Sunday, January 31, 2010

Did You Know This?

We went for a walk for the first time two weeks. Can you say cabin fever? Roger tweaked his back last weekend after shoveling a week's worth of snow from the driveway. Sunday was the first time he felt well enough to go out for a walk, and it coincided with one of those blue-sky days that simply takes your breath away. There is nothing like the blue of Sierra skies. Deep and endless.

On the Cascade ditch trail (it's a 4 mile round-trip), we got to see our first American Dipper. Unfortunately, most of the trail is in the dark woods and I couldn't take a shot without shaking the camera, while the shutter was still open for letting in whatever available light there was. I did get a very blurry and unusable shot of North America's only aquatic songbird. It surprised us that it was dipping into the human-made irrigation ditch, but it was. Interestingly, when we first started down the trail on Sunday, I wondered if American Dippers ever came to irrigation ditches. I love an answer right away, don't you?
We took the trail down to this turn-around, the big irrigation pipe that connects one ditch to another. Usually we walk the little steel walkway that runs along the side of the pipe, just to add a little bit more to the journey, but on Sunday in the interest of Roger's back, we stopped here to turn around. But before we could head back, we heard this rap rap rapping. We couldn't figure out what the sound was until we saw the crow (or RAVEN?) standing on the pipe. We stood and watched a while, enjoying the new sound. Have you ever heard this before? We hadn't, and we thought it was very cool.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

gumbo, with comment

our blogging friend FC often shares his cooking with all. one of his favorite dishes is gumbo. this post was the final nudge for me. i only have the one picture. the flour was browned. then i strayed from his recipe. carrots were added. sausage was omitted. from the herbs and spices on hand i used oregano, bay, cayenne, paprika, and a pinch of sugar. it was delicious on brown basmati rice.
a comment:
you may notice that all comments have gone away. new comments will stay. we changed our comment system from haloscan, which now wants to charge for its use, to blogger. we have a copy of all our haloscan comments. if there is ever a way to transfer them to blogger comments we will do so. that's my comment. we have 20,832 comments copied, all of them pithy. keep 'em coming.


when we switched from haloscan to blogger comments all prior comments were gone. we have a copy, but don't know how to insert them back on the various posts. and we may not care. also, the font size thing is confusing. i "fixed" this post, but i'm not sure how.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snow and The MRI Saga

Let's see, where were we? Ah yes, Roger was scheduled for an MRI and the weather had taken an incredible turn toward deep winter. Wednesday was the stormiest for rain, and by then we were topping out at eight inches for a four-day total. The wind was gusting up to 60 mph, and the temperatures hovered at 36 F most of the day. We kept waiting for the snow to start falling. We thought if it would just snow we could cancel the MRI appointment (our not-so-secret desire). But that didn't happen. What did happen is that we lost our internet, telephone, and cable connection at around 10:00 am. So even if the MRI had to be canceled, we couldn't call to do it. We drove over to the food co-op for their free wi-fi i and good cell phone reception. There was no cancellation, so we drove over to the Diagnostic Lab at Roger's appointed time.
ROGER SEZ: i learned how to relax and ignore the pain of dental work when i was young because i hated fainting, or almost fainting, from the consideration of needles. not the pain. just the thought. i have had root canals without novacain. i could faint now if i imagine having a needle in me. i was quite pleased some 4 years ago when i got through a blood draw with nary a trace of lightheadedness. i even watched the tech switch vials to get more. i was impressed with me.

now i was to get an mri of my shoulder. i ruptured my left proximal biceps tendon, which sounds awful but is not really because the upper biceps tendons have two attachment points and so i still have one left. my arm still works fairly well. no reaching up and back. the diagnosing surgeon suggested an mri to see if my rotator cuff was torn.

the intake nurse tells me that i will need an injection in my shoulder for an mri. actually two, a shot of lidocaine to numb my shoulder so a doctor can, while watching on live fluoroscope, insert a loooong needle into my joint to insert dye. maybe she didn't really draw out that word "long," but i heard it that way.

so i remove my shirts and put on the silliest medical gown i've ever seen. big goofy flaps on the shoulders. then they lead me down the hall to radiology and i sit there ignoring the tray laid out with needles and vials or inspecting the several sorts of hi-tech machinery while the radiologist is called from somewhere else. my breathing is a bit off by now. after some years the doc arrives and explains the whole thing again. maybe i shouldn't have watched the fluoroscope screen while he marked my shoulder where the looong needle would be inserted. the lidocaine injection was sharp but brief. now i'm staring intently at some machine screws just above me, trying to breathe normally. now i'm asking for a cold wet cloth on my head. now i'm sweating profusely. when they ask if i'd like to stop and do the MRI some other time i gladly say yes. my bp is the lowest i've seen, 110/54. the nurse insists that i lay flat for a bit. that sounds good. after a while i'm escorted out to robin. we laugh. ROGER FINIS
When he came into the waiting he still looked ghostly pale. I thought he had completed the tests quickly, so I leapt up saying, "Wow, great job. That was fast." He said, "Nope, didn't get it done. I passed out."

We had another very deep rollicking good laugh about it on the drive home, that is until we turned up the two-lane mountain road to the house. While we were in town, it had snowed about an inch or two at the slightly higher elevation, and the roads were almost too slick to be navigated. There was a snow plow a couple of cars ahead of us, but it wasn't clearing the roads of all the slickness. Several cars were spinning and struggling up the hill, and we became just one in a line of roaring engines and cars moving an inch at a time. Then we were stuck. Roger tried to put the snow chains on the car, but he couldn't get them to work right. A very nice young man stopped to help, but he couldn't get the chains on either. Luckily he did manage to direct traffic around us, as we were blocking the lane heading up the hill. It was disconcerting in so many ways. So, Roger jumped back into the car and decided to give it one more try. We inched and inched our way to the house, which was only about a quarter of a mile further. We made it. Whew.
Since Wednesday, we've gotten nearly ten inches of snow and lost power once more. It's been snowing lightly and steadily nearly everyday. Everyone we meet and tell that we're looking to buy a house at the 3000+ elevation, always responds, "You're going to get a lot of snow up there." We didn't exactly believe them until now. Yup, totally true. The snow is here, and from the looks of it, it's here to stay. So, now we get to see two of our favorite things together, mushrooms and snow, how lucky is that? And finally, Roger decided since he wouldn't have surgery no matter what the tests revealed, he wouldn't reschedule the MRI anyway. All is well in our very snowy white world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Into The Machine He Goes

Today, at 12:45 pm, Roger is sliding into a machine. An MRI machine that is. First, he'll be given an injection of lidocaine in his left shoulder. Then, he'll be injected with a contrasting dye. We don't know as of this moment if he'll be in an open or closed MRI, but he'll be in one that will be taking pictures of his shoulder to see if there is any further damage.

Further damage, you say? Further in what way? We haven't even told you that last week Roger went to see an orthopedic surgeon to talk about the lump he has in his upper left arm. The lump doesn't really hurt, but his new GP thought it best to have it checked out and referred him to an orthopedic surgeon who took about a tenth of a millisecond to determine that what that lump was was in fact a ruptured bicep. So, Roger has a ruptured proximal bicep, which is now just a lump in his arm. It cannot be reattached to the shoulder and is irreparable. But Roger also has ongoing shoulder pain. So, the MRI was scheduled to determine what, if anything else is going on in the shoulder.

The surgeon suggested that Roger get this MRI done as soon as possible, before Obama outlaws such things. We were taken aback by such blatant political talk from a doctor, especially to the two of us, who look like renegade aging hippies who might as well have been wearing "We Voted For Barack Obama" buttons. It really is amazing what goes on behind closed doors.

I think Roger has pretty much decided that no matter what the MRI shows there will be no surgery and no further invasive interventions. He's undergoing this bit of nightmarish medical drama just for diagnosis and information.

We'll let you know how it goes. Wish him luck.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Days

We sit on comfy cushions on the floor in front of the wood stove. Our books and laptops spread around us. This is how we spend our winter days when there is rain and wind. We're expecting a week of wild weather. The forecasters (those drama queens and doomsayers) are gleefully predicting mudslides in southern California and disaster deluges with shameless delight. We are always amazed by the times we are living in.
We venture out whenever there is break in the weather. Fortunately there really are times in winter here when the temps break 60 degrees and the sun pours like honey for the bees that have come out as well. We were surprised to see a pretty good swarm of these guys buzzing around some fine fresh puddles from the most recent rains.
Our walks along the Loma Rica trail have been sweetly serenaded by ruby-crowned kinglets and mountain chickadees. Lately, though, they've all been moving way to fast for me and the camera. So, I've been focusing on things that just don't move at all, like scat. Not sure who left this behind, but there is a lot of it all over the woods here. Any and all guesses are welcome.

The other thing that keep catching our eyes is the amazing abundance and diversity of fungus here. We simply cannot walk outside without spotting some new mushrooms springing up everywhere. Here's a little rundown of our latest finds:

Winter has been good and mild so far. We know there's supposed to be plenty of snow here, and suspect that it's only a matter of time. Meanwhile, we read and hike and fantasize how much some things look like others.
Doesn't this remind you of a sand dollar too?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Grand Illusion

No ocean, but dense fog over the Sacramento Valley more than 50 miles away.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fungi Unidentified

Roger and I have found a new hiking trail, the Loma Rica, aptly named as it translates (according to Babelfish) to "rich hill." What we like about it is the very large sun-drenched grasslands we cross at the very beginning of the hike. It's always humming with bird calls and flocks that flee at our approach with a flash of beating wings against the crazy blue winter sky. The trail winds up into a pine and oak forest with plenty of shade, providing for an eye-popping amount of fungi. So, we're still running around the hills brushing off raised mounds to reveal plate-sized mushrooms. We find it endlessly fascinating.
The other day we decided to concentrate on things that don't look mushroom-like, but rather grow on tree bark, dropped pine needles, and around the stems of things. The colors are pretty dramatic, as are the oozing shapes and amorphous sizes.
Of course, we always try to identify what we've seen, but my google searches didn't seem to have very much in the way of answers. Here's what I think: The internet needs a fungus guide modeled after the When I do a google search on yellow thread-type fungus, and then click on images, I shouldn't have to wade through photos of peoples' toenail fungus. That's just plain wrong, isn't it? I wouldn't care if someone created a guide to toenail fungus, in fact I think that would be a fine idea. But it shouldn't overlap with fungus I find in the forest. Can we separate fungus that grows on human bodies from fungus that grows in the forest. They're different. (I know they're both fungi, but they inhabit different niches entirely.) I could be wrong about this, it wouldn't be the first time. Maybe I just need to be enlightened.
And btw, I looked at the pictures. Those are not yellow thread-type fungus on those toes. I don't know how they got on the page of results, but someone needs to create a better algorithm. Fungus (not toenail) would be a good beginning.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

We Love Alpenglow Light, Here's Why

We really are obsessed by alpenglow light at the end of the day. Things could burn on the stove while we run outside to look at this light. It's hard to look away.

Monday, January 04, 2010

When Fallen Leaves Rise

We have had a serious case of cabin fever lately. Cloudy, rainy, foggy, and all manner of weather that is simply not conducive to lazy strolls down wooded paths. We hang out in front of the wood stove reading anything we can get our hands on, or playing word game after word game on Some of those games are utterly ridiculous and others are ridiculously addictive. Hours pass.
I notice that the cat is as bored as we are. We let him outside often, but don't let him go off of the deck. The yard has no fence, and Bonsai is not very good at remembering his limitations. So, he just sniffs the air to get a sense his world. He does have a very fine vantage point from the deck where he watches Western Gray Squirrels manically chase each other, or where he has a regular hissing match with a neighbor's cat that comes in the yard to flaunt his freedom.
On a surprising warm Saturday afternoon with sunny skies, I decided to take the cat out to the yard so he could explore his world from ground level. The first thing I noticed was this group of mushrooms. So, I ran into the house to get the camera, thinking I'd photograph all the mushrooms I could find.
I was suddenly on a mission, and it felt damned good! I called to Roger to come out and look for mushrooms with me. So the three of us (Bonsai, Roger, and I) went searching. It's an interesting thing hunting for mushrooms in the leaf and pine needle litter of winter. They give such great clues, pushing up through the hard ground, the soft wet leaves, the dark rich loam.
They are winter's beautiful flowering bodies with a rich array of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are tiny yellow and gargantuan mauve; they are fleshy orange and deliciously chocolate. They thrive on the very weather that drives us indoors, to grow and flourish. We were completely knocked out by their abundance, and ran around the front and back yards looking everywhere for them. Each find more impressive and exciting than the last. But most especially we simply loved finding them as they broke through the ground in their journey to disperse their spores. It's merely their cycle of asexual reproduction, but it's so incredibly sensual to see.

(Click on the top image. I made a little poster of all the mushrooms we saw in about 25 minutes in the yard.)