June 2014


Most people are familiar with diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, and gestational.  I think we have stumbled on a new type, though, and no one seems to understand it.  OK, not literally, but it does make for interesting conversation.  “I have a Type 1 diabetic child….sort of.”

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JR, dressed up in period costume while volunteering at the local historical state park.

As you may know, 9-year-old JR was diagnosed with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes back in March.  You can read more about that here.  He was discharged from the hospital on a standard-for-his-weight-regimen off 11 units of long-acting Lantus and 1 unit of short acting Novolog for every 15 grams of carbohydrate he ate.  Within about 2 days, he was battling chronic low blood sugars.  I called the doc, and was told to cut his Lantus by 1/3.  I could see he was still running low, though, so I also increased his Novolog ratio to 1 unit for every 20 carbs.  Still struggling with chronic and severe lows, including blood sugars in the 30’s and 40’s (normal levels are between 80-120), I decided to change him again.  I cut his Lantus by 2/3 of the original dose, and increased his Novolog ratio to 1 unit per 40 carbs.  This change helped a little, but he still had lows.  The poor child was sick of food, as he had to eat constantly to keep his blood sugar up.  I had to test him 1-2 times during the night, and often had to feed him a snack to hold him until morning.  He spent several evenings in tears, and often slept on the couch (close to our bedroom) or even with us because he was so afraid of getting too low during the night.  As soon as he awoke in the morning, he would check his meter to make sure I had tested him during the night (which meant I could never oversleep and skip a test I had promised!).  It was a stressful time.  Thankfully, a couple days later we had a follow-up appointment.  We discussed the issue.  The doctor was hesitant to make additional changes.  Her concern was that, if we reduced his insulin too much, he would assume he was cured and be devastated later.  I assured her that was not the case, he understood completely because he had grown up with me having the disease, and we were far more concerned about his chronic and dangerous lows.  She hesitated, and explained that it was very rare to have a child diagnosed in such early stages.  I agree that we were, indeed, blessed to be followed by the TRIGR study, so we knew to be watching for the symptoms at the time.  In any case, she gave me a plan of action, and we left.

Over the next week, we completely weaned JR off his Lantus–the long acting insulin that is designed to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day.  We also continued to reduce his Novolog–the short-acting insulin designed to stabilize sugar spikes at meal and snack times.  We monitored his patterns, and finally, one day, he took no insulin at all.  And he did really well.  He didn’t have a single low!  In fact, his sugar levels were perfect all day long!  That was back in April.  Since then, he has taken no Lantus at all, and he only takes 1 unit of Novolog for every 40 carbs, which, with our diet, only happens about 1-2 times per week.  That’s right, my Type 1 diabetic son only requires about 1 unit of insulin when we eat the Sunday buffet at our local restaurant, or have the occasional, high-carb pancakes and syrup for dinner.  That’s it.  He still tests his blood sugar level, but only does so about 2-3 times a day–and mainly for his own security.  Interestingly, the biggest struggle he continues to have is low blood sugars.  Despite the fact he takes no insulin most days, almost any type of play or other exertion will cause his sugar levels to drop as if he was on insulin.  As a result, he still has to carry his little kit with him, which contains his bg monitor, glucose, and snacks to treat his lows.  Lows now range between 50 and 70 though, rather than the previous 30’s and 40’s.  On rare occasion, a meal might cause his sugar to get into the 200’s, but we rarely treat it, as his body does pretty well bringing it down without assistance.  In fact, we’ve found additional treatment with insulin causes a severe low later, which is more dangerous than a rare high level.

As it turns out, no one seems to be able to explain what is going on with him.  Clearly, he is in what is known as the “Honeymoon Period,” where the pancreas is still producing some insulin, but is slowly killing its remaining islet (insulin) cells, and he will be fully insulin dependent in the not-too-distant future.  The doctor’s guess is, considering the early stage we caught him, and the fact his pancreas got a bit of a break with the help from insulin in those early weeks, he may have 12-18 months before he reaches that stage.  In the mean time, she has told us to enjoy the time we have.  What she, nor anyone else can tell us, is why he continues to battle low blood sugars.  It seems to be an anomaly, and even the TRIGR staff we have spoken with, who are experts in the field of Type 1 and pediatric diabetes, have never seen this before.  As best we can all surmise, his body just doesn’t really know how to “calibrate” his blood sugar levels anymore, and for whatever reason, errors on the side of overproducing insulin (causing low levels) rather than underproducing (which would cause highs).

As busy as we have been this spring, this development has been a true blessing, as it bought us a few months where I didn’t have to focus so much on his health.  Plus I was allowed to sleep, which is something I desperately need to get through the day.  It has also done a tremendous amount I’m sure in giving him time to adjust to the idea, without losing all his eating freedoms at once–not that he eats that unhealthy to begin with.  Probably even more of a blessing is the fact that those around him, folks who might be prone to panic at the idea of him eating the wrong thing or having a severe sugar level, have been able to relax knowing he is pretty independent and can be treated as “normal.”  They are able to watch him test, ask him questions (which he is very good at answering correctly), and generally this seems to put their mind at ease.  He is still looking forward to getting his alert dog, and we are hoping to later this summer or early fall.  I’m hoping the more stable blood sugars will actually help train the dog faster because it is easier to get the dog accustomed to his “normal” smells, so it is more aware of his low or high smells.  This is a huge bonus when training a new pup to these scents!

It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next year or so, but we certainly count our blessings.  JR does not take it for granted, and often comments about it.  He knows what his future holds, but this honeymoon time seems to have eased his fears somewhat, as he feels more in control, I guess. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy having a non-insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic child.

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Our little farm has been crazy busy serving customers this spring.  We have truly been humbled by the number of total strangers that have paid deposits for meat, live animals, and classes offered by our farm, all in the faith that we will supply their order.  Considering the fact we just moved here a year ago, and have no “name” or reputation here, we believe that’s a big deal and a huge blessing.  We also feel it is indicative of the tremendous need for healthy, pure foods and good stewardship in farming in our area.

Along those lines of stewardship and farming, as you know, in late March, we brought home our new team of Belgian horses.  We spent a couple of months getting to know them and testing them out in all sort of circumstances.  We pulled logs out of woods, up hills, around pond edges, and even logs stuck in vines overhead.  We had them pull the wagon across train tracks, around fires, on busy roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, and more.  We loaded the wagon with lumber, firewood, hay, and people.  We hooked them to and asked them to drag 1500 lb round bales, fence posts, and our incredibly noisy road grader.  We drove them into our small town several times, tested them on steep hills and around crowds. I had the kids ride bicycles all around them while I drove several times, and even had 3-year-old R squeeze a squeaky toy until the team was OK with the idea.  You get the picture.

Well, all that work is paying off, and we are increasingly thankful for the time, effort, and extra money we saved to invest in a really well-trained team.  These boys have impressed us at every turn.  We were warned on multiple occasions that once folks got wind of our team, the requests would start pouring in.  Boy, oh, boy were they right!!  Our first request was to help pull a log out of someone’s back woods, and we did in exchange for some of the lumber for milling.  The next request was to help demo horse-drawn plowing at a local state park.  We decided it would be a great experience, so we hitched up, drove the team to the park (just a couple miles away), unhitched, and the more experienced teamsters helped us hitch up to a plow and set to work.  We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but clearly our team had plowed before.  Nick, the off horse, dropped right down into the furrow, both boys leaned into their collars, and they pulled just like old pros.  Considering it was a special demo day for the public, we appreciated that the boys made us newbies look really good!  So good in fact, that we were then requested to come give rides at the state park on a weekly basis.

S on the plow at the state park demo

S on the plow at the state park demo

We weren’t quite ready for that step, but it made us start planning and brainstorming a plan of action.  Another month or so went by and we decided to start offering wagon rides every weekend through summer in our little town–which, by the way, has NOTHING else to do on weekend evenings.  Because our little town has never had such a request, we discovered that there were no licensing or permitting requirements.  They only asked that we put “diapers” on the horses to catch manure.  The city officials were excited, so we got the legalities in order, got the horses’  “Bun Bags” for their manure, and had our first weekend rides.  We decided offering such rides was a great way to stimulate the horses’ mentally, get us all off the farm once a week, and generally give us all a change of pace.  I wouldn’t call it booming business, but considering we only gave folks a couple days’ notice, we were pleased with the turnout.  It will help buy hay for the winter.  That evening, however, we were spotted by multiple other folks.  One was a theater director who has requested us and our team play the “Wells-Fargo” wagon in an upcoming outdoor production.  Another hosts a fall festival and really wants us to offer rides to help increase business there.  A third is interested in having their almost-senior high school student hire our wagon for prom next year.  WOW!  And we aren’t even advertising yet!

We haven’t committed to anything else just yet, as we are still plenty busy here on the farm.  We are talking and planning though, looking at our calendar, and I’ve started doing a lot of sensory work with the horses to get them used to more and more activity, just so we are as prepared as possible.  For now, we are focusing on keeping the team working several days a week doing miscellaneous work around the farm, and holding our Saturday evening wagon rides in town.  We are creating flyers to notify weekend tourists in the area and at the local hotels of the event, and we are considering other activities that help get word out about our farm, which will hopefully drum up business in other areas of our farm business.  It has been fun so far, though, and we look forward to seeing how our little farm business morphs as time goes on.  In the mean time, if you are interested in hiring draft-horse services in the central IL region, you can check out our farm website at http://www.redgatefarmllc.com and send us an inquiry!

Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides

Hello, and maybe I should introduce myself.  I seem to have broken my own record for length of time not blogging.  Who’d have guessed retirement with hubby home all day would be busier than mom-life with husband working in a career all day?!  But, as one blog-buddy put it, we are living the dream, and loving every moment of it….well almost every moment.

Oh, where do I start?  How about babies?  Because everyone loves babies, right?

We had the most amazing kid crop this year.  Best ever!  The does were fertile, the deliveries were easy, and the kids were all the same weights, roughly.   These are all signs of good nutrition, which I attribute to the winter hay and woodland browse they got last fall through this spring.  Faith had a single buckling.  Again.  Thus, we decided it was time to cull her.  Don’t worry, we didn’t eat her.  Just sold her to another family who didn’t need the high quantities of milk we prefer, and didn’t mind single births.  Joy delivered twins, totally unassisted.  Caramel, our petite little doe, amazingly delivered a huge single doeling totally unassisted.  Just popped it right out.  The doeling clearly did not have mom’s petite genetics, and will no doubt be full sized.  Nonetheless, we decided to cull those genetics as well.  I sold Caramel and her doeling to a lady who was starting a mini-Alpine herd, for which they were perfect.  Latte’ delivered triplets–two does and a buck, and all were the spitting image of her!  She was the only one I had to assist a bit, as the first little doeling had her nose tucked a bit when the other two decided to race her to the birth canal and got her all jammed up in there.  I just had to get her little nose up into the canal, and then she popped out, followed quickly by the other two.  Needless to say, we paired down our goat herd again.  We are down to Latte, Joy, and Joy’s little doeling, Hope.  We harvested all the bucklings and sold the other doelings.  Here’s a few of the kid photos, just for fun.

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Tiffany, the Lowline, and Abbigail, our jersey, had their calves about a week apart.  Both calved unassisted, though both calves required a little forced colostrum to get them going.  I’m not sure why that was, but it was another strike against cattle, who S has decided are his least favorite animal on the farm.  Tiffany and Hollie, the other cow, along with Tiffany’s bull calf are all up for sale, and will hopefully be gone by the end of the week.  Abbigail’s cutie of a heifer calf was purchased by the owner of the sire for his grandson to raise as a nurse cow, as she is a Jersey/Lowline cross.  Did you get that last sentence?  Just read it a couple more times and it will eventually fall into place.  I will probably do the same breeding this year, if the sire is still available.  I had a blast training the heifer to a bottle and halter training her before she left.  She even wound up the star of a recent petting zoo event we did in town.

Tiffany's bull calf

Tiffany’s bull calf

Abby's heifer calf

Abby’s heifer calf

We have chicks running out the wazoo.  We recently got our second batch of meat birds from Murray McMurray hatchery.  In an attempt to increase our laying flock for next year, I bought up a bunch from craigslist, and we have hatched another batch.  We currently have about 75 meat bird chicks in the tractors, and about 44 purebred and mixed breed laying chicks in the brooder.

We’ve also had several litters of rabbit kits.  JR recently lost Pelham, his old, favorite buck, which was a bummer.  He also had trouble getting one of his new does bred, so he decided to cull her and start over with one of Pelham’s last litter.

That’s it for babies around the farm.  I’ll try once again to get you updated.  I have gotten several inquiries as to my whereabouts from some faithful readers, and I greatly appreciate it.  It’s always nice knowing folks out there care and are praying for us.  We’ve had a few tough times recently, and needed all the prayers, for sure.  Things are going well now, and actually slowing down a little for the first time, so we’ll see if I can be more regular.