Happy 2018!

Happy 2018!

Another year has passed, and I’m thankful yet again that God has sustained me and kept me alive. I’m in very poor health and slipping further into illness as the days pass. We knew this would happen, I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. I’m becoming weaker, and continue to deal with extreme inflammationĀ and edema. Dom shaved my head last week because my hair was so thin you could see my scalp. Ironic that shaving my head would help with seeing my scalp, right? Well, when my hair gets super thin I don’t look healthy at all. I mean, let’s face it, I’m not healthy going through allergic reactions to mold, but why look the part too. It really comes down to how comfortable I am and how much Dom can take. Seriously! Losing hair is a very itchy experience. It feels like there are bugs crawling all over my head and body. That happens because as my hair falls out in clumps, it touches my arms and legs and feels like bugs crawling. Beyond that is dealing with hair everywhere. On the floor, in the tub, in places hair shouldn’t be. I also can’t have hair falling into coffee when roasting or packing up orders. That’s just gross. Being bald works for me on so many levels, and Dom likes it too. So he shaved it off. šŸ˜‰

I have my prescription for clearing my body of mold, however, I can’t take it until we are out of this house and in a mold-free environment. I hate that I have the one thing that will make me better, but I can’t take it. In the meantime, I am taking Oreganol, Oregamax, and fermented cod liver oil. They are helping somewhat with the inflammation and allergy, but they are no match for my immune response to mold. It’s only a matter of time before it stops working.

Our timeline for the move back to New Mexico is set for between January 15 through February 1. I hope it doesn’t go that far, but as it stands right now, we don’t have the money needed to rent a truck and travel cross country. We’ve factored the cost of our move and it’s $5,000 for the Uhaul, car trailer, gas, lodging, boxes, and food. We need to be careful of where we stay as we travel also because of moldy motels. Finding an affordable hotel isn’t easy, and if the air quality in the heating system for the room isn’t clean, I risk having my airways begin to constrict. Fun, right?

We need a miracle. Dom wanted me to put together a Go Fund Me page to help raise the money, but I’ve tried that for other things in the past and it didn’t work out for us…at all. We’ve sold some things that we don’t use anymore, and there are many household things we’ll leave behind here at the house, but it still doesn’t get us anywhere near what we need.

We’re in between a rock and a hard place. We know where we’re going in New Mexico. We can see it and almost touch it…but it’s out of reach to us. In a panic because of the state of my health, Dom is ready to just abandon everything we have own, jump into the car and go. Yeah, we can do that, but then we have a repeat of what we went through when we first moved to New Mexico in 2008. I’m tired and feel defeated. I don’t want to start from scratch again! I don’t want to leave behind all the beautiful things we’ve acquired over the last several years. We will though if it comes down to me being hospitalized. It’s almost too late at that point.

We have managed to keep me pneumonia free for seven years now. The last time I had pneumonia was in 2011 when I contracted RSV, a viral respiratory infection. I contracted pneumonia when we first moved to New Mexico in January 2009 because of mold in the house due to a swamp cooler. That was the last time I had bacterial pneumonia. They say that after seven years, you have a brand new set of lungs. I hope so! I need new lungs, or at least lungs strong enough to continue to handle the onslaught of allergic reactions I’m enduring here.

Dom is also ill, as is Simmi. We all go through cycles of illness where it gets bad and we’re knocked on our butts, and then we start to get better, but never fully recover before getting ill again. This has been happening since August 2017.

It has to stop. I’m tired. I just want us to be well again.

Every December for as long as we have been married, we have discussed what we want to see happen in the coming new year. We don’t do resolutions. Instead, we set our course, create goals, and set out to accomplish them. We’re not “New Year New Me” people. We set the tone for what that new year will hold for us. In December 2016 we said that we wanted 2017 to be the year of abundance. Dom laughs every time he thinks of that word abundance.Ā He says, right, abundance… an abundance of trouble, abundance of MOLD, abundance of heartache, the abundance of physical harm, an abundance of betrayal, an abundance of insanity.

Were there good abundant things that happened in 2017? Yes, for sure! Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company was birthed in 2017 (technically 12/16), my computer Agnus was born in 2017 and NOTHING good would have happened professionally or personally if it wasn’t for our dear friend gifting us with Agnus. We received rich blessings financially and maintained deep connections with friends and family despite not having a phone to communicate for a full year.

In looking ahead to this new year of 2018, Dom wanted to be clear in setting the tone; abundant good health for he and I and our family, financial prosperity for us as a couple, fulfilling my calling as a steward of the earth in caring for animals and growing food for my community, and setting down roots in a town we can call home and serve faithfully.

It has been a very long and trying year. We are weary but optimistic that better days are on our horizon.

Happy New Year! May 2018 be a spectacular year filled with rich opportunities for growth and prosperity, and abundant in exciting new experiences and joy.

Getting Ready to Move…Again

Getting Ready to Move…Again

We’ve had a few bumps in the road concerning moving to our new farm. Because of my extreme mold allergy, we weren’t able to rent the house. Most people wouldn’t have a problem with water-damaged buildings, but my body doesn’t clear biotoxins and instead, molds build up in my fat cells.

My husband is the perfect example of someone who clears biotoxins very well from his body. He can go into a mold-infested building and get the sniffles but be fine in a week. We lived through all the same extreme mold exposures but he never got sick, and I nearly died…many times.

Over the years, I could never understand why my body would hold on to so much weight or where the inflammation was coming from. As a defense mechanism, my body uses fat cells to hold onto biotoxins and stores it. If I lose the weight via exercising, I get sick as the biotoxins are released from my cells, enter my bloodstream and causes a vicious cycle to occur. I never get rid of the biotoxins, and my body simply takes the toxins and redeposits it into my fat again. I’m highly proficient at recycling biotoxins. Oye!

I followed a ketogenic diet for more than 8 months (strict I might add) and lost no weight. Initially, I lost 20 pounds of water weight, but after that, my body ruggedly held onto the fat.

In this next week, I’ll be starting the next part of the Shoemaker Protocol after being diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). My body has handled the first wave of medications, and I’ll be starting the next phase, taking Cholestyramine (CSM) to bind the biotoxins (I have both mold and Lyme) and remove them from my body.

Dom has become my personal trainer, and after I start my next round of medication, we’ll start a very aggressive fitness routine to get the fat off as quickly as possible.

So, we’re packing up our things and getting ready to move July 1st. We found a house that is mold free, and we will also be able to have a large garden and some small animals like chickens, ducks, and turkeys. It isn’t our ultimate dream property, but it is a house that won’t be put on the market anytime soon.

Dom and I have always thrown around the idea of building our own off-grid homestead, and this house will provide us with the opportunity we need to do just that. We really like the town, and the school where Simmi will be going is only minutes from the hospital. Depending on our experiences in our new town, we may try to find land and set roots there.

I didn’t want to start over building farm infrastructure from scratch, but because my body will never be able to clear molds properly and I will require medication whenever I’m exposed, it has become clear that the only way to avoid this is for us to build our own house where there are no water lines in the house and where no mold can grow. That is the only way for me to stay safe. Before knowing I had CIRS, I just thought I needed to just be in a mold-free environment. It goes beyond that because of my genetics.

We’re designing a sweet little chicken coop for some silkies we’ll be getting some time in July or August. I found the sweetest looking silkies ever, and since I want to hatch out all our chickens the natural way, it would be in our best interest to have a small flock of silkies to spoil rotten.

We will also be raising meat birds, chickens, and ducks for eggs, so our silkies will be busy raising lots of chicks in a cute little coop. All other birds will go into chicken tractors to take advantage of a few acres of common land the birds will be able to enjoy. Raising poultry on pasture is very important to us.

Our new house also has a small greenhouse attached to the south side of the house and a very large carport on the north side of the house. The carport, however, will not be used for cars, but instead for an extended area for outside living. I’m not sure why anyone would want to park their car in a space that is perfect for spending time outside in the gorgeous Vermont weather!

The house we’re in now is still on the market, but hopefully, it will sell soon! We loved living here and I know whoever purchases it will love it as much as we did.

Last month I started a lot of plants with old seeds we brought with us from New Mexico. I didn’t know if my seed vault was still good (I have an INSANE amount of seeds) and it turns out every single seed was viable. These seeds have been through hell and back. They were in extreme cold, extreme heat, and moist conditions and still were very viable!

I started a few varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkin, and watermelon. This week I’ll be starting zucchini, brussels sprouts, and a few others that will be ready to plant when we move.

Our Silly girl is doing well, and June 24th we will be welcoming a playmate for her. He is a Corgi-Chihuahua puppy and will be 8 weeks old the end of the month. His name is Mr. Scrumpy. We are all very excited. Silly plays with Simmi throughout the day, but in September Simmi will start school. Although I will be home to care for her, I want her to have a playmate. I think every dog should have their own canine companion.

As usual, we have a lot going on! There are a few projects I’m working on, and I’ve been pretty busy trying to keep everything together. We’re also focusing on my health and looking forward to renewed life as the biotoxins leave my body. Keep me in your thoughts!

Greening an Urban Dwelling

What does it take to “green” an urban dwelling? That is my newest question because of my own moral and ethical concerns over using certain products to rehab a pre-existing home we are considering purchasing. In my last blog post, I talked about how we are searching for a home in the city of Albuquerque. We went to see a house that at first I was apprehensive about, but as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. While the house was old and built in the 1950’s, it had a certain charm and if I can be really honest, it had a great “feel” about it. It wasn’t a creepy old house. Was there mold there? Yes, and every home we have seen so far has had the same issues of roof drainage creating water spots that penetrated into the home.Ā  We have seen two homes that were infested with mold due to roof leaks or water wicking into the foundation that spread to hardwood floors warping them horribly. Major mold issues are not something that I am willing to tackle when it comes to the health and well being of my family, but minor mold issues are fixable.

One of the reasons we wanted some land out in a rural area, was so that we could build our own home made from products that came from our own land. We wanted to live in a temporary home such as a fiberglass yurt, and slowly build our permanent home as time afforded. Our plans were to use earthbags and build a large pueblo revival style home that would accommodate all our family’s needs. It was to be ground zero for having a place that parents could bring their children suffering with multiple chemical sensitivities as well as food allergies. We wanted to have a homestead that uses permaculture principles, and eventually also provide a means of working from home as producers of honey, aquaponic systems and products, mushrooms, animal fibers, fresh produce, worm tea, and many other things. Many of those things are still very possible and viable in an urban setting, with one big huge “but!” in there…”but how do weĀ  make our home as chemical free, safe and green as possible?” This has been plaguing me as I research the different alternative products that could allow us to rehab an urban dwelling.

Being that I am extremely allergic to many different household molds (I almost lost my life because of mold), going into an existing structure was almost a “no-no” in my mind. Right now we are renting a house that does have mold, but as we keep the moisture levels very low, the mold is not a problem nor is it reproducing. However, there is one concern living here in the southwest that is quite alarming. Many newer type homes with a concrete stucco on the exterior have had mold problems existing in the facade due to improper adhesion of cement stucco to the building. This creates a pocket of air where condensation builds in the wall which can encourage mold growth. You don’t know its a problem until the health of the family gets worse or visible signs of mold become present. I have met a number of families in New Mexico who have lost not only their health, but also everything they owned due to mold contamination. Their stories were similar to our own, since each of our family members living in our previous home on the east coast was affected by the contamination of mold and we too lost everything we owned. So as you can see, our concern over buying an existing home comes with the danger of also buying the mold present in the house. Mold is inescapable and a part of life. You can’t be “mold-free” but you can take steps to reduce the prospect of mold developing in the first place.

So how do we go about creating an environment that doesn’t encourage mold growth? The house we just went to see backs up to the Rio Grande and the relative humidity in that region is slightly higher than in other places around the Albuquerque area. This is due to being near the water, and therefore doing everything possible to keep the house dry would be of utmost importance to us. The exterior of the house is a stucco type surface, and it is built on a crawlspace. I found this to be interesting since the majority of homes in this region are typically built on a slab foundation. The interior of the home is extremely dated with shag rugs, plaster walls (not sheet rock) and also wood paneling. There were very cool little niches, built-in cabinets, wall systems and space saving features added. The windows are original single pane glass with gaps and cracks. As we walked around this house, we sort of fell in love with it. As unappealing as the interior looked, it felt like a house that had lots of love in it. Maybe it sounds like new aged hooey saying that, but just as I have gotten a “feeling” of creepiness from other dwellings, this one felt very peaceful. The roof needs to be replaced and I am sure that insulation is minimal if not absent all together.

In my search for how to rehab this particular home, I thought to myself “how sustainable or eco-friendly are these new products really?” The old plaster and wood paneling would need to be replaced and we didn’t want to use drywall because if it gets wet, it can breed mold, so we looked at papercrete as a viable option to rehab the interior walls. But papercrete is porous as well and could invite problems down the line. Feeling discouraged about that, I discovered that ferrocement could be used. Could this be the answer to all our problems? I did some research on it, and found that it is a super eco-friendly product. Water cisterns, homes and boats can be made of ferrocement, so my next question to myself was “why couldn’t we use this for our walls AND our roof? The roof needs to be replaced, which leads us to the next dilemma…what the heck do we use on the roof? We didn’t want to use asphalt shingles since we are planning on doing rain catchment and because of what it can do to the environment (but it is the most economical choice), and metal roofing tends to leach zinc and other things in the roof, and clay tiles seem to be the best choice but they are very expensive…so what do we do? Well, how about ferrocement roofing? Wouldn’t that be a reasonable alternative? Then there is the trouble of insulation! I have the biggest bone to pick with conventional products and some of the new “green” products out there to insulate the home. We all know the potential dangers of fiberglass insulation, and while there are alternatives such as recycled denim and natural fibers, the insulative valueĀ  often falls short. Is this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul? If the materials used to insulate the home is more “eco-friendly” yet cause us to still use more heating and cooling, how is it eco friendly unless you have the latest and greatest alternative energy source. I don’t have anything against using natural fibers to insulate the home, but for our home, we couldn’t take the chance on them from a health standpoint. Condensation, air gaps, cold spots in walls all become potential breeding grounds for mold, pests and other unwanted creatures. We began looking at sprayfoam insulation as a good alternative. After all, it is “green” right? There are quite a few sprayfoams on the market, and most of them are petroleum based. Yet to stay in step with the growing trend of being eco-friendly, some sprayfoam companies are offering soy, sugar, castor bean based products to reduce the use of petrochemicals. But are these products really green? We are all becoming aware of the dangerous affects of genetically modified food crops to our health as well as to the environment, so why should I support such a product being pumped as insulation into the walls of my home? There is no doubt that sprayfoam insulation will save you money as well as the environment in terms of personal greenhouse gas emissions from your home, BUT the corn, soy, castor bean, sugar beets and sugar products still have to be grown, harvested and processed into that sprayfoam. In the long run, if everyone is running out to sprayfoam their home, how much good is actually being done? These companies have created a “need” and boy do we ever need good insulation. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? What do we do with this kind of dilemma? Morally, I’m apposed to the sprayfoam insulation that contains bio products such as corn, soy, sugars, castor beans because of genetically modified crops used, and the conventional farming practices that are destroying the ecosystem. Ethically I’m apposed to how the big producers of these products are destroying the fabric of small farmers as well as biodiversity. What’s the solution? I found a product that is a sprayfoam insulation but is unlike all the others. Its called AirKrete. Here are the results of 3rd party testing of AirKrete:

Fireproof Tests

Federal Conservation Inc.

Results show that the ā€œ air kreteĀ® Insulation Sampleā€ was resistant to mold growth at both 75% and 95% relative humidities. Neither molds were found to amplify in the materials at either humidity.

Results:

Modified ASTM E814/UL 1479 Fire Resistance on an air kreteĀ® wall panel

Tested: February 21, 2008 VTEC #100-2862

Results:

The initial ambient temperature was 57Ā°F.

Hose Stream Test: No holes formed in the unexposed side of the

sample after being exposed to the hose stream for 24 seconds.

The sample met the acceptance criteria of the ā€œF Ratingā€ for 120

minutes per ASTM E814/UL 1479 specifications.

Hardwood Plywood Manufacturers Association

Report on surface burning characteristics determined by ASTM-E 84 Twenty-five foot tunnel furnace test method.

The normal 10 minute test was extended to 30 minutes with the following results:

Flamespread Factor: 0

Fuel Contributed Factor: 0

Smoke Density Factor: 0

R-Value Test

Dynatech

The apparent thermal resistance of a specimen of a cementitious foam insulation material density:

2.07 lbs. per cubic foot @ 24C (75F)

K factor = .257 per 1 inch thickness

R factor = 3.9 per 1 inch thickness

Shrinkage Test

Twin City Testing Corporation

Report of shrinkage test conducted according to ASTM:L C951, Par. 8.5 results:

Shrinkage, Inches: 0.00

Percent Shrinkage: 0.00

Toxicity Tests

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Result of sample analysis report on air kreteĀ® :

Totals Formaldehyde: None detected

Formaldehyde in air: Non detected

Penniman & Brown, Inc.

Chemists, Engineers, Inspectors – Baltimore, Maryland, Analytical Division

Report of analysis sample of reacted foam insulation identified as air kreteĀ® , was qualitatively checked for formaldehyde:

No evidence of formaldehyde was found.

Hardwood Plywood Manufacturers Association

Report on smoke density characteristics determined by NBS-Aminco Smoke Density Chamber.

These test results demonstrate:

air kreteĀ® is non-toxic.

Mold Proof Test

Air Quality Sciences, Inc.

A Microbial Resistance Evaluation of Indoor Materials

air kreteĀ® Insulation Sample

Executive Summary / Project Description

Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS) is pleased to present the results of its microbial resistance evaluation of air krete’s indoor material identified as ā€œ air kreteĀ® Insulation Sampleā€. AQS conducted this study using a microbial test protocol following the requirements of ASTM Guideline D 6329-98 (1). This ASTM method is established to study indoor materials for their ability to support mold growth. Testing of the indoor material was conducted using static environmental chambers operating at 75% humidity(considered a *high normalā€ for indoor commercial spaces) and 95% humidity (considered an extreme moisture condition within buildings). air krete’s indoor material was inoculated with two representative indoor molds, Stachvbotrvs chartarum and Eurotium amstelodami, and growth rates were measured over a three-week period as the materials were exposed in the two humidity environments. Mold growth is considered significant if it exceeds 20% of the initial baseline levels. Test methodology and results are given in the attached summary reports.

Our next step is to get a structural engineer in to find out if its possible for us to use ferrocement as a wall and roof material. AirKrete would be used for insulation. Both my husband and I are quite familiar with lime plaster after working with it quite extensively and we would use this instead of painting the interior or exterior of the house. We would want to install adobe floors and radiant heat run on a solar heater. Can a potential nightmare be turned into our dream home? I believe it can…now lets hope that an engineer can work with us to make that dream into a reality!

I was amused by the following two videos…”Monsonto’s House of the Future”