Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shit Fuck.

My sister has bile duct cancer.  I've never even heard of it.  Google informs me it is a rare form of liver cancer that usually strikes people over 65 who have risk factors such as ulcerative bowel disease, heavy drinking, or intestinal parasites.  It is slow-growing and does not spread easily.

Well, great.  My sister is 48, has no risk factors, and in her case it has spread absolutely everywhere.  The doctors say there is no treatment.  They will not continue her stroke rehab and will likely transfer her to hospice.  They say she may have a few weeks.  She has been doing so well with her stroke rehab.  On Friday, we thought she might not survive the night.  Saturday, she began improving dramatically.  By Monday, she was laughing out loud, eating soft foods, and using her vast non-verbal communication skills to converse with all of us.  She was getting speech, physical, and occupational therapy every day.  I was so hoping I would get to hear her voice again.

I am so angry right now I can't see straight.  I am angry at this stupid cancer I've never heard of.  I am angry at the doctors who don't want to give her every possible care.  I am angry at life for taking someone who has done so much good in the world and who has so many people--including her 11 year old son--who love and need her.

Shit fuck.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So Wrong

My sister had a stroke yesterday.  She was home with her 11-year-old son when she collapsed on the floor and started making strange noises.  He couldn't get her to talk to him, so he called her partner (his other mom) at work.  My sister has been having stomach pains lately, so her partner figured that's what it was.  When she got home three hours later, my sister was staring blankly into space, unable to speak, and not responding. 

They got her to the ER and found a brain hemorrhage.  Then they did a full-body scan. 

She has tumors in her brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and pancreas.  The doctors believe one of the brain tumors caused the stroke, which they say is "the worst kind of stroke"--whatever that means.  She is paralyzed on her right side, unable to speak, and generally unresponsive.  Although they haven't officially said it's cancer, the doctors are saying they don't believe they can do anything to treat her, and they "don't have a time frame" for how long she will survive.

She's 48.  She's never even been sick.  When I saw her two months ago, she was fine, although she had lost some weight and looked a little tired.  I can't believe this is happening. 

My mom and I are flying out to see her.  It may be the last time, and I don't even know if she'll know we're there.  I have no idea what to do for my mom, or for my nephew, or for my sister-in-law.  I may be gone for a while.  I'll check in when I get back.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eli the bunny got relocated to the garden today.  He has been living in our home office since we got him and is allowed to roam the office during the day.  Unfortunately, he has developed the bad bunny habit of chewing electrical cords (why do they do that?).  A few nights ago, he chewed through a lamp cord and blew a circuit breaker.  He also singed his whiskers and the fur around his mouth, but was otherwise unharmed.  Today we discovered he had eaten the phone cord.  So we moved him outside, where he can hop around the backyard during the day and be safe in his hutch at night, with no electrical cords in reach.

I put him in his cage for an hour to get him used to the idea, then opened the door.  He cautiously poked his head out, then slid out himself...and then promptly turned tail and hopped back into his hutch. 

He seems pretty comfortable and happy, though.

I'm calling it a successful move.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What Is This?

Let's play a game.

What is this?

If you guessed "worm bin," you are correct!  (If you guessed "Yarnhog's latest wild hare" you can also give yourself full credit.)  If, like Kat, you are watching my ongoing dog-and-chicken show with bewilderment, I can assure you I have not gone country, so to speak.  I prefer to think of it all as a great experiment in (sub)urban micro-farming.

 I've tried traditional composting before, but with limited success.  I don't have a lot of space for piles of compost, and I don't have deciduous trees for leaves, nor do I collect my lawn clippings.  Mostly what I have is kitchen scraps, which are generally popular with the local rat population, but haven't resulted in good finished compost.  So I decided to set up a worm bin to compost my kitchen scraps, stop feeding my garbage disposal, and get great fertilizer for my vegetable garden.

I originally planned to buy a worm compost bin, but they are stupidly expensive, so I made my own.  I used three 10-gallon Rubbermaid tubs, but you could use two, or even one.  My design has a closed bottom bin to collect "worm tea" (I think that's a polite term for "worm piss"), and two working bins, so that I can use the worms' natural migration from the lower bin to the upper to harvest the castings with a minimum of actual hand-to-worm contact.  Because while I love the idea of worms, I am less enamored of the actual worms.  Although you can't see them in the picture, I drilled holes in the bottoms of the working bins and all around the top edges.  If you want to make your own bin, there are great instructions here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It's gardening season.

That's part of the reason I haven't been blogging.  Mostly I'm just lazy, but gardening has been taking up a lot of my time and energy.

I usually plant a kitchen garden in the spring.  The past two years that I planted, I lost almost everything to mildew during the ubiquitous May Grey/June Gloom that plagues my otherwise warm and sunny Zone 10 garden.  I was so frustrated after the last debacle that I didn't plant a kitchen garden at all last year.

This year, I decided to try again.  I reclaimed the chicken yard (alas, poor chickens, they went to the coyotes and the dog next door), cleaned it up, and planted it.

I put in a new gravel path to keep it neat, added some beds along the right side, and relocated my little apple tree from a pot by the gate to a new raised planter (made from the broken pieces of an old firepit) at the far end of the garden.  I also put in a dedicated hose and added some solar pathway lights.

My new herbs seem pretty happy along the sunny wall, under the mandarin orange trees (which just provided us with a bumper crop and are absolutely covered in flowers and bees now).

The herbs used to be here, but moving them created space for these blueberry bushes, which are supposed to require minimal chill and be ideal for my climate.  I'm hoping this proves to be true.  The KH loves blueberries, which are currently $6.50 for 8 ounces.

This is one of two large salad beds.  These beds are mostly shady, so my options are limited.  I figure, we can eat as much salad as I can grow.  There are also brussels sprouts and bunching onions growing here, and broccoli and garlic growing in the facing bed with more salad greens.


My apple tree seems particularly happy with its new home.  Look!  Apples:

But not everything is happy.  My tomatoes are suffering from fungus.

Despite being planted in the best soil, with organic fertilizer, careful watering, and daily pampering, I had to remove about half the leaves from this pathetic thing today because they were covered with nasty black spots that my research tells me is "early blight." 

I promised you irony, and here it is:

This tomato has been growing, blooming, and fruiting for two solid years, completely unattended in a corner of my cold, dry, north-facing dog yard.  It gets no attention of any kind, and no water (unless the dogs are "watering" it).  In fact, it wasn't even planted here.  This is where I dumped the tomato cages after my last aborted attempt to keep the kitchen garden alive.  I guess there must have been a seed or two still attached, because this tomato sprouted here, in the gravel, and has been happily growing up the unused cages every spring and summer since.  In winter it goes semi-dormant, then comes back with fresh new growth in the spring and starts putting out tomatoes again.  This will be its third year running, and as you can see, it is well into its spring growth cycle.

Irony.  I haz it.