Saturday, March 31, 2012

What have I done?

Yesterday I went to my vet's office to adopt a dog.  I had met her last week, and she was sweet and friendly.  Adorable.  Quiet.  Wanted tummy rubs.

The sweetness lasted until we got half way home in the car.  Then amazing, scary noises started coming out of her.  Not dog noises.  Crazy noises.  Halfway between snarling, screaming, and an asthma attack.  When I got her into the house, she continued shrieking.  And demanding.  As soon as she found out about our sofas, she determined that she wanted to be on them.  And she wanted US to be on them.  Petting her.  Or she'd yell at us.

"What have I gotten myself into?" I thought.  For one thing, she just had abdominal surgery, so she needs to be kept calm and quiet.  She is neither calm nor quiet.  She is a little whirlwind of demands and needs.

For another, I have destroyed any semblance of serenity in our household.  If you don't count Nazca, we were all pretty well adjusted and used to our routine.  Now, routine?  No.  We have a tiny boss insisting we do things on her schedule.  OR ELSE.

By the way, if she is barking at you in that "I need to go outside" kind of way?  There is no "wait ten minutes".   Although she apparently made it through the night in her crate without making a mess, which amazed me.  Her bladder must be the size of a walnut.  How can she hold it that long?

If you ever saw the movie Gremlins, do you remember what happened when the Mogwai got to eat after midnight?  That's kind of what we have going on here.

You better pet me RIGHT NOW
To be fair, today is better than yesterday.  We're figuring each other out.  She seems to have no obedience training whatsoever, but she's housebroken (... pretty much) and she does respond to being called.  And she's stopped freaking out (.. as much) if we're not in the same room with her.

The plan is to have her sleep in a crate until a week or so after her surgery, when we're pretty sure she won't rip out any stitches trying to get in or out of bed.  Last night sleeping in the crate meant that she would shriek for about fifteen minutes any time she heard a noise.  It was a restful night.

Make fun of my hairdo one more time, bitz.
For such a little thing, she can make surprisingly loud noises.  And a wide variety of them, too.  Right now she is laying next to me on the floor, whining and groaning.  In addition to shrieking, she has this weird gargly talking thing she does.

Oh, and I forgot the best part.  She seems to be having some kind of allergy attack.  I don't know if it's the vernal apocalypse we're having outside, or if she's allergic to cats.  Either way, it sounds like she's drowning in mucous.  I gave her half a benadryl earlier, hoping that A) it would settle down the drainage, and B) it would make her sleepy.  So far only A has occurred.

And of course, she has started following JD around.  She is glued to him whenever he's available.  Why do all animals love JD?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can it be Saturday now?

Woof.  I have been tired all day.  As in, having trouble following the conversation tired.  Kinda dragging on my walk tired.  I CANNOT WAIT for it to be the weekend.  I hope that Princess likes to sleep in, or at least nap, because I need the rest.

It's not even 8 PM but I think I'll be heading to bed soon.  I can't even keep two thoughts straight in my head.  Time for a shower and a long sleep.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How do you feel about savasana? Do you feel that it's essential?

My yoga teacher was sick tonight.  Class was cancelled.  The backup yoga teacher is taking a cake decorating class with her daughter this session (and let me tell you, she is super super pleased to be doing so.)  So I just came home and ate leftover pizza, and now I'm having some kind of bad-food-no-yoga guilt.  The pizza was pretty good though.

I love my yoga teacher.  Seriously.  She is fantastic, and I am lucky that I blundered into her class.  But she's not going to last forever.  She's had cancer the whole time I've known her, and she's spent the last year getting chemo.  She feels like crap a lot of the time.  At some point, she is going to decide it's time to retire.  She is not a young woman.

So, I feel that it would behoove me to start looking around.  I'm going to have to interview some yoga teachers.  What do I say?  I'm coming up with some questions even now.

  • How do you feel about plank?  Do you feel that it is essential?  How about side plank?
  • Do you adjust the poses to fit the decrepitude of the students in your class?  Do you ask your class about their disabilities?  Like, every single time you teach a class?  Because people feel different on different days, you know.
  • Do you insist on inversions?  Do you provide alternate poses for your students who are fond of their various arteries?
  • Do you have a good backup instructor?  Does her daughter insist on mother daughter time?  Or anything having to do with baking?
  • Are you okay with groans?  
  • How about jokes?
And so on.  I don't think it's going to be so easy to replace her.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How old is your first aid kit?

Technically it's a Tuesday, but it's my Monday and it sure felt like one.  I slept really well.  So much so that I wanted to keep doing it.  I finally pried myself out of bed at least half an hour after I first hit the snooze button.

First, to the dermatologist, to explain why I quit using almost all the medications she recommended.  She tried to convince me I should use them, then gave up and thanked me for at least coming back to talk to her about it.  So that was nice.

Then, to physical therapy.  I went through my routine, then got a re-evaluation.  They cut me loose!  I'm to keep up the exercises at my own gym, of course.  Hopefully I keep getting stronger and avoid reinjury.

Then, I drove over to another doctor's office to pick up blood test results.  As usual, I have no cholesterol to speak of, and high triglycerides.  One of these days I'll actually know in advance so I can fast before they take my blood.  Ah well.  My hemoglobin and bilirubin are little out of whack too.  I have no idea what that implies.  Nothing, I'm pretty sure.

After that I finally arrived at work and spent the rest of the day frantically reading email and trying to rectify all the problems that cropped up in my ONE DAY of leave.  And then my tummy went all wacky and I decided I was not going to try to put in 8 hours of work after all.

And then I came home and practiced my speech for tomorrow.  As you might imagine, I'm having anxiety.  Luckily it's a topic (first aid) with which I'm very comfortable.  It's supposed to be 5-7 minutes long.  On my first run-through I looked down at my timer and found I had gone over 11 minutes, and I hadn't covered everything yet.  So I'm cutting it down significantly.  At this point I'm basically saying "Og has headache?  Og take aspirin."

Speaking of which?  Don't buy commercial first aid kits.  Man do they overcharge.  I checked at REI and kits that do less than my ziplock bag full of goodies pulled from my kitchen and bathroom cost $20 or more.  In fact, here is the gist of my speech.  Make yourself a first aid kit.  Make several.  Leave them where you're likely to need them - the office and the barn, for instance.  If you don't know how old your kit is anymore, it's time to replenish anything that ages.

Keep in mind that first aid has its use right in the name.  It's not meant to be a doctor's bag.  It's just meant to fix tiny problems (a splinter, a paper cut, a mild headache) or keep you stable until you can see a doctor.

Get a quart size freezer ziplock.  Write the date on it so you know how old the contents are.  The bag is the container for all your first aid goods, but can be used to hold ice, to reduce swelling from injury.

Put a roll of vetwrap / self adhering elastic bandage in the bag.  Use it to immobilize sprains or breaks.  Make sure you wrap it loosely enough that you can still get two fingers under it, because otherwise you have just created a tourniquet.

Get some cheapo scissors, a roll of non-latex athletic tape, and some sterile gauze pads.  Bandaids degrade over time and are liable not to be sticky anymore when you try to use them.  The tape and gauze pads can be cut to any shape you want.  If you're hairy, maybe stick a disposable razor in too - often pulling hair out when you remove a bandage feels worse than the original injury.

Toss in cheap tweezers or a plastic tick spoon.  I don't care what kind of tick it is, they all carry nasty diseases.  Check yourself, your kids, and your pets after outdoor fun.  If you find a tick, grasp it with the tweezers at the base of its head and firmly pull it straight out.  Don't yank, as you don't want it to leave its head behind.  Also?  If you're in a high risk area (DC/MD friends:  we're high risk) go to the doc within a day for a prophylactic dose of doxycycline.

A small bottle of purell will do the same job as those little packets of alcohol-impregnated wipes for much less cost, and you can refill your bottles from a larger (and probably even cheaper) kitchen size bottle.

Get yourself some smaller ziplocks for medicines.  I like mine to have a white stripe to write on - label each bag with what's in it, and the dosage if you're carrying unusual sizes.  Here's what I carry and why:

aspirin for fever, headache, stroke
benadryl for allergies, nausea, coughing, insomnia
ibuprofen for inflammation or pain
imitrex (prescription) for migraines
the aforementioned prescription doxycycline
imodium for oh my god don't get between me and the plumbing
activated charcoal, for bloating from gas or ingestion of toxins

Some other handy little items might include a tiny tube of superglue, pre-threaded surgical needle or regular needle and floss or thread, and a tube of antibiotic ointment.  It depends on your skill level and what you're comfortable with.  Also, if you have special needs?  Put the appropriate items in there.  An Epipen, glucose tablets, shelf stable insulin (and syringes!), nitroglycerine - whatever special thing you need for your particular self, have it available when you need it.

The most important item in the first aid kit is your brain, followed by training.  You can improvise A LOT if you have to.  And given that the internet is in most people's pockets, you can look up a lot of things.  Generally, you're probably in civilization and you can just put an ice pack on and get a ride to the ER, but if you're in the middle of nowhere you may have to fend for yourself.  If you're in the middle of nowhere often, consider taking a course in wilderness first aid.  You could save a life.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Trail Journal Entry 3/26/2012 - Panorama

My tent survived the night extremely well.  My Hello Kitty duct tape patch was waterproof.  No inappropriate water reached the interior of the tent.  However, it was hella windy up there on the knoll where I set up.  I was fine until 4 AM, when it really kicked it up a notch.  Then the wind started to steal heat from my sleeping bag and sleeping pad.  I slept on and off, but I was chilly.  Once the sun came up I packed up and went down to the shelter to make breakfast.  It was strikingly warmer inside.  It faced the sun and had its back to the wind.  I'd say it was at least ten degrees warmer inside than just outside.  I quickly shed almost all of my insulating garments.

We had a short hike down to Thornton Gap and briefly onward to Panorama.  We all really wanted to go down into Luray for lunch.  I took them to Uncle Buck's, which I first tried last weekend with Just Blue Skies.  A burger and fries and some corn fritters really hit the spot.  Eventually we got back in the car and I drove Weaver and Sarge back to the park.  After hugs and goodbyes they set off for the last half mile or so, making it a very short hiking day.  With their heavy packs their feet are hurting.  They were going to the next Byrd's nest, which is a really nice place.  I hope they have a peaceful night and don't get too cold.

I was sad to see them go.  They're a lot of fun to hike with, and I like both of them very much.  Weaver doesn't live too far away so I hope that I get to see her again in the future, after she finishes the AT.  Sarge's future whereabouts are undetermined.  Maybe we can do a reunion hike, if he's not too busy hiking across the country or sailing around the world.

I have a crazy busy week ahead of me (and another speech eeeee!) and I still have to de-grease myself and do a tick check.  I suppose I should get to that soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Trail Journal Entry 3/25/2012 - near Byrd's Nest

I spent an uneasy night alone in the shelter. I woke often. Finally around 5:30 I woke up for good. I stayed in my bag but turned on the phone and read a book for a while. Around 6:30 it was light(ish) so I retrieved my food bag and ate breakfast. Even with dilly dallying I was packed up and ready to go by 7:30. I slowly walked up to the car and got in. I turned on the car and started the heater to keep warm. I was surprised to see that the outside temperature was 45. It had felt much warmer to me. In fact I had been a little too warm in my sleeping bag. 

Weaver and Sarge were a bit late. They intended to arrive between 8:30 and 9 but with whiteout fog to navigate they arrived at 9:30.   We changed our plan for the day to shorter mileage. Then Weaver's husband helped me shuttle my car a few miles down the trail. My permit now lies about my car location and my campsite. I doubt the rangers will care too much. 

Weaver and Sarge walked a couple of miles while we were moving cars. I walked north to meet them, then we proceeded south. They both have very heavy packs. No services in Shenandoah are open right now so they are carrying a whole lot of food. Unfortunately none of us thought of stashing most of their food in my car. That would have been a good move. Alas. 

The weather was hypothermia weather all day. We didn't stop much, and when we did I added a layer right away. We made out all right, but we were all tired by it. 

We contemplated trying to stay at Elkwallow, but there was no good, legal place to stay, and all the illegal places were too high visibility. Instead we made a hot meal and used the privy, and got water. So much water. We knew we would have to camp dry so we carried a lot of water for the last hours of the day. My shoulders have convinced me to finally get rid of my Gossamer Gear backpack. It just doesn't provide enough support, leaving the weight of my pack to dig into my shoulders and neck. It was bearable for a short trip but I'm done with it. 

Weaver and Sarge found a nice protected spot for their tent. Mine is rather less protected. This will be the first real test of my cuben fiber Hexamid tent. We have plenty of rain and wind. If I'm going to get wet in it, tonight will be the night. I expect I'll be drying the tent out in my bathroom again when I get home. With luck, my seam sealing job was sufficient. And my tent-setting-up skills. 

We had a very nice dinner together. I'm really glad I took the time to come out and hike with them as they restarted their thruhike. And that they wanted me here. They're good people, as JD says. Even when we're tired and sore and cranky, I like their company. And they told me that if my setup fails and my sleeping bag gets soaked, I'm to come to their tent and they'll figure something out to get us all through the night. Now those are good friends. So far so good on the tent though. I think my major concern might be dense fog wetting out my bag. I'm all bundled up and expect to take off a layer or two overnight. I desperately hope it stops raining so I can water a tree without soaking my sleeping clothes. 

In the morning we'll walk down to my car at Panorama, and I'll drive them into Luray for lunch. Then I'll drop them off back in the park and drive home to my real life after a nice little interlude in faux thruhiking. And they'll walk south for several hundred miles. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Trail journal entry, 3/24/2012 - Gravel Springs Hut in Shenandoah

 Sitting in near silence, listening to birds and spring peepers. Content to be by myself in this shelter. Hoping for no boy scouts. Also hoping for no aggressive bears. I was privileged to be alone when two crossed skyline drive right in front of me on the way here.. And that's as close as I want to get. 

The weather is MUCH better than predicted, so far. Wishful thinking that it might stay that way, but a girl can hope. 

The owls are hooting away like crazy. It's like an owl rave out here. 

I'm reading the register in what remains of the daylight. I forgot I left an entry last october. Sarge and Weaver signed it! How sweet, and wonderful, that I'll be seeing them tomorrow. 

It's getting dark. I can hear the spring burbling fifty feet away, invigorated by today's storms. The air smells moist. If it rains, if it storms, I wonder if the shelter will stay dry. I wonder if my duct tape patched tent would be drier. I certainly can't set it up in the shelter. It's one or the other. I suppose I'll stick with the dubious charms of the shelter and a quicker time packing up in the morning. Or so I tell myself. Perhaps I'm just lazy. Perhaps I hope another hiker will come in and I'll get to meet them. The register hasn't mentioned bears since last fall. I have hopes that I won't see one here, but the days have been warm and they will undoubtedly start including the shelter in their daily rounds very soon. 

As the dark gathers, my eyes become less useful and my ears automatically take over. The sounds of the woods haven't changed but I notice them more.  This is why I have earplugs. Otherwise my hypersensitive ears and subconscious will alert me to every falling leaf and broken twig. I already know that most sounds are made by beetles, squirrels, mice, and birds. Nevertheless every sound conjures a bear. Earplugs. For my sanity and my sleep. 

Either I should have brought twice as much scotch, or I'm a lush. Or both. I thought a cup was more than enough for both nights, but it looks like I'm finishing it tonight. I should sleep extremely well. I'll blame my hangover on theoretical mice. 

Fog crept in while I wasn't looking. I was only fooling myself. The weather is going to suck tomorrow. 

Watching the night slowly get darker is the most peaceful thing I've done since Maine. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

This is surprisingly depressing

They won't let us take home Princess until next week, after her spay operation.  Am sad now.

Also, I could forget about the attic fan all winter because it only comes on when it gets warm out.  I've been reminded now.  I may have to poke its eyes out with a stick.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Soon I shall own a mop named Princess

Okay yes I went to work today but that is so not the important part.

This little ball of fluff needs a home.  I think it will be with us.  She is nine and was never picked back up from the vet by her owner.  She's been there since December.

Look, our hair matches!  I need a safety orange ribbon, obviously.

Stinker, starting to look more like himself.  I was thinking I needed to build him some muscle, and then I thought "Why would I want him to be in shape?  Right now he'll be concerned with just hauling me around, rather than how much trouble he can get into."

Pluto, looking wistfully at Dolly.
The following video demonstrates what it's like to be around Pluto.  E.g. if he lived in the house you'd never get to pee by yourself.

Also, Just Blue Skies posted some of her pictures from our trip.

Moi, by a chimney in Shenandoah

Action shot!

Now I need to go pack for this weekend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm just going to go to bed and pretend nothing exists

My old pal, degenerative disk disease, reared his ugly head today.  I'm moving carefully and wincing (and probably making noises) whenever the pain shoots down.  I hope it settles down by the weekend, when I'm hoping to do a fair bit of mileage on the AT.  Or, lay on the sofa watching documentaries.  I guess.

Stupid spine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm not sure where I'm going, but I'm having a good time

I got home last night from a great backpacking trip.  Just Blue Skies and I went on an overnight trip into Hazel Country, a once fairly densely populated portion of what is now Shenandoah National Park.  We spent the night before in Luray so that we could get an early start without having to drive a couple of hours first thing in the morning.

The weather was absolutely perfect.  It was astoundingly warm for March - so much so that JBS and I were both soaked in sweat.  I didn't mind, as I much prefer that to freezing (which is your other option in March.)  We had good views down into the valleys, and the flowers were just starting to bloom.  I enjoyed my conversation with Just Blue Skies, and overall just had a fantastic time.


I did all the planning for the route based on my map.  I didn't have mileages for all the side trails, only for the AT.  So I guesstimated.  And I was WRONG.  For the first day I figured a 7 mile hike, or so.  If we had actually made it that whole distance, we would have actually done 14 miles.  As it was, we stopped far short at 10 miles.  Still, we stopped somewhere pleasant and had a gorgeous night.  The sky was clear (predicted thunderstorms and fog didn't happen) and we got to observe the Venus / Jupiter conjunction that's going on.  I determined that I can see stars, blurrily, right through my cuben fiber tent.  I also determined that a falling stick, if it's sharp enough, will go right through said tent.  It has a piece of Hello Kitty duct tape over the hole right now.

JBS's knees weren't too thrilled with some of the steep descents on day one, so we looked at the map and tried to choose a reasonable route for day two.  My original plans were right out, of course.  We were nowhere near where I had planned to camp, plus we needed to take it as easy as possible on the knees.  The problem was that we still had no way to judge just how long the trails actually were.

We headed out and I got to see some trails that I had never yet walked (Catlett Spur Trail, Nicholson Hollow Trail, Hannah Run Trail) and see tons of old properties.  I love seeing the stone piles in the fields, the old fences, the foundations and chimneys.  Nothing else is left at this point - whatever didn't get destroyed by the CCC has been destroyed by weather.

The next to the last trail of the day was a four mile slog uphill.  By the end, JBS's knees were giving out on her completely.  As soon as we got to the top, I found her a rock to sit on, ditched my pack, and took off for the car.  Mindful of my back, I didn't run.  But I strode with a purpose.  I made the 2+ miles in just about exactly an hour, and drove back quickly to retrieve my friend.  We immediately set out for home, knowing that we would be arriving fairly late.  JBS had to catch a train before 7 AM, and I had to go to work, so we didn't dilly dally.  We did stop in Warrenton, though.  I was dragging and I needed a Coke to keep me alert for the drive home.  With that and a mediocre hamburger, I was good to go.

Once we got home we took showers and did tick checks.  I think the final tally was two on me and four on her.  Today I stopped by the doctor's office to get a prescription for a prophylactic dose of doxycycline.  I don't think I had the ticks on me long enough to catch Lyme again, but I'm not taking a chance.  I asked the doc to write the script for more than one dose, so if it happens again I can take my one dose again without having to see her first.  She agreed, so I'm set.  (All signs are pointing at a big tick year.  Sigh.)

I'm also waiting on my lips to heal.  Just like in February, they got really irritated.  This time it wasn't my bottle, as I didn't take the same bottle.  It seemed to be my spoon, but I'm wondering if  the root cause is my old bite tube.  I think it might have latex in it.  I'm going out again next weekend, so I'll try a different bite tube and see what happens.

Oh, and it turns out that I actually DID have a way to find the lengths of the side trails.  On my shelf, forgotten for a decade, is this book: "Appalachian Trail Guide to Shenandoah National Park With Side Trails", 1999 edition.  I discovered it after googling "Shenandoah side trail mileage".  Oy.  Had I only known.  At least I'm prepared now for next time.

I'm still kind of tired from my weekend so I'm going to bed early.  Before I go, some pictures:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I will be zzzzing as soon as I get back from the train station

Oof.  I'm wiped.  I hope I'm not getting JD's illness.  Probably I just need a good night's sleep.

It would be nice if what I needed were a couple of days worth of backpacking and sleeping on the ground, because that's what I'm getting this weekend.  :)  Just Blue Skies will be here in less than two hours. I have to work tomorrow, then we're heading on out to the woods for the weekend.

Last night, I got in touch with Sarge and I'm going to get together with him and Weaver to hike next weekend.  I sent a message to Gardener to see if she wanted to join.  Wouldn't that be a hoot if she did?  Not that the three of us wouldn't have plenty of fun on our own.  But in this case four would not be a crowd.

So anyway I figure I can take a day off in about three weeks.  Ah, nap, I knew ye well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm seldom grateful when things die, but..

Something really lucky happened today.  My car battery died.  Like, it was fine when I drove in to work, and when I went back out to the car it was so dead that I couldn't use the remote to unlock the batteries.  My first instinct was to text JD.  He immediately said he'd come out, but then I remembered that he was home sick so I got a jump from a co-worker.  And then I drove straight to the auto store and bought a new battery.

There was enough charge to start it again, so I drove it home, and then sick JD swapped out the battery.  Because there was no way I was going to do that.  My back hurt enough just from carrying the thing out of the store.  But he had some Dayquil in him so it was all right.

There was a lot of corrosion on the terminals.   I could have gotten it to go a while longer if I cleaned them off.  But I've been down this road before, and the battery still failed before too much longer.  Better to just get a new one while I have time, and it's not raining.

The lucky part is that I'm driving that car out to the middle of nowhere this weekend, and it could have very well waited until I was done hiking (and wanted it to start up at the trailhead parking lot) to die on me.  That would have been FAR worse.  So just having it die in the work parking lot was kind of nice by coincidence.

Since JD wasn't feeling well, he ordered pizza for dinner.  I have to go wallow now.  Feeling a little whale-like.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If you didn't go outside today, you totally lost out

I realize that it's not technically spring yet, but nobody has told nature that.  It was 80 degrees out this afternoon as I went for my walk.  Trees were flowering.  Flowers were flowering.  Everything was just generally busting out with joy and pollen.

I have a wee bit of a headache now.

Still, it was beautiful.
Seriously?  Pretty flowers and puffy clouds?  And I'm supposed to be working?

White flowers are assimilating everything.

These little purple guys are shy but cute.


Also, cuteness abounds at home:


Monday, March 12, 2012

Yay Pluto can move his neck again!

I checked on Pluto after work today.  He is feeling MUCH better.  The hot swelling in his neck is vastly reduced.  Not gone, but not noticeable unless you're looking for it.  He had his head down in his feed bucket when I got there.

When I got to the field, he was immediately his own normal unhelpful self.  He likes to get right in my face and impede my progress.  I'm not sure *why* he likes to do it, but he does.  The skeeters were out in swarms so I decided to walk across his pasture to get to the tack room where the fly spray is.  He pranced around me the whole way.  Sometimes beside, sometimes in front, always totally focused on me.  Which sounds much cuter than it actually is.

When I came out with the flyspray, I had to reinforce his training.  Every year we go through an "oh no flyspray run!" phase.  This year it lasted fifteen seconds.  I fed Mystery one of Pluto's cookies and that helped persuade Pluto to come back and get flysprayed.  One quick spritz, one cookie (they're very little cookies) until he gave up and let me walk around spraying his entire body.  What he didn't know is I didn't have any cookies left, so after he held totally still and got sprayed all over?  No treat.  I would have felt like a heel if he hadn't spent the trip all the way back to the other side of the pasture attempting to impede my progress again.

So I guess I'm not going to fret about Pluto anymore this week.  No daily visits after all.

Sergio stopped by on his way back to the feed room to check in with me.  He had kept a close eye on Pluto yesterday evening and this morning, which was kind of him.  I must say (knock on wood) that I'm pretty happy with our current setup at the farm.  Sergio is diligent, conscientious, and smart.  John is thoughtful and capable.  We have very little drama at the farm.  That's just how I like it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

As it turns out, mint chocolate chip assuages guilt pangs

Poor Pluto.  Not only has he had every weird health problem in the last year, but he had a reaction to his antibiotic shot and now he has a stiff neck.  He can get his head down to the ground, but only with effort and strong motivation.  Eating grass is not a strong enough motivation.  He is the only horse at the farm not grazing on new spring grass today.

Did I notice this BEFORE I started riding?  No I did not.  Am I the worst horse mom in the world?  Why yes I am.  Do I have incredible guilt?  Why do you think Pluto got studmuffins today when he didn't do anything wonderful?

I verified that he could, with effort, eat out of his bowl.  I checked to make sure the water level in his tank would be higher this evening so he could drink easily.  And I checked his hay to make sure he could eat it without bending.  That about covered my options.  I had a wild idea about coming back with a horse sized ice pack, but A) I don't have one of those, B) he would never stand still for it, and C) I have to go get JD at the airport.

I expect I'll be checking in on Pluto a little more often than usual this week.

I metaphorically trudged home from the farm to do laundry.  And then I realized something:  it's warm enough to seamseal things!  So I hauled out my tent and sealed its seams.  It's drying right now.  I hope.  This is excellent timing, as the weather guessers are now saying it might rain, a little, next weekend.  Which could mean a rain of frogs.  I don't think my seamsealer guarantee covers that.  But should we just get regular old rain, I think I'm set.

PS:  Pluto, with a stiff neck, trying not to move very much?  Trots almost like a regular horse.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The results are in, and they're unimpressive

I'm calling this experiment over.  The four pounds I lost in the last month are not sufficient motivation for me to continue a diet with which I'm not particularly happy.  I have no issue with egg whites and low fat cheese and lean meat, but I don't want to eat them to the exclusion of so many other things that I like.  And I'm tired of not eating "healthy" foods such as carrots and brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes because they dare to have too many carbohydrates in them.

Am I going to eat precisely the way I did before I tried low carb?  No, because I liked some of the things I tried.  Blackberries and blueberries in my yogurt?  Delish!  Spiced pumpkin seeds?  Totally yummy.  Spinach salad?  Surprisingly, now a regular thing.  Which I like.  Do I want to add rice or potatoes to my dinner?  Not particularly.  Do I wish to eat cereal instead of eggs in the morning? Yes I do.

Mainly I want things like apples and bananas (and mangoes, in season) back in my diet.

Some observations:

1)  On a low carb diet, my blood sugar (or rather the observed effects, as I wasn't poking my finger hourly) seemed more stable.  Although I prefer cereal in the morning, that egg white omelet does serve me better.  As does the spinach in it, probably.  But you know what?  I don't like cooking in the morning.  I just want my dang bowl of high protein, high fiber cereal.  Or oatmeal with flaxseed meal in it.
2)  For endurance activities, low carb just doesn't do it for me.  I started supplementing my activities with higher carbohydrate snacks (or mixes such as trail mix, which have both sugary dried fruit for short term energy and proteiny/fatty nuts for long term energy) if they were going to last more than about 90 minutes.  And as you might have noticed, some of my activities last a LOT longer than 90  minutes. 8-10 hours is fairly normal for me on backpacking days.  14 hour days happen.
3)  Even with all the vegetables I was eating (A LOT) I had a hard time getting in enough fiber.  Whole grains and beans are key, for me.  And those flax muffins?  Edible, but not enticing.
4)  I liked the extra veggies.  I intend to keep having them.
5)  It can be very difficult to avoid both real sugar and artificial sweeteners.  Upon carefully reading labels, I find sucralose and aspartame in almost everything.  Even in foods that are also sweetened with real sugar (or high fructose corn syrup).

So, with a heartfelt sigh, I am going back to just counting calories and eating a more normal ratio protein/carbohydrate/fat.  And probably not losing weight.  And trying not to feel bad about it.  And the REASON I'm trying to not feel too bad about it is that 8-10 hours of hiking.  I figure, if I can do that and feel good, then I'm pretty much okay.

Next up, probably?  How annoying it is to try to figure out how much food you're eating when you're not eating something prepackaged.

PS: Remember to change your clocks tonight.
PPS:  I might ride a horse tomorrow.
PPPS:  Backpacking next weekend woo!

Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm not conflicted about whether or not I like french fries

I met Dr. M out at the farm this morning before work.  Pluto definitely seemed to be feeling better.  I can't tell you how I knew that, exactly.  It's not like he stretched his arms out and said "Man, am I ever feeling better!"  He just seemed more himself.  More interested in the world around him.

Except for the cough he gave after going back out into the field and rolling, that is.  If his cough doesn't completely go away, the doc has some horsey cough syrup for me to give him.  Here's hoping he gets all the way better without it, as I don't see dosing the horse with cough syrup as being a particularly fun activity.

It felt slightly weird to be back at the office today.  I had a slight sore throat of my own, but no fever and no trucks apparently ran me over last night, so it was a regular working day for me.  The last two days have been annoying.  I was home, the weather was beautiful, and I was too wiped out to go outside and seamseal my new tent.  What are the chances that I'm going to get another chance like that before the next time I want to use it (i.e., next weekend?)  I'd say slim to none.  Joe, the manufacturer, says he's seam sealed them his first night in camp when he hadn't had a chance to do so before leaving on a trip, but I don't see that working in early spring.  It'd be too cold for the goo to really set.  Plus there's always the possibility of rain.

The current forecast for next Saturday (here at home) is high of 72, low of 55, no precip.  Does that sound awesome or what?  Sounds like a beautiful day to be out and about.

Tomorrow, on the other hand, we have a forecasted high of 50.  And wind.  I think it will be a bit brisk as I head out on my hike.  If I head out on my hike.  My foot is talking back a little.

I'm struggling a little bit with the low carb diet.  I've cheated a bit. Today, for instance, the boss brought in hamantaschen.  I contemplated turning that down for about half a second.  And on Wednesday, when I was home sick, JD brought burgers and fries home for dinner.  I also did not argue with that.  (You're sick, he said.  You need the energy.)  So, not so much with the strictness.  I'm trying to convince myself to keep going, as my regular dieting strategies haven't worked at all (in the last year or so), and this has.   But I'm definitely missing some of my regular foods.  Not all of them.  Toast?  Eh.  Rice?  Skip it.  French fries?  Step away from my french fries and you won't get hurt.

So you could say I'm a little conflicted.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The real reason I long for the first warm days of the year

It apparently got up to 70 today.  I don't know, I was asleep.  I apparently caught the thing that's going around.  In theory I was just going to stay home and telecommute, but it quickly became obvious that I was just going to stay home and be sick.  I did manage a couple of billable hours, but..

So, yeah.  I missed my opportunity it seam seal my tent again.  Dammit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pluto is on drugs. Again.

Today was Pluto's spring shots visit with the vet, plus she checked out his cough.  The left side of his chest is clear, but his right side is scratchy.  And he has a sore throat.  Poor guy!  That's a long sore throat to have.  He's back on antibiotics - this time by injection.  I'm having the vet come back for the second injection.  Normally I would give the injection, but it's really, really thick stuff.  I don't think I have the hand strength to do it, certainly not without someone else to hold the horse.

By the doctor's tape, Pluto weighs 916 right now.  That's quite a bit less than he weighed when she last taped him.  And that's AFTER he started gaining weight back.  He was as skinny this winter as he has been since when I first got him as an all elbows and knees youngster.  I'm glad we reversed the trend.  I hope he porks up a bit more.  Once his cough is under control I hope to get him working on the longe, maybe over cavaletti, to build his muscle back up.

I need to find out pricing for bloodwork.  Once he's relatively healthy again, I want to do some baseline tests to see how his immune system is doing.  And I want to test him for Lyme.  It's just so weird that he suddenly started getting sick after being so healthy all these years.  I want to know why.

Monday, March 5, 2012

This is all interfering with my path toward hermithood

I've been thinking about trail events.  Trail Days (or Trail Daze as the smoker crowd thinks of it), Trail Dames Summit, The Gathering, the AT Kickoff, and a few more.  They're for people who love the trail and want to hike.

I love the trail, and I hike.  "Want to" doesn't so much come into it.  Every one of these events that I go to means time and money taken away from actual hiking, which is what I like to do when I have time and money.

The only real reason for me to go to hiking events is to see friends that I've made along the way.  I am almost completely uninterested in the activities associated with them.  I don't want to square dance.  I don't want to sit in a class room.  I don't want to be lectured yet again on "Leave No Trace".  (I'm pretty sure I learned that one as a six year old in Camp Fire.  Although I would like somebody to explain to me how we're supposed to dig 6-8" holes in caliche, or rocky soil, or through rhododendron roots.  So far everybody just pretends that trowel is doing the job, or they give up and claim that if bears shit in the woods, so can they.  It's only natural, right?  Not.  I do my best with the trowel but seriously we need like a Star Wars light saber setup.  Or something. Maybe a backhoe.)

On the other hand, I can't exactly round up fifty of my favorite hikers and go backpacking with them.  That's not good backcountry practice.  You need to move about in much smaller parties - definitely under ten.

Maybe it's that I'm not now, and never have been a party girl.  Nor do I like mandatory fun.  I just like to go do my own thing and enjoy whatever happens.

I like hiking.  I like hikers.  I just don't like "events".  I think my ideal gathering would be a bunch of folks just hanging out with nothing scheduled other than perhaps some meals.

Although, I must say, if it weren't for hiking I wouldn't have spent any part of my evening doing this:

It felt like thousands of tiny needles.  Or being licked relentlessly by a kitten.
the hike between Bear's Den and Harper's Ferry having kicked my butt in the foot.  It was still a bit sore today (despite my not hiking this weekend!) so the chiro hooked me up for a few minutes.  I'm hoping it will be happy soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In which Pluto is unharmed by exercise

What a lovely, lazy weekend.  No hiking at all.  Not that I don't like hiking.  I would have gone if my foot were all happy, but it's still pretty cranky.  So instead I watched "Being Human" and enjoyed it very much.  And I went to sig-beer and enjoyed it very much.  And got a *lot* of looks for my sweet purple Members Only jacket.  Almost all of the looks were from young men in their twenties.  You know they wanted that jacket.  Mmm hmm.

Friday night I tried sleeping without drugs and as a result I was soo stiff and sore when I woke up on Saturday.  I'm definitely not ready to go drug free.  Saturday night I took my old standbys, Flexeril and ibuprofen, and I woke up feeling like a million bucks this morning!

After a long, slow, delightful morning with breakfast and kitties and the Internet, I tootled on out to see the horse.  First I got some pumpkin for my old friend Sam the Rottweiler.  I've been buying him joint supplements for a little while, and he doesn't really like the taste.  So we're going to try mixing it with pumpkin like I used to do for Paige.  I hope it takes, as I hope to see Sam around for a few more years.  He is such a sweet boy.  When I stopped by the house to drop off the pumpkin, he mosied over so he could lean against my legs and look up at me while I scratched his back.  And that's why he's getting joint supplements.  He made me love him.

I got Pluto out too.  He was not incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of riding, but he dealt with it.  He wasn't too enthusiastic about being shed out, either.  Mainly he just doesn't like being groomed.  He's like one of those little boys who doesn't want their mom to brush their hair or wipe the mud off.  I hear him muttering "Aw, Mom, stop!" every time.

I took him over to the arena to longe and then see about riding.  He got away from me TWICE.  The first time he wasn't in a good spot for running away so he stopped in a few feet.  I tied up his reins so if he did it again, he wouldn't ruin his bridle.  And sure enough, in another hundred feet he pulled away from me and took off again.  Somebody caught him and held him for me, but not before the dang horse had run all the way over to the other side of the farm.

So, third time around I made an impromptu rope halter out of his longe line, and once he realized that pulling made it tighter, he kind of gave up.  Also on the third try at walking over to the arena, Timber was right in front of him.  I think the company helped.

Ironically (I guess?) Timber was kind of a wild man on the longe, while Pluto was lackadaisical.  Timber basically cantered the whole time, whereas Pluto would have been content to stand still.  I got him to trot for a while, and chased him into a canter, but eventually he turned and looked at me with that "I'm not longeing anymore and you can't make me" look.  And sure enough I couldn't.  At some point he doesn't care about yelling or the whip, he is just not leaving my side.

Tara decided (wisely) that today might not be the best day for her to ride, but she kindly stayed with us so I could have company while I rode Pluto.  I haven't been on since.. 2011?  I don't know.  I've lost track.  He was fine, though.  We did some figures and whatnot.

I specifically wanted to longe and ride so I'd know if Pluto's cough is aggravated by exercise.  The answer is no.  He's coughing up some stuff, but exercise isn't hurting him.  Wish I knew what it was all about.  The vet is coming out Tuesday, and I sincerely hope her magical powers of diagnosis apply.  It bothers me that Pluto has been so often sick in the last year.  Makes me wonder if he's immuno-depressed, and why.

It was really nice to spend a little quality time with Pluto (and Tara and Timber.)  Sergio says Pluto misses me.  I haven't been the greatest owner for him - illness and hiking have pulled me away from him a lot.  I spent a lot more time with Playboy when he was alive.  But, I had a very different life then.  A life with a LOT more free time in it.

Ah well.  I do the best I can for the Stinker.  On good days, he does the same for me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ultralight Women's Gear: Only In My Mind

I've been thinking about ultralight backpacking gear.  As one does.

I love my Zpacks Exo pack in most ways, BUT it pokes me in the butt.  I emailed Joe Valesko and he's offered to modify the pack for me.  I may take him up on that.  Only problem is, I don't know if the modification I have in mind (shortening the pack frame so it ends before my butt starts) will really do it.  The pack needs to be braced on my pelvis, and shortening the frame means it won't.  With no bracing on the pelvis, it's pretty much a frameless pack again.  Me and frameless packs don't get along so well.  I've tried.  Seriously, I've tried.  I've hiked hundreds of miles in frameless packs.  And I've had seriously achy shoulders.  And an achy back, for that matter - my back does much better when it's stabilized by the pack frame.

Other options might be using a metal frame and curving it away from the pelvis (but metal is heavier, and a curved frame involves more complicated sewing in the pack I think), using a V frame so the point is at the less  voluptuous center of the spine, or adding cushioning around the tips of the frame (again more weight and more sewing).  Or other things.  I don't know, I'm just spitballing here.

I don't think I've run into a woman specific ultralight pack yet.  And there really needs to be one.  More than one, even.  We have proportionally bigger hips.  We store fat in our butts which means they protrude out the back, interfering with traditional frames.  Our shoulders are narrower and less muscled, which means that the straps pretty much HAVE to sit closer to our necks and therefore closer to the nerves emerging from the spine. (Ow.) Our torsos are shorter, not even taking into account the butt thing.  Our breasts interfere with both the shoulder straps and the sternum strap.  (For a number of years I used TWO sternum straps - one above my breasts, and one below.  It kept the pack more tightly strapped to my torso.)

Of course not all women are shaped the same.  Women who are shaped effectively like boys can use a man's pack with no problem.  Apple shaped women will have breast issues but probably no hipbelt issues.  Pear shaped women will need the larger hipbelts but won't have as many breast interference issues.  All the Marilyn Monroes out there will have problems with both.

It would be helpful if I could sew.  Or design things.  Mostly all I can do is try things on and say if they'll work.  And generally I can't even do that quickly, because it takes a few hours or even a few days before a pack really begins to sag into its final position.

The last is why trying something on in the store isn't that helpful.  It's not like I can try on a shirt and know right away if it fits or not. Backpacks CHANGE.  They bulge, they sag, they shift.  You really have to use one in field conditions to know if it works for you.  For the same reason, I'm reluctant to ask for modifications to the packs I already have.  I have no way of knowing if they'll improve the situation.  They might.  Or I might end up with a completely unusable pack, rather than a slightly painful one.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday evening with cats

Into month three of physical therapy and I find myself wishing for more strenuous exercises.  Perhaps next week I'll take it up with the physical therapist.

It just struck me as funny that it's qualified as physical therapy.  How come we don't qualify regular "therapy" as emotional therapy? How come emotions get to hog all the glory?

I came home with no more ambition than to sit on the sofa covered in cats, and that's what I did.  I surfed Netflix a bit, nibbling at and rejecting several tv shows and/or movies, until I happened upon "Being Human" (the US version, because apparently there's also a UK version).  It's quite good.  Possibly I just have a bias toward supernatural fiction.  Okay, not just possibly.  I have a bias.  But still, it's pretty good.  To sum up:  A werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost are all roomies.  The werewolf and the vampire are trying to go straight.  The ghost is just darn cute.

That is all.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Smaller pants day is almost as good as new sock day


I don't feel skinny, and in fact I'm six pounds heavier than I was when I got off the trail in 2010, but I can now wear the same pants I was wearing then.  Woot!  I wonder where the extra weight is hiding?

Pluto has started to gain weight.  He's about 30 pounds up.  It looks good on him.  (Actually, on second glance he's getting kind of a pot belly..) He needs some muscle rebuilt, which I will attempt to do with him on the longe.  Also, he is ready to shed out now.  And he still hates it when I brush his mane (aw, mom! says Pluto) but he just breathes out a long sign and lets his head sink down when I brush his tail.

And he didn't whinge about having to step in a puddle today, which made me wonder if I got the right horse.  Normally he would have rocketed over the puddle as if it contained acid.
Filthy, shedding horse refuses to look at camera.  Man, I need to get him a shorter halter.  Or put holes in that one, I guess.

Also he wouldn't look from this side.  I tried everything.  I waved.  I whistled.  I jumped.  I held out cookies.  Apparently he only wanted to be photographed in profile today.

Today was fabulous.  And I was in training or in a meeting almost the whole day.  I stepped out for 15 minutes or so to take a brief walk, and other than that I just longed to be outdoors.

I noticed that my eyes weren't dry and itchy this weekend despite the wind and the sun.  I wondered if the lack of coffee made the difference.  So I've had no coffee for the last two days, and I note that my eyes are not dry and itchy.  Hmmm.  (I've had hot drinks, just not coffee.)

Massage, epsom salt soaks, rest, and arnica cream have mostly healed my foot.  I don't think it's going to be up to much walking this weekend, though.  I might have to clean my house.