Category Archives: Compromises

Spinning workshop, and Preparing to move away… March, 2015

Giving things away

Giving things away

I’ve been going through corners in the garage again this morning, combining things, deciding who to give things to.

Fire’s burning this a.m. in a cool rain—cozy. The fire wood is a lot of branches that have fallen in the woods, which I’ve dragged up for Dirk to saw, if they’re too big for me to break up. They make just as much warmth as  real firewood, and it’s free!

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

I had a spinning workshop the first weekend in March, with four students. The two who live near-by are already interested in joining the spinning guild, and one has bought a wheel (my Majacraft Suzie, one of my first and favorite wheels), and the other is shopping for one. It’s so rewarding to teach people to spin, and watch them get into the guild for ongoing inspiration and support in their new craft.

Our move to RI will be in about 1 1/2 months. I realize, as I give things away, that I’m drawing a line between what I used to do, used to be able to do (wallpapering, for example), and deciding which of my friends might use some of these old things. We don’t need to downsize, since the house is a similar size in RI, but I won’t have a garage beside the house to reach out and get things from. All those things have to go somewhere, and much of it will be in the basement, after I give away a good deal more. Going through old pictures, cards and letters—what a lot of people have sent me those over the years. I feel humbled, and wonder if I returned the favor. Twenty-three years of memories from this home I’m packaging in boxes, memories of activities of my now-adult children, of vacations, of a flock of sheep, of shepherd friends, and many years of assisting with shearing, mine and others’. Things I’ve given away, I’d held in my own care, gathering dust, in many cases. I’m feeling lighter knowing others now can use those things, which I had held on to, “just in case.” We’ve been careful and done without all these years, and I’ve watched others older and wiser than me, who had done likewise, and “aged out” at home, which is what we choose to do, also. Irene, who died at 90, was at home until her last month of life, when cancer, which none of her friends knew she had, brought her near-death. Hospice couldn’t help because she lived alone, so she went, briefly, to a horrible nursing home, and for the last 2 weeks, UNC’s cancer hospital, then to a Hospice home. She was comfortable those last 2 weeks, and I don’t think she was aware where she was or who was with her. If God is good, Dirk and I will be able to live in our North Kingstown home for the rest of our lives, also.

Making the home more simple, thanks to giving lots of things away, is a good way to prepare for that life, as we are older, I can’t climb the ladder to put up my own wallpaper now, so I’ll give away the equipment to someone who can do so. Letting go is hard, because I’m confronting my new, gradually increasing, loss of ability to do anything I chose to do. Now, I have to choose what I can do, how much of that I can do, and how much I need to let others do for me. That feels embarrassing, needing to ask for help, when I’ve always been the helper. I feel vulnerable and frightened. Letting go of things, I’m pondering how to let go of that attitude, also.

With that comes the fear that I won’t be able to find anyone to be my helper, and that eventually I won’t be able to afford to pay someone.  Since my income is fixed, and the cost of living constantly rises, in 15 years, I’ll have lost 1/2-3/4 of my income, just by the way the world works.I can’t advance the clock, to know how all this will work out, but I do know I’m moving to a cold place, equipped with lots of wool to make things with, to trade for services rendered, as much as I can. Instead of dollar amounts, I’ll need to put HOUR amounts on what I’ve made, and trade for services.(Wish me luck…) In the meantime, I sit in front of the wood stove, and relax in the warmth, and am thankful I can make things of beauty from my wool and mohair, remembering each sheep with their individual personalities, as I spin their wool.

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First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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Black has died; Vanity Fair has arrived

We just buried Black at the country cemetery where half our flock now resides.

Dirk mowed the lower right quarter yesterday, and it smells like a sweet fresh hay field. Suzie probably went out there early this a.m., and Black, enticed by the fragrance of fresh greens, followed her. Dirk went out around 11 to check on them, and found Black, down, in that field, Black who never left the barn unless we herded him out to shade under cooler trees in this grueling hot weather. We got him on his feet and he took a few steps back toward the barn (he was lying in the sun by then). We got to the brick walk, and he went down again. I called the Paredes family across the street and 3 of them came over to help us lift him and carry him back into the barn using a tarp we’d slipped under him as a hammock. Within an hour or so, he had died. I put a ginger snap in the side of his mouth, and he just ignored it. I dribbled a few drops of water in his mouth and he pulled back, just breathing hard, not aware of much else. I scratched his head, around his ears, scratched him down the sides of his neck which he used to like, and told him what a great sheep he was. He was the lamb who found an azalea bush and ate some, and we nearly lost him at the age of six weeks. A whole day of hourly fluids syringed into his mouth, alternated with Neutradrench, very sweet and loaded with the B-vitamins, stress vitamins sheep need when they’re challenged, and by 4 p.m. he was grazing, and I knew he’d made it.

This time he is at the end of his long life, 13 years–over a hundred in human time. Dirk and I stood by for a while, but there was nothing we could do for him. I even put the fresh leaf from a rose I’d just cut in his mouth, but he didn’t know it was there. We laid him to rest soon after in our little woodland cemetery, where half our flock of sheep now lie.

Suzie, the Romney, now age 15 and spry, the first lamb born here, is baaing, going from one pasture corner to another (Dirk has been mowing stilt grass to allow that) and baaing some more, looking for another sheep. A sheep without other sheep is nothing. They need others like themselves to feel content and secure–not so different than people. Emily the Pyr doesn’t spook her one bit, but she does not qualify for a sheep in Suzie’s world.

Dirk and I have been harvesting ferns, branches, vines, rose leaves, raspberry leaves… all the invasive plants the sheep used to keep under control that are now running wild around the edges of our yard, so they get a bundle of greens every day, and the bicarb sits out there with the mineral salts with garlic & kelp. They prefer the greens to their feed and alfalfa, and they get a couple ginger snaps every evening, a special treat. Black was getting an ASA occasionally, since arthritis was his major problem–that and his 13 years, which I could not do much about but spoil him, which we did.

I had talked with Elaina months ago about a sheep or two she wasn’t going to breed again that she could let us “board” to keep Suzie company when the time came. We drove the 30 miles to church still grieving our loss. After church we drove to Efland to pick up Elaina’s five year-old white Shetland named Vanity Fair. She’s white, with a beautiful soft coat of wool, and she’s wearing a red halter. She’s failed as a breeder three times, so she was going to leave the place one way or another. Elaina lifted her into the car, with newspapers already padding the floor. She dozed between my knees in the back of the Prias all the way home.

Suzie knew we had another sheep here as soon as we opened the car. Even before we walked the Shetland around the car to head for the field, Suzie was making the little bleating sounds a mother sheep makes to a lamb: a  totally unexpected response–she’s never even been bred! She made that little wickering sound I heard Perquita, a special sheep who died at 17,  make when she was in labor, as we walked all the way down the driveway to the barnyard gate, Vanity Fair dancing around as far from us as she could get on her halter and line. Dirk had tied Emily to prevent further drama. They can get together through the gate and become acquainted. We, all four, walked down the hill to the barn. Suddenly Suzie wasn’t so sure she wanted to share her space with a stranger. We put down two feed dishes, there were two hay baskets already down with alfalfa ready to eat. Dirk divided up the green branches he had trimmed and put in a bucket of water earlier in the day, and I put some of the feed for Vanity Fair in both dishes, and some of ours in both. Suzie had been butting Vanity with her head, telling the newcomer her feed was Suzie’s, and Suzie’s feed was also Suzie’s–so the second dish. Now they went back and forth, eating out of both dishes. Dirk took some pictures which I emailed Elaina to let her know Vanity was safely installed in our barn.  Suzie at last check was lying down in a corner of the barn, and Vanity was near the gate, wondering if she could go home now. She’s accustomed to a flock of 20 or so, and she feels the solitude, also. Kelly, another friend, also has an older sheep to let us “board” as long as Suzie lives, so she won’t be alone, and then we can bring them back to their old homes. In an emergency situation, good friends are the best medicine ever.

Black was very arthritic, but other than that had never seen a vet, and didn’t have any other health problems–except 13 years. He was so sweet and gentle that when future spinners came for a weekend, I could always walk up to him for students to scratch around his ears and look at his beautiful soft, crimpy fleece. We’ll both really miss him, but are also glad he won’t suffer any longer with those arthritic joints.

Now maybe we can graze our sheep in the yard again. They were only up once last year, and about once or twice the year before that. Deborah and Black both were arthritic, and couldn’t get around very well.

Now the pasture is lively. Suzie loves to graze, and is out in the pasture most of the day now with Vanity around somewhere in the same quarter. Each of them is content knowing the other is there.

I feel comfortable that all’s well with a new population in the barn. I feel guilty that just losing Black, I’m also relieved to have a young sheep here again, like Black was once, to run around the pasture. I feel heavy with grief, and then I’m chuckling with joy, all in the same day. I’ll go to bed early this night.

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Washing wool in the NC springtime

3/30/12

Today is so beautiful outside. I’ve spent two or three hours each day this week working through wool “seconds” from shearing, so the mediocre wool, that takes a long time to process, can be used for lovely yarn. Neck wool falls into this category, and it’s the softest, finest wool on the sheep. Trouble is, as sheep eat, they take a bite of hay, pull their head up and turn their head to see whether another sheep may have a better selection of hay next to them, and sift bits of chaff down on the heads of the animals on both sides of them. I have coats on the sheep beginning the end of the summer when their wool is long enough for the hay to stick, so the wool in their backs and necks are somewhat protected, but living in a barn is a messy business… Working over this dirty fleece involves carding the tips of the locks to remove hay and second cuts, the bits only around 1/4” long which the shearer occasionally makes when he smooths off the side of the previous clip. Grass and hay have to come out, or the wool will be itchy. And then I drop the locks in a bowl of warm water, solar heated, with a good amount of cheap and fragrant shampoo. Washed wool needs not to smell like wool, or moths will want to nest in it. The soap melts the lanolin and dirt off the wool, so I can process it inside the house with enjoyment when it dries. Lanolin needs to be removed within a year of shearing or it will turn to something like chewing gum and be impossible to soak off. Since tree blossoms are now raining down, I leave the fleece outside for a few hours, then bring it in to finish drying inside, so it won’t accumulate any more pollen and debris than necessary. I have several old window screens that do just fine for wool drying racks. Another blessing of this work is that my skin is soft and pliable after this immersion in lanolin. There’s good reason for this element to be included in the best hand lotions, especially for nursing mothers, and the feet of diabetics.

While I stand there working over the wool, I listen to podcasts from my favorite NPR channels, “State of Things,” “Diane Rehm,” or “The Story.” I watch red-breasted woodpeckers hang from the side of a feeder heaped with “chickadee seed,” loaded with nuts, and enjoy breakfast. Cardinals come after sunflower seeds, and very small chipping sparrows like the thistle seed and millet best. Titmouses and chicadees seem to feast on anything on the buffet line. Parasitic cowbirds have arrived, and I wish I could dispense with them, but I don’t have a gun. They lay eggs in the nests of other birds, and their large and aggressive babies toss songbird infants out of the nest to die. If anyone wants to come over and trap them somehow, you’re welcome. They must be good for something. If they stayed in the pasture and ate flies, I wouldn’t mind as much, but I certainly hate to think of paying for their breakfast.

In flower are azelias, dogwood, holly (white flowers, the bush seems to move with all the tiny insects hovering over these sweet blooms), wonderful fragrant southern lilac, (see picture of syringa with tiger swallowtail butterfly) and plenty of pine, the tips of their branches fluorescent yellow with pollen. Thanks to this abundance of spring and surge of life in all the trees and grasses, I’m taking several different allergy preparations, and need to wear a mask outside, and wheeze when I come back in–the price of enjoying my environment. Temperature has been reaching the mid-80’s during the day, so I try to finish by lunchtime with outside work. As the summer progresses, that time becomes much earlier, usually in mid-summer I will return to the house by 9 a.m.–too hot and humid for me out there.

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Licorice and Maeve come to an agreement, finally!

3/30/12

In an act of feline diplomacy, Licorice, my eight year-old black cat, who has lived most of the past five months

in the rafters in the garage, or on top of the six-foot tall bookcases in the bedroom, has subdued Maeve, our adopted Aussie. This morning while Maeve cowered on the rug, Licorice confidently groomed herself on the edge of the bed where they could both observe each other out of the corners of their eyes. Licorice sometimes stands on the foot of the bed intermittently spitting and yowling,  her tail and back raised, and each of her short, black hairs standing fully raised also, looking intensely forbidding. Maeve looks at her, and immediately her perky ears lie flat and she drops to the floor, looking cautiously at Licorice with her face averted. I get the message that sometime, somewhere, Maeve and Licorice have come closer than bed and floor, and that Maeve knows what’s behind that yowl and raised back. I feel so relieved and content, now that they’ve obviously begun to make their “arrangements” for some sort of cohabitation. Here’s a picture of the two of them in one of their diplomatic discussions.

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Pit Bull Attack

Feb. 20, 2012

Dirk and I set out down the road with Maeve, our Aussie, on a leash, me with my cane, for our daily walk. I crossed the street to put a neighbor’s (call her “A.M.”) hat in her mailbox. A.M. had fed our sheep one day last week and had left it behind. At the same time, another neighbor (call him “C.T.”) opened his door to let his dogs out, not knowing I was standing by the mailbox. I stopped and reached out to scratch the ears of the C.T.’s Aussie who bounded to meet me. Suddenly I experienced severe pain and a shove from behind my good knee. I screamed and whirled around to see what hit me, my cane in hand, and a neighbor’s (call him “B.C.”) brindle put bull backed off, then turned and ran down to her house, two driveways away. Blood ran down my leg filling my shoe and puddling on the ground. Dirk was across the street in rush hour traffic, unable to do anything but yell “Watch Out!”, but I couldn’t hear that with all the cars going by. When he could get across the street I was bending over, compressing the wounds with my hand. He pulled out his handkerchief and I put that against the skin, and held on tight. There were 3 deep cuts on the inner side of my good knee, the opposite leg from the hip operation. I waited, bent over pressing hard on the “bandage,” while he got the car, some paper towels, duct tape to compress it, and a bottle of peroxide, and we drove to a local urgent care. I called the B.C. to let him know what his dog had done, and learned that she was up on her rabies shots, at least. He said he’d surrender the dog.

I’m taking a heavy antibiotic, lots of “live” yogurt for my rumbling tummy, and praying my 2 mo. old hip replacement will not get infected from these three puncture wounds. Since they bled a great deal, the wounds had a good rinse immediately… The ice on the leg actually helps with pain so I don’t have to take pills for it now, although I did last night. Wish me the best…

Three weeks later… The pit bull was put down after 10 days with no sign of rabies. I feel so conflicted. I still am in pain from the deep bite wounds, the grapefruit-sized hematoma is going down gradually, is now the size of an orange, hot and painful. Went to my regular doctor to have the wound checked, they ordered a sonogram, which shows no abscess, fortunately. I feel sad that the B.C.’s pet had to be put down. I feel frustrated with this additional “hit” to my mobility. It’s set me back two more weeks. I’m frustrated with B.C. who doesn’t believe in his responsibility to keep his dog on his own several acres. As a contractor, he could have a fence up in a couple days, with an electric opener, but all these years, always with an aggressive dog, he’s never built the fence. This is his second dog to be picked up by Animal Control for biting someone. The last time, 2 years ago, it was one of the hundreds of bikers who ride this country road. There are small children in this neighborhood, and I tremble to think what that dog would have done to one of them.

A few years ago, his previous pit bull seriously injured my dog when A.M. was taking care of her while we were away. This pit bull also fought with  A.M.’s dog and injured her severely enough to have her to the vet, also. B.C. took no responsibility for the vet bills either time. C.T.‘s wife is afraid to come out of her house when she sees that dog in her yard. No one wanted to report the good neighbor to Animal Control, so I got bitten.

March 15, 2012

Another neighbor, (“B.D.”), called my husband to ask what that dog was doing roaming the neighborhood again when she thought Animal Control had put it down. Three days later, I also saw it–well, a twin to the one that had bitten me–in B.D.’s yard across the street, where there are small children. B.C.’s grandson had had this dog in an apartment complex that changed the rules and said no pit bulls were allowed, so he passed that one on to his grandfather within two weeks of my attack. B.C. also let this dog run, as he had the previous pit bull.

I called Animal Control, to ask what to do in this situation.Our instructions: take a picture with time/date on it each time we see that dog anywhere not in its own driveway, call the sheriff, and a citation will be delivered. Animal Control called B.C. to let him know this was going to be the procedure. So far, so good. I have not seen the dog out there again. He’s free to have the dog, and I’m free to walk a public road without fear of attack by it.

When we first moved out to the country, the road beyond our house was not paved for three miles, protecting us from through traffic, and we could let our dogs out to roam without offending anyone. But no one had a pit bull. Times have changed, and in 22 years, now the roads are paved, the speed limit in front of our house has been posted as 45 MPH, down from the previous 55 MPH (not that it’s enforced–it isn’t) and huge log trucks, cement mixers, tractor trailers, fire trucks, tank trucks and rush hour traffic rumble by at high speeds taking a short-cut from Holly Springs to US 1. Anyone with a dog they care for keeps it in their yard. We have mesh electric sheep fencing all around the yard to keep our dog in, and the pit bull out. Sometimes we bring our Aussie to play with other dogs in the neighborhood, in their yards, not in the road. I like to have our neighbors as friends, and B.C. has helped us countless times with construction of useful things at home, like the ramp for Dirk, coming home from the hospital with his broken hip. Overnight the ramp materialized so he could use it to get in the house.

B.C. has offered to pay any medical bills left over after insurance, and I’ll accept that. But each time I talk with him I’ll ask whether he has his fence up yet. His house is on a flag lot, far from the road, but his unrestrained dog does not know to remain there.

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Hip replaced again–not metal; recovery–reading, gardening, patience…..


Feb. 19, 2012

I haven’t written in the blog for a while as I recover from major surgery. My metal-on-metal hip replacement had caused “metallosis” in my joint, similar to the lungs of metal-workers not wearing masks. The balloon of fluid  grew to obstruct circulation to one leg, which swelled progressively over 2 months. An ER visit eventually pin-pointed the problem (two of my regular doctors were consulted first–no clue). So back in mid-December I had the metal parts removed, and now have ceramic and plastic, which seems to be the “standard issue.” Turns out Johnson & Johnson have been aggressively marketing this DePuys hip in this country, since it’s been removed from the market in countries where they keep a nationwide database on implanted medical devices. With all we pay in this country, we keep no national statistics like this. After the surgery, I had time to skim Google, and in no time found two meta-analyses of data on this type of hip from Switzerland and the UK, both of which do keep nationwide records. They provide insurance for everyone there, so it benefits citizens, as well as their country’s economy, to keep people well. In this country, be contrast, profit is everything. Since medical device companies can now provide lobby money (bribes) to not only law-makers, but also our Supreme Court justices, citizens in this country receive care that would not be tolerated in nations who provide insurance for all. Am I angry? You bet. Had I happened to be living in Canada, for example, where they also have insurance for everyone, and keep nationwide records, I would not have had this type of hip replacement since they’d had considerable trouble with it, and had stopped using it the year before mine was inserted, here. About 15% or more metal-on-metal hips need to be removed in less than 5 years. Now, why didn’t my doctor at Duke know about this from the conferences he must have attended each year? Data goes back at least 15 years documenting  the serum collection in the hip causing the muscles to be pushed out of place and thinned as they stretch around 2 pints or so of liquid that doesn’t belong there. In my case there was also the development of granulomas around each nano-sized piece of metal, destroying both muscle and bone.  My blood stream sports cobalt and chromium levels hundreds of times higher than normal, which is nearly zero, and no one knows the long-term effects of this. I wore a brace for 2 months, and will be on hip precautions for the rest of my life. I’m walking with a cane nearly 3 months after the surgery and still taking a small amount of pain medication. That’s why I haven’t added to the blog.

I haven’t been able to do very much but read, walk, and knit. I’ve watched my gardens grow up in weeds, the crocuses fighting for light. I’ve developed some long-handled tools, since I can’t bend over. The first was a steak knife duct-taped to an old broom handle, with which I could saw off the tap root on weeds after I’d loosened the dirt around them with a 4-pronged cultivator on a long handle. It took 2 weeks to fill a cat litter plastic can with those small weeds–extremely frustrating, and painful after only 20-30 min. because of the torque I was giving back and hip. The doctor refused to order PT at first because he was afraid even gentle exercise would dislocate the hip. I begged for PT and OT after 5 weeks, and finally he allowed it. They came to the house for only 2 visits each, since I had a visit with the doctor the following week, and he ordered the brace off, and said I could flex the hip slightly more, up to 70º so that I could drive, sort of, still leaning far back, and sitting on a high cushion. To my dismay, I learned that I had been doing far more than either of them advised with the restrictions he’d placed. Since I had not been allowed PT/OT, I had no way to know that, and tried to moderate my gardening within the “don’t bend, don’t sit” rule. Turns out the one I wasn’t aware of was, “don’t twist!” After doing the prescribed walking, and seeing all my gardens neglected, I decided if I could walk I could use a rake and cultivator, so set to work, a little at a time, to do enough work that I wasn’t leaning over the railing on the deck and sobbing in frustration. I didn’t want to disturb my husband, who works from home. When he thinks I need something, he’s right there, and I couldn’t have him sacrificing his work for my flower gardens. He’s been very supportive, but after 2 months of this dependency, I really do feel like a burden. My feeling, not his.

The the 5-pound “spica brace” I wore for 2 months, 24/7, including having to put it right back on, soaking wet, it after I’d washed it in the shower. It does not come apart–no spare parts to wash and wear. It takes more than 9 hours to dry, whether on a sunny day when I spent most of the afternoon outside, or a cold day, when I turned round and round in front of the wood stove, changing towels under the wet brace about every 15-30 minutes, blotting it somewhat from the inside. By bedtime it was still damp. I found not a single experienced person to tell me how to wash the brace–the sales person suggested spraying it with lysol or covering the smell with scented powder. I also have asthma, so neither of those would have worked. After the brace started smelling like an unwashed street person, those remedies would not have removed the emanations. The only time for two months that I went out was to doctors’ appointments. I wore some elegant muu-muus given to me by an elderly friend some years ago. She’s now gone, but I thanked her every day for those gowns to cover the brace. Clothes of any sort were out.

I’ve been so distracted with struggling with daily activities and pain that I haven’t even written anything since the surgery. I had started working on a story for the Creative Nonfiction Journal 6 months ago, which I continued working on and submitted that a month after the surgery, well before deadline, but I haven’t been able to free my mind from these daily struggles to create. Maybe this blog entry will be the key to open my mind to the world of words again.

I’ve done lots of reading, however. I’ve started going along the shelves of my own library here, beginning with some very old books that were my mother’s, and just getting lost in another world. I’m now nearly done with Gene Stratton Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost,” an early environmental critique about saving swamps and wildlife from farming and oil wells, with excellent character development. Taylor Caldwell’s “Tender Victory,” 3 books about the Trapp Family Singers, including the last one, “Maria,” a memoir by–yes, Maria von Trapp. That was a positive experience, as she, the elder mother, reflected on mistakes she’d made over the years, and decisions she’d made to continue a productive life when the children grew up and moved on, and the singing group dissolved. Frank Slaughter’s “Daybreak” was sad, about psychiatric care in the ’50’s, methods, successes and failures–and a final positive ending to bring it together on a positive note. “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert is a Holly Springs Library book club reading this month. This topic reminded me of readings in the last 2 Trapp books, when they’d visited this former prison island of leprosy patients in Hawaii, the book covering 80 of the 100 years before sulfa drugs came along to cure leprosy. Still piled beside the bed are a Pearl Buck story about her father, “Fighting Angel,” Elizabeth Gouge’s “Green Dolphin Streeet,” and “Intern,” by Dr. X. And when I’ve completed that stack of old friends, Sue Grafton’s latest, “V is for Vengeance” awaits (a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law), as well as the book my daughter in CT sent me at Christmas, which I’m enjoying a little at a time, Michelle Edwards’ “A Knitter’s Home Companion.” So if I’m not writing, I really am reading.

Also I’m knitting. I figure if I have to tote a high-density foam pillow wherever I go because I can’t sit on a “regular” chair (remember–only 70 degree flexion–not the 90 degrees I’d have to do in a chair–the risk of dislocation of the new hip is high because of the damaged muscle the doc needed to remove, and the remaining muscle stretched to ribbons around the large sack of water in the joint–so no flexion…) I made the pillow case a pretty one–knitted a round lace doily from the Austrian lace pattern book a friend gave me when we were in Styer some years back, the graph pattern translated by a German knitter in our H. S. knitting group. I’ve knitted 2 pr. of socks in lace for myself, knitted wool roving slippers for a friend, a scarf for a niece, Christmas bell ornaments for my own “steel magnolias,” friends who have been strong and resilient helping me recover. I’m working on my 8th hat for the New Hill knitting charity project, have completed two more baby sweaters for friends at church, one in my own wool, in case one of the families wants to be more “natural” than acrylic “throw-it-in-the-washer” sweaters.

I hope I’ll be able to spin before long–I do miss that “therapy” of repetitive motion, and the soft fiber flowing through my fingers into yarn. I’m very glad I had a great deal of yarn spun before this surgery so I could entertain myself as I recover. Shearing is coming along in about 2 weeks, and I’d like to have a workshop on that weekend, if I can be on my feet enough to manage. We’ll see…

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