Break in the drought

I should be on a camping trip to NC with Tom and Simon but, alas, not to be this year. Simon has a job at the Tremont Institute (or something like that), which is an outdoor experience destination for young people; ie summer camp. It’s also an internship for Si’s Environmental Science degree program. The plan was for the three of us to go up a few days ahead of his scheduled check in time and enjoy the western NC outdoors. Now I’ll do it vicariously via the magic of FaceBook pictures.

Rains starting, finally. Looks like the standard, late afternoon pop up showers are happening. In the past week we’ve accumulated about 2” which is enough for the garden and enough to, at least, reverse the lake’s downward trend. The storm named Beryl will hopefully bring a few rainy days along with it – 2” more so far. We could use an inch a day for the whole summer but I doubt seriously that will happen. I’m taking a few pictures to record what I hope will be the lowest level ever for the lake. There’s not even a foot of water at the end of the dock – ankle deep to be exact.
Couldn’t stand it any longer so I started turning the compost piles again and scooped up my “last” load of lake bottom. I’m being careful not to stress any of my innards but I think it would be ok to uptick my game a bit. Pulled out 3 squash plants which had given it all for the cause and started preparing that row for the next crop – maybe sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. The last squash picked were turned into zuchinni bread about an hour after hitting the back door. We really had a great crop and I learned one thing for sure – those plants that I had covered with the insect netting thrived and produced a ton of produce; the uncovered plants simply did not perform as well. This year was an experiment with the floating covers but I’m a believer at this point and will expand their use next season.


Another batch of spaghetti sauce in the works. The pic shows the raw material that will produce maybe 12-15 quarts of sauce. I’m not going to post any more pictures of pots of sauce cooking. Just assume this scene is being repeated at least once a week, maybe twice.
Usually we have spaghetti for dinner on the day the new sauce is created but this time it’ll be eggplant parmigiani (parmesan to the anglos among us). The large pot of sauce is net of all the sauce required to make two batches of the parmigiani – one for us and one for George and Barbara. She brought over a large bowl of Portuguese Bean and Kale soup the other day so between us we have a fairly broad sprectrum of food.

I notice one thing different in the ingredients this year is that the variety of basil – specifically named “Italian Basil”. I thought all basil was Italian but this one is right in your face with the identity. By far it’s the most aromatic I’ve ever grown. I have virtually no sense of smell – I can stick my head in a blooming gardenia bush, a blooming orange tree, blooming confederate jasmin and detect nothing – but this is strong enough to burst through whatever barriers I have. parmesanparmesan-2

‘Bout dem stones

About those stones I spotted on the X-ray, turns out what I spotted were staples from an operation years ago – so much for my radiology training or lack thereof. Unfortunately, the sonic blasting procedure I underwent two weeks ago didn’t work. It must have blasted loose some pieces or something because there was definitely some debris passed but the big target was left standing – moved lower in the system but still standing tall. The plan going forward is to give it another 3 weeks hoping that nature will take it’s course. After that, he’ll go after it more aggressively with a laser. I think I need that to set a new urinary track invasion record – radiation, cryogenics, and sonic blasts. You really just can’t leave it alone because it does distend the kidney and that’s not something you want, I guess.

Actually a couple good things came out of this whole round of problems. For about 5 years, I’ve been on a very mild blood pressure medication but we forgot to mention that when admitted to the hospital via the emergency room the other day. Consequently, I wasn’t getting it. I never really thought it was necessary anyway and when the doc saw that my blood pressure was behaving just fine without the meds, he told me to just drop them. I also dropped about 10 pounds in the last couple of weeks and that’s always a good thing – well usually a good thing. I think it’s all related because when he put me on the blood meds, I was about 30 pounds heavier and my guess is that losing the weight over the past 5 years dropped my blood pressure too.

Not counting mowing the lawn, I’ve fallen behind on two tasks – muck digging and compost pile turning. Both of these require a fair amount of lifting and I’m not ready to put much strain on my innards. Luckily, I probably collected 90% of the available muck over the past few months so the remaining couple of loads are inconsequential. The big compost pile is well decomposed at this point and just sitting there, even though it slows the process, won’t have any impact at all when I need it towards the end of the summer. It just takes lots of self control to not pick up the pitchfork and attack the pile every time I pass it. I’m going to give it all another week and then ease back into my daily routines. I personally think I could mostly deal with it now but my bride doesn’t think so and you never want to get on the bad side of the nurse/cook.

Pick of the Day

Here’s today’s pick. If you look closely you’ll see three kinds of eggplant, 3 kinds of squash, along with misc green peppers, tomatoes, and armenian cucumbers. We ate the thin, long purple eggplants cut up with some green pepper, onions, and with a ladle full of the newly minted spaghetti sauce. I honestly can’t tell the difference between the purple and green eggplants and once you peel them – they all look the same.
Yesterday was a big medical follow-up day. More blood tests and X-rays. I feel just fine (well almost fine) but get tired easily and still get a little dizzy if I bend over and straighten up too quickly. The blood tests results showed the level of hemo was up from a few days back but still low (10.2 now vs 9.8 Friday vs a normal 13); ditto the potassium- better but still low. Just keep popping iron, eating blood builders and get blood tests weekly until levels reach normal; bananas, potatoes, and orange juice for potassium. The X-ray tests were for the kidney stone issue and I won’t have any info on that until Wed afternoon although I did peek and spotted 3 stones hiding away in there. Looks like you could just scoop them out but I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that. I hope I don’t have to go through all this 3 more times. Maybe I’ll know by the end of the day.

George’s valve procedure has been pulled up to the 29th so he’s a happy camper. They told him the average hospital stay for this operation is 5 days.

Feelin’ betta

Nancy made the first pot of spaghetti sauce from this years crop of tomatoes. Over the next month, this process will no doubt be repeated a couple times a week – until we are totally out of freezer space. There’s a new wrinkle in this year’s batch with the addition of roasted tomatoes as part of the ingredient list. She’s been doing that for the past 6 months or so with the occasional batch and it definitely changes it up a bit. Now it’s ready for full time production. Lots of fresh picked basil and oregano top it off. Here are a couple of in-process pics.
George got a firm date for his heart valve transplant – June 5. If all goes well, he should be home recuperating by the 10th or even sooner.

How do you know if your hemogloblin goes below 10? You get dizzy when you stand up too fast. That’s fall off a cliff dizzy. I’m taking a fairly heavy dose of iron and go back to the doc tomorrow for another blood test. If history serves, it will take me a couple of weeks to rebuild the blood supply back to the linear region.

Feeling much mo betta after two nights of good sleeping and not much work outside so got all dressed up for breakfast on the town. To calibrate that, all dressed up means exchanging my camo pants for olive drab cargo pants, changing a white tee shirt into a Guy Harvey tee – nice fish pattern on the back and a pocket on the front -, and switching from flip flops to mesh beach shoes. We decided to try a place on the river that had undergone a management change a while back – pan cakes are pan cakes. Turned out to be a really nice choice. We might have been just slightly over dressed but fit right in and ate outside on the river and just enjoyed the scenary. The food is edible, certainly not a place you’d go if you really cared about food, but the ambiance is just right for a Sunday morning. All regular people – smokers,fisherman, and people that just might have a cold one for breakfast instead of coffee. I think we’ll be trying it for lunch too. In retrospect, camo’s would have been ok.

Bizzarre week

Please excuse the gap in blog posts. Spent a few unscheduled days in the hospital. All seems well but I have a couple of follow-up visits next week to make sure!!! The problem was a GI problem only very loosely connected to the kidney stone probablem I mentioned a few posts back. So the stone problem resulted in two emergency room visits in just over a week, the second via a 911 call and an emergency vehicle ride at 4AM Tuesday. So read this blog as if you were reading it Wednesday morning and reference below to “tonight” refers to Tuesday night.

I have pizza duty tonight. I’m thinking Raveena eggplant, Gold Rush zucchini, Declaration green pepper, thinly sliced Grenadier tomato and shrimp or maybe sausage. Herbs and spices and cheeses as appropriate. Probably the Cheesey Herb crust.

Just across the lake from us, two pieces of property have been for sale for several years. About 6 months ago they were purchased and I always hold my breath wondering what will change on the lake. We met the couple who bought it and they assured us they were not jet ski kind of people and enjoyed the peace and quiet out here. They have subsequently started working on the property and plan to have some cattle there. Toward that end, they’re digging a large pond up close to the highway and are using the diggings from that to fill in low areas and clean up some of the jungle along the lake front. So it sounds like most of the 20 acres will be pasture. I sure like the idea of that better than any kind of housing development that could be envisioned. Turns out there are a few adjacent pieces of vacant property that they are trying to buy up to put together a sizeable holding.

Here’s a current garden pic. As you can see the corn is really getting tall and putting out lots of silk and tassels. Probably next week we should be picking the first couple ears.

The veggies were picked this morning and include a couple of green squashes and a yellow one; two eggplants – that green skinny guy is an eggplant; two Armenian cucumbers; and a few tomatoes. Other than the deer, the only other critters I’m having trouble with are stink bugs. They are swarming all over the squash leaves on one plant but don’t seem to be bothering the squash itself. That particular plant has about played out anyway so it’s not much of a concern. I could spray but I really hate to put insecticides are what we’re eating so as long as they don’t get too greedy, we’ll share.
The pizza I forecast above came out perfectly. If I went commercial all the regular pizza places would be putting out hits on me.
PS, no I don’t think the pizza is what attacked me!!

Squash casserole

We tracked the graduation ceremony in proxy since all the kids kept us up to date with videos. Not the same, is it – but we did appreciate being there vicariously.

I’m pondering whether or not the toilet would still have sprung a major leak had we gone to Missouri. If it would have, and that’s my analysis of the problem, we would have come home to a major mess, so maybe, in a strange, weird, way the kidney stones – one form of plumbing problem – saved me from another, more conventional plumbing problem. Somehow I spotted the water after only a few cupfulls had leaked out and jumped right on it. But my fix, which seemed to have worked for half a day, suddenly quit working overnight. That’s perplexing because you usually either fix a leak or you don’t. I took it all apart again as soon as Nancy alerted me, about 9AM Mother’s day morning and confirmed that everything looked just fine. I’m going to go by Lowes on the way to Joanne’s today and get some new washers and hope that does the job. I just don’t see anything else that could possibly be the problem. Nothing is ever easy with plumbing and I suspect 2 days from now this will still be a work in process.

We had a really nice Mother’s day at Joanne and Bob’s. Nancy found a summer squash casserole recipe online and we had loads and loads of squash to deal with so……………… It turned out to be a really good dish. Squash is a take it or leave it vegetable with me and more often than not, I am not a casserole guy so I was glad to have this one broken out in a crowd where I could partake or not and get away with it. As it turns out, the recipe also had tomatoes in it and most things with tomatoes fit into my pallete just fine. It’s a “make again” recipe for sure.

Gettin’ Much mo betta!

Saturday AM and all’s well. I made another trip to the doc yesterday and they broke loose with some meds that are supposed to relax my inner tubes. Oila, this AM the tubes were so relaxed, I started passing some tiny black flecks – a touch of red, but certainly everything positive. Zero pain today. So unless something happens, the next scheduled event is a trip to the X-ray machine on the 23rd and to the doc the next day.

We’re at the “what do we do with it all” stage of the garden. We learned that if you take a bag of zucchini to the pharmacy and offer it for free, you can create a stampede. The tomatoes are filling window sills and we’re not but a day or two away from the first (of many) pot of sauce to be frozen. Several eggplants approaching maturity and I can already see lots of excess forming there. I guess the only place where our cup will remain empty, will be green beans. The deer are systematically taking it out a patch at a time. I’m a little surprised the okra seems to be untouched. That’s the youngest crop going, only a few inches tall, so you would expect that to be the tenderest munching. Okra, like squash and cucumbers, have little hair like protrusions all along the stems so maybe that affords a measure of protection. Even tomato stems can be “hairy” whereas beans and sweet potatoes are smooth. Just guessing.

Hate it that we’re missing the graduation. This is the first family graduation we’ve missed in 50 years or at least since such events have been happening. I went up on his first campus visit and it just seems wrong that I’m not there as he bids his fond farewells. Wimp!

Special exercise after procedure

This is the first time in years and years that the whole mother’s day thing has fallen on my shoulders. I know there’s a big brunch event being held in St. Louis with most of the family – will pictures of that be enough? For sure it would be just fine for father’s day, but mother’s day, that would probably be a big NO. You have to know that every restaurant will be having big events, which means big crowds and fixed menues. She won’t like that (me either).

So, what I supposedly read after the procedure were directions as to another procedure to do at home. Doesn’t make sense that they would explain anything to me after applying pain meds and waking me up from the general. Must not make sense to them either since they made Nancy sign the papers indicating that she was on top of everything. Which she was since she asked me first thing this morning if I needed to do the special exercises. I had no idea what she was talking about until I read the papers. No wonder I put it out of my mind. I have to:

1. drink two 8 oz glasses of water then wait a half an hour in case the water causes nausea. Next,
2. position myself on a 30 to 45 degree incline, face down to 30 minutes. Think about the mechanics of that. I broke out the trig tables and understood right away that this was a bad thing.
3. After that’s done, drink another 8 oz of water.
4. Repeat this sometime later in the day except instead of inclining face down, have the bad side up.

I do remember this same guy telling me “you can drink too much water”. As far as I’m concerned, following this procedure guarantees I’ll be drinking too much water.

What I should have asked is whether I can take a pain pill after the exercise even if the pain is for back stress and not because of the exercise. The surgical center was full of people going through the same procedure – some younger, some older, some looking to be in otherwise great health and some that looked like this exercise thing would kill them.

All done, maybe

Whatever ate the sweet potatoes, found a patch of beans. I’ starting to think insect because only the leaves are eaten, not the stems. If I could divert them over to the zucchini where our cup over runneth, I sure would. I’m turning my attention to slugs. I haven’t seen any but these are nocturnal feeders so you really don’t see them. In Utah I used an old tried and true remedy that worked just fine so I’ll give it a shot here. You put a pie pan in the ground so that the rim is level with the ground and fill it with beer. The slugs are attracted to the party and crawl in for a big drink. Not sure if they drown or die from liver issues but really don’t care.

The kidney procedure is later today and I’ll tag the results to the end of this posting. Pain is not an issue – an oxycodone every 6 hours, and only when the pain has returned, has that part of it totally under control. I have two side affects – dry mouth and itches. This is dry mouth like I haven’t experienced since I quit over doing it on scotch – not sure even then. Definitely old cotton mouth! And the itch is a full body experience. I’m not supposed to drink anything until after the procedure but I can wash out my mouth so it’s bearable. No restrictions that I’m aware of on scratching my itches – some I can’t scratch in public, and some I can’t reach without a mechanical aid – like a wall corner.

Results – The worst part of the procedure was that it started an hour later than forecast. Other than that, nothing – no pain, no discomfort, nothing bad. It’s an external procedure where a sack of liquid is placed up against the target area and then somehow stimulated with low frequency sound/vibrations. The reason you’re put under general anesthetic is that you have to remain very still through the whole thing, not because it’s painful.

It’s 16 hours since the blast and nothing has happened. No pain, no blood, no fragments passing. He might have given me a time table of what to expect, when, but I was probably too doped up to remember. I’ll check with the head nurse here at 234 then call his office this AM to be sure what’s happening is typical. I really wasn’t encouraged at the Monday office visit that this procedure was going to work because he delved right into the”if it doesn’t work” discussion. My guess is it will be more X-rays and then a move to plan B – as yet undefined but something about a basket. I did ask if I’d be up and ready for a long road trip Thursday and they all thought that wasn’t such a good idea – possible but they wouldn’t recommend it.