My boon companion

My boon companion

The extreme introverting continues. Besides picking up a few groceries and some occasional visits to the gym, I’ve gone out a scant handful of times in the past month.

Once I went out to shop for clothing. I did this out of desperation and an acknowledgement that there were times I needed to be able to dress in something other than yoga pants, a t-shirt, and a fleece hoodie. I had to go to the office on days that bookended that weekend, and when I realized I literally had only one stretchy skirt that would fit me, I went out to find some more suitable work wear for my current body.

I find it discouraging (to say the least) that I’ve gained so much weight over the course of a year that I couldn’t fit in the vast majority of the clothing that filled my closet, nor could I wear anything from the small storage bin of larger sized clothing I had brought with me from Chicago. That’s right, I couldn’t even fit in the “fat clothes” that I had brought from when I was at my previous heaviest weight. (Obviously, I have set a new personal record. Not one of which I’m proud.)

A kind friend keeps reminding me that I have had two major surgeries in a year and that it will take some time to get back in shape. Yes, it’s true that in a one year time span I had two surgeries that resulted in the removal of my uterus, both ovaries and fallopian tubes, 10 inches of colon, and my appendix. Logically one would think that taking that many organs out of my body would result in a loss of weight, but that’s just not the way the world works, sadly. I suspect that I shall never be the same shape again due to the hormonal shifts I’ve been through, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I went to some shops and bought some things to wear. A couple of pairs of pants, a few blouses, and one of those swingy sweaters that can be worn as a jacket. Because I recalled that my office has adopted a “jeans Friday” thing all year-long, I was able to wear a pair of jeans and a plain t-shirt on the Friday I went to the office, and I was able to wear one of the blouses with the one skirt that fits me when I went into the office on the Monday. Crisis averted.

Sister was in town a couple of weeks ago and she brought her lovely daughter with her. (Niece is turning 30 this year, so she’s not a child.) While I did have to work most of the week, I was able to spend a Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday with them. We enjoyed the break in the weather by doing a lot of touristy things in San Francisco, as this was niece’s first trip out to these parts. I hope she comes back often as she really is a well-adjusted and fun person to be around.

These excursions from my hidey hole are fun, but they still exhaust me. Last week I was tired all the time and just couldn’t seem to get enough sleep. I’m sure having meetings that necessitate me setting my alarm for 4:30 or 5 AM every damn day of the week doesn’t help, either. For a while there the early morning meetings were only happening twice a week, but now they are happening nearly every work day. Ugh.

But today I really want to move away from all this negative crap and instead recognize my boon companion, my wonderful dog Hannah.

img_2595 In a recent Twitter exchange, I was reminded that she and I have been together 13 years. Wow. My dog and I have had a relationship that’s lasted longer than my marriage; longer even than some of my human friendships.

Hannah is roughly 14 years old and is doing quite well for a someone who would be about 78 years old as a human. She loves to go on walks, play “keep away” and “tug” with her toys, chase squirrels and cats, and get belly rubs and petting from humans of all ages, shapes, and sizes. She still does not like other dogs to get close to her or even show interest in her, but we’ve diligently worked on keeping her from getting reactive 95% of the time.

Nearly two years ago some blood tests revealed that Hannah has an elevated ALT, which is a measure of liver health. When the elevated results persisted and even got a little worse, there were ultrasounds and eventually a biopsy performed, but there doesn’t seem to be any underlying disease causing the issue. So for now we just monitor the levels and I give her a daily medication that is helping to keep the ALT from climbing quickly.

In the past 6 months I’ve noticed that she has some issues with slightly dragging her rear feet when she walks, and her gait hasn’t been as smooth. The veterinarian suggested she has arthritis in her lower back, based on examination and manual manipulation. She recommended some medication, and also suggested I may want to consult a vet who does acupuncture.

Now Hannah gets electro-acupuncture treatments roughly every 3 or 4 weeks. (Acupuncture vet thinks that Hannah may actually have a disc issue rather than arthritis in her back, but since the treatment is the same I really don’t care to have her x-rayed to confirm either diagnosis.) Between the medication and the acupuncture she seems to be doing better. She’s surprised me by leaping over the back of the couch a few times during play or in enthusiastic greeting.

Acupuncture vet also recommended some changes to Hannah’s food, which I slowly adopted. While I’m not willing to cook my dog’s meals daily, I did switch her to a quality kibble that uses beef as the first ingredient rather than chicken. I’ve also started adding more real food to her bowl. She’s been getting a soup-spoon full of canned pumpkin for a few years (it helps her from getting constipated), but now I’m adding cooked kale, and canned sardines every morning.

Those sardines are like a superfood, and I’m really impressed with the condition of her skin and coat now. For many years she’s had bald spots on her tail. When I asked the vet back in Chicago about them she suggested I put Hannah on fish oil. I’ve been giving her a fish oil capsule every day since then and there had been a slight improvement. But now that she’s been on the sardines for while those bald spots are completely gone and her coat is softer and shinier. I’m now singing the praises of sardines to every dog owner I meet.

Hannah and I have gotten to know each other very well over our years together. She is an excellent communicator. When she thinks it’s time for a walk, she noses her leash and looks at me. When she wants to play she gets my attention by walking up to me first, then when I look at her she walks over to her toy shelf and pulls out a toy. If she thinks it’s time for her dinner or for bed, she walks up to me and “sings” a little bit to get my attention. She also grabs my attention by flopping herself noisily onto the floor near the sliding door into the yard when she needs to go outside. She only barks to alert me when a person, dog, or cat comes near the house or into the yard. Otherwise, she “sings” or whines very softly to get my attention.

Hannah’s ability to read my moods is also exceptional, and she’s a great “comfort dog.” I hope we have many more pleasant years together, and I send out gratitude every day that she is here with me and is staying so healthy.

Easing in

I’ve been so worn out from work and life lately that I just didn’t want to make time to write on the blog. But today I’m feeling refreshed and ready to ease back into blogging with a short post.

It’s Sunday — a much-needed day off– and it’s sunny outside. We rolled the clocks back and resumed standard time, so I didn’t feel bad about lounging in bed for extra time this morning. Because it’s dry and sunny I’m heading out to work in the garden and yard after this, though, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time in front of the computer.

We had a brutal summer here. A couple of weeks ago while B and I were doing some yard work on a perfectly lovely day, we took a break to sit on the porch. B noted that we had barely spent any time out there this summer. It was much too hot and humid, and we holed up inside staying cool. Now that we’re moving quickly towards winter, I need to catch up on the yard work that I would normally have been doing all summer: weeding, trimming, transplanting, and tending to the veggie garden.

During that lovely day two weeks ago B helped me to the biggest chores of closing down the garden. The tomato and pepper plants were taken out, and the supports put away. B turned the compost and chipped up all the small branches and twigs I’ve collected over the year, and I got in some weeding and transplanting, too.

Today we’re going to rake and bag leaves, then put them into storage for the winter. I use dry leaves as bedding in the chicken coop all year ’round, and look forward to replenishing the stock. I’m also going to plant garlic today in one bed, and maybe even part of another. Last year I planted two 4×8 beds with three varieties of garlic, shallots, and multiplier onions. The onions didn’t work out very well (they were quite small) and some of the varieties of garlic produced disappointingly small heads. This year I’m going to just plant the garlic variety that produced larger heads. (I really wish I knew the name of the variety, but I failed to write the names in my gardening records and relied solely on markers with permanent ink that turned out to be not so permanent!)

To close I’m going to mention a new morning ritual that we’ve developed over the past few months. I call it the morning love fest. When I start to stir in the morning (either because the alarm clock woke me, or my internal alarm went off), I hear Hannah dog get up from her bed in the corner and start to stretch and shake. (Dogs always stretch after getting up from a lie down; we could learn from that!) I call her, and she jumps up on the bed and settles down near me. This is when the love fest starts in earnest, as I pet her and stroke her and talk about the dreams and goings on the night before. If B is feeling awake enough, he may join in and start petting Hannah, too. I’ll ease out of bed and stretch my legs while leaning into the bed and continuing to pet her (usually she’s on her back by this time and I’m giving her a good chest and tummy rub) and talking about the day ahead. And then it’s time for me to get really moving, so I stop the petting and she leaps off the bed in a show of great agility, all ready to  go outside and embrace the day. Isn’t that a lovely way to get started in the morning?

Being here

I’m at my house now. My own house. My home. It’s just for a few days until Mark gets back from a business trip, but it’s sort of like a little breather in the middle of a long stretch of craziness.

As I sit here on my couch, with Sadie curled up on my left peacefully sleeping, and Hannah curled up on my right, sleeping in her usual twitchy, I’m-chasing-something-in-my-sleep way, I’m loving it. I’m surrounded by their healthy, doggy smell, and the warmth of their presence.

It will be so nice to climb into my bed tonight knowing that my wonderful dogs will be snuggled up with me. While I get this time just for a few days this week, it’s great to know that in about 10 days I can look forward to this again, and again, and again, etc.

Rain, rain go away…

It seems there's a weather pattern stalled over the Midwest so yesterday was again a grey, rainy day. And, it looks like most of this week will be the same.

All this rain is good for the plants, though. As Mark commented yesterday, we typically don't have such a green lawn at this time of year. (I refuse to water turf, since it's such a waste of resources. I just let the grass go dormant in the hot summer, as nature intended. It greens right up in the fall, or in an unusually wet and cool summer.) The new plantings put in by the landscapers a few weeks ago are doing just great, too.

But, the rain is not so welcomed by the rest of the household. The dogs don't like getting wet, and usually it is a big pain to get them outside when the weather is like this. I think the only reason they eagerly rush into the back yard is because they are hoping to get near the chickens.

This weather isn't the best for the chickens, either. Even with both run covers on, the floor inside the run is wet. Thank goodness the run floor is wood chips or they'd be all muddy. I've always heard/read that chickens need to be kept dry, but I just can't figure out how to do so in this weather. At least their little Eglu coop is dry inside.

I actually found some time between showers to check out the inside of the coop yesterday and make a minor adjustment. I peer in there every day through the convenient hatch over the nest box to make sure it is dry, cozy and fairly clean. I've noticed droppings in the nest box, which seems to mean someone is roosting in there at night. Supposedly that's to be discouraged: the nest box is only for laying. So, I cleaned it out and put an upturned flower pot in there. When I went out to close up the coop last night, I heard quite a bit of shuffling going on inside as the girls figured out a new configuration for sleeping.

I think it was Maisy who was roosting in the nest box. She's also the more mature of the flock, and therefore the closest to laying. In a week or two I'll take out the flower pot and start putting some soft lining in the nest box for her. The pullets are approximately 17 weeks old when they ship from McMurray Hatchery; in Maisy's case, I think she was at least a week older than the other two. Since these birds can start laying in as little as 20 weeks, I've got to make sure the nest box is ready and they know what it is for.

The chooks are definitely learning the routine around here. Last night I ventured out to shut the coop door, hoping that they were already inside. And they were. Of course, with the weather like this, I don't need much prompting to snuggle down inside my house either!

All this wet, icky weather means that I am getting a good amount of knitting done, though. I hope to have a finished object to show in the next few days.

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Ah, summer

At this time of year I’m usually kicking back and enjoying my garden. The spring is usually the time of year where there is lots of hard work in the garden. But this year the cicada scare in the area delayed things quite a bit. I went round and round with the landscaper about when to have the plan for the back yard (the one behind the house) finished, and we’ve only just now settled on a date later this month. High summer is usually not the best time to plant, but I’ll get the soaker hoses down right away and use them liberally while the plants are getting settled in.

One task that I had thought to “outsource” through the landscaper was constructing raised beds in my side yard (or as it’s affectionately known, “The Point”). I’ve only had to make about 6 very careful applications of herbicide so far this year to keep the bindweed out. (I use a technique that involves “painting” it on the plant to minimize the amount used and the impact on anything else.) So, The Point is ready for its transformation!

The Point in July 2007Here we see the full lot at the beginning of its change from weed-infested lot into my food-raising area. In the foreground are some cinder blocks and large branch marking out the dimensions of a bed we’ll put in for blueberries. I’d like to have 2-3 blueberry bushes, so it will have to be fairly deep and long. I won’t use cinder blocks because they’d have to be stacked pretty high and would require re-bar reinforcement, so I have something else in mind.

Moving clockwise, a few more stacks of cinder blocks mark out the dimensions of the asparagus bed. Again, I likely won’t use cinder blocks since this will be a pretty deep bed, too.

At the far back is the single bed I constructed this year. Heaps of edging blocks are laying around, awaiting my artful arrangement of them into outlines of future beds. We’ll build the blueberry bed, one for asparagus, and one more for annual veggie rotations this year. The rest will have to wait for future years, but I want to have a plan for where to put them.

My modest raised bed Here’s a close up of the one raised bed I do have in place now. I had waited and waited to discuss raised bed design with the landscaper, and when I finally got the ideas and estimates I was pretty floored by the price. So, one nice Sunday a couple weeks ago I started working in the garden sort of early and decided to just put together a bed with materials I had on hand: cinder blocks, concrete edgers, and compost. I had thought to plant something climbing at the one end (which explains the goofy trellis thing), but it’s so late in the season I couldn’t find any seedlings (like cukes or beans) and I wouldn’t get much if I planted seeds. I did find a very limited variety of pepper and eggplant seedlings, as well as a tomato plant for Mark. (I don’t like raw tomatoes, so I only grow them for Mark.)

An interesting note about raised beds: when I decided that I had to do the beds without the landscaper’s help, I Googled “raised beds” to see what sort of products and info I could find. One of the results was from a site called WikiHow. It has step by step instructions on how to build a raised bed, and photos for examples. I thought the photos looked familiar at first glance, and then I realized they were photos of raised beds that we constructed a year or two after moving to this house. Mark would have taken the photos, and I must have posted them somewhere. They’re not on Flickr so I can’t recall where they were uploaded.

I was out with the camera today, so there are more photos to see on my Flickr account in the 2007 Garden set. I took a few photos of the dogs, too. I can’t resist posting just one.

Sadie spinning round and roundSadie loves to do this crazy spinning round and round thing in the grass and on the rug. She looks so goofy doing it, but clearly loves the sensation!

Think like a dog

As I sit here…in the dining room…in front of my laptop…trying to wrap up a bit of work while also doing my “fun” computer stuff like catching up on blogs…I see my dog Sadie staring at me while she lays on an armchair in the adjoining living room. I’m guessing that the thoughts running through her head are something like this:

“What is she doing over there with that silly thing? I have this great red ball that we can play with, why isn’t she over here playing with me? Why isn’t she over here rubbing me? You know you love to do that, why not come here and run your hands over me, petting and rubbing and scratching?”

Now her eyes are slowly closing, and I know she knows it’s nearly time to go to bed. That’s what she’s trying to tell me in this minute, “Let’s go to bed and forget about that other stuff.”

If I really listened to my dogs, here’s what I think they’d tell me:

  • Live in the moment. Forget the concepts of “future” and “past.” There is just NOW. Enjoy it. Endure it. Get through it, but take it all in, good and bad. Live it.
  • I deserve every bit of attention I can garner. Don’t doubt that at all. If you can grab attention through some antic — vocalization, movement, crowding — grab it and enjoy it.
  • Take naps.
  • After laying down for a period of time, always stretch when you get up.
  • Although we don’t speak the same “language,” we can still communicate — not just basic needs, but also what’s important to each of us : in other words, our “values.” Which leads to my final lesson…
  • Listen and intuit with your entire being. That’s the way to connect to others, to life, and to find enjoyment in the now.