Transitioning back to food

AKA: weaning from tube feeding

While my upcoming, next rather life-changing surgery of a total laryngectomy does have its downside, one of the upsides (beyond not drowning in my own bodily fluids or getting another round of pneumonia) will, hopefully, be the ability to eat by mouth again. This depends on learning to swallow again, courtesy of my reconstructed neck.

Honestly assessing myself here, I feel it is much more likely that I will be able to eat than it is I will be able to speak in any intelligible manner – that is, it will be even worse than my speech is now, because I simply do not have the infrastructure in my mouth for it. I’ve made peace with this even though it’s a bummer. There are all kinds of ways to communicate now, and written has always been my favorite way anyhow.

But now I am neck deep (so to speak) in researching moving off tube feeding and back to normal eating. As I suspected, it’s going to be transitional – after all, my body is not used to real food after years on a tube. The biggest problem that I foresee is water: as I don’t have a lot of spit, eating anything is going to require what will probably be a fairly high volume of water intake with it. There’s a reason doctors tell people on diets to drink a glass of water in the arena of half an hour before they eat. Water fills you. For a normal person, this is fine. For me, it may lead to fewer calorie intake, which in turn can cause me to lose weight I really need to stay on me. We’ll see how that works out.

I don’t know if I can express enough how excited I am by the prospect of eating for real after my throat heals enough for me to relearn swallowing. I used to be a foodie, and I wouldn’t really mind being one again – pretty much anything can be diced up or minced into a piece I could swallow whole with some water, as I won’t have any teeth to chew with. Hell, babies do it all the time, and I’m sure I could as well, at least when or until I’m able to prey my jaws open and get some dentures back in there (preferably with some kind of adhesive that will keep the bottom plate in, even though there’s no good ridgeline on that side thanks to the original, life-changing surgery 14 years ago).

I’m  a little nervous about the whole stoma thing. Will I really be able to go back to all the physically-demanding stuff I do now? This is the biggest question in my head at the moment, and I’ve been hunting around the web for people relating their experiences from the physical side of the equation, post-surgery. The hard part is this: beyond all this cancer and cancer-related bullshit (fuck you, cancer), I’m perfectly healthy, and quite active. It’s a worry for me that I think I can quash just by getting it understood in my head that this is just One More Thing. I overcame the rest, and I can get through this, too.

We are at T-9 days  now. I’m still cramming in all the stuff I need to get done before I take my little vacation (of a day, maybe two, since I’ll have my laptop there, and will probably be able to work once they kick me to a regular room from the ICU, or maybe even in he ICU, who knows). Today when I got up, I was just tired to the bone, and today wound up mostly being a rest type day. I pulled some weeds out of one of the frames in front garden north, and prepped it for being run over with the cultivator. I have two flats remaining in the barn that absolutely need to be kicked out to the rows. It was my plan this morning to get those done, but I did not, because I simply did not have the energy to do it. Today, though (as it’s 0120 on the 16th as I type this), after the preop stuff at the hospital, I’ll be looking to get those done in the afternoon and wipe it off the list.

I also need to do another split from hive #10 in the beeyard, as I found multiple queen cells when I inspected it on Saturday. One of the new packages (#8 hive) swarmed away on Saturday when they released their queen. I saw them up in a tree, about 15 feet off the ground, and while I probably could have gathered them back in without putting myself in danger, I had neither the energy or patience that day to capture them, and even if I had, I had the feeling they would go again anyway, so I let them go. The bees I’ve received from a couple of places have really pissed me off. First the Buckfast hives, and now one of the new packages, which I think was a Carniolan. I’m hoping the others stay put. It isn’t like there’s anything bad in the yard. I have Italians that are chugging right along, after all. They had boxes and wax-coated frames, and feed, but they really did not want to be in their boxes. I have (finally) a good queen whose genetics I like from a survivor bee from 2018, and I’ve already taken two splits so far off that hive (#10), and those daughter hives are banging. We may just be a place where the Italians are best suited.

Time to get some sleep. One of the things the hospital says in the packet they give you is to make sure you get some good rest. That isn’t always a given for me, so we’ll see how tonight goes. Until next time,peeps: be well.

Buckfast bees, part two

In our last discussion about Buckfast bees, I noted how calm they were for their installs. The bees had released the queens in three of the packages, and I released one (because I had neglected to remove the cork at the candy end). Last night – Saturday night as I write up this entry – they were are fine. They’d started to draw comb and fill it with syrup.

One of the reasons I wanted to test out Buckfasts is because they are said to be disinclined to swarm. In practice, however, of the four packages, three swarmed right out today at some point before 1 PM. And they didn’t just swarm: they swarmed out, found acceptable living quarters somewhere, and then all buzzed off there.

I opened up the first box (hive #3 in the beeyard) and it was just empty. I checked the hive two spots down (#5) and there were TONS of bees in there – far more bees than in a package. Major problem!

The bigger problem was that I could not find the queen in #5, as there were just way too many bees. And despite the fact that Buckfasts are supposed to be calmer, they were flying around everywhere, dipping in from time to time to hit my head.

I went around to the front of the hive, and there, on the ground, right in front of #5, is a marked queen. Well, lucky day! I picked her up and put her on top pf the frames of #5, figuring this must be their queen. She walked along, and some bees started coming to her, and I figured that was that.

Nope.

I happened to see some bees fanning by the edge of the hive stand, near some bricks I had placed there. I stuck my head down there and found the OTHER marked Buckfast queen, along with some of her crew. I managed to capture her in a queen carrier – which the bees cannot open – I had in my pocket.

I then looked up at the top of #5 and saw an absolute mountain of bees on the two middle frames. I pulled one out, and found the bees balling up the queen I’d put there. Oops, wrong hive for that queen – clearly she was the queen from #3 hive. I managed to get her freed from all but a couple of the worker bees, and put #5 queen (in her cage) back in.

Now, of course, I had a problem: a queen bee I was trying to protect from two persistent workers trying to kill her, and no queen cage. I grabbed up the empty queen cage she’d shipped in, managed to get her into it, and plugged the hole with my thumb.

With her secured, I moved about half the bees back to #3 from #5, went in the house to get another queen carrier, moved #3 into it, then took her back outside, put her between the frames again, and closed them both. My theory is that #3 tried to take over #5, and #5 just walked out on her hive, then #3 was probably kicked out. Thus, two queens on the ground, and not a whole lot of bees seemed to want to follow out of #5, for whatever reason.

I was pouring sweat by now because it was a toasty 90F with little to no breeze, but decided I’d better check the other two Buckfast hives to see if they were pulling any shenanigans.

Empty. Both of them. Not a bee to be found anywhere in, under, around the boxes, not on the ground or in any trees. They were just….gone.

(I started this on the 7th. It is the 8th when I’m finishing it.)

So, my experience with Buckfast bees is very, very different than what all the sites say is their general characteristics. I also learned via a little deeper searching that the second and third generations of buckfasts (that is, the daughter and granddaughter of the current queen) can be downright mean and aggressive. I’m not up for that. If these two hives stay – and today when I checked them after being at the NOC  all morning (sans breakfast and coffee, I might add) and they were just as chill as when I tried to get them in the hives when they arrived on the 2nd. We’ve had a big storm pass over us here this afternoon, and I’m kind of dreading going out to the yard tomorrow to see if they’re still there.

Bottom line: no more Buckfast bees at the ranch.

Rest day


It’s been a very busy week at the ranch: an employee on vacation, new bees arriving, someone hosing their server, planting out, along with all the other everyday, normal things that make life tick around here.

The server issue took about 40 hours to recover, plus another 10-ish to iron out little things – it was that bad, from an admin standpoint – so I’ve been running on less sleep than normal. That’s ok. In a couple of weeks I’l be taking a 6-8 nap during the daytime.

I’ve got the broccoli, some of the onions, and a flat of tomatoes out of the barn and into the rows. I intercropped onions and broccoli, and put some carrots (from seed) with the tomatoes. That leaves five flats in the barn and half a flat of onions and leeks hanging out in front garden south, awaiting their places. Plus the seeds I’ll sow directly (cukes) and the flats to start the melons so they can be set out (although I may very well just say screw it, and sow them directly, too).

The Buckfast bees – a variety new to me, as I’ve only had Italians to this point – seem to be super chill bees. They were not particularly bothered by much of anything I was doing, even when I had to shake the packages. Even at that point, some of them didn’t rocket out of the packages to come at me (bro!) and just stayed in the package, hanging out. I’m working on editing video of one of the installs to show that.

This morning, though, the week finally caught me. I was just too exhausted to do anything outside. It didn’t help that it was almost 90F today, and that being short on rest makes me queasy, which itself just piles on top of the queasiness I’m having when pouring food down the tube, which I think is a sign that the balloon has deflated, as it did last time. AND: we had our first heat index day.

This is the earliest date here at the ranch for a heat index day.

Now, though, it’s about an hour-ish until sundown, and it’s cooler (82F and with a light breeze as I type this) and I can hear some distant thunder – a forecast of rain that, as usual, passed us by. I feel much better after just doing some “real” work as needed, and resting inside. I’m thinking about popping out and putting the cuke seed and the zuke/squash seed in. That would be a couple fewer things that need to be done tomorrow.

It puts the lotion on its skin

AKA: four days until the appointment with the plastic surgeon. Since he’ll probably be taking skin from my thighs (as I am not a large person and my forearms are not sufficient), I’ve not been wearing shorts when I’m working outside, even though we’ve already hit 90F once this year. We are averaging about 82F, which is pleasant enough, but still, this is the time of year that calls for shorts!

I got my instructions for my pre-op stuff: on the 16th, I will go in and give them blood yet again, have a chest xray, and EKG, a chat with the anesthesiologist, etc., etc.

And then: the waiting. Or, rather, the busting of my ass to Get Shit Done before N-Day – losing my voice – which is twenty days from now.

It’s going to be an interesting spring.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Losing my voice in 26 days

I’ve started to record myself saying certain things – mainly to my dogs, today, as we were in and out working with some crazy bees and with transplants from the barn to the gardens.

The bee craziness is just plain weird. Both packages installed without issue, but the next day were both showing far more activity than they should have. It looked like some epic battling was going on in both. I know it couldn’t have been robbing, as they had nothing to rob.

I pulled the front feeder off both, put in an entrance reducer  on both, then put the feeder jars on top of the frames in the medium box. To cover the feeder, I put an empty deep box over them and closed them. A couple hours later, there was far less activity at the landing boards. Success!

Except: the next day, the first package (from this point on, noted as #1) and the second package (#2) were still being weird: both of them had bees lined up on the underside of the bottom boards. Because I use screened bottom boards, when they fan to distribute the queen’s pheromones, some of them were actually under the  hive.

What to do? Nothing to do except the (carefully) take apart the hive and clear the bottom of the boards of dead bees and shake the bees into their home (again).

Next day: go out, find #1 bees are clustering themselves from the inner cover, like a bunch of idiots who can’t tell they have food and a place to draw comb and go about their business. Add some deep frames to the deep body that is covering the food bottle.

Next day: mowing the property, and I take a swing by the beeyard, only to find the front of #2 hive covered in bees. Great: #1 has swarmed and landed on #2.

This was not the case, though: turns out, every bee in #2 was hanging on the outside of the box.  Put them all back in, close it up, call it a night.

Today: go back out to make sure they are continuing what they started. Alas, no. The #2 hive is completely empty. I look around the beeyard, and see a dark spot in a tree about 50′ away. There they were, hanging out. I positioned a box with some frames in it where I thought they would land, then pulled the branch toward me and gave it a single hard tug. I’m happy to say I got almost all of them in the first go, including the queen: the workers immediately started fanning like crazy, and some bees that landed outside the box started marching in.

That’s three times to hive this package. It’s supposed to be rainy the next couple of days, so that may keep them home, realizing this is a pretty damn fine place to be: a roof over their head, frames to build on, and food to eat.

Didn’t get any transplants in today, as it started raining while I was getting the girls back into a hive. I’ll have a video of that swarm retrieval up as soon as I can get some time to edit.

I hope those girls are still there tomorrow. It’s a shame to waste that much energy on something if it’s just going to leave or break.

As I type this, it is March 31, 2019. That means it is 26 days until I lose my voice.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Losing your voice in 30 days

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.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

The good kind of surprise

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.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

On the road to (another) surgery

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.

Until then, peeps: be well.

 

Strawberry fields forever

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.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Posessed

Sleeping dogs. What could be more wholesome?

Or adorable?

OR POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL AND COME TO TAKE YOUR SOOOOOOOUUUUUULLLLL?

Just kidding. I don’t believe in that stuff. But it is kind of creepy when they sleep with their eyes open or rolled back in their heads.

Of course, it could just be because they’re a big ol’ pile of adorable derpfaces.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life