Previous Capers

Friday, July 30, 2010

Update on Floyd's Condition

Floyd's been home for several days now. The surgeon decided not to operate for several reasons. First, he has enough space between his pelvic bones for his business to get through, and second, the place where they surgically attach the two bones is damaged and Dr. Walker thought it would cause more problems than solve. So, apparently, he will be able to walk just fine with time - about 6 weeks or so without the operation.

She's also not a tail amputater, and would rather wait to see how in the way it is. His tail's separated from his spine by about an inch, so he has no use of it. It's also as long as a train on a wedding dress and may drag behind him. His regular vet could remove it down the road, when everything in his poor body settles down. They usually leave enough behind so he would look like a Manx.

The only other issue is his continence. Four times a day, I physically extract his urine and try to get him to poop. He had a little poop on his own, yesterday, but he might be somewhat constipated from the pain killers. Been sneaking in the Metamucil with his wet food to help things along. With the nerve damage in his tail section, it's questionable that he'll be able to go potty on his own, but we'll wait and see. He gets pain meds twice a day and an anti-inflammatory once a day.

I also give him a good body rub down each time I check on him. He seems to like that. I think he's getting tired of confinement as he would like to get up and walk, but finds out quickly that that ain't working so well right now. I wonder if there's kitty PT.

Thanks to all of you for your concern. I know that Floyd is getting good vibes from all the well wishing energy, which most certainly helps in the healing process.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Floyd Happens

Well, this has been a week of being smucked by cars. Not only did I get hit a week ago, I'm sad to say that our funny little fur-face, Pretty Boy Floyd got struck by a car last Saturday afternoon.

I was sitting on my sofa when I heard this loud cat howling noise. At first I thought it was a cat fight. When I looked outside, I saw a car driving up the road and then saw Floyd dragging his back end behind our parked van and then out in front of it and across the street towards our house. Of course, the 'oh shits' came out of me and I immediately rushed out to stop him and then I carefully scooped him up and immediately headed for the house to grab the cat carrier. It took some juggling to open the thing, as I was on the front porch single-handedly removing the top half of the crate while cradling Floyd on my thigh. I placed him in the crate on a towel and closed it up.

The next challenge was to get him to the emergency vet. Having been in a car accident 5 days before, my car was not drivable, so I was quickly thinking about who I could call to get a ride. Roland was way off in Issaquah at a job site and not answering his cell phone. I was considering a taxi, when several women came up the front steps. One was a neighbor several doors up and the other was her mother, the one who accidentally ran over Floyd. They were looking for Floyd's owner. I explained my situation and the woman who hit Floyd offered to give us a ride to the vet! I have to say she felt awfu
l about it, and didn't realize she hit a cat until she looked in the rear view mirror. She gave up an outing with her daughter to help Floyd and I out and stayed at the vet, until Floyd was triaged and I found out the damage from the vet. Then she gave me a ride home. She also gave me her name and phone number, wanting to be kept up to date on his condition.

From Floyd's injuries, she must have ran over his back end with her tire, breaking his pelvic bone and separating his tail bone. His legs are unbroken and fine. He has a spinal injury in his back, but the surgeon can't tell if it's causing a pinched nerve, or something more serious, based on the x-rays. His internal organs look to be OK although there is some blood in his urine. During the initial consultation, the vet asked me, "His eyes are rather googly. Was he liked that before he came in? Because if he wasn't, that indicates he's suffered brain damage."

"Oh, yeah." I said, "His eyes have always been like that. In fact, the more excited he gets, the more they spin. He's always been mental, but not from this."

Floyd has always been 'special'. Before this tragedy, Roland called him our $5,000 free cat. He fits the definition of 'Mog' for sure. When he was just a kitten, he found a dropped cold tablet on the floor and ate it, almost doing himself in then. Through his 7 years of life to date, he's been in the vet's office at least half a dozen times for being Floyd. The last vet visit was several months ago when he ingested something else that almost killed him. That was $1200. If it crashes in the house, it's Floyd.

Some folk will think, "He should have been an indoor cat."

But he would still have raided the medicine cabinet and have injested the poisonous stuff, if he could. Prior to this tragedy, he had already used up a great percentage of his cat allotted lives. I think he's finally on his 9th. But despite it all, he's such a lovable rogue, always happy to see us (except when it comes time to get flee treated or go to the vet. It's amazing how he senses these things). He's a happy go lucky sort of fella. Most of all he's ours to steward.

Today, Roland and I had to make the decision to move forward with surgery to fix his pelvis and amputate his tail, with the large possibility that he will be incontinent, or have him put down. Until you are faced with this position, you will never know how incredibly
hard it is to make. Never mind the finances. There are other important considerations. Roland consulted with Floyd's regular vet who was faxed copies of the medical reports of his current condition. He also consulted with his old girlfriend who was around when Floyd was first brought home. That shows how torn Roland was about what to do. She said that Floyd's brother Vinnie whom she got custody of when they broke up, was acting very strange on the day of Floyd's accident - overly needy and clingy. Hmmmm. Feline collective unconsciousness, perhaps?

Now I know some folk think that spending all this money in the attempt to bring him back to somewhat functioning again is a waste of money and silliness. After all, he's just a cat, right? I embrace a different philosophy. No, cats aren't human but we feel that he has a right to life, like the rest of us and we have the means to help him. I know he doesn't understand what's happening to him, nor will express gratitude (except perhaps, in being home again). But he's a member of the family in feline form and we love him. He's obviously a tough little guy and a living, breathing entity and we feel a responsibility to try and make him whole again.

Now, quality of life is another matter. If his quality of life is to degraded, then we will have to rethink things. If he's not going to walk again, then that's another matter. You can't put a cat in a wheel chair. But, for now, if there's a level of hope, we will move forward. So what if we can't take that trip abroad we were planning on right now. We can take it later. We went and visited him yesterday, and got updated on his condition. He has reflexive movement in his back legs, so there's hope. He was happy to see us, purring and pussy-footing his blanket, although pretty doped up on pain killers.

Tomorrow or Thursday is surgery and then the long road to recovery for the little fella. Yes, I'll be helping him potty and probably spoon feeding him for a while. He'll be an indoor kitty from now on. We'll probably build him an outdoor enclosure of some sort, so he can get some fresh air.

One last thing. I've heard terrible stories of people who run over animals (by accident or otherwise) and then keep going. Look at how many hit and run drivers that have been on the news lately with just people involved! The woman who hit Floyd, and then was enormously compassionate enough to find his owner, and then give us a ride to the vet in time of need (it must have been extremely awkward for her) has greatly increased my somewhat low opinion of the existence of integrity and compassion in people. Call me a cynic, but it's too bad that there has to be a tragedy in order to see the humanity in humans, especially in the media. In talking with and listening to her share her experiences with pets, compassion is obviously a part of this woman's make up. I think if Floyd had to get hit by anyone, he was lucky enough to get hit by her.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stop and Smell the Roses Especially If You Get Smucked By a Car

Nothing sucks more than having an injured back in the middle of prime gardening season. On my way to Ballard yesturday, I was driving across an intersection and BAM! I found myself spinning in a circle and landing halfway across a parking strip and sidewalk facing the opposite direction - a rather surreal experience. Apparently, the gentleman who plowed into me didn't realize that the light had changed and obviously didn't see me crossing in his path. Of course, people who saw what happened ran to my aid and called 911 which helped as when I tried, my cell phone battery died (of course). They were also just as (or more) concerned about my dog, Snorky, who was at ground zero as the offending car came straight at him. Luckily, he was strapped in with a harness and just got knocked off his car booster seat.

Of course the adrenalin was running and I was getting in and out of my car while snorting and hissing about this bit of bad luck, going for the pertinent information for the officers who showed up after the fire department. I felt shaken but not to physically bad really. My poor car didn't fare so well. The back passenger side wheel was bent in, my back door and back quarter panel are pretty crunched. I can't open the door. When Roland showed up he changed the tire to a rather skinny spare to avoid having the tire rub on the undercarriage. Being only a mile or so from Mog Cottage, I managed to limp the car home.

This morning I woke up with a stiff back which progressively got more stiff and sore as the day progressed. The adrenalin is now wearing off. Borrowing Roland's Subaru, I managed drive to my veg garden class this morning and managed to hold a hose and rake some compost, but couldn't do the cool stuff like laying a brick garden bed wall. The Doc told me that I probably won't be back to normal for 6 weeks or so and will probably feel worse before I feel better.

This brings me to the suckie part: it's hard to garden when you can't move well from the middle. And most of my classes this summer involve some amount of labor in the garden beds. You're probably thinking "Well, duh." Your also probably thinking that I got off with relatively little injury, considering the force of impact. I attribute that to driving a Subaru and where I got smucked on the car. I am thankful that I didn't get totally wiped out. I've seen those effects as a friend of mine had a serious accident
several years ago that landed her in the hospital for weeks with multiple operations and permanent pins. She's finally starting to feel good again although never 100%

So, I'm really making sure not to have a pity party and just see this as one of life's inconveniences. Walking helps, so I walk my dog, Snorky and stop and smell the roses even though I can't bend over much to fertilize and prune them right now.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Crop Rotation: Filers vs. Pilers

In my estimation, there are two types of gardeners: pilers and filers. Filers are logical, linear thinkers whereas pilers think multi-directionally - all at once. I admit, Roland and I are pilers. Unfortunately, the practice of crop rotation is a linear activity. So, when my Culinary Art teachers assigned the class to create a 3 year crop rotation plan, I suddenly found myself with a BRAIN CRAMP. I have to actually organize and plan my garden space beyond this season. Yikes! I thought everything gets planted in Spring because all of the seed packets say to 'Plant after threat of last frost is over'. Now I have to consider Fall and Winter crops too and how they overlap with what's already there and whether they're compatible with each other and how to do the switch-a-roo when the summer season is ending, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. A conspiracy of filers came up with the concept of crop rotation.

You see, the way each type of gardener views crop rotation has a lot to due with how they see the world. For instance, filers are who pilers deem anal. A filer's raised beds have hospital corners. When the seed package says to plant seed 2" apart, filers get out the ruler. Their radishes are perfectly lined up and perfectly spaced in perfect rows. Filers keep copious charts, graphs and records all in order and know to the hour when they can harvest their carrots. Filers live for organization, so they utilize their organizational skills to the utmost degree when planning a multi-year crop rotation. Their crop rotation charts looks something like this:Pilers on the other hand often drive filers crazy (with great pleasure, I think). To filers, pilers are a subspecies. Pilers have everything in their heads and can tell you in which pile something is and where in the pile to look. If pilers don't build structural raised beds, their corners morph into weedy wash outs or all the beds start to mush together. Pilers put 50 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound sack. A piler's garden motto is, "We shall leave no ground uncovered!" And that's not necessarily with plants. To a piler, crop rotation looks something like this:

Roland took great pains to build our garden structures to give the illusion that we are striving to be filers so we can move up in the world. However, we're not fooling anyone, really. A closer look will reveal that between the beds are piles of wood for staking, bags of soil and compost, starts that we just couldn't cram in, but didn't have the heart to toss (uh huh), tools, pots full of various herbs and fruit trees and various ensembles of cats who think we built the tomato cloche for them.

In addition to being organizationally challenged, us pilers are often collectors. Roland likes to pile collections of cars, lumber, cats, tools and every scrap of paper that comes his way. I pile books, magazines, plants, boxes of wool and knitting projects, just to name a few. We eventually weed through it and pile the unwanted carbon materials in the burn box as we don't have a pile of compost yet because the pile of cars is in the way. Pilers have piles of stuff that we may find useful in the next century. Pilers keep thrift stores in business because we eventually drop off some of our stash, but seem to come home with more cool stuff we found when we couldn't resist and went inside for the hunt. Filers just dump and run (with their itemized receipt, of course). Pilers like garage sales that filers hold because filers get rid of very useful stuff such as perfectly good soaker hoses that have buggered areas. Pilers like to fix things.

Filers require everything in its place and if the place is full, then so be it, it goes. Pilers, on the other hand, always have room for one more thing and will find space. Pilers don't like to leave 2 feet between broccoli starts because that's open space that makes us anxious. Surely, something else can use that space, never mind the broccoli will take over and shade it all out. If it doesn't work out, we just consider this excess, planting our cover crops early, like killing two birds with one stone. Efficient, you know.

I know some of you are thinking, "But I have both qualities!" I'm happy that your life is well balanced. There is the possibility that you have a lot of inner conflict going on.

Filers would never strive to be pilers. However, as a piler, I often find myself trying to tap into my inner filer because zillions of dollars are spent each year on this endeavor as pilers are considered unable to efficiently function. We all want to be more efficient, don't we? Of course that doesn't last long, as once it's filed it doesn't exist anymore and I find myself wondering, "Now where the heck did I put that?" Eventually, I revert back to my natural state of piling, which makes life so much easier in a sense. Of course, computers have forced pilers to convert to a somewhat filing condition even though you will notice that the way the files are vertically presented on the file management interface, makes them look like piles. With that in mind, I'm typing this blog entry on my lap top which sits on top of a pile of unsorted bills on the wood stove, as the desk is covered with too many piles of seed packets and gardening books on how to do crop rotation.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Broccoli, Broccoli Everywhere and Not a Flower Head to Eat!

Note to self: Read the packet of seeds carefully and double check another source before planting.

This last Spring, I was going through the packets of seeds at Lowes (I know, I know) and gravitated towards this variety called 'Purple Sprouting' broccoli. I was drawn to the pretty color displayed on the front of the packet and the fact that it was a sprouting variety, not the blobby type heads you see in the grocery store. More like purple rapeseed. So, I grabbed a packet or 2 thinking of wonderful, yummy purple food this summer. I enthusiastically planted a butt load of the seeds in one of the raised beds. It was rather slow to get going, but I chalked that up to the cold Spring we were having.

Well, when I did a plant list for my Spring Culinary Gardening class, I actually read the packet more thoroughly. Good ol' Ed Hume said that this variety takes 120 days to maturity. "Hmmm", I thought, "That takes it into the Fall before I can harvest any of it. Well, I dutifully put the Reemay over the top of the young plants to keep them safe from the white flutter-byes (after picking off a bowl full of little, yellow eggs - so I'm slow to react) and watched them slowly take hold, holes in the leaves and all.

When it finally warmed up, caboom! Now it's July and the stuff is 30" tall, lush with vegetation and no flower heads yet! Not even a hint. Just more leaves coming up the middle. Roland asked, "When are we supposed to harvest this stuff? It's taking up a whole bed!"

I said, "Ed Hume says 120 days. Let me look it up in one of my gardening guides."

240 DAYS?! 8 months! How could ol' Ed have it so wrong? Who the hell plants broccoli (besides, apparently I) that putzes along for 8 months? I guess that's why you plant it for the bleak of winter 'cause nothing much else takes much space other than other cabbages, carrots, garlic, fava beans, lettuce, spinach, beets, etc., etc. I mean, how many crops do you need, really?

So, I brought this up in my summer Culinary Gardening class and teacher Gayle told me, "That's a variety that usually gets planted for overwintering (neener, neener, neener)." And there it was, 'Purple Sprouting' on their PowerPoint list of veg to overwinter in today's class (neener, neener, neener).

I don't mind being the class example, but usually it's for having done something well, so if having broccoli that looks like it's radioactive (sterile), I've certainly done that. I've given up on perfectionism long ago, and now call it 'excelling'. Besides, I figure it's good to be remembered for something extraordinary like successfully over-summering overwintering broccoli.

When we were planting seeds for new starts for the colleges' garden today, teacher Anne relished the idea to give me the packet of Purple Sprouting broccoli (neener, neener, neener). So, for Christmas, I'm sending them each a head of Purple Sprouting broccoli fresh out of my veg garden.

Honey, Does This Pea Trellis Make My Butt Look Fat?

When your significant other is a wood man, garden structures can get pretty interesting. I asked Roland to construct a trellis for our snap peas, so he took it upon himself to create a 'Cathedral to the Peas', made out of African Mahogany. It stands around 12 feet tall at the center pinnacle. This trellis should give us an outstanding crop, right?

Of course, structures such as this require one to climb precarious ladders inevitably on hot, sticky days. And one never really knows what one presents to the world during the process. How many of us just simply bend over while standing to pull weeds, not really paying attention to whom or where our back side is pointing. While squatting down, we may be doing the plumber's pose and not really know it. The breeze on a hot day actually feels good, ya know.

Of course there are other hazards to gardening that involve wardrobe malfunctions, especially when it comes to wildlife. For instance, I'm sitting on one bed while working on another. When I stand up, I feel an intense stinging pain on my right upper thigh under my pants. Well, without thinking, I immediately dropped my drawers in front of the neighborhood (yes, I was wearing underwear) and wouldn't ya know it, a wasp flew out. For some reason, the bugger had taken a liking to my upper thigh and crawled up under my pant leg without me feeling it until the magic moment! In a panic, with my pants around my ankles, I hobbled as fast as I could back into the house (which involved stairs) to apply a baking soda/Solarcaine compress. Luckily, the ace bandage got wrapped around the compress on my leg and not around my ankle, as I didn't kill myself in hobble mode.

What it comes down to is that as serious gardeners, we can't be too self-conscious about appearance at times. All of the fancy hats, gloves, tools and chinos won't cover up the reality that sometimes butt cracks and bee stings just happen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

50 Pounds of Potatoes in a 5 Pound Sack!

In order to maximize the somewhat small square footage, the veg's were planted a packed together as possible without compromising the crops natural growth, well, too much. Due to the cat-proofing we had to install, square foot gardening wasn't an option, so we planted in rows along the short width, using the protective grid on top of the beds as row guides. They're spaced at 4 inches apart.

Roland likes carrots, leafy greens, snap peas, beans and radishes so plenty of that has gone in. The Mesclun (Roland said, "Isn't that a drug?") is being cut back for harvest, so we hope to maintain it's growth as space is an issue for a staggered plant schedule. Roland and I like potatoes so we planted 3 varieties in one of the bathtubs which is quite deep. I put herbs in the other tub. The pH levels have been around 7, but may add more lime to the pumpkin mound as Territorial Seeds implies that pumpkins seem to like more alkalinity.

A cloche made out of white oak has been constructed over Bed B into Bed C to cover the path too. The plastic roles up on Bed's C side for access. The end flaps are attached with binder clips and can be opened for access and venting. The soil temperature of Bed B seems to be around 5-7 degrees warmer (76 degrees at 1pm one day). I planted the tomatoes and peppers deep as instructed in my Culinary Gardening class, creating a hole, applying organic fertilizer, watering in and planting the tomato up to its top leaves. The peppers got planted up to the bottom leaves.

There is zilcho room to plant starts indoors. Roland's house is infested with tools and his other belongings and the lean-to solarium contains a dead hot tub and more tools and junk. So, everything got directly planted outside from seed or from purchased starts. The fennel are transplants from my house.

The upper beds are where the main crops grow with leafy greens, onions, shallots, swiss chard and leeks in one bed. Celery, brocolli, radishes, garlic, carrots and fennel occupy another bed and a third bed contains the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

The bottom two beds on the parking strip are for beens and zucchs and pumpkin, which can vine out over the daisy terrior. I planted radishes among the squash. The clawfoot bathtubs contain several varieties of potatoes. I planted them around 6" down, but next year I would take some of the dirt out of the deep tub, plant the potatoes then cover them with dirt as they grow.

A lonely artichoke sits on a mound among the daisies. I planted some sugar pumpkins around it to keep it company. I had to stab scewers into the soil to keep the little buggers out of there.They've managed to poop among the new lavender bed on the south slope.

Being a relative veg gardening newbie and before I understood companion planting, I put the carrots right next to the fennel - ooops. The fennel did great, but the carrots..... Oh well, I tossed some carrot seeds in among the tomatoes. Also, I planted garlic this Spring which should wait until Fall to over-winter in our PNW marine climate. Also, my broccoli is uber tall, but no flowers. I just read that the Purple Sprouting variety I planted takes up to 240 days (that's 8 months, folks) to harvest! My Culinary Gardening instructor, Anne, informed me that that variety is another one to over winter. At the moment, I have to see if it can stand the summer temperatures, otherwise it's broccoli leaf soup. I guess I'll be harvesting broccoli for Christmas if it works out. As Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, you do better."

Pots contain a columnar apple and a cherry tree. Didn't get any fruit off the cherry this year, but the plant is pretty young. The apple has four fruits!

Other pots contain slug and snail food such as, basil.

The tomatoes are growing well, but no fruits yet, just flowers. We planted multiple varieties acquired at the Seattle Tilth Spring Plant Sale this Spring. Several are heirlooms including Speckled Roman and Brandywine Salad. While working in the bed, I smucked the Sungold, so I think that's a gonner. Somewhere in the bed, an eggplant and several peppers are coming along. Time to go and prune out the suckers and shade leaves, which I think I'll go do now. As you can see, it's a bit out of control.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Raised Beds & Bath Tubs: The Plan

Now that I've analysed the site, it's time for a plan. Being an artist, planning is not my strong suite, as I follow a rather more serendipitous style. In other words, I'm rather disorganized and compulsive. However, this approach flies in the face of organizized science and as gardening is as much a science as a craft, I decided that a more logical approach was in order. Time to get the graph paper and tape measure out. I also involved Roland at this point since he is the constructor of all things physical.

After much consideration (i.e., arguing) the plan is as follows: Due to a lack of good soil structure, large sheets of cardboard were laid out over the existing grass and raised beds were installed, constructed out of Doug Fir heart wood and Cedar for durability. Frugal minded Roland wanted to use 2 x 12’s, 10’ long and construct 3 4-1/2’ to 5’ x 10’ beds on (to utilize the whole board) behind the claw foot tubs and 2 on the north end of the planting strip along the street. The beds were filled with commercial garden dirt - I mean soil, and amended with organic humus and fertilizer. The south end is for larger edibles such as, rhubarb and artichokes and edible flowers which would do better in large mounds than raised beds. Since Roland is slow to remove refuse from his yard, I proposed we turn the dead Subaru into a chicken coop. He didn’t go along with that idea and promises to remove it at some point. Where the vehicle sits would be a good small contained compost and potting area, perhaps with some cold frames. Currently, there is no exterior access from the lean-to greenhouse, which is currently filled with tools and a dead hot tub. The only access is from the laundry room.

The south facing greenhouse gets upwards of 120 degrees in the summer, even with the open gable ends and decking for the floor, so some sort of ventilation system would need to be installed (Roland wants to rebuild it anyway and the cats like to climb in and bake in it for now).

Roland has a propensity to use old plumbing fixtures as planters with the notion of using them in the house some day (ha!) The two exisitng claw foot tubs would make excellent tubs for potatoes and herbs as they are both deep, have good drainage and the cast iron retains heat. A sink pedistal makes a good plant stand and an antique wall mount sink on a pedestal holds pansies.

A scatter of pots hold annuals, several fruit trees and basil. The sloping banks hold lavender and strawberries as the grass and Black Eye Susan's get ripped out. We've staked the bare spots with wood spikes to keep the poopers out. A cloche was installed on the bed closes to the house for tomatoes and other tenders. So, with all of that, we have a good start on about 150 sq. feet of veg garden space. Next is what to do about the dirt, er soil.