Thursday, February 26, 2015

All Fall Down

Big news this week is that, apparently, despite tripping over the dog (old dog, Stormy, the Newfie who looks like a dog bed in the dark) on the way to bed last night and landing FIRMLY on the new knees, I seem to be suffering no serious effects. Yes, I am stiff, in the knees and pretty much all over, but then I did go down hard and jarred the whole body rather solidly.

I was not sure what was going to be on the docket for today, task-wise... trying to decide if a "turtle day" was in order or what I felt like working on when Tractor Guy called me to the back door while he was doing chores. It seems that Christmas, the second broad breasted white turkey, who got a reprieve last year was suffering from the weather, or possibly from not having been butchered early enough. Regardless, it did not appear to be ill and so there was no reason to prolong the inevitable. Butchering a turkey, especially IN the house, was not what I expected for a project but it needed done and so it was.

Knees started feeling more swollen after standing for a couple of hours working on the bird -- even with a sitting break in the middle -- so I iced them while TG made short work of the final clean up. I had managed to contain most of the blood on paper in the pantry -- where I did the deed -- and had gathered up most of the feathers and offal in a bag so all he had to do was a bit of blood removal and vacuuming up the stray down. Bird will age for a couple of days, then most likely I will cut it up and freeze.

Most of the week has been an ongoing attempt to find and sync with whatever the energy level and flow are on any given day. A moving target... LOL  And one that also involved TG's energy levels as well, as he has been fighting unusual pains and what wants to turn into a sinus infection all week. The little Fertility hex sign that was scheduled to post early in the week got delayed on account of his illness, but did finally go.
And once again, the dog yard "moat" had to be shoveled out, on account of some accumulation and considerable blowing and drifting of snow.
Dog yard... before. Note: no dog
Moat being re-dug. Yes,
turkeys on top of their house

The last of the onion seeds, the leeks and some celery did get planted this week and the first planting of onions are beginning to show their heads. It will be a LONG time until spring opens up the ground sufficiently for even the early crops to be introduced to the garden, but we will be ready!

And while I am thinking about the next varieties of seed that need to go into blocks (lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and the cole crops are all on the schedule for next month) I have been thinking about kale. I will grow a bit, not a lot but a bit. I have friends who like it and often get veggies from me, even though I am mostly focusing on feeding us. But I have yet to find (or make... I have recipes I have not yet tried) a way of doing kale that I actually like. I got thinking about "super foods" after reading a comment on Facebook from someone asking for a recipe because they were "trying to find ways to like Kale."  So... do we HAVE to like.. or even eat... kale? Or blueberries... or??? any of the so-called super-foods?  Honestly I don't think so. 

Do we need to eat a wide variety of foods, as close to nature as possible, and including green and yellow/orange veggies, whole grains, dairy, proteins... (for myself I would say various muscle and organ meats but I do know that one can be healthy with a balanced vegetarian diet)? Absolutely! But any ONE food?? I seriously doubt it! I looked up the comparative nutrition of kale and other greens and this confirmed my intuition. Mustard greens (which I have seed for but have not yet grown, collards (a southern staple that I never did quite cotton to) and my good friend Swiss chard all come close enough to kale to qualify as good nutrition in my book, especially as any of their "shortcomings" will likely be covered by other things in my diet. 
So, by all means, try foods that are new to you. Who knows, you might like them! But if you don't, I don't think it's any big deal. 
I would, though, encourage everyone to look for the most nutrition for the buck in the things you like. If you don't like the orange winter squash, no biggie. There are carrots (raw or cooked.. did you know "Lightly cooking them actually helps to release the carotenes, which are otherwise trapped."), sweet potatoes (hold the marshmallows... think of them as 'taters with a bit of salt and butter), and so on. Dark green veggies include many lettuces (try a variety... they do not all taste alike!) and spinach (don't like it cooked? try raw in a lettuce salad), broccoli or even cabbage.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In pursuit of "a new normal"

If there is one that that I don't like, it's change. Now, I know it's necessary, and I instigate it, often enough, myself. But even when I am driving the bus (or have pushed started it and am trying my best to keep it from going over the cliff) I don't LIKE it. No, I'll be more accurate than that. I DISLIKE IT.

So where do I find myself these days... at 1 mo+ post-op on two not-really-settled-in-yet prosthetic knees? Yep, I'm stuck riding that damn bus... the one with "change" stenciled on its side... the one I was pushing like a mad fool to get rolling just a couple of months past.  LOL

I like my routine. "Normal" days, life... whatever that happens to settle into... is generally something I can deal with. Normal used to involve remembering where I left my stick, which I took out when I did chores or worked in the garden, so I would have it when the knees gave up on pain and upped ante to "NO, I ain't gonna." Normal used to involve a pace that I was familiar with. Endurance was always... ALWAYS... my thing. Yeah, there was recharge time, collapse in a puddle in a corner time... but those were timed well and put at the end of the day, out of sight of the rest of the universe.

The first thing to discombobulate my "normal" was having kids. No, not the birthing of them, but the "having"... those years that follow when, just as you finally think things have settled down and you have found a new normal, one or more of them has a growth spurt or a few new neurons connect in a different way and you are off in a new phase, a new stage on the roller coaster of growth.

In retrospect (and only in retrospect) I can be thankful for the time I spent with babies, toddlers and youngsters "underfoot" as I learned that is was possible to actually accomplish things when you only had ten to fifteen minute bits of time. I learned how to string starts with pick-up-and-continues until I got the laundry done or the dishes washed or a garden tended. It wasn't my natural way, but I did it.

Now, though, it looks like "normal" is going to be a moving target for a good long time and there are few aspects of the change that I have any control over in the short term. I know that in the long term, following my doctor's advice with the "exercise, rest, ice, elevate" regimen will bring about the best result: strong legs and a good range of motion.

In the short term, day-to-day run of life, though, it all seems like a crap shoot. To be totally honest, I have to say that even at this early point in healing I can say that most of the time my knees don't hurt as badly as they used to. Most of the time, once I get walking about here in the house, there is no pain. Maybe a little stiffness, but no outright pain. I can stand and balance, briefly, on either leg. I can kick. No chance that I will be picked up for a local soccer team this month and I can't kick high yet... so unless I find a brick to stand on I likely won't even be kicking a duck in the ass. But they are still out of control. They swell, get stiff, hurt. Yeah, you say "Ice, ice, baby!" but when you are barely above shivering after getting into bed, I am not voluntarily putting MORE cold on any part of the body. And then there is the barometric pressure... I dunno why the surgeon decided to give me an upgrade to the "internal barometer" version of the knee. I didn't think Medicare covered that and I sure as heck didn't want to pay for an upgrade... but apparently I got it anyway. Damn.

So, yeah, where did that target run off to this time? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

New Project on the Schedule, and Goal to Go!

EDIT:  Well, in theory it was accepted, but MOFGA, being a large corporate entity now (far from the grassroots organization  it is perceived to be) has their own agenda. Whether or not we will be able to find "common ground" is yet to be determined. One thing for sure, I will NOT be painting the signs ON the barns; they insist on something ready-to-mount, to be delivered prior to the fair. I am negotiating for a demo space nearby, to work on the second in the series. We will see...


I just learned that a project that I proposed to the local MOFGA chapter, of which I am an officer, was accepted by the parent organization and I will be painting a "livestock Protection" sign on one of the livestock barns on the organization's grounds during the Common Ground Fair this fall!

I will be drawing and painting directly on the barn, which is traditional but not something that I have done much of in the past. It requires climbing and standing on a ladder and depending on the size of the circle, may have to be painted in sections. It will be exciting to do this, as it will be happening during the three day long fair and there will be, I hope, ample time for quiet promotion of my art. At the very least, I will be wearing T-shirts with my logo and URL prominently featured, both front and back!

There is, however, one other relevant fact.  A month ago, I had both knees replaced. I am, one month post-op, climbing normal steps with my bionic knees and a cane with less pain and no more difficulty than I had pre-op and things are supposed to continue to improve. Complete healing after total knee replacement (whether it be one knee or two) does not occur for many months, possibly even a year. A good outcome, so I am told, requires the active participation of the patient with a regimen of specific exercises, but also requires rest, ice and elevation of the knees to address swelling after periods of activity, and the ability to listen to ones body and "not over-do." This latter is not something I am known for.

I have been approaching this period of healing with a rather open and free-form attitude. I know I want and need to be able to get into the garden this spring and summer, but with record-breaking snowfall on the ground and equally record breaking cold temperatures filling the weather reports, it is hard to say when the ground will be ready for even the earliest seeds and hardiest transplants.

However, the date of the Common Ground Fair has been set -- Sept. 25, 26, 27. Nothing will change it and the only weather phenomenon that might interfere with my sign painting project would be unremitting rain for the three days of the fair. So I have a goal.. and an intermediate one as well as I have been planning to paint a sign on the west end of our garage and will use that as a practice piece and a way to hone the process while working on a ladder but not quite so far up in the air.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Week of Slow Progress

Valentine's day is not a big deal for us; love shared on a daily basis seems much more meaningful than something snatched from a store shelf because of a date on the calendar -- or guilt. LOL But Tractor Guy did surprise me late in the week with a HUGE box of baking cocoa!  That will likely say "love" for many, many months.

Meanwhile in the wilds of central Maine, our on again-off again love affair with snow and extreme cold continues. Saturday when he brought up the weather upon arising, TG reported that the thermometer was reading -18 and the wind chill was making it feel like -31. Serious BRRR. On these deadly cold nights, we
Big enough to pet without
my bending over!
have been bringing the LGD (livestock guardian dog) pup, Moose, onto the back porch for overnight... and during the days on days like this as well. He is only 5 months old and though he is getting his "grown up Pyr" coat, we don't think it will hurt his guarding in the long run for him to spend a bit of time in a warmer place, away from his "charges" the fowl. In the morning and the evening we let him into the house to visit me... after all, he rode home with me in the car for three days as a baby with his chin resting on my arm and he is convinced that I am one of his charges to guard. He lays in front of my desk and sticks his head under for pets... but will have to break this habit before he is full grown. He did end up staying in an extra day this week because our last snow fall and drifting added so much accumulation to the dog yard that even a dachshund could have just stepped over the fence!

Blizzard Monday was spent making 3/4" soil blocks and planting two full trays of onion seed... about 480 blocks. We are about to run out of onions from last year's planting, so I am going to use up the few seeds remaining in the packets this coming week, as well as a few left over from last year. We eat a lot of onions!

NOT a small truck!
With my one month post-op visit to the doc in Portland scheduled for Tuesday, and the temperatures staying well below zero (not a range that our tractor, Fergie, will start in) we cried "uncle" and went hunting for some "big guns" to clear our driveway. A friend who works at a nearby dairy gave me the
He tried! Snow flew
higher than the hood!
number of one of her coworkers and, after one failed try, we managed to connect Tuesday morning and the guy said he would come over. His one ton pickup with big plow, though, was no match for the solidly packed driveway. My friend had mentioned that they had a truck and a front end loader, so when he drove away after the first three runs, I tried to stay positive. And, sure enough, shortly he was on the phone explaining that he would have to
even with the loader, it was a big job!
use the tractor, and it would cost a bunch and take a while to get it to our place.. but we had to get out so I gave him the go ahead. Even with the loader, it was not a quick process. He not only cleared the drive, but also pushed back the piles on BOTH sides, giving us room to pile future snow.

Doc visit turned out to be a trip to get the new knees x-rayed and then a perfunctory and brief "I ask questions, you answer them" visit with a brief look at the incisions and my range of
bionic knees
motion. I was pronounced fit to drive and go about, told to continue exercising and to listen to my body. And, oh, yeah, if my pain is below 5 I should not be taking the "good drug." LOL Considering that my pain was only briefly AT 5, while in the hospital working with their PTs, and dropped immediately when I was to rest, I guess I can say that I have been over-medicated for a month. I'm now just using Tylenol and that means that when I want, I can have a glass of wine with supper again!

Good timing, that, as Wednesday being New Moon was the day we needed to haul recycles and trash (usually my job) and time to resupply groceries. I rather over-did it a bit (too long standing in WalMart after pushing my cart around, even though I only did a surgical strike based on my list with no wandering on top of several extra times getting in and out of the car) but the gave me a chance to try out the electric chairs at Sam's Club. They handle well but could use a turbo for those of us who are fast shoppers... and a seat made out of a smoother material. The thing grabbed onto my sweats and I had to fight to slide to one side or the other to grab a product that was just out of reach. 

The Abundance/Prosperity/Smooth Sailing hex sign is complete and awaiting packaging tomorrow. I have been babying my legs and knees a bit today, as they are really stiff, mostly as a result of being a bit more swollen than usual from the over use. Packaging these 48" signs is always a challenge, but I shall tackle it early tomorrow and we will make the trek to UPS to get it on its way! There is another sheet of 3/4 plywood waiting in the garage and no reason why I cannot cut circles. I am asking Tractor Guy to cut it roughly in half for me so I can just rotate the squares to cut the 3' and 4' circles that I need, rather than climbing onto the plywood...something that the knees won't be ready to do for some time. I also have a small indoor Fertility sign almost completed and received an order for two more 12" signs today, for which I have circles cut and waiting.

This coming week is going to be FULL of hexes!

Friday, February 13, 2015

This week has been mostly characterized by frustration, snafus and not a lot of fun. Friday last I had everything in order to get a renewal on my pain medication, or so I thought. Getting there had not been easy nor straightforward but by the time I confirmed that the prescription was ready to be picked up, the only obstacle seemed to be the snow that had drifted back into the driveway. With a 4:30 PM deadline staring down at him, Tractor Guy got Fergie up and running and began clearing the snow as I watched the time and his progress. With about an hour to spare, the sound of the tractor ended. The next sound I heard was not the Subaru springing to life but the closing of a car door and the raising of the hood. Boo refused to start. A starter wire was reattached and her battery swapped for the one from the tractor, but still no go. Boosting the battery did not help, nor did a call to the doctor's office provide a solution. Knowing that it would be Monday before we could get additional doses, I planned out a scheme of omitting the 1 o'clock doses, day and night and prepared myself for an increase in discomfort.

Since there were no errands being run, the hex order did not get shipped, groceries were not topped off, etc. I was thankful that we had sufficient fuel for heat. Tractor Guy carried the car battery to the garage and put it on a charge.

Fortunately, by the time Monday rolled around and another attempt at meds and errands could be made, the old battery had picked up enough juice to go, but not trusting it, the plan was to allow the car to run while picking up the prescription and posting the hex and other mail, and then to hit Sams Club where both the prescription and a replacement battery were on the list.

The gremlins from earlier in the weekend were not done with us, though. The doctor's office was closed, due to an oil spill in the back room! After he spent about an hour calling anyone and everyone who might have by any stretch of the imagination been able to help, Tractor Guy was finally connected to an RN in the emergency room of the country hospital with which the local doctor's office is associated. We are not sure what she did or said or to whom, but it was not long after when we received a call from the office that someone was there who could hand off the prescription.

Fortunately the week did improve some after that!

The weather gods even granted us a week of very little snow --
only traces, pretty flakes and no serious wind -- and a bit of sunshine from time to time which streamed through the south windows for some noticeable solar gain and enticed Moose to take a sunbath on a comfy pile of snow!

My home health care folks are gradually abandoning me for lack of need of their services on my part. I am no longer seeing the nurse, the occupational therapist -- who finally got here -- found that I had life pretty well figured out. The physical therapist gave me cane lessons, as I have been walking about without the walker, mostly in fairly confined areas. It is nice to be able to use the cane when going to the bathroom during the day; the geometry of the small hall, narrow door and bathroom has meant I had to get creative using the walker. The cane is just easier and I am close to abandoning the walker except for early morning or evening.

I have started painting on the 4 foot Abundance/Prosperity/SmoothSailing hex sign and though I appreciate having the tall stool to perch on while painting the tulip and wheat motifs around the border, I have no problem standing and reaching to paint the central star.   I also have a small indoor prosperity sign underway, and am looking forward to getting out to the garage wood shop very soon to cut the next two large sign blanks. With any luck Tractor Guy will bring home my next sheet of 3/4 plywood tomorrow. I have asked him to cut it into halves -- they don't have to be exact halves because we know I will be cutting only one 4' sign; the customer ordered a 3' one as well.

Where is the next blizzard's
offering going to go?
I probably won't be getting to the garage to cut the new circles, though, until Monday, as we have a blizzard watch (yes, again with the snow and wind!) for Saturday and Sunday. Current predictions are for 5-8" of snow on Saturday and an additional 12+ the following day. Monday will have to be a tractor day, because I have a doctor's appointment Tuesday afternoon. I am thinking that since Tractor Guy will be out and about to start and work with the tractor, there will likely be a navigable path to the garage that I can manage with my cane. With the plywood cut into halves, I can easily draw on the circles and cut them by rotating the relatively square sections of plywood on the garden cart. In the past I have typically just crawled up onto the plywood to cut the hard-to-reach part of the first circle, but that really won't work (yet) with the new knees.

And, in recognition of my increasing mobility and desire to pick up the brush (and the pace of life) I have added some limited time specials on the Dutch Hex Sign store page. FREE SHIPPING on selected 12" signs for outdoor display! The circles are cut and ready to be primed, drawn and painted!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Uphill Both Ways

I am reminded of the jokes in which an elder, speaking to a youngster, talks about their long walks to school and asserts that the road was "up hill both ways." This week has kinda felt like that in general.

"Blowing and drifting"

Drift is up to the
bottom of the windows

Between sub-zero temperatures, and massive wind chills that not only subtract from the perceived temperature but also continue to move the snow about, even when it is NOT actually falling, we have had one heck of a weather week.

Barely scraping by... heading out on supply run
Adding to the stress was the urgent need to get out and resupply kerosene (we managed to stretch our supply through the weekend but filled the heater tank with the last dregs on Monday) as well a getting the wall heater big propane tank filled. Both were accomplished on Monday, in the nick of time for the propane, as the pilot was out when we got up Tuesday morning. This was not really much of a surprise. While I can usually count on the big tanks to last a month or so, there seems to always be one session -- ofter just after the first of the year -- when temperatures and wind conspire to suck the heat out of the house and eat the propane much more quickly. The tank that we swapped out had lasted three weeks.

Also on the needs list was critter feed, which was resupplied as well during the Monday supply runs.

My intrepid visiting nurse did manage to slide in to remove the staples from the left knee, bringing the prospect of a shower into the equation. Unfortunately, I had to wait an extra day due to Tractor Guy's quite understandable fatigue from all of the clearing and hauling he had to do. After two weeks, though, what's one more day and when it finally came, the hair washing and body scrub felt wonderful! With the turning of the season (the tide I call Spring Finding has been lapping at the corners of my mind all week) even I (not fond of showers as I am) enjoyed invoking the spirit of the rains-to-come and the cleansing of body and spirit with the full moon, also this week. I also finally got a visit today from a physical therapist, who says I am showing the kind of range of motion more typically seen at 4 weeks post op. I am closer to 2-2 1/2 wks and both knees seem to be pretty much equal. Woo Hoo!!

According to the directions
I need to secure the sliced jugs with duct tape
but other than that, they are done.
My main ritual for the cross-quarter-tide has been the preparation and planting of the seeds I received from As soon as Tractor Guy is up for taking them down the steps and stashing them in the snow for the season, I'll clear off the table and begin working on the 4' hex that is next on the list.

12" Livestock Protection hex sign
Today, when TG heads out to pick up the new Rx for my "good drug" (one of the class of medicines that now requires a new written prescription for each round of medication, to be hand carried to the pharmacy) I will have him post the Livestock Protection - Horse hex sign that I completed this week.