Monday, December 13, 2021

Change of Scenery Has Occurred

 We had some weather between the time the young man came to tell me about the ash tree slated for removal, and the time it actually happened. We had snow, hail, and rain on various days, and a mix of two a couple days. Things were soggy, somewhat frozen, and back to soggy with several days of no precip. It was at the start of that several days when they arborists came back and got to work.

It turns out that the tree had started to show some rot, which was why they felt it was time to take it down. A good strong wind could make part of it break off and fall on their barn. It's a crotched tree and yes, nearly everywhere there was a vee, there was a bit of worry. When the arborist saw me hanging clothes on the line, he came over to talk to me and explained more about the condition of the tree. He also said the neighbours did not want the wood for burning and wondered if I would like it. He explained it would make his job much easier if I said yes, that since ash has a low moisture content, it doesn't need to age the way other trees do. It can be burned pretty much as soon as it's cut.

Many people here burn wood for heat, and the neighbours were offering me a great kindness. I thanked the arborist and told him, yes and thank you. They went one better than that. I had expected the crew to drop the tree where it was and leave it there for me to cut up. Nope, they cut much of it in woodstove lengths and moved it with their backhoe or tractor to various dumping places in my yard. The woodshed area was not easy for them to access, and the two areas they deposited most of the logs are close by so easy enough for us to move and split.

I want to deliver a nice bottle of wine to our neighbours and attach the note, "Wood you be so kind as to accept our thanks?" They haven't been home much since the tree came down, as they are busy with their business, which they moved from their house to a nearby office, and they have done a bit of travelling to see family. Come to think of it, I'd like to add a charcuterie board and some nice dog treats for their dog, Watson.

I feel so blessed to have such great neighbours.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Change of scenery

 A young man knocked on the front door about a week ago. I live in a place where front doors are used as an emergency exit if at all. We have had the occasional trick-or-treaters, a few times politicians trolling for votes, and once Jehovah witnesses. The Jehovah witnesses came round to the back subsequent times, although this past week, I got a letter in the mail from one of them witnessing to me. She mentioned she wasn't stopping door to door because of Covid. 

At any rate, I didn't recognize the young man at the door. He didn't look like a Jehovah witness. Turns out he wasn't. Nor was he a politician. He worked for an arborist. He wanted to let me know they were going to be taking down a neighbour's tree and because the tree was on or very close to the property line, they might have some of their equipment on my property. They wanted to let me know.

We chatted a bit, I went outside, and we walked the back yard. The tree is an old, large ash tree. It saddened me that they are removing it, solely because it's too close to their barn. He said the noise I'd hear would be their chain saws and a chipper. That saddened me, too. If you're taking down a tree simply  because its presence in its spot is inconvenient in some way, I'd hope you'd use the timber in a useful way. Not just all of it becoming instant mulch. Removing the ash tree will change the line of sight in our back yard a bit.

Yesterday, someone driving down the street ended up hitting a large tree in that neighbour's yard and struck a pedestrian who was walking on the sidewalk. We aren't sure why it happened. Whether a deer had run across the road or whether the driver lost control driving over wet leaves. There's a slight gash in the tree, but other than that, the tree looks as it always has. I do hope the injured man can make a full recovery. It gave us pause for thought. Any number of us use that sidewalk as we go for a walk, walk the dog (quite a few neighbours have dogs), or like our neighbour Vern, use it most days to walk down to the nearby post office to collect his mail.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Phoebe-the rest of the story

 I was looking at old blog posts and saw that I never provided the upshot on Phoebe. When I last wrote about  her, it was a month into the regimen of pill pockets for her meds, giving her fish oil, and working a lower protein cat food into rotation.

I knew we were on borrowed time, and I wanted to make the best of it. So did she. She was getting through the coldest part of winter but losing ground. She got thinner and altogether refused to eat the lower protein food. JoJo and Cooper weren't overly fond of it, but they'd eat it. No so Miss Phoebe. Nope. Anathema that would not cross her lips.

She was sleeping a lot more and more soundly. Another cog in the wheel clicked when I could open a can of something in the kitchen and not have her immediately walk in, just in case it was something she wanted to have. 

I discussed the End with my vet's office. They did house calls, but I'd need to give them a week's notice. They gave me the name of a vet, Dr. E, who makes house calls to put animals down. She was known for being able to come at once a lot better than they could manage at their busy practice. Of course, I could simply take Phoebe into the office right away, should I need to pre-empt the appointment. I much preferred to keep her at home and have the home visit.

It was the end of February. I prefer chocolate ice cream but always had a nonchocolate flavour on hand as Phoebe loved anything dairy and would insist that she have a taste of the ice cream. She strongly preferred eating it from your dish. She may have suspected we were somehow holding out on her if we put it in a separate dish for her. Whenever I ate chocolate ice cream, I'd lick the bowl clean then add a little of the nonchocolate ice cream for her. She was top cat now that Grace was gone, and she'd make a great fanfare of having her ice cream in the human's dish while the others got theirs in different dishes. Such a diva.

I was up to my eyeballs on a work project, had eaten a small dish of chocolate ice cream, and Phoebe hadn't stirred at all when I was eating. I knew that wasn't a great sign, but I was relieved that I didn't have to cater to her, as she had grown more petulant and demanding. The phone rang as i finished my ice cream. It was my client, interrupting my short break, and I walked my dish out to the kitchen while talking to them. I hurried back to my office and computer (about ten steps from the kitchen) and got back to work right away.

About an hour later, I went into the kitchen to get a cup of tea. There, on the counter was Phoebe. She had licked the ice cream dish clean and was licking her chops. She clearly enjoyed the dregs in the dish, and I'm certain she was thinking to herself that they'd have been wasted if it weren't for her keen sense of smell and jumping capabilities to jump from floor to counter to help herself.

She was sitting and looked over at me with a self-satisfied look. Another few licks around her whiskers to ensure all was clean, and she stood up and jumped down to the floor. As effortlessly and gracefully as ever. She paused a moment and then walked away like a boss, her tail held high and confidently.

While I was ruing leaving the dish like that without taking the few seconds to rinse it out and then leave it in the sink, I couldn't help smiling at Phoebe's panache. Even if eating that chocolate took a few moments off her life, the contented look on her face told me it was worth it.

Shortly after that, maybe a few days, she would sway on occasion. At first I wasn't sure what I actually saw, and it was random, a quick sway and then she'd recover and go on. I watched her more carefully. She was not eating as much, even if it were food she really liked. I needed to make the call to set up an appointment, but when? Would a week be too soon? Or not soon enough?

I had these thoughts on Friday. The vet's office closed at 4 pm, and they weren't open weekends. On Friday night, I noticed a misstep and a sway. I'd need to call them first thing Monday morning and see if they could come out. The swaying seemed to be a little stronger and she was taking longer to recover. She didn't appear to be in pain. But she was eating less.

The air started to smell like spring. We had snow on the ground still, and the ground well covered, but as we moved closer to the equinox the light and spring smell smiled at the snow. It would be on its way out.

For nearly 16 years, Phoebe would meow at us to get up if we were sleeping in past her breakfast time, or she'd jump up into bed, purr and meow to wake us up, want a quick pat and then would urge us to get moving so we could feed her.

Himself was away. Saturday had been a domestic day for me, some cleaning, some food shopping, lounging with the cats that evening. I thought about attending church Sunday morning, if I woke up early enough. If Phoebe insisted on an early breakfast, I would most certainly be up in time.

Sunday morning I felt the slight shaking of the bed as Phoebe alighted and walked towards me. She was purring and nuzzled my hand. I opened my eyes, she crawled up on my chest, and I knew to rise up. She had trained her human staff well. Only she didn't jump off my chest. She refused to move and looked deep into my eyes. I knew. With that look, she let me know it was time for her to go, and I needed to help her with that. 

I hugged her, pet her, and cried. She lay there stoically, seeming to understand that I knew I had to make that call, and it needed to be today. Someone had to come help her cross today; not next week, but TODAY.

When she moved off of me, I got up, blew my nose, and padded downstairs to get the cats' food dishes ready for breakfast. I called Dr. E. She answered her phone. No, it wasn't too early to ring her. I quickly explained the situation. For the first time in her life, Phoebe pre-empted breakfast to let me know it was time for her to go.

Dr. E. could come in the afternoon. I gave her the address, next town over from where she lived and a short drive. Phoebe spent much of the morning sleeping. JoJo and Cooper went about their usual schedule. Phoebe had lorded her top cat status over them to the point where they didn't really bother much with her. There was detente. The few times Phoebe got up, the swaying was more pronounced. She had eaten a little food, mostly the pieces with the fish oil on it. She welcomed the pill pocket. Mostly she slept. About a half hour or so before Dr. E arrived, Phoebe had gone under the bed to nap. She clearly didn't want to be bothered. 

Of all the cats who've lived with us, Phoebe was among the most social with humans. Human visitors were warmly greeted, and she always made sure she stood in such a way where they could admire her beautiful calico coat and encourage them to pet her. I think at times she really thought the purpose of their visit was to see her, and we were afterthoughts.

Dr. E knocked on the back door. Phoebe didn't come down to investigate. We went upstairs. Dr. E explained that she had had to crawl under beds before and could do it again as needed. Phoebe lifted her head, looked over at Dr. E who was sitting on the floor at the bed's edge peering at her, and blinked weakly. Dr E held out a treat to tempt her to come out. Phoebe sniffed the air, but had no interest. I suggested getting some tuna juice, as we referred to the water we drained when opening a can of tuna fish. All the cats liked it. Even Cooper had some on occasion. (Cooper's story will have a blog post all his own.)

I went downstairs and quickly opened a can of tuna, splitting the tuna juice up so each cat could have some. I served JoJo and Cooper then went upstairs with Phoebe's portion. I placed the dish beside me, so Phoebe would have to come all the way out from under the bed. She smelled the tuna juice, her pupils dilated, and she rose gingerly but quickly and made a bee line for the bowl. 

Dr E was glad to see her do that. I mentioned about the swaying and how it had become more pronounced and the missteps that were more frequent over the last few days. She explained that that was the toxins getting the upper hand. The kidneys were shutting down, so the toxins were building up. Left alone, Phoebe would likely have a seizure that would take her. After Phoebe finished the tuna juice, licking the dish clean, she vomited a little. It surprised Dr E and me. While Phoebe had vomited many times over her life, she had never done so with tuna juice. I cleaned it up, and Dr E stroked Phoebe's soft fur. She administered the first shot as I pet Phoebe. The first shot would knock her out. It didn't take long for Phoebe to lie on her side. Then the next shot was administered, the one that ends everything. Within a minute, Dr E listened through her stethoscope. Phoebe was gone. She had a little cat teepee to place her in. As she did that, I opened the window to let her spirit go free. 

I had agreed to have her cremated, so Himself and I could bury her together. It was also easier than digging a hole through the snow. I hadn't gotten around to digging it in the fall before the first flake. 

I carried the teepee down the steps and to Dr. E's car. I thanked her for coming on such short notice. She nodded and said I had called at the right time. That too many people wait too long, but I had not. I told her Phoebe let me know that today was the day. And as she could tell, Phoebe had her human staff well trained.

Dr. E drove away with Phoebe's body. I went back into the house. JoJo wanted to go outside so I let her out. I went upstairs to the bedroom, closed the window, and picked up the empty tuna juice dish. It was two weeks shy of Phoebe's 16th birthday.

I thought over the events of the previous several months and had peace about them. I hadn't taken any heroic measures or allowed any invasive procedures. I didn't force the low protein food after it became apparent that Phoebe wouldn't eat it if it were the last stuff on earth. I chose quality of life over quantity. I pet her every chance I got, and she gave me plenty of opportunities. In her last two weeks, she jumped from floor to counter because there was the extremely rare occurrence of an ice cream dish with some chocolate ice cream in it just calling her name. In her last few minutes of life, she had one of her favourite things on earth, tuna juice. I was grateful she let me know when it was time for her departure, so there was no doubt, and that I could accommodate her request to help her. That I could be with her at the end and go as far as possible to the very edge of the shore of the living as she left it and crossed the bar.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Apple Season Interrupted

 My friend Lisa and I picked a lot of apples. We got together at her place to process some of hers into applesauce, to dry some, and to use the cores and scraps for vinegar. She has several chickens, and we weren't sure if the girls would like some apple scraps. They picked at them a little, but didn't seem all that excited about them.

I made a batch of applesauce and dried some pieces to use for snacks or with oatmeal. I planned on canning some for pies and toyed with the idea of drying some that could be reconstituted for pies. The nice thing about apples is that they can wait a bit for you.

And so it was, that I was thinking about what to do with the bounty this year when B, friends with Himself since they were young lads, suffered a stroke. He has never married, nor has he ever had anyone special so far as we know. He is one of the kindest, gentlest men one could ever meet. He and Himself have always stayed in touch, no matter whether they were in the same neighbourhood or miles apart. 

I volunteered to go down to B's apartment and help out, if needed. I knew there were likely others who would do the same, and all lived closer than we did. B thanked us and declined our offer, exactly because others who were closer had also volunteered. But, they had to juggle work schedules, put in for vacation time, or consider their kids; whereas I had a more open schedule. So, last minute, B called and asked if I'd make the trip down. It was about an hour away from our last location. It wasn't part of our usual stomping grounds, although I had visited a friend there a few times, and had a fife and drum gig not far from there. B had moved there after I had moved to my current location. Himself hadn't yet arrived here, still back at our last location, and the two of them got together often. 

At the end of August, we made a lightning fast trip down there for an in-person appointment and stayed at B's overnight. We were grateful for a place to stay, and whatever pandemic fear may have prevented others from offering, paled in the love of two childhood friends.

So six weeks after that quick trip, I was now driving back with no idea how long I'd need to stay. Some people are natural caregivers. I am not.B's brother picked him up from the hospital and brought him home. B told his brother to leave after a bit, insisting he was all right by himself for a few hours until I arrived.

I arrived about 10:00 p.m. Except for B's left eyelid being a little droopy, he looked no different from six weeks earlier. He was glad to be home, glad that I could come so quickly, as the hospital was not going to release him if he didn't have someone with him for a bit.

Fortunately the stroke did not affect his speech or motor coordination. The brain bleed left him with a headache and affected vision. They gave him meds for his head, a wait and see for the vision problem, and should his headache become unbearable to return to the emergency room.

I made up the couch with sheets and a blanket, talked a bit with B, and we bade goodnight around midnight.

A bit after 4:00 a.m., B let me know his headache had gotten much worse, and the meds didn't seem to be helping. I quickly dressed, and he wanted me to take his car to the ER. I used my phone's mapping app to get there, since I am not super familiar with the area. Between my last fife and drum gig a few towns over year ago and now, there'd been a lot of new construction, and a tornado touched down earlier in the spring. Some of the landmarks I knew were no more or altered. B said I didn't need the phone to get to the ER. He could direct me. B has a stellar sense of direction; I do not. I figured with his pounding headache, which might be simply they needed to tweak his med schedule or as serious as he was having another stroke, I wasn't taking any chances. He wouldn't hear of an ambulance taking him, so drive him I did. Yes, I took his car.

It's the newest car I've ever driven. I felt a tad funny, as I'm not familiar with it, and this felt like an emergency situation where a car I was used to would be welcome. But, I hadn't cleared off my front passenger seat from the long drive, and B's car is smaller than my truck, so it would be easier to park.

Thankfully there was little traffic. We got there without a problem. He had been gone from the hospital for about 12 hours. We remained in the ER all day. They decided to admit him to keep him for observation. Around 7:00 p.m., we were still in the ER, waiting for a room to be vacated. He told me I might as well go since there was nothing else I could do. I had had nothing to eat or drink all day and made my way back to B's apartment. That Thursday felt a million hours long.

I slept a deep sleep and awoke Friday to warm sunshine. B had been working a lot of hours, and like many places, his job was short on help, so he often worked six days to make up the short fall. He was in the process of going through things in his apartment to have a good clearout when the stroke hit, so there remained piles of things that were in mid organization. I couldn't make the decisions for him on what to keep toss, or how to reorganize it, but I decided I could clean the kitchen and bathroom. When I broke my leg and had to stay in the hospital, B had been visiting Himself and me. B stayed with Himself for moral support, and after he left, Himself cleaned the house. It gave him something to do while he worked and waited, and I could also be greeted by a clean place. It helped my spirits immensely, and I was surprised at how much boost it gave me. I could do the same for B.

I stopped at the hospital to see him and see how he was doing. He looked better, he felt better, and I met the most delightful hospital worker named Myron. He delivered the meals, and is one of those people who practically sings as he talks. Very upbeat and caring. He spread healing everywhere he went. B had given me a list of names, and I texted all of them to provide updates. B dozed off and on, and mentioned some food in the fridge that would need to be chucked since it had been in there too long.He had bought it the day before his stroke, and it had been in there over a week. When his dozing turned into a good nap, I wanted to leave. B woke abruptly and told me I probably ought to go. I did, and stopped at a grocery store to get a few things to eat either by myself or with B depending on when they sprung him loose. When I got back to his apartment, I cleaned the bathroom and kitchen, remembering to toss the old food in the fridge. I also went to the leasing office to tell them who I was, in case they wondered about the out-of-state truck that didn't move for a bit. After supper and washing up, I went to bed, wanting to rest up.

B was released on Saturday. They tweaked his med schedule a little, giving him an oral dose of the injection they had given him in hospital that seemed to help with the headache.The good news was no new brain bleeds. The headache would likely remain for six to eight weeks while the body reabsorbed the blood, but ideally, with the tweaked med schedule, it would remain manageable. The vision problem was likely in part due to the brain bleed. How much only time could tell.

I notified everyone via text that B was coming home again and went to pick him up. Myron didn't work Saturdays. The woman who brought in B's late lunch was quietly competent. I missed Myron. B wanted to stop a few places on the way home, so I drove where he told me. He had ordered something that would be available for pick up at the store. It seemed so banal, going to pick it up, but I also understood the strong desire to have things return to normal. That B had made a number of plans before his stroke, such as ordering this item that was now ready for pick up. It seemed so incongruent in light of this Big Event, and yet, to pick up where one left off was an act of getting on with things.

After three stops, because he had wanted to look at things two other places, we returned home. He was tired and wanted to shave. They hadn't given him a razor in the hospital and while I've never seen him without a mustache, he's never had any desire to grow a beard. His lunch had been late enough at the hospital, so he wanted something light for dinner. He  had some soup, I had a salad, and he felt very much better after showering and shaving. Being able to sleep in one's own bed also helps with healing.

A day later, two friends visited him, wanting to see him for themselves. He was glad they visited. The tweaked med schedule worked well. His headache remained manageable. I drove him as needed a few places. We figured the next week would be followup visits. However, he had just one visit with his primary care physician. The other visits were scheduled a few weeks out, which surprised both of us. I would have thought them sooner, but perhaps the second hospital visit had given them the chance to see that some progress was being made and wait and see couldn't be hurried along. A few weeks out might tell more about how much vision would return. 

We talked of his next steps. Waiting and seeing is hard when one is used to doing, to getting up and going, to driving one's self. He wanted to go to his workplace. They welcomed me warmly. He could take off as much time as he needed, and they'd be glad to have him return whenever he was ready. If he needed to be part time for a while, no problem. If he needed a ride there and back, no problem. They'd pick him up and drive him home. They were all glad to see him. If he needed anything, all he had to do was call them, and they'd help.

So it was, I was there a week when B said I didn't need to stay there any longer. He had enough food on hand, no appointments for a bit, and if he needed to get any place, he could have those who were closer drop by. 

I knew he was right, but I still felt as if I were abandoning him. He assured me I was doing nothing of the kind. And so I packed my things and made the long trip home.

Himself was thrilled to have me back. I was glad to be home. Glad to sleep in my own bed, be back on the coast where I could feel the salt in my bones.

The apples were still waiting for me. I've canned another batch of applesauce, dried some for pies, and apple cinnamon leather is in the dehydrator now. The garden will need putting to bed, and I need to repot the plants that are in the window box if I want to keep them over winter. The mundane tasks of a quiet life don't make for great blog fodder, but I realized on the trip down to help a friend that I love my life with its quiet rhythms and keeping with the seasons.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Apple Season Continues

My friend and I picked apples from the two trees in my yard. The ancient one had dropped a good many to the ground, compliments of an earlier than normal ripening and a few storms with high winds. There were also many scrumped by the squirrels methinks, as well as raccoons and skunks because the amount I saw on the ground plus what was left in the tree didn't add up to what I'd seen in the branches not a week before.

The younger tree had kept about half her apples on the branches and some were on the ground. Here, too, many had gone missing. Along with raccoons and skunks, we have deer so I am sure everyone got a chance to eat some. The younger tree is a semidwarf, so I've no doubt the deer could easily reach up and help themselves.

Undeterred, my friend and I picked. She had never used a long-handled apple picker and was keen to try it. She's taller than I am so could reach a few without it but it was nice to be able to reach nearly all the apples on the younger tree without needing to climb a ladder to get them. The ancient tree is standard size so one could climb it were one inclined. Neither of us were, and here again, the long-handled apple picker came in handy. Here's a picture from the internet to show what the basket part looks like. The handle on the one I have is 10 to 12 feet (~3-4 metres).

I gave her more of the younger tree apples as they looked nicer and were probably less wormy than the ones from the ancient tree. I gave her at least 3 gallons/~12 litres worth and maybe a bit more. After she left I went back to the ancient tree and was able to fill up a 5 gallon/~20 litre bucket. So, plenty to go around.

I didn't get to cooking them down for applesauce as quickly as I would have liked. About half of the apples from the ancient tree that were bruised were turning very brown at the bruise spots, so I decided to dehydrate those. I filled a 4 quart/~4 litre pot with the sliced bits I got from them, and they'll be a nice addition to the larder. I like to eat them as snacks or add to oatmeal. I still have half of them left, which should give us a few quarts/litres of applesauce.

My friend told me the apples I gave her rendered 4 quarts/~ 4 litres of applesauce.

 The picture below shows each kind of apples from the trees in my yard. Those on the left are from the younger tree. I am not sure what kind they are, maybe a Cortland. The flesh is a bright white, and they are juicy, a little more sweet than tart, have a clean taste, good for fresh eats, and are not mealy. Those on the right are from the ancient tree. I think they might be Macintosh or a close relative. They look yellow and red in the pic rather than green and red like Macs, but the yellow usually has a green cast to it. They are typically a bit sweet good for fresh eats, dried, as sauce and in pies. They are usually not mealy, although some of them were when I was preparing them for the dehydrator. They may have sat a little too long waiting for me, which may also account for the stronger yellow but will be delicious dehydrated in any case.