Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's Raining

And I'm not complaining.

Yes, I have an unbelievable amount of work to accomplish and we're more behind with everything this year than I can ever recall, but I'm thankful that the only weather we've had to deal with has been cold and wet.  After seeing the destruction in Texas and Oklahoma, everything I'm dealing with seems so trivial.  What's a little weeding?  We're blessed to have a roof over our heads yet, no matter how humble.

So what have we been doing for the last few weeks?  The usual GADS stuff.  The weather has been really unpredictable, with temps in the 80's one day and the 40's the next.  On Sunday night we had a storm pop up quite rapidly and before I could get out of bed to shut the west window, the curtains were soaked.  You may remember that yours truly sleeps with a CPAP machine and I have a mask strapped to my head, so it takes me a little bit longer to leap out of bed because of the paraphernalia needing removal.

 There wasn't any thunder involved at first, but what woke me up was the sound of hail hitting the windows.  Thankfully the hail was short-lived and not very big, but it did kinda hammer the remaining daffodils and de-petaled (is that a word?) the tulips.

The last of the daffodils.  I'll miss them.
 Our crabapples are just starting to come into bloom now, especially 'Louisa'.  I love those pink flowers and the scent is heavenly.

I haven't planted any of my annual seedlings out yet, in keeping with my annual tradition of never planting until after the first of June.  There's talk of the possibility of temps going down to near 20 degrees Thursday and Friday night.  I'm hoping that's not going to happen, but at least I can protect the plants in the greenhouse.

Growing up and getting ready to move out.
Carl has been working overtime nonstop for the past month which makes for a difficult time getting things done around here.  We have a few projects we had started last fall that we're working on finishing up and of course, there's good ol' Aaargh to contend with yet, too.  His back has been hurting and it's hard to watch him wince with pain every time he moves.  He's stubborn and tells me not to worry, but of course, I do. 
It's hard to keep Carl from working even more when he gets home from working a twelve hour day, but he feels as driven as I do to get stuff done.  He's been behaving and taking it a little easier, at least when I'm watching.

I have made some not-so-smart mistakes with faulty form since I started weight-training back in October, too, but so far, I've been lucky that I haven't seriously harmed myself in the process of becoming more fit.  I'm in the last stage of the workout program from the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women and can honestly say I'm stronger now than I was.

Weight lifting was an eye-opener for me, it was interesting (and at times painful) learning how to do exercises like Bulgarian split squats, Romanian deadlifts and Cuban snatches, just to name a few of the torturous activities I put myself through.  When I'm done with this book, I'm going to move on to  The New Rules of Lifting for Life, which is geared to those of us in our 50's and beyond.  I still approach each workout with a bit of trepidation bordering on dread, which is probably a good thing, seeing as how grace isn't my middle name.  Lift on the exhale, and don't hold your breath.  Don't lift too light, but for heaven's sake, don't lift too heavy, either.  Don't sacrifice form for ego.  And expect to sweat.  Profusely.

Carl and I have to accept the fact that we're Double Nickels now and we don't bounce back the way we used to.  Since spring has arrived and the outdoor work is endless, I've cut my formal weight lifting sessions down from three times a week to once a week.  I've found that I haven't lost much strength in that short of a time and I'm not as sore, which is something I don't need especially since gardening season is upon us.

And of course, I'm still walking.  If it's raining, Ms. Sansone and I have a date in my living room, and if it's not raining, well, then I Exerstride.

 What is exerstriding?  Well, it's like cross-country skiing without the skis and the snow. All you need to exerstride is a pair of special poles which resemble ski poles, but with a few major differences.

The grips are very ergonomically designed and require no straps.

  And the feet are like little boots:

And yes, it does look a bit ridiculous walking with poles sans the snow. 

If you're interested, I've included a link to Tom Rutlin's website where he explains the exercise much more eloquently than I can. 

  Exerstrider Walking Poles

 Maybe you've heard of Nordic Walking?  Well, Tom Rutlin, a Wisconsin native,  is the originator of the sport, but his technique is called Exerstriding and is slightly different than Nordic Walking.   Mr. Rutlin used to run marathons and also was a competitive cross-country ski athlete but when heel spurs ended the joy of running and lack of snow in the summer hindered the training for skiing, he developed the walking pole exercise in the 1980's. 

How did I get hooked on Exerstriding?  Well, since we had snow right up until April this year, I was cross country skiing all winter and early spring and having a wonderful time of it.   When the snow finally did melt, I was kinda bummed, because x-country skiing is a great workout.  Somehow I stumbled across the Exerstrider site and the rest is history.  Any exercise that mimics cross country skiing and burns more calories than walking while working all the upper body muscles and reducing joint pain in the knees and hips is a win-win for me.  My poles arrived in April and so far, so good.  (And the fact that Carl will use them is a testament to their effectiveness, too, since he's not that into walking for no good reason.)
Trillums are almost done

Yes, people do stare a little, and some even ask if I'm expecting snow or did I forget my skis, but what the heck.  I've brought the poles to our exercise class and a few folks thought they were a good idea.  I don't know if they'll catch on with anyone else around here or not, but that's ok.  I'll keep Exerstriding on.  I thought about using my cross country ski poles for Exerstriding, but the actual Exerstrider poles are so well balanced and made for the sport, plus you don't need straps to hold them onto your hands.  And I also purchased the additional snow baskets so when winter rolls around again, I can use them for skiing, too.  And with the poles, I'm not as intimidated about meeting up with shady characters or other varmints on my walks, either.

 (And no, I don't work for the company, nor have I ever met Mr. Rutlin (though I'd like to).......I'm just hooked on the exercise!)   The time spent walking burns more calories, works all of the upper body too and yet you don't feel like you've worked any harder.  You don't have to speed walk, either.  I can tell my arms and waist are definitely benefiting, so that's a plus, too.

I went so overboard on this exercise that I bought a pair of poles for both Carl and for my friend Ann as a birthday present this spring.  Ann and I are on a mission to get fit and though she was gracious about accepting the 'gift' she was also rather skeptical at first.  Walking with poles as exercise?  How was that going to help?  Ann recently completed a church-sponsored 21 mile walk, yes, that's nine hours of walking in ONE day, and used the poles the entire time.  She says she's now a believer in them, too.  We get together as often as possible to walk and it's relaxing and a fun way to exercise.

Ok, enough about that stuff.....whaddaboutthegardening??  Alrighty, then, back to the actual accomplishments so far this spring:

Willy got a haircut for summer:

And we found some urns that sorta match the tree grates out by the end of the driveway.

Of course, that meant we had to redo the landscaping, too, but it didn't take tooooo long.

It'll hopefully look better once the Bubblegum petunias are spilling out of the urns.

The hosta beds are waking up, along with this variegated dogwood.  I was worried it would have frozen out this year, since I've lost a lot of roses.

Hopefully it will survive the cold nights we might have this week.  I'll have to cover it somehow.

The maples are leafing out, love the delicate form.

Not sure of the cultivar, but this is a spruce, possibly Norway.
We bought this tree from a big box store with no tag, it's going to have a very narrow footprint and needs no staking.  This is the third year in the garden.

Our 'Grandpa Hoo-Hoo' ladyslipper is making her annual appearance:

It's always a relief to see this plant in bloom, it is a treasured family heirloom from Carl's late grandfather.
The Quarry Pond is full of water and the waterlilies are all alive and providing shade for the fish.  (And there are weeds, weeds, everywhere.)

And since it rained today, I had time to make up a batch of homemade yogurt.  And cut a dress out that I hope to have done for a wedding this weekend.  (Hey, it was either yogurt and sewing or housecleaning....sheesh, you all knew what activities would win.)
Nine quarts of whole-milk yogurt in a roaster kept at around 110 degrees for eight hours.
Well, I guess that's about it for the news around here.  It's after midnight again and the wind is whipping the rain up against the windows.  The woods across the road is soughing steadily but it is a soothing sound; maybe by morning the rain will have moved on. 

Spring has sprung!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

The snow finally melted! 

Time is flying, as always, and now that Spring appears to be officially here, I've jumped into the work that needs doing Right Now with my usual scatterbrained efficiency.  Once again, my perennial case of GADS (Gardener's Attention Deficit Syndrome for short)  is also back.  I find myself going to the barn for potting soil only to notice the chickens need a refill on their water jug which leads me to the outdoor faucet where I see a few quack grass shoots emerging which leads me back to the barn to get a trowel.   Then an hour goes by while I try to ferret the quack roots out from the ornamental grasses before I remember my original chore was to finish planting the seeds in the greenhouse.  Duh, but first I'll take the Girls their water and then on the way back from the chicken coop I duck under a low branch on the apple tree and realize this pruning should have been done much earlier, but where's my pruners? 

Sound familiar?  One thing truly does lead to another in gardening, especially.  And the miles on my pedometer reach some pretty impressive numbers (8.2 miles on Tuesday) which is sad, considering they were all accumulated while I walked in circles.
I've been swamped with outdoor work since we've had such a very late spring.  And tonight, I am truly tired clear through to my bones.  Time to get some rest, it's late.

 I miss posting and look forward to catching up on all of your blogs as soon as this craziness subsides a bit.    

I did manage to catch up on the laundry this past Monday, and  I swear we had just about as many pairs of underwear on the washline as this Dutchman's Breeches is displaying. 
Housework is always put on the back burner during gardening season.  (But,  I put it on the back burner for stained glass season, too--ahem, so any spare time is spent chasing the Dust Kangaroos (they are WAY bigger than mere bunnies now) around the abode.

 I want to sincerely thank you all for the wonderfully uplifting and comforting comments regarding my little dog Pudding's recent bout of ill health.  As I write this post she is resting comfortably on the couch next to me.  The new medication seems to be working quite well, and she is almost back to her old joyous self.  We're thankful for the gift of extra time and also for your care and concern.  It is so nice to know there are other people who understand the special ties of love we all have for our dear pets.  They are a blessing and so are all of you!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Stay, Pudding, Stay

May already?  I'm back in the house after morning chores, writing this post, waiting for my feet to defrost.  Oh, it is cold and gray and damp outside, reminiscent of a late March day weather-wise.

Things here have been hectic and well, I've been a bit down in the dumps.  One of our little dogs, Pudding, has been having some health problems, but seems to be holding her own, at least for now.  Our wonderful veterinarian prescribed some pills for her congestive heart failure and she is now seemingly feeling better.  She is fourteen years old, after all, and any time we have left is precious.  I find myself petting her and her brother, Teddy, more often than ever.  I know it's awful to take anything for granted, but I'm guilty.  I like to think the people and pets I love will simply go on forever because contemplating the time when we have to part is too painful to bear.

A year ago, Pudding scared me badly when she suddenly started to almost scream in pain while lying in her bed one morning.  The sound cuts you to the core of your heart, it is like nothing I have ever heard from a dog before.  I rushed to comfort her and see what was wrong, and she seemed to be having trouble catching her breath and didn't seem completely conscious.  Incredibly, after a minute or so, she simply shook it off as if nothing had happened, opening her eyes, and gently licking my hand and then ready to go outside and start the day.  I was a wreck.

Pudding lying in her bed this morning. 
The vet could find nothing really wrong with her, even on x-rays, but suspects it is her heart as she does sometimes cough shallowly.  Our vet is a wonderfully caring man.  I have half-jokingly asked him many times if he ever considered treating people, but alas, he is devoted to animals only.  I wish I could find an MD I could trust for my own health care as much as I trust this veterinarian. He started Pudding on a course of heart pills, and for a year they worked, until two weeks ago when she had another episode at 10:30 at night. 

Joel was home and between the two of us, we rushed to her side.  The high-pitched wailing stopped, and we both thought she was dying.  She had stopped breathing and when Joel pressed his head to her chest, he could hear no heart beat.  My heart sank to my toes and the tears began to fall.  She had seemed so chipper lately, eating and drinking, going for her walkies just like always; this was so sudden. 

Just as we both thought all hope was gone, she just as suddenly rallied, trying to hold her head up.  I fell to my knees and cradled her head, and she opened her eyes and looked at me and licked my hand and simultaneously rolled on her side so I could rub her tummy.  By now my tears were forming a puddle on the floor.  I thought she had gone and now she was back.  After five minutes she got up and took a drink from her bowl and then went to the door as she usually does to go outside.  If we hadn't witnessed the whole event, it would be hard to believe anything had happened at all.

I spent the better part of an hour lying next to her on the floor, listening to her heart and worrying.  Finally Carl said I should go to bed as she seemed to be resting peacefully and kept looking at me quizzically.  I slept terribly that night, getting up to check on her and dreading what I would find. But every time she greeted me with her bright eyes and her tail wagging.

 The next morning, the vet prescribed another heart med to be added to her current one and now, eight days later, she seems to be feeling much better, but I have to remind myself that the day is coming.  I had a frank talk with our veterinarian and told him I didn't want to be prolonging her life out of selfishness on my part to let her go.  He assured me that she didn't seem to be in any chronic pain, such as with arthritis, and that the pain she does experience is much like angina heart pain in people, intense, but fleeting.  He thought her quality of life was still quite good and we should feel free to enjoy however much time we have left.

I went into a bit of a depression over all of this, I am ashamed to admit.  Yes, I know Pudding is only a dog, and I have only had her for five years.  Heck, when she first arrived, I wasn't too terribly thrilled about acquiring a second dog, but took her in because she was so cute and in need of a new home.  Housebreaking a nine year old dog was not without  'What the heck did I just get myself into?' moments, to be sure, but it was all worth it.  I have NEVER had a dog as devoted to me as Pudding.  She always wants to be at my side and I often look up to see her adoring gaze fixed on my face.  She thinks I am Perfection Personified.  (Well, except for bath and grooming time.) She has the sweetest disposition of any dog I have ever known, to me she is pure love.

I left yesterday to go to exercise class in town and when I returned home an hour later, I was smiling ear to ear as I heard her joyous barking on the other side of the door.  There is no one in my life who is THAT happy to see me after I've been gone a mere ninety minutes.  Pudding views every one of my homecomings no matter how short as if I'd been far away for years.  She presses herself against me, running around my legs and making insanely happy doggy noises and I have to bend down and greet her, stroking her soft head and rubbing her tummy.  She often takes one of my fingers in her mouth very gently and holds on for a few seconds as if to reassure herself I am truly there. 

She is a Champion Licker, always has been, and I used to discourage her, but no more.  She can lick all she wants. 

I aim to cherish the time we have left. 

I pray she stays just a little bit longer.