, but successful garden and had energy to spare. Well, I must have picked up some kind of bug while traveling and my health took a tumble.

 The pond on My sister in law’s property in West Chicago. If you look close, there is a Blue Heron at the pond’s edge.

The pond on My sister in law’s property in West Chicago. If you look close, there is a Blue Heron at the pond’s edge.

I just didn’t feel right. I started getting migraines again. Fatigue kept knocking me down and I wasn’t able to help with the homesteading chores the way I prefer to. Dan had to carry the work load in the homesteading department as well as try to keep up with his orders. By Yule, I was in a full blown MS relapse. It left my state of mind struggling and it felt as if all the progress I had made was sifting through my fingers.

Ill health is a circular prison. Depression, anxiety and not being able to escape a body that is going through varying degrees of hell,  drags a person down to a point where it feels there is no coming back. Our gym attendance was hit or miss depending on how I felt. We started hitting it more regularilly again after the first of the year, but my own training was hitting a stumbling block. My new right knee maxed out at a 160lb squat and my deadlift at 180lbs. So I switched to a different program. I figured powerlifting had gone as far as it was going to. I switched to a body sculpting program. I found I didn’t have the stamina to do the prescribed beginners workout. I had to split the routine in half and stagger it through the week. It was a decent enough program, but I ran into a hitch on leg day, my left knee was no longer able to support such exercise. Knee replacement surgery took place on August 17th.

Ethical decisions

Leading up to my left knee giving out, I was still fighting the relapse. I was determined to fight through it. I even tried cross country skiing again around the first few weeks of the year. I was so determined to get back to feeling strong again. But, a relapse is a relapse…it has no time frame. I couldn’t do gym and a short ski in the same day, if I did either; I was still done for the day. I finally gave in around spring and went through steroid therapy.  I hate steroids….they did nothing for the relapse, but after seven months the migraine was finally gone.

 Making brooms is still a staple

Making brooms is still a staple

It was around spring that I brought up the idea of stripping our lifestyle down even further: gut through and get rid of unused clothes, household and work stuff. I even started thinking seriously about being a vegetarian, for ethical reasons. So we started purging belongings. We still have a long way to go, but it was a move in the right direction. We also decided to go vegetarian. We still did dairy and eggs. We went vegan by summertime. One of the best decisions yet!

 Making Bowl cozies on my Singer Red-eye treadle machine from 1919

Making Bowl cozies on my Singer Red-eye treadle machine from 1919

Part of our purge included how much trash we produced. We don’t produce much as it is, living the way we do, but there is still some and we wanted to reduce that even more. One thing we have nearly eliminated is single use plastics. We still have the plastics that things like tofu, mushrooms and frozen vegis come in. About the only thing among those that hits the trash is the bags from vegis and we are finding that even some of them are recyclable with other plastic bags. We are getting better at remembering to bring reusable bags when we go food shopping and have found that mesh bags for delicate laundry are great for fresh produce. Smaller grocery chains and food co-ops let you bring in your own containers for bulk foods and spices. For food storage at home, we are using glass jars with reusable lids. I have plans to make fabric and bees wax food wraps, but that is still on my to do list.

These decisions have had numerous positive effects on our life and view of how we are becoming more sustainable. The dietary changes seem to be having a more dramatic effect than we could have imagined, weight loss, clearer head and fibro symptoms fading into the background, just to name a few.

Putting it to the test

When we made to move to vegetarian, Dan and I started researching recipes and such, checking out vloggers and talks about our food choices. What we were finding was mainly vegan content, so we watched and absorbed that. It made the transition to full on began much simpler. The food vlogs led us to dietary studies, which led us to several doctors who advocate for plant based diets for a number of health issues. Other than the TED talk by Dr. Terry Wahl, we hadn’t looked into food as medicine. We discovered a whole world of nutrition based medicine and have been astounded.

 Fake it till you make it…not feeling my best, but was able to fit into an outfit since going vegan

Fake it till you make it…not feeling my best, but was able to fit into an outfit since going vegan

Nutritionfacts.org was started by Dr. Michael Gregor and has been a font of information about the advantages to following a whole food, plant based diet. In every one of the studies he presents, his catch phrase is let’s “put it to the test.” We are currently reading his book “How not to Die” and have his cookbook of the same name on the bookshelf. The main text goes through multiple case studies about everything from how not to die from heart disease to how not to die from cancer and everything in between.  His podcasts and talks are not only informative but very entertaining. Other Drs. We’ve followed are Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Swank, Dr. Pritikin, just to name a few. Following some of their talks made me realize the change to vegan is one of the best things I can do to manage MS and the rest of my autoimmune cocktail. From what the studies have shown is that a plant based, whole food diet with minimal saturated fact, the inflammation that is often a trigger for autoimmune diseases can be greatly reduced. I can testify to part of that even after only a few months. While I am still wrestling with some annoying MS symptoms, the fibro symptoms have let up, I have been able to ditch all my asthma meds and I am cognitively more alert than I have felt in a long time.  I am still healing from my knee surgery, so the true test of how it will help manage MS symptoms are still a glimmer in my eye.

Thank you, everyone for encouraging me to get this blog restarted. I left out so much and want to say so much more but, another time.