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Archive for the category “Miscellaneous – Nature”

No birdz allowed – lung stuff part deux

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Another glorious Pacific Northwest summer is winding to an end. They are always too short.

Continued from previous post:
So I left the specialist’s office that day in March with a couple prescriptions – one for oxygen at home, and one for steroids (prednisone) – both of which I’d used a year earlier, and both of which I didn’t want to do, although they help immensely. I knew the oxygen use would be short-lived, as once the prednisone kicked in and inflammation was neutralized, I no longer needed it. While its benefit is huge in that 10 – 14 day time frame, I just didn’t want to deal with it (both the admittance that I needed it nor the growling, hissing activity of the oxygen concentrator, not to mention the medical rental of the machine, although this experience/company was MUCH better than last year’s). And, after all was said and done, I spent over $630 on the rental (insurance only covers so much)  for the 10 days of use, because the doctor wouldn’t okay its return until she saw me again…in May. I would have done better to purchase one of my own at that cost!

A few weeks after my visit we got the antigen tests back. And while most everything was in range (they test for a variety of typically encountered organisms) there were a couple of molds that were moderately out of range (high) and two others that I just didn’t expect: pigeon droppings, and pigeon feathers and proteins. Which, of course, means all avian. (I’d tested negative for bird allergies last year.) The doctor knew I had chickens (we’d discussed them with the sheep) and she flatly said I had to get rid of them. I was dismayed, not really understanding if they were outside why I had to get rid of them. I live on acreage. There are birds EVERYwhere. And geez, I’ve been keeping chickens pretty much my whole life (a continuous flock since 1981). But what she didn’t know, and I of course then shared with her, is that I also had a couple of parakeets in the house. And these two, I realized, I would definitely have to place. Dang.

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Of course these results, combined with the review/reassessment of my prior tests and procedures/pathology (done elsewhere) by the UW pathologists, confirmed the rediagnosis from sarcoidosis to hypersensitivity pneumonitis. The doctor was very clear that I had to get the birds out, and once they were out, a deep cleaning of the house (wall washing, floors, furniture, etc.) that I was NOT, under any circumstances (even with my fancy respirator mask) to do myself.  Okay, but… “Have some friends come over to do this for you.”  Um, no. I would hire someone before I asked my friends to do a deep clean on my house.

The first thing I did was take the parakeets, Hugh and Cate, to the vet. I was going to give them away, probably via a Craigslist ad, but wanted to be sure they were healthy before I did so.  Hugh was dealing with some kind of mite or lice infestation – not horrible, but his feathers had looked a little rough for the past 8 months or so (I’d treated with mite control, using the vet’s recommended protocol, to no discernable improvement). Cate looked fine, so maybe there was something else going on with Hugh?  Sure enough, lab work showed he had some elevated kidney values, moving towards gout (who knew?). And here is where my angels helped me out. As the vet relayed the information about Hugh’s bloodwork and recommended treatment (and expense – I’d already spent over $200 for their checkup and lab tests) – fluids once a day for a week, retest blood work and re-evaluate treatment – I was simultaneously trying to digest the information and figure out what to do. She knew of my health situation, as I’d explained it to her/the clinic when I brought Hugh and Cate in for the exam, and then she very kindly and graciously offered me a solution. If I wanted to, I could sign Hugh over to the clinic, releasing ownership and entrusting his care and eventual adoption placement to them. I hesitated, thinking of Hugh – while he wasn’t a bird I’d handled regularly I still felt affection for him and of course responsible for his well-being. I’d had him for 8 years and he was a cheerful, beautiful little guy. But I knew the treatment he needed was outside my ability at that point, and I didn’t want to place him with the hope that whoever adopted him would do the right thing with his care (nor was it fair to place a sick bird with anyone). What was best for him was to sign him over to a place where he could get the care he needed. I brought him in a week or so later. The vet, Dr. Carter, gave me a hug as I signed the papers and said goodbye. I mostly held it together until I got in the car to leave, and then had to dig around in my glove box for a tissue to wipe the tears away so I could see to drive home.

For Cate, now alone, an equally miraculous solution occurred. She and Hugh weren’t bonded, and in separating them she actually seemed happier. They never fought, but they never seemed to hit it off (I’d had her about 3 or 4 years). The weekend after I placed Hugh with the vet, I went to a local spring fair with a friend who also raises Shetland sheep. It was a great chance for her and I to catch up on the drive down, and go see the sheep and fleeces, and booths from sheep farmers and wool vendors, plus chat with other sheep people we both knew. She asked about my health update as we drove back home that day, and I gave her the whole long story of the new doctor and findings all the way to the need to place the parakeets. As I yakked away, she began texting a coworker whose son was an animal lover and had recently said he wanted a parakeet. I didn’t even notice she was texting until she told me about this possible home being available. The coworker texted back that they had already gotten a parakeet, but said they would think about taking Cate too.  From the description, it sounded like a wonderful home, and I sent photos of Cate along with a description of her personality. It turns out the boy, aged 10 or 12, had wanted an all yellow parakeet, and was thrilled to see Cate was exactly what he was looking for. “It’s kismet,” he told his mother, who contacted my friend to let her know they’d take Cate. The boy renamed her Mango, which I just love.

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The badly placed kiwi vine (here when I moved in) once again trying to take over the front porch. I’ve lopped off nearly as much as you see here. I need to transplant him. I call him Groot.

So my house was parakeet-less for the first time in 10 years or more, and it was eerily quiet. But I knew it was for the best and it seemed miraculous that both birds were placed almost effortlessly into situations that were perfect for them. I cleaned up the area they’d been in, vacuuming well and wiping down the wall and windowsill where I’d kept the cage, and of course moving the cage out to the garage (and hosing it down outside first). Next on the agenda was testing my environment for toxins in the form of molds and bacteria.

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The plum tree was laden with its ping pong ball plums this year, the branches groaning under the weight.  The dogs and the sheep have been enjoying them.

I contacted one of the companies on the list the clinic had sent me. The fellow there, Payam Fallah, was a wealth of information, and we discussed my antigen test results and the animals I have here. Like my doctor, he too was a dog lover, which felt good.  Both of them not only understood the dog connection, they both confirmed that dogs/cats rarely are an issue in these cases. Payam also has a tortoise (I’d shared that my menagerie includes a box turtle), and we had a good discussion about our mutual love of animals. Again, this was reassuring – I didn’t want my animals to be automatic targets for removal because of an overall dislike of animals by the professionals I was dealing with.  He sent me sterile swabs/kits for me to take samples in my house. He told me that taking swabs in my detached garage – where I store the sheep’s hay (and the mold inherent therein, which I believe to be one of the major factors in the original manifestation of this health issue) – is pointless, as there are so many molds in the environment/outdoors. Okay…

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My sheep maintenance in my fancy new “deck chair” (sheep restraining tool) wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.  The Shetlands are squirmy, and Trixie, above, probably the worst of the lot.

So I took four samples: one in the bathroom, one in the bedroom, one in my office, and one in the main room of living room/kitchen/“dining” (my house is tiny; this last area, at roughly 500 square feet, encompasses half of it).  A week later he emailed me the results.  Which basically said my little house was fine.  The highest mold readings were in the bathroom (duh), but a) the mold count wasn’t astronomical and b) the molds were not the ones that showed up on my antigen tests. The bedroom, where I was most concerned (for the crawlspace underneath), had a big fat doughnut for results. Which was good. Despite the fact that I sleep in a pile with the dogs (and a brave feline or two) every night, and the crawlspace was an unknown quantity (can’t access), absolutely nothing showed on the swab I took from a wall sconce above my pillow. Thankyoujesus.

I still want to do a swab in the garage, and maybe I still will (have one left, and spreading out the cost is a good thing too – out of pocket, it’s $40 each swab to see if anything grows). But the house is fine.

Now to figure out the chickens…

Songbird season continues

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Not sure how old I was when I got this, but it was (is) well loved.

I’ve always been a birdwatcher; ever since I knew what birds were, I think. As a schoolchild I made (or had an older sibling or adult help me make) bird feeders  out of empty milk cartons and plastic jugs and hung them in the trees and shrubs near the house, where I could watch the birds and help them out during the snowy New Jersey winters. I had a bird book I read over and over, and I got books from the library about birds, including one from National Geographic that had a slim, floppy “record” you could play on a turntable. Here I heard the cries of a bald eagle for the first time – something I hear frequently now, but back then, when the species was still perilously endangered and I lived in an area they did not frequent, it was a thrill, even when my oldest brother said “it sounds like a canary” (I think we all expected something more raptor-ish, like the red-tailed hawk scream you heard on westerns on TV). Now when the eagles make their chittering cries, my old bird dog goes running to the window, or to the door to get outside, barking at the sky. Yesterday one was being dive-bombed by a hawk, and would turn on its back mid-flight to greet the diving hawk with talons raised in defense before flipping back to normal flight. Farley barked at them as I watched, marveling at this acrobatic display; no airshow could be more thrilling to me.

I got my first real field guide when I was 11 – a Christmas gift from that same brother. It was the gold standard for years, even when I moved to the West Coast. Now I have several – Peterson, National Geographic, and Audubon – and refer to each of them regularly. I try to update my life list but I would never call myself a birder. I am distracted by birds no matter where I am – on a city street, driving down the freeway, or sitting at my desk or table by the window. Mostly though, I’m just interested in MY birds, as a fellow blogger, new to birdwatching, put it so well. I am fiercely protective of “mine” – those who I am lucky to have visit and even set up house here. I’m torn when a Western Wood Peewee parks himself on a post near my beehive, flying out to snatch my girls out of the air on their way in or out of the hive and returning to the post. I’ve seen the peewees out in the pasture snatching flies and other insects out of the air and returning to their perch. But this day, when my girls (and other insects, I imagine) were pretty much grounded with the downpours, the peewee is coming in close – a thrill as I sat at my wee table and looked out the window at the beeyard (part of the reason I moved the bees up to where I have is just this view). Thankfully he only did this a few times before flying off.

I no longer feed the birds, due to the bear visit I had the first year I was here. I don’t mind that the bear visited so much, despite the damage to the fence and knocking over the chicken feed and bird feeder (nom nom!), but don’t want to habituate him or her (bears love bird seed/feeders), and thus endanger his life if he tries to do this at some other human’s house. So without the bird feeders I am reliant on really watching, versus just seeing them when they happen to cross my path, and more important, listening. And in this I suppose I am more like a birder now, learning what’s nearby from their voice (guessing the probable bird, and using my smart phone to play sounds (I am careful with this, and don’t use it to taunt the birds – just a quick match/doesn’t match to identify)), because I can rarely see them in the thick foliage. The robins and jays and Swainson’s and tanagers visiting the red huckleberry nearby – loaded with fruit, its bounty seemingly bottomless. The twee-ee-eee of the junco, the long whistle of the chickadee, the melodic song of the Black-headed grosbeak (a song as beautiful as the bird itself, though I rarely see them, high in the maple canopy), and on and on it goes. One wonders how these tiny creatures can create such big sound. After a long day of singing, I am exhausted for them.

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There’s nothing to him, but he fills the woods with song.

And of course now is the nesting season, so babies – and the drama around them – abound. I’ve been keeping the cats inside during daylight hours, much as they hate this. Until recently, I let them out after full dark, and thankfully they’re of an age when staying out all night has less allure. After two or three mice on the doorstep (or, and I don’t know who’s doing this, the mouse “face” left–truly, the only thing left is the ears and face; just enough of an appendage, or a whisker, to pick up the gruesome artifact and toss it into the grass, a treasure for the chickens to fight over the next day) they are willing to come inside. Even sooner if it’s raining or otherwise crappy out.

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Almost time to let the cats out safely.

But with Pal, the younger of the two setter boys and really more like a 47-pound cat, running like the wind around the property and stalking, stalking, stalking, I watch and worry. With the adult birds I don’t worry too much, but with the babies fledging now…  A stramash early one Saturday morning left a juvenile Robin in the driveway, still alive (part of the stramash was me running out the door in my nightie, screaming NO! PAL NO!). The parent bird was chirping madly, though the youngster had stopped its screaming. Pal was running in wide circles around me (NO!) as I picked it up—it had enough juice left to peck at me aggressively, but I didn’t hold much hope—and put it in the pasture with the gate closed, bringing Pal into the house. I checked on it a few hours later and it was, unfortunately, right where I’d left it, rigor mortis set in. Damn.  I apologized aloud.

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Pal’s other favorite prey – moles.  He dug up a 20 x 20 section of the pasture recently.  I don’t think he got the mole this time, but he’s gotten a few in his time, plus he’s so cute to watch, digging furiously, so I don’t mind.

One evening a couple of weeks ago I heard an unusual call, sounding like a baby bird call of sorts, and accompanied by a call from a robin. I went back towards the woods, watching Pal to see where it was coming from (and also to be sure he didn’t find it before I did!). He eventually honed in with a hard point, and began to creep forward toward something on the ground in the thick growth in the woods. PAL NO! I called, as I headed toward him (I do hate doing this, because his point is frippin’ gorgeous, and everything he’s doing is just perfect, not wrong, for a bird dog bred to hunt birds). I saw the little bit of grey and brown scuttle off and followed it, Pal running around me as I repeated NO! (this to Farley and Daisy too, joining in on the fun). I caught the wee bit of fluff and found it to be a baby robin, it seemed a little too young to be off the nest – maybe for just a couple more days of growing feathers. The tail feathers short and stubby and the flying skills not anywhere near ready, but the nest is also a target for predators and parasites. I looked for a nest (in case this was a precocious early fledger), as the parent birds chirped excitedly from branches high above. And I heard a call of another baby (sibling?) further into the woods on the other side of the fence. I tried putting the little guy up high on a branch or even one of the half rotted old growth stumps but it wanted nothing to do with being up high. It would flutter down to the ground and scuttle along into some underbrush, with me yelling (I’m sure the neighbors must wonder about me sometimes) at the dogs to LEAVE IT!  It was somewhat of a free for all for a bit. Finally I caught the wee thing and held it. It seemed okay and was uninjured. What to do?  I’ve raised baby birds but with attentive parents present it didn’t seem necessary (though how attentive – if the baby couldn’t get up to them, would they come down for it?). Dusk was coming on fast and I decided to feed the little guy (he seemed a little out of it – stress/shock? Or the warmth of being held in my hand causing him to nod off?) and find him a safe place for the night. I dug up a few worms and stuffed them in, then put him down in a safe spot near where I found him. He immediately scuttled off down the path and into the brush, then to the other side of the fence, thankfully.

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You have NO idea how hard it was to leave this little bit of fluffy innocence underneath that sword fern and go inside for the night.

I left him there – it was a good safe spot, but it was still seriously difficult to leave this little bit of innocence to the coming night. I checked on the spot the next day. He was gone, but there were a couple of healthy droppings left. I hope the parent birds collected him/her in the morning and they continued his rearing and education. A week later and the scene was repeated in nearly the exact same sequence and location. Another baby of about the same age/size as the one a week earlier, maybe even a little younger, me screaming at the dogs NO! (Pal left; though he’s the one who found it, of the three he’s the most responsive) – Farley was especially enamored of this one. Finally I grabbed Far by scruff of the neck (the setter boys don’t wear collars) and dragged him away. I checked the baby – it seemed uninjured and lively, and the two parent birds were coming down close to chirp wildly at us. I put the dogs inside and went back out to check. The little guy was gone from where I’d left him, and the parents were calling from the trees a little further into the woods. I have to assume the little tyke scuttled after them and they tucked him in for the night. The birds have the place to themselves all week long, except for a few hours each evening, so one hopes we’re avoiding most of this fledgling drama. I don’t know if I can take much more of it.  But wait, there’s more… (to be continued)

Rain and reflections

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Watching the rain fall.

It’s been raining all day today and it’s wonderful. I can’t even believe I am saying that, but it’s funny how weather excesses or extremes, especially out of season excesses, can make you long for the opposite, and even make you anxious.

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Wet bee yard; the package bees (left hive) are still out flying – I love how gnarly they are!

For us here in the PNW, rain in November is relentless and pummels the house and the property. It’s often a little frightening at times for this Chicken Little, as the water sluices down the hillside, the ground turns to muck, and the river in the valley nearby overflows its banks (making the commute home from work worrisome).  As I listened to the music of the rain on the roof this morning I was reflecting at how in November, December, or January, I actually get a little scared when it rains this hard and steadily for hours. It’s not sweet music then, but an ominous wintertime soundtrack.  Today it was calming and comforting.

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Gorgeous blue sky on the last mile of my evening commute home.

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that I adore the sun and blue sky.  I realize more and more that I want to see more sky, more openness.  I love the trees, but it gets so claustrophobic sometimes, and especially at this time of year (I’ve spoken of this before), when the jungle-like growth begins to feel like it’s closing in.  And all winter long the constant rain and dark, cloudy skies, combined with the short daylight hours, feels oppressive and beyond dismal, day after day. The weather almost becomes the enemy, something to be fought and/or feared.

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Soggy with rain, the pool refilling with rainwater after last week’s heat.

Now we’ve had a spring unlike any I can remember, with drought-like conditions and record-breaking heat (90+ degrees in April – where the hell am I, anyway?).  This after a previous year of record-breaking weather patterns (2015’s dry spring and summer and record-breaking summer temps, followed by the wettest winter on record) and again I get anxious.  What does this mean for me, my animals, my bees, my planet? So you can see why the rain and cool temps—typical weather for a northwest May (and something to grumble about in a normal year)—was soothing today.

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Rain all day long, yet I’m totally okay with it.

The rain slowed later in the day and I let the sheep out to graze.  I assured them the rain was a good thing for the grass and browse they love, but still they wanted out. Noisy C-Kerry led the chorus of:  “We don’t care if we get wet, we’re sheep!  Just let us out!” The trees and under story are heavy with the rain, and branches are low to the ground with the weight of water. There was even a downed maple branch over the lower fence.  They are enjoying the heck out of it all, pruning and munching on the delicious green growth they love.

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Shearing day last week; one of these is not like the others.

I watch them and am reminded how much I love them. Well, maybe not so much when they’re gobbling up my hops vines, comfrey, or horseradish plants, or the beautiful woodland ferns and other plants (my wonderful Devil’s club!) out back, or peeling the bark off my fruit trees. I’ve learned to monitor them better, but still like to let them out to keep the grass mowed around the house, stretch the feed bill, and ease the pressure on their pasture.  And I reflected on them and my relationship to them—to all my animals—and not only what they mean to me, but what do I mean to them? How do they see me? (A few of the flock must see me with a scythe and hooded robe, judging by how they react to me every. single. time. they see me. Maybe there are hallucinogens in the hay I feed?)

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Eloise at the top of the corner post in the chicken run.

I am reflecting on all of this after reading a blog post by a fellow blogger, also a woman, also a farmer (though she, lucky girl, is able to do it full time).  Like many bloggers (can you believe I’ve been blogging for over 7 years now?) I like to follow other bloggers, especially those who are doing things similar to me: solo homesteaders like Belle Manor Farms and Morris Brook Farm, sheep raisers like Canfield Farm, just a few miles away, beekeepers, nature lovers and wildlife advocates. I’ve been following Celi and her Kitchens Garden blog for at least 4 years now, maybe longer, and I find it a delightful day-to-day account of what she’s doing. Sometimes the animals take center stage, sometimes the hard work of farming, sometimes the garden harvest and cooking of same, and sometimes we go on vacation with her (there are over 5,000 people who follow her blog – !!) – all this with great photos of her farm (by “Camera House” – even her camera has a name and entity – I love this woman!), her animals (spring babies!) and scenery on her travels.  She posts every single day, for which I am very envious, and she has copious numbers of commenters (the Fellowship), which she calls the Lounge of Commenters.  Isn’t that delightful?

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Salal blossoms.

At any rate, Celi had a wonderful post the other day.  Sometimes she just riffs on a thought and it can be profound, with observations as keen and insightful as any philosopher’s, as this one was. It was called A Chair of My Own.

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A recent bee convention over some old honeycomb I had. I got several species of bumblebee, as well as the honey bees and even a yellowjacket or two.

Many of the comments added to the conversation and further enlightenment, as they often do.  And I reflected on my own situation, with my own self-imposed cage(s), and then on to my own animals and their habits. How DO the sheep see me? Little Trixie and her brother Mungo seem to love me, with Mungo especially coming at a run and staying with me for as long as I’ll scratch his chin, even when the rest of the flock has run off to the ecstasy of release to fresh grass.  It warms my heart that the two of them, and their mother sometimes, would rather be with me than with the other sheep. Is it intentional? Do they know that this will keep them from the freezer permanently? Those feral ones who behave as if I’m coming with a noose when I’m just bringing them dinner…well, they are creating their own reality, as I will be reviewing this year’s shearing and making some decisions based on their fleeces (my freezer is almost empty and I’m beginning to really enjoy mutton).  And just that has me reeling with recognition.  I struggle with my own choices in life (mostly related to job/income) and how my perception of things colors my reality: the fear/s that keep me where I am, instead of where I want to go, who I want to be and what I want to accomplish before this gig is up.

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The bird dogs covering the driveway action: squirrels at one end, cars and motorcycles at the other, and croaking (teasing) ravens overhead.

And what do the dogs think of me, and our life here?  Or of the dog park of their life on the farm, but confining in its own way as well.  I think they know the oasis they provide for me (I tell them, and thank them, often), and hopefully know how profoundly grateful I am to them for keeping me afloat emotionally, mentally, and every other way there is.  I cannot repay them for all they give me, which is why I am so “lenient” on them with regards to making them behave. I sing to them as I make them dinner, or when I come home to their unbridled joy at seeing me (and me them!).  I make up the songs as I go, usually sung to an old, well-known tune, and I know it makes them happy when I sing (because they know I sing when I’m happy).  I also know they love it when I laugh, and I see how hard they work to keep me happy and laughing.  I joke that they have me very well trained (when I buy 10 boxes of biscuits at a time the clerks always ask me about it; we go through at least 3 (1-pound) boxes a week here).  But who am I to these creatures that mean so much to me?  Is it as profound to them as it is to me? I think of each of them and how they came to me, the obstacles they overcame to reach me, or for me to find them.  Is it just me, or is this as profound for everyone here?  I think of finding my first sheep, the serendipity around all of it…though I think it’s more than just chance, or coincidence.  Do they think that too?  How about you, and the animals in your life?

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Gratuitous cuteness: the old guy, traipsing into the house with his swamp legs after a dip in the swampy little pond-ette on a hot spring evening.

Speaking up and participating in the process

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Healthy spring moss crop, hanging from a tree limb.

It’s not every day that I can say this: I did something this past Saturday that I’ve never done before (note to self: change this so you can say it more often!).  Oh, I don’t mean I changed my daily routine or did my errands in a different order, or even tried a new restaurant, shopped in a new store, or visited a new town.  No, this was one of those things you always hear about but don’t do.  I caucused!  That is, participated, for real, in my state’s democratic caucus.  I had no idea what to expect, but feel so strongly about this election (upcoming U.S. presidential election) that I couldn’t not.  The past two decades have been a bit of a roller coaster politically in the U.S., and I feel very emphatic that our future is on the line (well, it always is, but it’s easier to ignore how important these things are when life seems more peaches and cream).  I will state up front that I am cynical about the process, enough to believe that there’s a lot of it that’s just plain rigged, and I don’t believe it’s at all fair or equal in how votes/voices are heard and tallied.  Some carry more weight than others (superdelegates, for one example), and that right there is just wrong.  But still I went, because not to go at all felt like giving up on being heard, and I am so glad I did.  I think the “energy,” if you will, of participating, joining in, for speaking up about who and what I believe in, is what is most important.  The energy of my beliefs is added to the energy of others’ and grows exponentially.  I sent my order in to the ol’ cosmic kitchen, and the burners are hot! Or should I say Berners?  Because let’s not be coy here – I am firmly, emphatically, completely supporting candidate Bernie Sanders, with my vote, with my wallet, and with my voice. While I’ve admired him for many years, this is the first chance I’ve ever had to vote for him and I wasn’t going to pass it up.

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I left the garage door open one afternoon, and the chickens helpfully spread the straw all over the floor.

The caucus process was interesting to this newbie (five decades on the planet, with all of my voting years in this state, and I’ve never done this before). A few people who’d done it before knew the ropes, but I got the feeling I wasn’t the only newbie there.  The Washington State Democratic party was telling people to get to our caucus location (mine was the elementary school down the street) at 9:00 a.m., though the caucus wouldn’t start until 10:30, as there was a concern for expected crowds and the desire to avoid something like what happened in the Arizona primary a couple of weeks ago.

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I left the door open again a few days later and they finished the job.

We were able to start gathering by precinct at 10:00, and sitting with others in my area, we chatted about this and that, learning more about each other (of course I struck up a conversation with a young woman who had a border collie mix she’d trained to herd sheep…we knew some of the same people, and were able to share dog and sheep stories).  About a half hour in they moved three of the precincts, mine included, from the cafeteria to the school library.  We gathered in our groups and chatted some more.  At 10:30, the caucus official came in to explain the process and get us started, first leading us in a pledge of allegiance.  I can’t remember the last time I said this, and hand over heart (looking for a flag the room), I recited with the others.

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In the garden, eating up all the chickweed, plus plenty of grass, buttercup, bugs and worms.  Happy hens.

Then we got started.  A young man read the procedures to our group, while a volunteer secretary made sure he covered all the pertinent points (via a checklist provided by the State Democrats).  Our caucus sign-in sheets were collected and tallied.  This is the form you use to list your preference – there’s a box for “at sign-in” and a second box for “final, if changed.”  Then we were asked if we would like to speak on behalf of our candidate.  There were four volunteers to start (two for Hillary Clinton, and two for Bernie Sanders) and each spoke eloquently and respectfully of others, even in the “rebuttal” portion (not official, but there was a little back and forth here – a good thing!), where several more people spoke up.  We each felt passionately about our candidate, yet respected the process and each other.

20160319_181651Daisy appreciated the chooks’ work in the garage.

I was most impressed by a young man, maybe late 20s/early 30s, there with his wife and  adorable baby girl, speaking for my chosen candidate.  He hadn’t intended to speak, he said, but he spoke well, and eloquently, about Senator Sanders.  One thing he spoke to, and something I’ve found interesting in this election, is the near-universal statement by Hillary Clinton supporters that they like Bernie, but feel she’s the more pragmatic choice (generalizing) – more likely to get the nomination, the establishment name, etc.  They like Bernie but don’t feel he’s electable so are supporting someone who they feel is electable, because she’s more middle of the road, willing to work with the other party, etc.  So rather than support one candidate’s ideals and progressive visions for our country, it’s better to take the safe route and vote for the one who can play the game (this term was used more than once).  While a part of me understands this, the young man responded to this notion in such a way that I almost wanted to cheer, telling us (I’m paraphrasing) if we started out the process by compromising our vote and our beliefs, why do this at all?

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My favorite little sheep, Trixie – as friendly as a puppy – about ready for shearing.

The fellow who was the leader for the group (read instructions, etc.) spoke last, and quietly yet from the heart.  He, too, was probably in his 20s, and looked like one of the young farmers in the valley.  And what he said was exactly what I was thinking that morning, with regard to Senator Sanders.  That we have a candidate that is human in a way we haven’t seen in a long, long time.  Bernie’s entire platform is with regard to human rights, humanity, and human integrity, and what we can do as a society to help the least among us and bettering the planet at the same time.  The young man cited the bird incident at a rally in Portland a couple days prior, where a small wild finch, stuck inside the arena with the crowd, flew down and landed on Senator Sanders’ podium as he was speaking to the crowd – the audience went wild, but it was the look on Bernie Sanders face as he stopped, smiling at the little bird…  If I didn’t already believe in his vision for what our country can be, this would have convinced me – this is the human being I want leading my country.

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Farley and a friend, waiting for dinner.

 

Four times a charm?

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Moss season.

That’s how many times I’ve tried to compose this post into something coherent and cohesive, either starting anew or adding to the draft in progress. While the likelihood is high that I may fail again, I’m determined to try. It often seems to be a war between what might be my true self—the whiny, bitchy, judgmental, negative, stress puppy that I try to keep in check—and the person I see myself as, the person I strive to be: someone who lets things roll off her back, who doesn’t judge others, who has a positive attitude that infuses all areas of her life. Sigh. Lately it’s been mostly that old, small-self me, and mostly due to stress that I still haven’t gotten a handle on, that I MUST get under control if I’m ever going to get any better. Instead, it’s ramped up to levels I haven’t encountered for several years, mainly due to the day job and trying to do the work of three people at the office while people are out. This has been hugely frustrating to me, and I feel like no matter what I do, there’s no relief. I try to cover work for people who are absent, in addition to my own work, and all of it suffers. My own work is done with less care, the coverage of others’ tasks is haphazard (there was little to no training on most of the tasks I was expected to take on – most of which were unknown to me). If I speak up about the state of things I sound like I’m just making excuses (even to my own ear) yet the impossibility of the situation remains. All this at a time when I’m trying to heal and make time for relaxing and meditating. Instead it’s been triage-mode, and my health has suffered. I am so frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen, for getting so stressed about it that it’s run my internal dialogue all weekend long, with work brought home (to try and catch up on last week and hopefully get ahead for the coming week) hanging over my head all weekend along with my regular chores and work I’d like to do for myself.

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I kind of know just how this hammer must feel, if hammers feel.  I found it out in the woods when I was picking up tree limbs and other winter detritus. It’s been sitting there a little while, I’d say. Nature won this round.

Spending 60 minutes to create a blog post seems indulgent right now, but rather than wait until I have time, or worse, wait until I have time to pretend all is well and that I’m making progress in my journey to good health, I figured I’d let the reality of life write the post this week, however dreary. It’s often part of the reason the gaps between posts go so long, frankly, as I don’t like writing about or dwelling on the negative (even though this comes through regularly), yet getting to a good frame of mind to write positively isn’t always achievable in the free time I have. A friend recently reminded me, as I lamented (before the recent work burdens) about wishing I could have a month off to get caught up with life and to write, that writers just write. They put their writing first, carving out the time above all else—before chores, before work, before leisure – and how it’s not a waiting for the right time to come along. I do get that. I find I need a little more breathing room (ha! A pun!) around it, or else what comes out is a lot of stuff like this. I’ve done morning pages (writing first thing, every day, no matter what), and while it’s been over a decade since I engaged this practice, I remember having to force myself to stop, because I found that the stuff that came out was a lot of internal “yuck” and it became a horrible way to start the day. Perhaps if I stuck with it longer I’d have made a breakthrough and found my way to a higher place. As it was, I was taking a perfectly good morning and ruining it, coloring my entire day with the stuff that got dredged up—feeling bad about myself, about who I was/am, how I move in the world compared to those I admire, my talents being not as good, etc. Still, making time for things that are important to me—my writing among them—is also a key to improving my life wholesale.

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Stinging nettles love it here; their early spring growth is a great spring tonic vegetable – loaded with vitamins and wild good-for-you-ness…once you neutralize the stinging part (by cooking or drying).

So to circle back to the revelations I was making a month ago, with regard to my health and healing, I realized my ability to handle stress is sub par (understatement) – something I’ve known but thought I had handled better than I do. And I am trying to change how I view the world by changing how my brain works. I have to say when you’re sick it’s really, really, really hard to turn the ship around. To replace the fear and worry with positive affirmations is not only difficult but when you are able to do it, it frequently feels false and trite. Sure, my lungs are “strong and healthy, and breathing is easier every day” as I try and catch my breath after walking a half block with a 4% grade incline, stopping to gasp and let my heartbeat calm down. Trying to jog-trot a few dozen yards to make a crosswalk light leaves me huffing and puffing like I just ran a 6-minute mile. And I’ve stopped taking the stairs at work. The one flight up between floors–even taken very slowly—has me puffing enough that our receptionist says “geez, did you run up the stairs?” Perhaps this is dwelling on the negative, but these are also the current realities of my life, and trying to revise the thought process from woe-is-me to a healthy, healing, positive frame of mind, has been and is my challenge.

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While my days of week-long backpacking trips (hauling a pack nearly 1/3 my weight) are behind me, I do plan that I’ll once again be able to go on day hikes with the dogs.

Next post (hopefully sooner than one month out) I’ll talk about some of the very cool books and tools I’ve found that are helping me to slowly turn things around. I’ve had to slow the pace a bit, unfortunately, as the exciting incoming information became overwhelming and I ended up having to disengage from all of it. I know part of this is due to my health in general—the ability to concentrate seems to be another thing that’s in short supply with this condition. A recent long day at work meant that once I got home, after chores and feeding and caring for my very patient animals, that I literally didn’t sit down until 10 p.m. Hitting the books after a day like that isn’t going to happen, and a meditation session will just put me to sleep. So the process has been slow, especially for the past few weeks, when it really needs to be in high gear, or better yet, already set in place. Baby steps.

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Gratuitous cuteness: Daisy snuggled up on a winter’s evening, waiting for momdog (me).

They say stress will kill you

I started this post over three months ago, and have been tinkering with it ever since, trying to find a single theme or focus and a way to wrap it up tidily. Instead it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. So I think it’s just going to be another multi-part post. Because I’ve got a blog and I’ve got something to say. Let’s get started.

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The promise of spring on a chilly midwinter day. Don’t worry, I’m on my way, she whispers. 

They say stress will kill you, given enough time and enough stress. I’ve always considered myself to be a low anxiety, low key type of person, not easily ruffled, and nowhere near the stereotypical Type A personality one associates with chronic stress. And all of that is still mostly true, but I’m finding the stress is there, and yeah, it’s not the healthiest condition. I’ve been feeling lately like I’m turning into my mother, who was also a low key person, but as she aged, became someone whose anxiety could derail her. It was upsetting to hear during a phone conversation (she lived across the country from me), and not be able to help, or to see (during a visit) and become frustrated at her immediate redlining of anxiety and/or anger over seemingly minor things. Now I wonder if that these kinds of things aren’t totally under one’s control, and the aging process is a right bitch you have to get a handle on and ride to the end. But wait…

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Several days of frost build up during a recent cold snap.

So I’ve been having a few epiphanies about stress and its role in my life. Until the past year, hell, until the past few months, I would have told you that I have little to no stress, am not the stressy sort, and other than a frustration or two during my day (say, a particularly crappy commute), I have no lasting stressors in my life and am not an anxious or tension-filled person. I am learning, via several avenues recently—epiphanies and research both—that I’ve been wrong for a long time. Maybe my whole life. Yes, I’m good at stuffing things, and keeping a calm demeanor. I am okay at letting some things roll off my back (or like to think I am). But still waters run deep, as they say. For many years (most of my life?) I’ve felt this could be my motto. I tend to run calm, stuffing stuffing stuffing, with the occasional acid-tongued blurt or outburst (which I regret nearly every time), until suddenly I don’t. Not healthy on any level.

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I spy with my little eye.  Best destressor ever.  I adore this dog . {just throw it}

The constant undercurrent of anxiety has been detrimental to my health, as I found out last year. And a December visit to the pulmonologist and my breathing tests are all running at the same less than stellar numbers as they were a year ago, some even a little worse. The test is stressful for me, so I wonder if that alone affects how well I do, but the visits to the doctor are stressful as well. After the last visit, where we discussed my test results and the recommendations for treatment, I realized that this doctor has zero interest in my well being. It was obvious before—I’ve joked that she only sees me as a pair of lungs, and not even very interesting lungs—but for some reason you keep on expecting something. Or hoping for something. As she told me about the gnarly drugs used to treat sarcoidosis, and my options therein, I broke down a little. I bowed my head to collect myself, and when I rose it to speak, voice quavering a bit, the doctor’s face was a blank wall. There wasn’t an ounce of compassion or caring there, just a clinical detachment and, as a result of this blank wall, the gift of my Aha moment – if your doctor doesn’t care about you, then stop going to see him or her. (Note: I didn’t expect anything special over my being upset, just an acknowledgement that it was affecting me.)

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Zombie sheep, waiting for me to feed them one evening after work. Will my eyes glow like this if I go on the sarcoidosis drug?

I took the 15 page printout she gave me about the medications she discussed home with me to read over. I’ve tried to read it all objectively, since I am not really interested in going on a chemotherapy drug (though at much lower doses than for cancer patients) that requires regular blood testing to make sure my liver isn’t being damaged by it, nor having every vaccine known given or boosted (because my immune system will be shut down by the drug). And because I’m not feeling at all confident in this doctor’s interest in my health (and will not continue with her regardless) and can’t imagine being on such a hardcore treatment under her supervision, I’ve kind of gone off the rails. Just so it’s clear, I believe the doctor’s knowledge, experience, and treatment protocol are solid, but I just can’t continue with a doctor who has repeatedly shown me she doesn’t care about me. Sorry. I know I sound like a big baby, but there are statistics to back up my feelings (more on this later). There really isn’t any gentle treatment for sarcoidosis, and most treatments involve steroids or chemotherapy drugs or anti-malarial drugs. And running in the background is the “ it often goes away by itself” noted on nearly every website search I’ve done (and indeed, was told this by my doctor early in the diagnosis process). What to do, what to do.

And lo, the path appeared. I happened upon a book whose title has been on a stickynote sitting on my nightstand for months (close to a year?). Something else I was reading at some point brought this title to my attention and it sounded interesting so I wrote it down. Finally, while doing some cleaning I saw it again, sticking out from under my alarm clock, and sat down on the bed and ordered up an ebook version from the library. Within the first 10 pages I realized I found something special, and maybe even the key to getting on track with real healing, not just treating to abate symptoms.

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Pretty much.

And this book led to another book. And then another couple of books came across my radar, and another, and suddenly I’m awash in research, none of it about sarcoidosis specifically, but about healing in general and healing myself in particular. And when I say healing myself, I’m not just talking about the sarc. I’m going down the rabbit hole to figure this stuff out once and for all. Because I can’t spend the rest of my life in a slow decline, feeling bad about myself, becoming smaller instead of better, and worst of all, never becoming who I’m meant to become. Never doing what I’m meant to do as I stay “safe” and afraid. This shit is real, and I’m diving in. Hang on! Because: IMG_20160103_183753

 

Giving thanks

IMG_20151108_163736Again with the blog-break! Oy! Seriously, there’s always a reason (excuse?), and though I’ve written several posts that haven’t made it here yet, whether due to time or health or time or mood or time, my hope is to get more regular in the coming new year. I was working on a post recently that, while important, was bringing me down a bit. That one is regarding an an issue I still need to come to terms with, and will likely continue working on the draft for a future post, but I found that it was clogging the works and not serving me well with regard to getting something out.

So instead I’m turning my thoughts to things that make me happy. On top of the winter solstice holidays (Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Eid al-Fitr, St.Lucia Day, or whatever your celebration) going on, we in the U.S. recently celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday, held the fourth Thursday in November. It’s one of my favorite holidays, though it’s slowly being swallowed by the juggernaut of an ever expanding Christmas season, and aside from the myth we were fed as schoolchildren about the origins of the holiday, I choose to celebrate it in the exact interpretation of its name, giving thanks. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, and of the winter solstice (the return of the light – hallelujah, indeed!) and the coming turn to a new calendar year, here are just a few of the things I give thanks for daily:

Look out, 2016!

{Summa summa summa time*}

Two of 20 or 30 mature Big Leaf Maples; these are in the sheep pasture.

Two of 30 or so mature big leaf maples on the property; these are in the sheep pasture.

So those trees I was grumbling about back in April? Yeah, I’m full of gratitude for them right now. In a spring and summer of weird weather in North America, the Pacific Northwest has been unusually hot and dry since early May. We normally have a pretty soggy spring, with June usually being gray, if not wet, and June Gloom, or Juneuary being common descriptors for the wet, and often cold, weather. This year, though, summer arrived a full month early and has been setting records all the way. We’ve been roasting since June, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. And, yes, the shade from the trees has been welcome. My roast chicken fetish has suffered a bit (hard to muster the resolve to fire up the oven to 400 degrees for 90 minutes—the house is like a little hot box from about 4 p.m. on), but I’m still chowing on the watermelons.

Sheep at dusk.

Sheep at dusk.

The beasts are doing well in the heat, what with plenty of shade to hang out in. And even if I didn’t have too much shade (per my lament for grass growing back in April), the property is dried up and the grass has turned brown due to lack of moisture. I’ve been watering some, but it’s a battle lost long ago (the paradox being that within two weeks of no rain, the ground is dried up and rock hard) and I mostly do it to help cool the place in the evenings. I have to be careful with the watering so I don’t run the well tank dry. I accidentally do this a few times every year and it freaks me out every time. The first time I did it, the first summer I was here, I thought the well had run dry (or the pump had broken down) and was cobbling together a plan before I called the well repair guy to come take a look (it was late on a Sunday night). I turned off the faucet to the sprinkler I had going (mostly to cool things off rather than water the dead grass) and within 15 minutes the water was running in the house again. Lesson learned. I’ve done it a few times since, and it’s always a 3-second panic before I remember. Now I set a timer for watering; I time the watering AND the recharging period, so I’m not overtaxing the system.

Bees drinking from the pond. It's perfect for them; with all the slop and vege growing in it, they can drink safe from drowning.

Bees drinking from the pond. It’s perfect for them; with all the slop and vege growing in it, they can drink safe from drowning.

I keep the little slop pond filled; it’s the main source of water for my bees, and of course the dogs’ constant slopping in there to cool off. Pal will lie down and roll to his side to get good and wet, then go roll in ecstasy in the pile of hog fuel. Nice. I also keep a little kiddie pool scrubbed and filled for the dogs (basically a giant water bowl for them, 031the chickens, and the sheep—you’d think it was the only water around for miles, given its popularity as a trough). I stepped in when it was clean and full recently and yelped with the cold. It was obvious that this water was fresh from the subterranean Snoqualmie Valley.

A recent day trip took me to the San Juan Islands.  This is Mount Baker seen from the ferry on the way home.

A recent day trip took me to the San Juan Islands. This is Mount Baker seen from the ferry on the way home, and had me feeling blessed to live in such a paradise.

Not much is getting done in the way of chores – too hot for housework is one of my favorite excuses – but thankfully, being in a maritime climate, it does cool down at night. I open the doors and windows, and employ a fan, and by midnight or so, the house has cooled nicely. I’m leaving the back door open all night (with a baby gate to keep the dogs in—otherwise they would be out barking at snipes all night long), and do the same with the chicken coop, so the hens have a chance to cool down. But for the most part all the critters are doing well. The sheep stay in the shade, and drink plenty of water, and the chickens take dust baths in the hot sun and go through gallons of water. The dogs and cats lay around all day, for the most part. The Setter boys being a skootch more active than Daisy, who just lounges in one of her many dirt pits. Pal runs after birds, and Farley insists I throw his ball for him, though he paces himself with regards to returning it for another toss.

Eloise complaining about her captivity from my office (behind glass paneled door).

Eloise complaining about her captivity from my office (behind glass paneled door).

The only problem, honestly, has been the cats. The two youngsters, and especially Madeline, are quite the hunters, and keeping them inside once I open the doors to cool the house requires locking them in my office. For the entire night. That’s not really that big of a deal (Eloise would argue otherwise, and has shredded paperwork I’ve left on my desk), but it does require some management. Now that the birds are no longer singing (sniff – I miss my Swainson’s seranades in the evenings), and the nesting season winding up, I’ve relented and let them outside. Madeline is impossible to get back inside, as her feral nature takes over once she crosses the threshold. She stays out all night, and sometimes for a full 24 or 36 hours. I find dead mice scattered around in the morning (the chickens love these) and a dead bat recently, too. This saddened me even as it gave me the willies. It was a tiny little thing, no bigger than the tip of my thumb, with tiny needles for teeth. And this afternoon I found a dead towhee in the front yard, which upset me nearly to tears, and I cursed myself for not locking Madeleine up permanently. When it rains at night she’ll come in readily, but in that case it will be another month. I will hopefully get her inside tonight (we’re coming up on 36 hours out now) and am locking her up in a dog crate if I have to.

Happy hive.

Happy hive.

The bees are happy, and I’m pleased with the front-of-hive activity I’m seeing. I opened it up for an inspection a few weekends ago and was pleased to see plenty of brood in the few frames I looked at. The bees were very docile—unusually so—and I kept it very brief. As soon as I saw the brood, I pretty much stopped. I’m always so paranoid about squishing the queen by accident, and it was hot, so I just plopped on another hive box so they could build up, and will wait for a cooler day to do a more thorough inspection. I want to do a split – start a new hive by moving some frames of brood into a new hive, but am squeamish about it. I don’t trust that they’ll figure out how to make a queen, so will probably buy a queen to put in there. If I do it. I’ll have to feed all winter too, with it being so late in the season (and the drought taking its toll on flowering plants of all kinds). We shall see.

*Summertime

Gratuitous cuteness: Daisy relaxing in one of her more elaborate dirt pits.  Happy dog.

Gratuitous cuteness: Daisy relaxing in one of her more elaborate dirt pits, dug into the hillside. Happy dog. Heart her!

Waiting for Friday

Mungo's Monday morning bed head.

Mungo’s Monday morning bed head.

Another week has begun and the cycle starts anew. Waiting for the weekend. Those two days always have so much promise on Friday, no matter what the weather, plans or lack thereof. If you work for a living in the 9-5 world, wishing your life away becomes part of your routine, your being. Because that’s what we do when we look so forward to two days off that the rest of the week becomes little more than something to get through so you can have those two days. And you cram so much life into those two days! The Friday-eve list of things I want to do—everything from housework/chores and household projects, errands and needed shopping, to side trips, socializing, and entertainment—is usually more stuff than I could do in a week, never mind two measly days.

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

It’s always been a struggle for me, this bizarre mad rush we all do, clogging the roads to get to a building where we (usually) sit all day in cubeland, in front of a computer, or in meetings to discuss and plan what we’ll do on said computer, then rush back to the sanctuary of home at the end of the day. A twice daily migration, if you will. How did hunting and gathering devolve into this? But for a reason I’ve not been able to bust out of yet, I find this awful pattern, doing work for another in exchange for a paycheck, and being accountable to that other, easier than being accountable to myself. When I have the time off, instead of working toward my own success, I tend to waste a lot of time. I’m really good at telling myself this story – that I’m a Supreme Waster of Time, that the time I spend at R&R is necessary (it is, yes, but not to the detriment of my own success), that my dreams require hard work and financial freedom following those dreams is unattainable without a bankroll to start. It’s insidious.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

I come home on weekdays wiped out emotionally and physically. After an arduous (I’m being a wee bit dramatic, sure) commute to work, 7 long hours of word processing work, and a frustrating, sometimes tear-inducing commute home (tears of frustration at everything I’m doing, including being (i.e., allowing myself to be) stuck in rush hour traffic with people who can’t seem to find their gas pedals), I’m instantly buoyed the moment I open the door to the house. The greeting, the warmth, the joy that surrounds my arrival lifts me up and centers me. The grim frown and slow, tired steps are replaced by a beaming smile and lightened heart, the weariness infused with the infectious ebullience of the dogs and cats, sheep and chickens. Sure, most of them are only glad to see me in an associative way – I let them out of their pen and/or feed them (sheep and chickens), but it’s still meaningful. I represent something positive to them, and they are happy to see me. I can’t say the same about the job I go to all day, leaving them—it’s like tearing off a Band-aid every time I leave them for work—to pay for the roof over our heads, the land we live on, the food I feed them, and it’s coming to some sort of a head for me. While I’m grateful for my job, it’s also leaving me with little more satisfaction other than the paycheck every two weeks. And that’s not really enough anymore.

It's been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch.

It’s been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch (squinty-eyed because I asked him to stay for a minute while I took the photo).

I know my recent health concerns have brought this to a point, as the days’ stresses and unhappiness compound to continue to affect my health adversely, and the overall structure has me struggling with all the existential questions in life. Recent losses by friends’ (mother, sister, beloved aunt) and my own (friend and mentor) add to the ticking clock of “are you just going to talk about it and wish, or are you going to actually do it?” I pulled in the driveway one evening, glum and spent with the day’s travails (woe is me, First World problems to be sure), and picked up the mail before opening the gate to drive in. And found a check for an article I wrote two months ago and sent to the editor. Last I heard, the magazine was maybe not going to be published, but I never heard anything more, and frankly, didn’t expect to. The editor I was working with left her position to be a full time mother while her children are young, and I hadn’t heard from a replacement editor (though wrote to the contact name she had given me in her farewell email – no response). It was one of those days where I felt emotionally bleak, wondering what the heck I was doing and how I could break the bonds and do what I wanted while also being financially safe, with an abundant income to live on.

Part I – on the cover!

Part II.  Check out that sweet byline!

Part II. Check out that sweet byline!

As I opened the envelope, realizing what it was, I knew, as I always have, that this was my answer. Writing the article took less than 6 hours of work, without a crappy commute on either end of it. It paid the equivalent of more than 1½ times what I make (hourly) at the office job – in a position/with a company I’ve been in for 10 years now, and not including a commute (yes, this is a BIG issue for me). Why, then, do I continue to struggle with the reality of it? Sure, I’d have to pay for my own health care and retirement (probably all of that extra 1/2, comparatively speaking), and taxes but no commute, no money spent on parking and fuel (wait – there’s my health care money right there), no coming home at 6 p.m. to face an hour or two of chores – in the winter this is in the dark, and usually in the rain and mud. The chores (caring for my livestock, pets, home and property) that don’t feel like chores on the weekends, when I’m not leaving for 8 or 9 hours to go somewhere else all day, leaving everything I love best in the world. So tell me again, Maureen, why you can’t do this? What kind of monster is hiding under your bed, whispering “can’t” and “not for you” all night long as you toss and turn in your sleep, trying to find the harmony of this current set up when there really is none. The possibilities are endless, as is your talent (word processing, writing, editing), and the faucet of abundance is just waiting for you to get over yourself and turn on the tap.

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening - I love these guys!

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening – I love these guys!

Woman cannot live on chicken and watermelon alone {or can she?}

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I'm not kidding.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not even kidding.

I’ve been calling it my roast chicken fetish, and I’ve roasted and eaten a LOT of birds in the past six weeks. For a while there, over the winter, I wasn’t eating much of anything because nothing sounded good.  Lack of appetite was just one of the grab bag of auxiliary symptoms I had, the primary one being not being able to breathe.  The weight loss was okay; I’ve worked harder to lose less, but sometimes I’d get hungry and would go to the grocery only to come home with things (comfort food) that didn’t taste nearly as good as they sounded. Root beer floats worked for a bit, but after a while I was down to cereal and milk, and even then didn’t finish the bowl (unheard of for me). If one of my animals went off their food to the same degree I’d be in a minor panic but for myself it was just “huh.”

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Hanging out on a sunny spring day with my best guy.

About a week before my bronchoscopy I was at the grocery and got some roast chicken at the deli counter. It was actually pretty good and satisfying. The day of my bronchoscopy I had some lemonade and watermelon at Whole Foods.  That was good too. The day after my bronchoscopy I was in pretty rough shape, with deep, um, productive coughing, with said production laced with fresh blood (normal after the biopsy procedure, but still disconcerting). I sounded like a 3-pack-a-day smoker, and felt like I’d been pummeled, weak and tired. There was nothing to eat in the house – I’d stopped buying food because most of it would go bad – and I was hungry. Lemonade and watermelon sounded good. So did protein and fat. I got dressed and made myself presentable (barely), and went to the nearby grocery for a rotisserie chicken. And some watermelon. And some lemonade.

Yum.

Yum.

That was six weeks ago and I’ve eaten a LOT of chicken in the meantime. Instead of buying the hot, rotisserie birds at the grocery, I started roasting my own. I fill the cavity with chopped garlic cloves and a couple teaspoons of Celtic sea salt, rub the skin with butter or olive oil, sprinkle another couple teaspoons of salt, plus some thyme and paprika, and pop it into a hot oven (400 degrees) for an hour or so.  When it comes out I’m salivating and barely able to wait for it to cool. I’ve found that wings are my favorite part. They have just the right combo of skin/fat/meat. Because the skin and the fat? Well, the embarrassing truth of it is that’s the part I think I crave the most. I’ve learned that the skin is best when hot and crispy from the oven, so I eat most of it then. It’s kind of gross when I think about it too much. Prior to this, I don’t think I’d purchased chicken in a year or more, other than a breast or two (bone-in) to make soup stock. But now? I’ve eaten a good sized flock, with no end in sight. We’re getting the first watermelons up out of Mexico now, so they’re a little easier to find (I was buying the plastic packs of cut up watermelon and trying to rationalize the price by the fact that I wasn’t eating much else). And copious numbers of Cuties have been eaten (and I’m not a citrus person in general). I’m sad that it’s the end of Cutie season. Gallons of lemonade have been guzzled; I buy Santa Cruz organic lemon juice, add a little water and a squirt or two of stevia and bam!  {this sounded so good now I just made a glass of it}

Today's prescription: a day of PTO/work from home, where this was the view from the office.  Hashtag healing.

Today’s prescription: a day of PTO/work from home, where this was the view from the office. Hashtag healing.

This all has been weird and wild and I figure just part of the healing process. I’m glad to be eating normally (well, not normally, but normal quantities) and while I hesitate to talk about my sarcoidosis from a woowoo standpoint – I don’t want to give it more power or “become” my diagnosis—I also know I have to acknowledge it and not tra-la-la it away. I’m all about magical thinking, but denial does no one any good. I know this whole sequence of events and diagnosis (and the more I read, the more I realize it didn’t just appear out of the blue; it required the exact sequence of events to occur) has to be addressed. This is something I have to look in the eye and understand before I can bid adieu. Scram. Get lost. You’re not welcome here. I’m feeling better physically than I was a mere two months ago (but not as good as I was feeling one month ago, dammit) and being able to walk and breathe at the same time has been an eye opener to how ill I was for a while there. Somehow as you go through it you just cope and don’t really examine it too much.

For now I’m still under the influence of prednisone, a steroid of course, that, while it’s helped me to achieve that walking and breathing thing that’s not to be taken lightly, kind of messes with me otherwise, and I’m not liking it much. Scatterbrained, irritable, and a general feeling of discontent. Other things like appetite changes and sleeping changes are less noticeable. I get really hungry when I get hungry, and I feel like I’m not sleeping as well – this one is hard to describe – but mostly doable. The feeling of overall frustration or dissatisfaction, tinged with a dollop of hopelessness is making for a sour stew, though, and I’m having a hard time getting beyond it. I can distract myself out of it, a good thing I guess, but the concentration needed to turn it around is in short supply. Concentration on anything is absent, it seems. A TV program, a book, a task, it’s hard to stay with anything for very long. I find this supremely frustrating, because I need to work on getting rid of the sarcoidosis once and for all, and not just rely on the palliative effects if the prednisone. So far the benefits have outweighed the side effects, though I don’t anticipate this will be for much longer. I need to heal, and find my bootstraps to do so.

The clean up crew after some heavy duty pruning with my pole pruner.

The clean up crew after some heavy duty pruning with my pole pruner.

I also know part of all of this discontent is the annual spring/summer thing I go through, where I see all the things that need to be done, or that I want to do, and wonder when I’m ever going to make the leap to what I really want to be doing. Right now giving my property a haircut is first and foremost. In the five years I’ve been here, the trees have continued to grow, and grow well. They would happily take over the property if left to their own devices. Take it back, I guess, since it’s obvious they once ruled supreme. Someone carved out some space for sky years ago, and left enough trees in place that the sky is once again receding under the canopy. It’s almost claustrophobic at this time of year, when the jungle-growth is rampant. I’ve been letting the sheep out regularly and they’ve managed to gobble up almost all of the normal undergrowth like a herd of wooly locusts. The grass around the house looks like a putting green and still the pasture languishes. I purchased a pole pruner – cordless, because I don’t do gas engines – which is basically a baby chainsaw on a stick. After taking a chainsaw introduction class a couple of years ago I realized very quickly I wouldn’t be buying a chainsaw (too dangerous for me). This is a way to have the tool but safer to use (it would be really hard to chop your hand or leg off by accident) and I’ve been having fun trimming and pruning. The only problem now being I really, really need a chipper.

Gratuitous cuteness: A cluster of baby orb weavers, newly hatched. So adorable!

Gratuitous cuteness: A cluster of baby orb weaver spiders (garden spiders), newly hatched. So adorable!

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