Gardening With A Certain Deer In Mind

FD and I had to rethink our garden plot this year. I thought this would be the year I would kick back, put my energy into writing the Daisy deer book, and let the biggest part of the gardening go fallow for a year. Ah, the visions I had of having that morning cup of coffee on the back porch, watching the woodlands below the slope come to life, and then strolling into the house to begin writing. I even got silly thinking about FD cooking the meals, and doing the housework while I pecked away at the keyboard. I guess I got a little crazy with that thought.

FD manhandling the Honda beast!
FD manhandling the Honda beast!

Here is the reality of this year. In December FD got this bright idea to try the Paleo diet. You know, the Paleolithic period during the Stone Age – where cavemen hunted and foraged for food.  Modern day Paleo man eats clean and preferably grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, and fresh, organic vegetables, fruits and nuts.  I will admit the thought of foraging appeals to me. FD and I hunt for wild mushrooms in the spring, and we gather pecan nuts in the fall. We pick wild berries and fruits in the summer months. FD is a hunter, and keeps our freezer stocked with what we consume throughout the year.

Looking over the Paleo diet information, I realized it was not actually going to be a drastic change for us. After all, we had been eating clean meats and fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts for years. The biggest difference was dropping the grains and dairy from our diet. I wondered how I would survive without bread and pasta! And my beloved cheese – who in their right mind would choose to give up cheese? Unthinkable! Thinking of this, I almost hoped his plan to go Paleo would fail.  And of course to do it up right and show him this was a ridiculous idea, I decided to take it a notch further and look for organic and non-GMO products. I had been researching that a lot lately. Now seemed to be the time to go gung-ho and get dedicated! Surely the cost and difficulty finding products would show him this diet was just too much trouble.

Then something very unexpected happened. Not three days into the diet, I was feeling amazing. FD and I both noticed we were sleeping better at night and had more energy throughout the day. There was no gas and bloating after meals, and no acid and stomach gnawing in the night. My allergies even seemed better. After three months as Paleo people, we realized this was not a diet – it was a lifestyle and we were not even tempted to veer off of it. We had energy, dropped weight, and agreed we had not felt this good in a very long time.

FD expanding the garden with the new tractor tiller!
FD expanding the garden with the new tractor tiller!

Before long, I located several online sources to shop for non-perishable Paleo ingredients. I began baking with nut flours and various root powders. I  discovered lots of new cooking oils and spices. There were many certified organic and non-GMO products, but they often came at a cost. I was pleased to find that shipping was free with most orders of fifty dollars or more.

Another  problem was, in our little town, there were not many Paleo-friendly grocery options. The local Walmart does carry a few organic vegetables, but choices are scant and not dependable from week to week. Again, organic products are generally more expensive. I knew if we wanted to keep costs down and not have to do our shopping in larger cities which were an hour away, we were going to have to increase the size of our garden.

FD looks like he's enjoying this much better than wrangling the old Honda beast!
FD looks like he’s enjoying this much better than wrangling the old Honda beast!

I normally plant herbs, some specialty tomatoes, and a few bell pepper and hot pepper plants around the house. They look nice interspersed with flowers and shrubs. The problem with that is, all sorts of wildlife like to sample the vegetables when we are not looking – like at night when we are sleeping. Still, most critters eat a little and move on. They do not wipe out the whole crop… unless we are talking about birds and grasshoppers. Last year, the birds consumed most of our blackberries, and the grasshoppers devastated my tomato crop!

The regular garden plot has had a fence around it ever since we released Daisy deer. Daisy has a penchant for eating just about anything we grow here on the ten-acre ranch. Over the course of the first year we raised our little orphan, we discovered she liked tomatoes (especially cherry and pear tomatoes), dill, wax beans, snap peas, broccoli florets, yellow squash, and her favorite vegetable of all, cucumbers. We are not talking just the vegetables – the fruit of the crop. No, she ate the entire cucumber plant! She also loved to rip at lettuce and kale, and any other delightful greens she could locate. She nibbled at our corn crop. She hoofed up carrots, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. So, the following year, we invested in expensive horse fence to protect our small garden.

FD hangs the new gates with wheels.
FD hangs the new gates with wheels.

This year, however, we knew the garden plot would have to triple in size to provide enough room to plant the variety of vegetables when had in mind for our new diet. Increasing the fenced garden meant, of course, purchasing more horse fence panels to keep the deer and other small mammals out. And cutting-in a much bigger garden on established Bermuda grass, would take a lot of tilling with our self-propelled Honda. I watched FD wrangle that monster tiller the past three years. We are in our 50’s now, and this is no time to be tearing up shoulders and arms. So, I squeaked all of the way to the implement dealer and cringed as I watched the salesman swipe our credit card. But I had to admit, watching FD on our tractor that afternoon, cutting through the sod with our new tiller attachment, made me feel a whole lot better.

Two weekends later, after a snow and some more bitter temperatures, the sun finally popped out and gave us a couple of warm days. FD drove the T-posts in the ground and put the fence panels up at the garden plot, while I worked at clearing debris from the flowerbeds around the house. We decided to wait and invest in gates for the west side of the garden until next year. Opening two large gates would allow FD to back in with the tractor to till the soil each spring. This year, I would just pull back a fence panel a couple of feet to get in and out. I wasn’t about to spend even more money, when we had already spent a small fortune on a tiller for the tractor, and on additional horse panels and T-posts.

Tender sprouts emerging in one of four deep plots we planted this year for Daisy and her friends.
Tender sprouts emerging in one of four deep plots we planted this year for Daisy and her friends.

The weather the following week stayed warm, and I was excited about getting my onions in. However, working that first row I knew I would have to ask FD to till the soil deeper on the new ground (beyond the existing plot). It was my fault. I thought it was plenty deep the day he worked the new ground, but after the snow, the powdery soil had settled.  I had not thought about the roots of tender new plants having trouble penetrating the dense dirt beneath. So, off came the two west fence panels and out came the T-posts. It was obvious that now was the time to bite the bullet. Again, I squeaked all the way to the farm and ranch store to purchase two new gates and wheels. Cha-ching! I thought about the coronary I would have when the credit card bill came in for that month’s expenses!

That weekend FD managed to till back over the new ground and get the depth just right. I got my onions in and started work getting the wretched Bermuda sprigs pulled out – which I will have to continue to attempt to eradicate for the next two or three years. Bermuda is a horrible grass to get rid of! After getting the soil just right this time, FD put in corner posts and got the new gates with wheels mounted. He wired horse panels to the backs of the gates to keep small mammals from walking through, or certain deer from jumping over. The panels are only 5 feet tall, so a deer could still jump the fence, but I don’t think they will. Even Miss Daisy, who is a sucker for the tomatoes on the other side, did not attempt to jump the fence last year. I guess we will see in the weeks to come.

Meanwhile, FD decided to till up four additional patches of land, both up top and down in the woodland bottom, to put deer plots in for Daisy and Spirit and their woodland friends. Perhaps if they have their own gardens, they will not be so likely to raid ours!

This is the smaller of two deer plots FD has planted down in the canyon. We can observe this site from our back porch!
This is the smaller of two deer plots FD has planted down in the canyon. We can observe this site from our back porch!
Half of Daisy's deer pen will be a deer plot in case the game warden brings deer this year. If not, Daisy and Spirit will enjoy their own private garden!
Half of Daisy’s deer pen will be a deer plot in case the game warden brings deer this year. If not, Daisy and Spirit will enjoy their own private garden!
One of the deer plots we planted just above the slope. Hopefully, it will yield lots of lush clover for Daisy and Spirit... and a few woodland rabbits!
One of the deer plots we planted just above the slope. Hopefully, it will yield lots of lush clover for Daisy and Spirit… and a few woodland rabbits!

Maybe because I had prepared myself for the worst (as I usually expect) I did not have a coronary when I opened the credit card billing yesterday. I had just come in from watching Daisy and Spirit graze in the pasture after they ran off Scarlet deer’s twins. I observed Spirit mimicking her mother, ears back and eyes squinting, hooves a flyin’, while giving chase to the twins as Daisy looked on. Soon, another generation of fawns will grace the woodlands and the cycle will begin anew. I thought about the way Daisy deer had changed my life, and how FD and I had enjoyed what she brought to this place. Somehow, thinking about the cost of accommodating her and her friends was not anything to dwell on. It was the same with the Paleo diet. I balked and grimaced at the initial expense and change I had to implement in shopping, cooking, and baking. Yet, here we were – bodies flourishing and being healthier than we had felt in years. Somehow, being a tightwad was not so important. I think this change just might be a good thing for me!

I know there's a cucumber in here somewhere... I can SMELL it!
A young Miss Daisy searches her cucumber patch. “I know there’s a cucumber in here somewhere… I can SMELL it!”

 

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


53 thoughts on “Gardening With A Certain Deer In Mind

  1. I’m excited to see how your garden grows! I thought about letting our little square-foot garden at the yurt go fallow this year while we get the cabin together, but I can’t resist. So I’ll hike over there a few times a week and water some potatoes and peas. Do you have trouble with ground squirrels? We had to put down wire fencing underneath our plot! It’s worked so far.

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    1. Hello Monica! We don’t have trouble with ground squirrels but we do have moles and gophers. The little devils can really be a problem. I’m like you – even if I had managed to kick back this summer and work on the book, I know I would have been yearning to have my hands in the dirt, looking forward to a few summer vegetables.

      I’m looking forward to seeing posts on your cabin! You don’t get much time to work at it – the season is so short up there!

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      1. You are not kidding about late spring. Years ago my mother-in-law gave me a couple of cherry trees for my birthday on March 28 and every year since, they have always been in full bloom on that date. This year on the 28th – just some tight buds just barely getting started.

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        1. It’s the same thing I’m hearing from people all over the US. I hope this does not mean we will skip spring and go into an early summer. Sometimes that happens. Egad!

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  2. My parents used to have a garden before they moved. I wish I could have a small garden, but I live in a apartment complex, and do not get enough sunlight for a window garden. Enjoy your fresh fruits and veggies this year!

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    1. Thank you Nathan! Oh, it’s too bad you don’t even have a little window space for gardening. I think I have had a garden most everywhere I’ve lived, even if it was just a small plot. There’s just something magical about plants growing and putting off fruit! And of course eating it is the best part!

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  3. What a wonderfully positive post Lori 🙂 You guys knock me out with how much work you can accomplish. I don’t have a credit card so I can’t get those heart attacks but I also can’t get those gates either so I guess we are square ;). Love the gardens, the “tithing” for the deer and native animals and that you are feeling heaps better eating organic. The cheapest “organic” is always going to be your own :). Hugs from Sidmouth. I am officially handing the growing season over to you! 🙂 (Can we have our rain now please?)

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    1. Rain?? Fran, we need rain something fierce too! We’ve had a drought here for the last three years. Lakes and ponds are at all time lows and many small towns are on water rationing. I know your area needs it… what with the wildfires we’ve seen on the news! To be truthful, I don’t think FD and I put in even half of the work you and Steve do over a season. You can run circles around us! 😀

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      1. We had some rain the other day which made the garden smell absolutely amazing. I now realise that nature is grateful for her lot. You haven’t smelled anything till you have smelled a eucalyptus stand that just got watered for the first time in 4 months heavenly 🙂

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        1. The scent of rain and earth is one of the most wonderful sensations to experience. There are so many experiences in this life that are simple, pleasurable and yet cannot be explained. Last night a good friend of ours who has a great telescope invited us out to view the stars and a few planets. I was just speechless each time I stepped up to the lens to view. The Universe is amazing. I feel the same way when I see a critter or some show of nature in the day. It is truly heavenly.

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  4. That new garden looks great, and FD must be a happy man with his new toy. 😉 My first thought was that the deer can jump right over that fence, but I see you’ve already thought of that. I hope it’s enough to keep them out. The idea of planting their own gardens for them is brilliant.
    Looking at your pictures and seeing that you don’t have snow on the ground reminds me of how much further you are into spring than we are up in Michigan. We still have several inches of snow covering our yard. I usually can’t even plant my annual flowers until Memorial Day.

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    1. Thank you Kim. FD loves his new tiller. I don’t worry too much about the deer jumping fences. Most of the time Daisy and Spirit duck under fences, and I’ve seen them jump fences that are four feet. Also, with some vegetables being planted around the house, they can have what they like without a lot of effort. FD’s poor mother’s garden gets hit though. I’ve caught Daisy in her garden nibbling corn and beans! Generally, though, she only nibbles a little and moves on to something else.

      My peonies are already a foot tall – just in the last two days! Spring has arrived in the South at last!! I hope it soon arrives up north! 😀

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      1. Spring is TRYING to get here. Today I went searching for some of our woodland plants and found that my daffodils are up 2″ and the skunk cabbages are up about 3″ — those tiny bits of fresh green life really brightened my outlook today!

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  5. Have adopted a similar diet ourselves, however, living in the middle of the Outback has definite challenges with accessing non GMO, wild, and organic foods. Still, leaving out the processed stuff, grains, sugar etc, is a huge step to the good. Like you, we were mostly there already with eating good quality grass fed meat and vegetables and nuts. We still eat dairy and will probably continue to do so, but who knows? No gardening here, way too harsh a climate and what the soil viruses don’t kill, the grasshoppers in their droves devour, not to mention the kangaroos! I will enjoy watching your garden grow. Love seeing the deer, who we hardly ever saw when we grew up in Ohio. Now they are everywhere. Thank you for the visit to your acres!

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    1. Thank you for such an informative comment! I didn’t realize you were from Ohio originally. Oh you mention kangaroos! We tend to think of them as cute and unusual critters – I never think of them as pests! I guess the same is said of the deer, as many people do not like them here. It will be interesting to report if the deer jump our garden fence, and if the plots we have planted do any good. We all face the rigors and hardships of gardening, but there is much reward in it as well. Oh, and I must confess, I still indulge in butter and some cheese, but it is derived from grass-fed cows (imported Irish cheese and butter is all I can find here).

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    1. Ha ha! That was a baby picture of her and she sure was a cutie. Now she’s a mature lady and just beautiful! Her doe fawn Spirit looks a lot like Daisy did when she was a youngster.

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  6. I spy with my little eye . . . a Japanese Chin in the photo of FD and the Honda beast. How are your chins doing?

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    1. Hey Susan, you are right! That is Zoe, our smallest chin. She’s our little ranch dog! The other two, Bear and Mr. T, prefer to be inside. I need to do a post on the three of them to update everyone. I don’t think I’ve written about them since we fostered Chyann and Niko.

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  7. Your 40 acre garden is intimidating to me, but does inspire me to do something this year, even if my circumstances are drastically different. Growing our own food is just such a satisfying thing. What I love most about this post is how happy you sound, and that in turn makes me happy. Have a wonderful spring, my friend, and tell Daisy and Spirit hello.

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    1. Oh Sid, when I see Daisy I’ll give her “pets” from you! She’s been especially loving lately, although I tend to think she likes the extra attention we give her. She’s shedding and quite itchy, so our scratching and petting feels good. Also, I remember last year, as she got bigger with pregnancy, she found comfort being around her old “folks”. I am happy, Sid. Spring time is always exciting here, and lately, some good things have been happening in my life – letting go of so many things of the past. Spring is about new beginning… and creating. We shall see how this gardening business works out this year! I’ll keep you all posted!

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  8. Great story and pictures, Sundog. Do you ever tire of hearing that? The Paleo diet sounds interesting and a forty acre garden sounds (well) – INTIMIDATING! Those tillers can beat one to death, lol! I’m glad to hear of Daisy, too! What a story she is for future generations.

    I do hope you are careful and have knowledge about mushrooms as one mistake can be deadsville. Another thing to remember (BIG GRIN) is natural does not always mean good for you. Belladonna, jimson weed, various nightshade family members, and even poison ivy are natural but I sure wouldn’t eat them, lol. Just kidding as I’m sure you guys are too wise to mess up like that.

    Last thought: WOW, you and FD are making your place so nice. I am jealous of the outbuildings and heavy equipment. I do have a Cub Cadet Garden Tractor and that little sucker can do some amazing things. I was given an old rear mount blade that is smooth on one side and when flipped over, it has some tines. I rigged it to my Cub and I was surprised at how well it can grade my .3 mile long lane. I use cinder blocks for added weight on the plow and always grade going downhill and it does well, but someday I wanna BIG tractor and outbuildings like y’alls for our fleet of 3 cars, two pick-up trucks, and a big, politically incorrect, gas sucking 4WD Ford Expedition plus future room for a tractor, etc. Sometimes I do feel guilty about the SUV, but living on a dirt road with no county maintenance plus it gets us to our mountain cabin (also private lane); it is for utilitarian use – not for being eco-friendly. I have some very aggressive mud-grip tires that do well in all types of driving conditions and it has never failed me during road washouts or mountain snowstorms, etc. Perhaps we should get a “Smart Car” for regular driving to offset the beast.

    You and FD take care and PEACE OUT!

    PS. Can I borrow FD for a few months to help get my place in shape? All expenses paid for labor, use of equipment, travel to Virginia, etc!

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    1. Louis, I cannot spare FD! In fact I told him today that I needed a clone of him because he just can’t seem to keep up with the “man” projects that need doing around here! I hope no one thinks we have a forty acre garden. It’s not even one acre! We live on 10 acres. Anyway, this is the biggest garden I’ve put in since we moved here. It’ll be interesting to see how I manage. I will also plant vegetables around the house too.

      No troubles on the wild and toxic woodland plants. We only pick morel mushrooms (which will be popping up soon if we get more rain and warm days). We are quite sure what we pick and forage is safe to eat! 😀

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  9. Oh! “Deer” me! There you go again!!
    You have the perfect life, don’t you?
    Reading through your post reminds me (again) of my early childhood when we were in a different world. I feel for children these days who have not seen the great outdoors (and possibly never will), thanks to all that urbanization and technology. My children find it difficult to believe when I tell them about playing barefoot on the sand, freaking out in the mud and our grandmother chasing us around the garden when we would intrude onto her freshly-planted cucumber patch!
    And, no, I will not ask to borrow FD. All I ask is, “Can you ‘borrow’ us?”

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    1. Ha ha ha! I love your comment! It does me a world of good to hear you say, “You have the perfect life, don’t you?” Just this morning I went out to open our front gates and there was Daisy deer and Spirit grazing on weeds over by my Mom-in-law’s grapevine. Spirit discovered Mom’s newly tilled garden plot and started digging around, getting silly. Pretty soon she was scampering around, gamboling and running. I think of the work here so much of the time, and get overwhelmed by it. But as you say, there are “barefoot” moments where we play and enjoy what is here and we realize the gift of it all. I am reminded each time I see Daisy, or the squirrels or any other number of wild critters, that we do need to tap into those childhood roots and play!

      It would be a grand event to “borrow” all of you! What a lovely thing to say, my wonderful friend!!

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  10. Lord have mercy. You’ve got a lot of grden to tend now but that is surely the best way for you’ll “grow to be stronger” as you get your work- out in all those garden plots.

    Loved reading the story of your diet trransformation., the garen and about Daisy. Yes, sometimes in life drastic changes are needed.

    I don’t eat sugar, salt, gluten, corn, dairy and or meat that comes from an animal. I eat salmon and it is expensive. I cook all food from scratch.

    I could almost feel your pain of buying all the healthy food. It’s a shame that organic is so expensive. With all that additional gardening space you’ll have some marvelous fresh food. ~yvonne

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    1. Hello Yvonne, It’s wonderful to see so many people here who are already incorporating healthy eating and lifestyle. I wish too that organic choices weren’t so expensive, but I do appreciate what it takes to provide organic choices to the population. Like you, we cook everything from scratch. It takes up a good bit of time, but having such good health compared to how I used to feel, lets me know it’s well worth the effort. I will look at gardening the same way when I begin to harvest the spoils of my labors. There is a lot of physical work and time involved, but the end results are mammoth!

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  11. I LOVE this post, Big Sister! Your happiness shows in what, and how, you write; spring sure looks good on you 🙂 . I’m very impressed how you and FD have taken on the Paleo diet, and made it stick! And I love the garden you are providing for your “deer” friends! Gardening IS a lot of hard work, but it is so rewarding to harvest the fruits of your labor. My garden is usually a complete weed mess by the time we harvest, but it does give me a great appreciation for where our food comes from. When you nurture the land with it’s little necessities of water, sun, and weeding, it gives back in abundance! I wish I were sitting with you on your back porch right now, sipping coffee, and admiring the beauty of all that surrounds you.

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    1. Ha ha ha!! Jules, I can’t believe I was just talking on the phone with you about my “happiness” level, and here you’d already written about it and you never said a word… sneaky girl! Don’t we all feel amazing when our bodies are performing well, and we live a good stress-free life? You have more of a challenge with your soil type up north. The dense dirt is so much more difficult to weed and keep tilled than our sandy soil here. I hate to say how easily I can lift a weed and the dirt just falls off of the roots! But yes, our land is amazing…

      This was the morning to be on the back porch! Daisy and Spirit showed up, grazing on the slope on weeds that are now abundant everywhere! I counted 8 squirrels in chase down below, and I see the opossum came for a drink of water at the bath tub a few minutes ago. The birds are singing and the wind is up, causing trees to sway down below. The Redbud trees, dogwoods and fruit trees are all in bloom right now… such a beautiful time of year! I wish you were here, sweet Baby Sister!

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  12. What a wonderful project! All your hard work (and initial money spending) will be worth it when you have hearty crops of fresh, organic fruit and veg. Fingers crossed Daisy and Spirit stick to their patches, and hopefully you will get to the blackberries before the birds this year.

    I like how you said the Paleo is a life style, not a diet. It’s true, it’s more like the diet we used to eat thousands of years ago, and it is certainly better for us. I keep meaning to cut out cake (but I make my own cakes and biscuits, that’s not as bad, right?) but I just can’t get rid of homemade scones with homemade jam. My diet is pretty healthy anyway since I am caffeine, pork and lactose intolerant and colourings and preservatives in shop bought food knock me out for a few days with a migraine, but when we went to Scotland we ate plenty of fruit and fresh homemade wholemeal bread on our picnics and coupled with the exercise I felt so…. alive! I had so much more energy!

    Saying that, I gave up chocolate for Lent – I haven’t had so much as a chocolate chip or a hint of cocoa! – but I’m still getting headaches and migraines, so I figured once Lent is over I might as well eat chocolate again and make the headaches worth it 😉

    Good luck for this years garden Lori!

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    1. Thank you Rachel! I do make naan bread a good bit, and we do work with dark chocolate when we indulge in Paleo-friendly desserts and snacks. I made some cranberry scones the other day. Baking is VERY different on Paleo, but it’s a challenge I appreciate because the end result is so much healthier.

      I suffered with cluster headaches since in my 30’s, but in my 50’s I’m having fewer of them with less intensity. I believe mine have been stress related, but food may have attributed as well. Living healthy is just as much about stress-free living and lifestyle as it is about eating healthy. A good balance is the key!

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    1. We are really enjoying Paleo.. and I admit I do eat cheese from grass-fed sources. I hope you enjoy the same benefits we are having implemented this lifestyle. It just goes to show that our bodies react immediately to fueling up with clean foods!

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    1. Hello Margaret! Yes I freeze and dry some of the harvest. I make a lot of roasted tomato sauce for winter use. So far every year our fruit trees have not produced well. And, what we did see, the birds got to before it was ripe… and of course Daisy loves the spoils of what the birds don’t get!

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  13. Wow! Very ambitious and very cool. I need that diet also. May I come live in one of your out buildings? I’m jealous of all of FD’s toys.

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    1. Ha ha ha!! Oh, Mike, we only just acquired some of the nicer and much-needed “toys”. I wish we’d had them 15 years ago when we first started work here. I think Daisy wouldn’t care if you bedded down in her old barn space. She’d come to visit you since she still stops by her “yard” and snoops around… and pee’s in it to mark it as hers! I guess if that’s roughing it too much you could settle in one of the guest rooms here at the house! I hope you’re good with a chainsaw? I’d have you working to earn those Paleo meals!! LOL

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      1. I am good with a chainsaw and have 2 of my own. As to Daisy’s space, I will be fine with that, so long as she doesn’t pee on me. I’d like to work my way into your guest room, and I reckon y’all can call me Rowdy.

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  14. Oh, visions of coffee on the back porch watching the wild…knew that would be short lived.
    Glad the diet is working for you – probably even better since you probably ate health anyway. It can be expensive, so he garden is a great idea – had to laugh at the garden for the deer – we did that – it’s your only hope. Love the big red beast.

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    1. Thank you! So far Daisy and Spirit are content with the mega weeds sprouting up all over the yard! I don’t think they will bother the “people” garden but you never know. I still do coffee on the back porch, but I think my book is on the back burner for now.

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