Last time, I talked about surprises. And I’m going to talk about it again here.
Based on my last visit to my ENT, my surgery would be sometime in May, because of the 6-8 week period that they had patients already slated. People with, I might add, actual cancer in their necks, unlike me and my personal juice-filled neck that wants to kill me in a different way.
Yesterday, the scheduler called, and the surgery has been set for April 25 – about a month before I figured everyone would be on the same page and in the same OR to slice open my neck (I’ve dubbed it N-day).
What this means for me is a giant acceleration of all the things I need to get done before going under the knife, since I’ll be recovering for at least a couple of weeks afterward and won’t be able to/feel like doing anything.
Yesterday, I got all the new blackberry roots into place, in the row on the east side near the driveway, and also in the eastern side of front garden north. The latter meant quite the battle with the wisteria that thinks it should invade the entire garden.
Today: I have five blueberries to get in place, and then it will be time to go samurai on the flats in the barn: everybody gets planted out, whether they’re entirely ready for it or not.
On Wednesday, I received two packages of bees (Italians). Amazingly enough, our postal driver actually delivered them – that’s not generally what they do out here, and I’ve always had to scoot over to our very small PO and pick up the packages no one wants to touch.
They installed well – as well as any other install – but there seemed to be a lot more than three pounds of bees in the second package, the installation video for which is right here:
I have less than a month to get more than a month’s worth of stuff done. Stay tuned.
I’m not a huge fan of surprises. This is something that has come to me near midlife, and probably understandably, given the not so good surprises that started coming my way then.
The beeyard and gardens are also not areas to have the really great surprises now and again – in the beeyard especially, surprises usually involve dead hives and swarms, neither of which are terrific (although the latter can be good as long as that swarm is not from your hives).
In any case, I’d done some splits, but I didn’t know the ages of the queen cells I’d found, so I wasn’t able to judge when any new queens would emerge in the split. Happily, one of the splits not only had a queen emerge, but she got mated and then went right to work – a relief after having a hive last year that couldn’t produce a queen on three tries.
The inspection of the two splits is here:
I’m hoping for a good season this year, even with surgery looming smack in the midst of everything.
Sometimes the steps are big, sometimes the steps are small, but they all lead to the same place: the OR.
Another blood draw today, for a comprehensive report, after one last week ordered by my GP, for thyroid levels (result: low, and they sent in an order for a higher dosage, recheck in two months).
The thing about those two months is that we’re looking at surgery in May – two months from now. They have other people with actual (fuck)cancer on the list before me, to which I said: that works out just fine, since I have bees coming next month, and those people need it way more than me right now.
My mom and one sister were in the office today, throwing questions at him. It was a good visit, and everyone is now happy – not happy that it needs to be done, but happy that we are in good hands and what we can expect during the surgery and the healing afterward.
I have a CT slated for Friday, and a visit with the plastic surgeon on April 9.
Bonus: it’s now the next day from when I started this post, and the nurse called us to tell us my calcium is low. So, when I go to pick up my new thyroid meds – because I had that checked last week, and it’s low – I have to look at calcium supps..
I spent quite a bit of time in the gardens today – more on that (with pics! – in the next one.
Fifty strawberries out in the beds a few days ago. You’ll see nothing down the very center of the row: I’ll be putting sunflowers along that line. I have some mammoth gray seed that hopefully the bugs did not get to as it languished int he barn last year to use. Longtime readers of this here blog will have seen those before, towering nine or ten feet above the beds. They are truly impressive (both the longtime readers and the sunflowers, of course).
I cut down some of the cover crop in other rows and threw it into this row to act as a mulching agent. The sides will also be coming off this bed, as with all the others, to make it safe for the kidlets (and sometimes clumsy adults, aka, me, when I slice a finger or hand open on one because I’m not really paying attention).
I have another 25 strawberry crowns that arrived on Friday to put out, but they will go into the next bed (the one with the hoops at the top of the image). We are having a few days of “winter”, which to people in non-southern states might term “fall” or even “spring” because they live in weirdo land where stuff is frozen eight months of the year. I’m waiting for the temps to even out a bit so as to minimize transplant shock, even though strawberries seem not to care all that much. I care, and since it would be me out there in 50 degree temps doing it, what I say goes.
We went with June bearing varieties only in this order, as we like to be able to do the picking and processing all at once for efficiency reasons – because there is enough to pick on a daily basis when the season kicks in without having strawberries be part of that. I do have some everbearing types still in the rows, so the kidlets – or adults who can eat – will have the chance to find a jewel here or there and be able to taste a war strawberry, right from the plant.
I’m trying to determine a way to keep the strawberries off the ground that won’t involve spending a fortune on cutesy little plastic bowl type things and that will allow me to remove weeds that pop up. And they do pop up: the weeds had overrun this bed because I’d not gotten down any cover crop in it. Whatever I come up with, I’ll also be putting bird netting over the beds, to stop the birds – who literally have acres of other stuff to eat – from feasting on the berries.
I had the camera rolling while I put these in, but there were no incidents like me lopping off an appendage, so not posting it! All told, according to camera time, it took about half an hour to plant all fifty crowns, pick out the random weeds in the bed, and straighten the irrigation lines from the squirrels and birds walking/hopping through and disturbing the layout.
The above doesn’t look like much, but they now look like they’ve been there forever. Never fear: pics will follow. I didn’t have my phone on me (horrors!) when I was walking through the gardens with all the kidlets that were here the past couple days.
On one fine day, I went to plant, and carried with me six mesh bags,
Full of crowns, just slightly damp, of asparagus, and per their tags,
They were both green and purple, yes, these things exist.
The old ones failed, due to my illnesses, and yet I persist
In tilting at windmills season after season
And must, at times, seem bereft of reason.
OK, crappy The Raven homage pounded out in under five minutes aside, I did indeed finish putting out the new asparagus crowns today. I think there was a total of 80, in both green (Jersey) and purple (Pacific). A few of them had already started putting up tiny new stalks while I had them in a bowl, waiting for the weather to get better – we actually reached freezing the other overnight, just briefly. Yesterday, I did a quarter of them, and today the remainder. The stuff in the row here is cover crop I cut and dropped, to act as mulch.
I worked around the asparagus still in this bed, including this wee asparagus stalk I found forming right at the next 18″ distance from the previous crown I had put in.
This is a purple variety, one of the survivors of two years of neglect while I was having my pneumonia festivities. In a couple of days, it should be big enough to snap off and let someone (mom!) eat it. Yes, we eat (well, they eat) raw asparagus here. Cooked, too, but there’s just something about stuff right out of the garden. Brush off a bit of dirt, and down it goes.
After this, I headed to the back garden to put in snap beans. Pics od that to come.
Tomorrow: 50 strawberry plants to put in beside those survivors, some of which are already putting out fruit. The blueberries started flowering about 10 days ago, so it won’t be wrong before we’re pulling off handfuls of berries from those.
Unless something changes drastically here, we’ve blown past “winter” with, I’d say, probably five overnights where the temps dipped to freeing or below for a significant period of time, and gone right into spring (and even summer, since tomorrow is forecasting a high of 87F).
Had a bit of a chat with some of the fam about this upcoming next stage of my life, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. It isn’t the greatest news, but we’ll all get through it.
I spent a little time today learning about “passive yawning”, which is a technique used to smell – if you’re no longer breathing through your nose, guess what? No smelling for you! Now, I can certainly see instances where this is handy: cleaning the chicken coop, or not being able to smell the fart bombs my dogs generate. But, my sense of smell is exceptional, and that will definitely be something I will miss. It looks like this technique will allow for some intentional olfactory response. Too bad there’s no real solution for subconscious continual response as there is for regular breathing. Bummer.
In other news, one of the chickens managed to get herself out of the fenced pasture. I got her back in, then started looking around for an egg, because I didn’t know how long she had been out. It wasn’t terribly difficult to find that it had been long enough for her to miss her date with the nesting boxes in the coop.
Prior to that eggscapade, I had worked the bees, as it was a gorgeous day: warm enough for the bees to be flying, but not so warm that you’d melt inside your bee suit. I wound up splitting #10 (to #15), and #6, in a double split, to #1 and #20. Very nice.
Then, as evening closed in, I grabbed the pizza dough I’d made and rolled into balls yesterday out of the fridge and started stretching them. After that, it was into the oven for them for a parbake. From there, they are heading for freezing until the fam and friend group has set a date to come over and have a pizza assembly party. For that party, we have a group of people handling various pieces of the construction: sauce, veggies, meats, cheese, etc. Once made, we will then vacuum pack those, et voila! Pizzas that can be pulled out of the freezer and go right into the oven to bake for an easy, fast dinner.
And then: work work work. I’d created a todo list of some major items to get out of the way so I could write without having my brain yammer at me. That list is now the list I need to get done (or as much done as possible in some cases) before whenever the surgery date is. Before I go under the scalpel again, I have to get bloodwork done, have a couple of CTs, meet with the plastic surgeon so he can decide where to harvest the flap of skin that will be used for the primary surgery site, and so on. It’s going to be another medical adventure for me!
That’s it for today, which has turned into tomorrow as I put this together. As always, until next time, peeps: be well.
This didn’t go up yesterday as planned because it’s taking me a bit longer to finish it than I originally thought it would.
So. I had an appointment with my ENT and since the appointment was early in the morning and it takes me about an hour and a half to get the bulk of the mucus out of my face to a point where I get some relief for a bit, I had to take off with tons of crap in my throat. A lot of people don’t get why this is an issue, but think of it this way; ever gargled? That’s how I sound when I first get up and throughout the day when the mucus starts building up again. It’s why I’m constantly clearing my throat. It’s the reason for my chronic cough and why I can’t do something as simple as go to a movie – after all, I don’t want to be that person coughing through a movie and annoying everyone.
Anyhow, last visit we had discussed, briefly, a laryngectomy. At the time, I said no, I didn’t want to do that at this time. I may hate how my voice sounds, and I may not have much of a voice, but I have one. The problem there, as with everything related to this cancer and its treatment (hey, fuck you, cancer) is that it will only continue to get worse, in the same way my teeth continued to devolve to the point where it was time to just have them all removed. And it has: it is noticeably worse to me now than it was a month ago, and much worse than it was six months ago.
As he was checking my mouth just visually by eye, he broke out a dental mirror and looked down the back of my mouth into my throat. “Oh yeah, drowning in mucus.”
Not what you want to hear, even if you know this to be true. He broke out the scope (a rhinolaryngoscope, if you’re inclined to boost your knowledge of medical tools), went in through my right nostril, and had a closer look. During this, if the doctor is trying to gauge vocal cord activity, they’ll have you say “eeeeeee”, breathe deeply, say “hah hah hah”, and possibly swallow, if you’re able. We went through all of this, and he took pictures.
I’ve know I’ve had partial paralysis in my left vocal cord for awhile now, thanks to my previous ENT. We’ve also known that I’ve been suffering from laryngospasms, where the cords won’t release from being contracted when I do something like lift a heavy weight – a bee hive body, for instance – or when doing something like moving the mobile chicken coop, or even bending over. Since most of you reading this will say, big deal, I’ll tell you what it feels like: suffocation. It’s unpleasant, and scary. But, since I knew what was happening, the instapanic I used to feel I replaced with just trying to stay calm, and try to breathe normally until they did release. This is not an easy thing to live with, especially if you have, as I do, many and varied things you do that will cause these spasms to occur.
We’ve also known that the combination of my vocal cord issues and the degradation of my epiglottis were why I repeatedly suffered from aspiration pneumonia for two entire years. That’s why I have a feeding tube and have had zero by mouth for a year now.
Now, back to today. The scope clearly showed mucus hanging around, trying to chat up the ladies, and generally being a punk.
The mucus is the globby lighter colored stuff in the center of the image. There was more of it, but I had managed – through coughing while bent over at the waist to let gravity help – to show the doctor how I usually got some of it out. Obviously, not a really viable method, and just as obviously, although I did manage to get quite a bit out, there was still quite a bit left. This, my doctor said (and I agreed) was not a sustainable method of dealing with this, and there was a very real possibility that it would devolve to the point where this could (and probably would) kill me, either by covering my airway to the point where I did in fact suffocate, or, if I got an infection of some sort, by having infected mucus make its way into my lungs and have a pneumonia party there.
We also found that my vocal cords are now not closing fully and not opening fully – the latter is one of the reasons I feel like I can’t breathe and periodically take giant gulps of air. This is no way to live.
I knew it would eventually come to this point, and we talked again about a complete laryngectomy. That would solve the mucus/breathing problem, and also (maybe) allow me to eat by mouth again, even if only the same liquid/puree/soft food diet I was on before. Even if I did get dentures again, I can’t open my mouth widely enough to get them in right now, and the lack of a ridge on the left lower side makes it difficult to keep them in place to eat. But that’s a different struggle, for a different time.
Since I’d been researching laryngectomies after that last visit, I knew what was involved, I knew how the procedure was generally performed, and I knew the possible outcomes. There is the danger that I will not be able to speak any better than I do now, and that it might even be worse. As I’ve been without a true voice since the original cancer, though, and I barely speak now, I can’t see this as a loss or something I am not already used to. I do plan to record myself saying various things that are important to me. That includes things I say to my dogs, because they are just as important to me as the people in my life.
There is the possibility that I will not, in fact, be able to eat by mouth after healing from the procedure. Again, I say: I am already at this point, and much as I’d like to be able to eat real food again, it is highly likely I will have a feeding tube in place for the rest of my life even if I do manage to eat by mouth, simply to ensure I can get enough calories in to sustain me, given how difficult it is for me to eat.
I’d already made up my mind in the office as we were talking and looking over the scope images, but I knew I had to talk the most important person: mom. Two weeks from yesterday, we will head back to the ENT, to have a talk with him, the plastic surgeon who will want to look me over for the best place to take a flap of skin for resectioning, the speech therapy woman (who was the one who I saw for the original swallow test), and the ENT’s primary nurse. When I talked to my mom after the visit, and told her everything, it was clear to me she also knew that this was indeed the correct path. As she said, we may look at a terrible situation and feel badly/pitiful/pissed off for about a minute, but then we get ourselves together, make the decision, and deal with it head on.
Which is what we will do. The visit on the 19th is essentially a pre-op consultation, and we will make a decision then on when to have the surgery.
The only complication here is that I have someone going on vacation the first week of April, and I have bees coming in March and April. I also really need to go into overdrive on some of the things on my todo list.
For some of the things you do in life, it’s far easier to learn by doing than it is to learn by theory by reading blog posts or by watching videos. This is not to say these things are not helpful, because they are, but sometimes you don’t get the little nuances unless you’ve done the Thing, whatever the Thing may be.
I think this is true of processing meat bird chickens. Raising them is quite easy, and that part can be learned by watching videos or reading instructables (note: I’ve no idea if there are instructables for raising meat bird chickens, but there are for just about everything else).
But videos of the processing of chickens doesn’t always includes all the steps. Some people don’t put in the dispatching of the chickens, or the evisceration. I’m not sure why that is, really: people should know how their food gets to their table, and while people like me, who process far smaller numbers than the big ag providers, have a slightly different process, our methods are – or should be – as humane as we can make them.
I took video last year as I was processing the meat birds I had raised. I did two batches: one in October and one in December. The first batch I did just to prove to myself that I could do it to feed my family. The second batch I did to feed my family and also see if I could trim some time off the processing of each bird, as I was going through the entire process by myself: none of the family wanted to be involved in it, although my mom did take the chickens out of their ice water bath I had plopped them in as I finished each one, weighed them, and got it into the fridge, ready to be broken down.
It took me about 19 minutes to go through the entire sequence of steps , from catching the live bird, to the processed bird resting in cold water.
All of this is just a big ol’ roundabout way to say I documented the chicken butchering process on video, and you can watch it if you want to. I put it after the fold, as I don’t want people showing up and then possibly being grossed out.
We have known for awhile now that we have hawks in our area. “Our area” meant somewhere out here in the boonies, and we would occasionally see one flying around, or hear one flying around, as they are quite the chatty cathy birds.
Now, we can say we have hawks, plural, and they must be nesting somewhere very close to us, as we have a visit from one almost every day (and several days ago, I saw two). It/They like to hang around in the trees back by the beeyard. Sometimes, though, they come to the fence by the driveway and hang out for a bit.
I had seen some squirrels running about in the front this morning, and maybe that appealed to this hawk: the opportunity for an easy meal.
Or maybe they were taking a break. Either way, it stayed for quite some time, looking quite stern.
At one point, it hopped off the fence and into the grass.
It examined a clump of weeds I’d pulled out from the berry line along the fence on which it had been sitting. Disappointed that it was just dirt and plant matter, it jumped up back to the fence. A few minutes later, it took off, to go through whatever agenda it had for the day. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the wildlife that has come to the property I have worked so hard to rehab over these years.
After those fifteen minutes with the hawk, the day went right to shit. I didn’t do anything on the list for today, as work beckoned. I got through it, but much of the day was over by then. I did, however, get a few things done: mowed the chicken yard and got their food and water done. Got their tote with sand and DE in it back in the coop so they can do their dust baths. Collected the eggs – we’re consistently getting at least half a dozen a day, and usually seven or eight. We are awash in eggs, and we even gave my accountant a dozen eggs when she came out to do her magic with Quickbooks so we can get my taxes in by March 15 (the filing deadline for biz people like me).
Previously when I’ve planted seed directly, I’ve waited until the entire row in clear of weeds. But last week, i took a chance, and planted green bean seed in the first area I cleared in the back garden. I took a look today, and half a dozen are up. Not bad, and I hope they make it through the weirdness that will be our weather over the next few days.
We’ve been having the best “winter” so far, with only two days below freezing here at the ranch. Tomorrow night through Thursday night, it’s supposed to be in the 30sF, near freezing. I hope it doesn’t, as I’d ate to lose the germination of the first directly sown seeds, but the upside of that is that the seed I’ve put in is cheap and can easily be resown. That “seed is cheap” think is also why I wind up buying a zillion varieties of tomatoes and corn and peppers and such. I refrained from that this year, I’m happy to report, and once I had put in my modest orders to the places from which I get my seed, I trashed all the seed catalogs, so as not to have the temptation in my face.
I still have the beeyard tale to tell, but this is getting long, so I’ll save it for another time. Until that time: be well, peeps.