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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Slowpoke Sloth Ventures Out

Little Miss Abby, a.k.a. Doc McAbby, heard that I went into sloth mode on  the days I have a chemo treatment. She decided  that if Grandma was going to  become a sloth, maybe I should take a sloth with me to "get my medicine." I'm not sure how that is supposed to work, since sloths are somewhat solitary creatures, but maybe in this situation two sloths are better than one.

So Abby brought me a sloth  a week or so ago. He's a very handsome fellow and doesn't seem to mind  being here instead of  living in a tree in the rain forests of Central and South America.
Although  the three-toed sloth, which is what Slowpoke is,  has an official family name of Bradypus, I've named him Slowpoke, because like  his relatives in the trees, he moves verrrry slowly. A sloth moves  only about six to eight feet a minute. The name  Bradypus comes from Greek and means slow feet, so I figure Slowpoke is a very similar word in English. As you can see, Slowpoke has a lovely shiny coat. When  living in the trees he moves so slowly that algae grows on his fur, so he looks green. This is good in a way because  the green lets him  blend in with the leaves so  predators can't see him. He's very vulnerable to attack when he's on the ground because he moves so slowly. His hind legs are very weak so he has to move forward by digging into the ground and dragging his body along. He has a hard time  getting away from larger animals that might attack him-he has to try to defend himself by  biting, and scratching with his claws.  He doesn't come out of the trees very often, though.  For instance, he  comes down from the trees to  use the bathroom but since it takes so long to digest a meal he only needs to relieve himself once a week. He eats mostly  tough leaves that are very hard to digest.  They are so hard to digest that a sloth has a four part stomach to  break down the leaves, and it can take anywhere from  two weeks to a month  for  a sloth to digest a meal. His diet provided very little nutrition or energy, which could be why sloths move so slowly. Slowpoke must still be digesting his last meal because he doesn't seem hungry at all.

Although sloths spend  most of their time in trees and come  down rarely, sometimes  they  drop out of the trees over water to go for a swim.  Sloths may move slowly on the ground but they are strong swimmers and can do a mean breaststroke with their powerful front arms/legs. We don't have a pool and don't live close to the water, so poor Slowpoke won't get  a chance to show me what a good swimmer he is while he's here.

Slowpoke, like all sloths, and some teenagers, likes to sleep a lot, sometimes up to fifteen or twenty hours a day. Needless to say, I had a hard time waking slowpoke up yesterday to go to the clinic with me. But I finally got him up and let him sleep in the big bag that I take with me to treatments. I keep a couple of blankets in the bag because it's very chilly in the  infusion room so Slowpoke  had a nice soft ride in the car and seemed quite contented as you can see, although I think he was a little unnerved to be moving so fast with no effort on his part.
Once we arrived at the clinic and I had  my blood pressure taken and blood drawn for a blood test (Slowpoke had to turn his head away- he doesn't like blood tests at all) we  went to one of the exam rooms. Slowpoke  chose a  red chair to sit in and wait for the  doctor. I thought he looked a little worried that  somebody might try to examine him but I assured him that wasn't going to happen.
After I'd seen the doctor and introduced her to Slowpoke we went across to the infusion room, where Slowpoke settled into one of the big blue recliners, waiting for me to come back from the restroom.
Once I was in the chair, covered with my nice warm blanket and hooked up to my chemo treatment bags and pump on a pole, we settled in together for the  four hour infusion. Needless to say, Slowpoke  fell asleep, and I  kept dozing off myself.
When we were finally unhooked and headed  up to the  waiting room to check on my next appointment and let Mr. G know we were ready to go,  we ran into  my medical oncologist, Dr. Katisha Vance, and my radiation oncologist, Dr. Clint Holladay. Slowpoke said he'd like to have his picture taken with them, and they kindly obliged. I'd love to know what Slowpoke is whispering in Doc Holladay's ear, it must have been funny, though, the way  everybody is laughing.
Once at home, both Slowpoke and I  went to sleep. I woke up and played on facebook for a few minutes, ate and drank something, then went back to sleep off and on all day. In other words, I  entered sloth mode, but this time I had a friend in the same mode.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Strange Lights and Crescent Shadows

We had a partial solar eclipse here yesterday.  For me, the most interesting thing about it was watching the play of light and shadows as the  moon moved to block the sun. As the light began to dim, it seemed to take on an eerie quality; not exactly like  a storm  brewing, or the sun setting, but there seemed to be a glow,  with heightened shadows and  an edge to the colors. I took this photo of a Gulf  fritillary on the deck about ten minutes before the peak. The butterfly had been flitting about back and forth  across the deck seemingly in a confused state, before finally settling on a spot to land.
I think it may have been a spot that Victoria had used  when she  couldn't or wouldn't make it all the way off the deck to relieve herself. Maybe she does it because she knows butterflies love urine for the minerals it provides, but I doubt  Victoria is that altruistic. Anyway,   you can see how  deep the  butterfly's color is in the fading light.

I had decided to  view the eclipse from the front yard, using  the leaves on one of the young oak trees as a filter. I went out  about twenty minutes before the eclipse began to  find  what I thought  might be the best spot, and took a pic  so that I could compare it to  pics  taken  during the  eclipse itself.
What struck me as quite strange is that there was no noise.  Normally   there are  many sounds: birds calling,  crows cawing,  dogs barking, the neighbor's  rooster crowing, cars driving by,  traffic noise from the highway a few blocks away. But it was eerily quiet.Every once in a while there would be a slight breeze that  moved one  of the fallen leaves but it was  almost imperceptible. I had read about  how  the gaps in the leaves act as pinholes during an eclipse, casting an image of the eclipse in each gap in the form of crescent shadows. 
There were crescent shadows all over the ground- it was quite delightful!
It was all over in just a  couple of minutes. The moon moved away from the sun,  the bright sunlight returned, and the rooster began crowing again.  He was probably trying to herd  the  hens back outside while trying to explain to them that he'd made a mistake and it hadn't really been time to roost after all. I'm sure the hens were in shock.  Not  because of the eclipse, but because roosters, much like males of other species, rarely admit to being wrong.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Even Weeds Can Have a Good Side

For the last few days   the bane of my gardening  endeavors  has been  a weed that looks like  a  miniature mimosa tree. It has taken over large areas in the flower, herb and veggie beds to produce  forests of miniature mimosas. Its  official name is  Phyllanthus urinaria,  but  it is more commonly known as chamber bitter, gripeweed, shatterstone, stonebreaker or leafflower. And although the plant looks like a little mimosa, it isn't even in the same family. I can see why  people call it gripeweed; I've been griping about it for days!

Since I don't use herbicides I've been pulling it out by hand- a job made much easier if the ground is wet. We haven't had any rain, or not enough to  soak the ground, for  a few days so pulling without breaking the roots has been  quite a job and I haven't been all that successful. Its  strong root system is the reason it is sometimes  called  stonebreaker or shatterstone. It does have a pretty extensive root system, as you can see here:
According to what I've read, it also has  yellow or white flowers, but I haven't seen any yet. Or maybe I just didn't look at the right time.  What it does have  though, are explosive little seeds- a kazillion of them,  on the underside of its leaves,  so it's a pretty safe bet that for every plant I've pulled there are  hundreds more ready to sprout from all the little seeds that have  dropped.
Because of those little seeds,  it's not a good idea to  put the weeds in your compost pile unless  your compost gets hot enough to kill them.  Mine doesn't, so I bag them up and send them to the dump. I'm not sure how our county dump handles yard waste and whether they  compost it in nice hot, steaming compost piles, but I doubt it. I fully expect to drive past the dump one day and see that it has become a  forest of tiny  fake mimosas.

But, as with so many other things, Phyllanthus urinaria is not all bad (unless it's growing in your flower beds) and I've discovered that it is reported as having many useful properties and has been the subject of several scientific research studies for it's possible effectiveness as an anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic agent in certain cancers. It has been used for hundreds of years  in  the  Far East, where it is native, as a remedy for various liver and kidney ailments. Tea made from the leaves  is sold as an herbal medicine to aid in everything from boosting your immune system to lessening the effects of a hangover. All of which makes me wonder whether I should be  saving the leaves and drying them rather than dumping them. But  then I read that in India  the crushed plant is used as fish poison and I don't really want to poison any fish. I do plan to read more about it, since it  has turned out to be such an  interesting weed. But not interesting enough to let it grow unchecked in the flower beds!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weeding and Mulching

It's been so hot and humid this summer that  I've neglected the garden.  The once pristine (well maybe pristine is pushing it a little 😉) flower beds now resemble a jungle of weeds and grass. This nice little area, for instance looked fairly tame in May.
But now it looks like this:
The iris  and shasta daisy bed looked even worse, so I decided to tackle that first and managed to get  an hour or two of work in yesterday and this morning before the heat and humidity drove me back inside.
I pulled a lot of weeds- some were over knee high.  I filled one trash can and had to start on another.
Mr. G filled up a wheelbarrow with mulch for me so I wouldn't have to haul heavy bags of mulch around and it didn't take very long at all to use most of it up.

There's still a lot of work to do and  it's frustrating  to not be able to work for very long at a time in the heat and humidity, but  it feels good to have made a start.  And I think the butterflies agree. There were several fritillaries  flitting in the zinnias  this morning, and this lovely swallowtail who  kept me company for a while.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Little Moments of Peace and Beauty

In a world  on the edge of chaos, filled with  tragedy, hate and violence, I am grateful for hummingbirds. 

And flowers. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vet Visits and Views From the Kitchen Window

Today was vet visit day for Agatha and Victoria.  They are both caught up on their shots and meds now and are good for another six months.  Agatha had gotten too chubby for her harness so I bought her a new adjustable one  and it came yesterday.  I adjusted it as far as I could but it still had a lot of slack in it when I put it on her this morning. Come to find out she's lost a pound and a half.  Victoria, on the other hand,  must have found what Agatha lost because she'd gained a pound or so.  But the vet said they're both in good shape, all things considered, and both are  all set for the next six months, I hope.  I did tell them they both needed to  find a job so they could help pay their vet bills before they drove me to the poor house. But they are both   too lazy for that, I fear, and prefer to  spend their time lolling about like ladies of leisure.

 Can't resist another garden pic. Several months ago, when the zinnias first came up in the back yard, they came in so thickly that I had to thin them out. I potted them up and asked  our next door neighbor if she'd like to have them. She was delighted, and planted them in  the flower bed in front of her house- which  we can see from our kitchen window. In no time at all they had  grown nice and bushy and covered with blooms. Soon butterflies and even some hummingbirds discovered them and  began visiting, fluttering about all day long. So  all summer, as we've stood at the sink washing  dishes we've had a delightful view of colorful  blooms, birds and butterflies. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bees and Butterflies

Yesterday was chemo treatment day. Four and a half hours of getting pumped full of chemicals.  I  fell asleep on the way home and slept off and on most of the day.  Which is probably why I was wide awake for most of the night and dragging again this morning. So this will be one of those posts I mentioned that is mostly pics from the garden.

The zinnias have been attracting a nice assortment of butterflies and bees.  I tried to capture a shot of a hummingbird moth last week but he was too fast for me, as was the  zebra swallowtail.  But  a  few skippers, a Gulf fritillary,and a black swallowtail were more cooperative. A couple  of the pics are a little fuzzy and don't show these  jewels in their full glory, but. . .

The Gulf fritillary pic is  fuzzy and I couldn't get a good shot of him (or her) with wings fully open.

These two skippers were traveling together.  Where one went the other followed.

This busy bee  had pollen all over his body.  Maybe the weight of all that pollen slowed him down just enough for me to get a pic.😄

This swallowtail  swooped from one flower to another and spent quite a bit of time on each.

The zinnias are getting quite bedraggled by all the rain we've had lately and   may not be attracting   pollinators much longer, but it's been fun to watch for the last  couple of months.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

To Blog or Not To Blog

One of my blogger/writer friends wrote on his blog the other day that he has written a blog post every day for the last  ten years. And that's in addition to books he's written and his regular newspaper column! And here I  was, thinking I did well if I managed to make two blog posts a month! It takes self-discipline to write every day,  especially on days when you have nothing to write about and  your muse has abandoned you. I  lack that self-discipline.  But then again, I don't claim to be a serious writer, much as I like to rattle on sometimes. Then  there's that burning question, "Does anybody read this stuff or am I just writing to --to what? To vent? to  persuade? To share something interesting that happened? Why DO people blog, anyway?

I've noticed that  many of the people whose blogs I once followed regularly now blog  infrequently or no longer blog at all. Maybe  facebook, twitter,  snapchap and other social media sites have replaced blogging. There are still a lot of die-hard, disciplined bloggers out there -- some  blog about causes they believe in, some blog to  help their businesses, some blog about their passions, political and otherwise, and others blog to share some aspects of their lives. There are probably almost as many reasons to blog as there are bloggers.  There are  also quite a few cancer blogs, where people diagnosed with various forms of cancer share  their feelings, treatments, challenges, etc. I've been doing that to some degree, but I don't want to   concentrate on cancer.  It is part of my life now,  as I navigate through various tests, procedures and treatments, but it is  just one part of my life, albeit a fairly large part. So it is part of my blog, too. If  my  experience with cancer can help someone else  facing a similar diagnosis, that's good.

And so I continue to blog-  sometimes  in spurts of entries every day, sometimes with no more than one or two blog posts a month, and sometimes there are stretches of several months where I don't blog at all. But I will try to be more disciplined and post  more often- even if it's just to post a  picture or two from the garden. Which may be what  happens tomorrow, since I'm scheduled for another four and a half hour chemo treatment in the morning and will spend much more time dozing off than typing once I get home..