Aside

garb(e) \ gärb\ noun  1. obsolete: fashion, manner  2. a: a style of apparel  b: outward form : appearance

Origin:  Middle French or Old Italian; Middle French garbe graceful contour, grace, from Old Italian garbo grace.

First use: 1599

garb transitive verb: to cover with or as if with clothing  First use: 1846

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YDMV ( Your diabetes may vary)

It has been a whirlwind two and a half years since my diabetes diagnosis in late January of 2016. I am daily grateful for the path I’ve taken to this point; my penchant for research and my ability to embrace  change have helped me to negotiate this uneven terrain where I find myself.

My story to diagnosis is fairly typical: decreasing energy to the point of overwhelming inertia, increased urination, constant thirst, unexplained and lingering infections and weight loss. What is less typical is that usually this diagnosis comes in childhood, adolescence or into young adulthood. Called Type 1 these days, we now understand that it is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks beta cells on the pancreas thus eliminating insulin production. Again, atypically, my onset was rapid; within a month I had lost 20 pounds and could barely drag myself around. Most adults who contract diabetes have a slower path and are frequently mis-diagnosed as Type 2 based on the age factor.

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My  penchant for research helped to reach an early accurate diagnosis. My primary care dude (PCD) prescribed Metformin for insulin resistance and ordered more blood tests. I asked him to also order two additional tests to determine that I was Type 1, not an anomalous Type 2 as was suggested so that I would get what I needed (insulin) quickly. I downloaded Think Like a Pancreas by Gary Scheiner, ordered a hard copy of Using Insulin by Walsh, Roberts, Varma & Bailey and found a reasonably priced blood glucose monitor and test strips on Amazon since when I went to the pharmacy to pick up the Metformin I discovered that tests strips there were inordinately expensive.

A week later I was too weak to drive myself seven miles to the clinic.  My PCD gave me a sample of Levemir in pen form, showed me how to administer it, advised me to check my fasting BG and start with 8 units before bed, increasing every three days until my fasting BG was ≤ 150 mg/dl. He admonished me to ‘watch my carbs’ and off I went. I immediately felt better with the first shot of insulin but a week later I called my PCD  to say that I needed a fast acting insulin as a bolus to take with meals. I got my fasting BG under 150 but through the day my blood glucose levels would climb with every meal. He gave me a sample of novolog and said to take 2 units before each meal, not an accurate starting point as it happens.

Meanwhile I was quickly learning about carb factors, insulin to carb ratios, correction factors and realized I could use some expert help figuring out my dosage. A month after starting with insulin I finally met with an endocrinologist who asked  what my total daily dose (TDD) was, my insulin to carb ratio (I had it figured at the time to 1:12) and how I was correcting for highs and lows. Amazingly, I had answers to those questions and the visit helped me to refine my daily regimen.

From the beginning with this diabetes dance I have endeavoured to keep records of everything. I found an app that I (literally!) cannot live without, MyNet DiaryD, that allows me to track BG readings, insulin doses, meals, and exercise. I check my BG 8+ times a day depending on how I feel and my activity, starting with when I wake. The app helps me to figure carbs so that I can decide what amount of insulin to take with my meals.MyNetDiary Diabetes Tracker is the best iPhone diet app plus easy and comprehensive diabetes tracking.

 

Early on the recommendation was 45-50 carbs per meal, 15 carbs for snacks with a range around 150-160 carbs per day. I started out with the idea that other than limiting high glycemic foods I could eat what I wanted as long as I covered the carbs with enough insulin. Now I am a proponent of  the Laws of Small Numbers theory and take to heart YDMV, Your Diabetes May Vary because it will not only vary from others but from my own results on previous days. Insulin absorption can vary as much as 50% from day to day so I limit my total daily carbs to around 70 and try to keep meal totals to under 30. I eat two meals a day and snack only to adjust my glucose levels.

Since January I am gluten free and mostly grain free. A a result of eliminating grain and cutting carbs my time in range is 70-80%, contrast to my early months when I was 40-60% ( mostly on the low side of that range).  Time in Range (TIR) is a better measure of glucose control and being in the zone, 70-120mg/dl feels the best. I have energy and can think clearly, although that might also be from being gluten-free.

So when I want to express gratitude for something I can always fall back on aspects of my Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. I got it in my 60’s, not in my teens as most do. Insulins are way better than they were when I was a teenager and checking BG readings is as easy as a finger stick as often as I need to keep track. The online community is vast and awesome. My new fave site is diaTribe.org, recently discovered via a forum reference. Adam Brown’s book Bright Spots and Landmines reinforces what I have learned in the last two years and has helped me to realize that my BG readings are not tests that I pass or fail but reference numbers that help me adjust insulin doses or meals or activities.

On the change front, I always bring snacks and smarties (my go-to for correction of hypos) wherever I go and have paraphernalia to lug around as well, BG meter, syringes, insulin, Frio© wallets and needle nippers since now I am producing bio-waste daily. I need more sleep and now I get sick easily and for longer and that affects my BG. But on the plus side of that I am required to pay attention. There is no autopilot, no forgetting with diabetes which makes living immediate and present and ultimately down to me. How cool is that?

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Murphy’s Law ( be vigilant protecting those you love)

 Eleven plus years ago I became  the human charge of Murphy, Great Pyrenees Cross, Captain of the Palace Guard, Ever Vigilant, Scourge of the Forest, my faithful guard dog. Just ten months old at the time, he was unruly and stubbornly independent as all Pyrs are but with consistent rules, lots of affection and exercise as well as allowing for his basic nature as a guard dog he became a fabulous and integral part of our household and the neighbourhood.

Yesterday, 17 March, St. Patrick’s Day, we, Ann and I, eased his way to The Undiscovered Country after a week of physical downturn made more difficult by the most recent heavy snowstorm and cold weather. He had been in good shape for a twelve year old Pyr, leaping over logs and running through the woods as recently as a week ago. The woods seem empty without him and are definitely quieter without his patrolling and on-guard bark designed to keep the denizens of the woods at bay. Now comes the hard part of figuring out my days without my big quiet bear of a dog to consider. 

Who is going to make me laugh every day? How do I arrange my days now that I do not have my ever-present quiet buddy reminding me how much fun it is to check out the spooky forest around us?

A day in our life would begin like this: I am reluctant to get out of my warm bed in my cold, loft-like room and Murphy, polite and kind dog that he is, doesn’t bug me until I actually sit up even though he is listening for that moment.  He stands up and comes over to push his head into me and we have a morning greeting, I massage his shoulders and neck and he pushes all of his 95 pounds into me. He smells really good for a dog, a Pyrenees trait to better blend with the sheep they guard.

I get dressed and go downstairs to light the stove and he will either move to the top of the stairs to wait until I am ready to go out or he will come down and go out to wait for me and our first walk of the day. I don appropriate garb for the walk up the hill and away we go. I used to go down the road with him on leash for the first walk  but I like heading up into the woods better because we both get a better workout and it is faster because there is less stopping for the pee-mail checks. 

We start together but Murphy ranges farther than my loop trail (unless there is a lot of new snow and then he lets me break trail with my snowshoes) but we meet up at various points on the loop. If we go early enough we see deer or turkeys and in the new snow, tracks of porcupine, raccoon, coyote, fox and other residents of the forest. 

At some point on the loop before it intersects with the trail back down ( I call it The Narnia Intersection because my neighbour’s trail arrives at that point as well, making a sort of crossroads. There really ought to be a lamp post just there) he meets me or catches up to me and I have treats for him. We stop and look down the hill through the trees. The trail makes a sharp turn beside some small balsam trees and I head for the Narnia Intersection and down and Murphy takes the high road just below the ridge of the hill. On the way down I stop to see if I can see him as he parallels me. He blends really well no matter the season. Mostly he times his progress so that he arrives in our dooryard exactly when I do.

Late afternoon waiting on the second walk of the day

At that point he takes up a guard position for the  day. When I am in my lair at the back of the garage he is beside the driveway within sight of my door and earshot when it opens or in the woods just outside my door. When I go in to the house to make my breakfast he moves to a position in front of the house or sometimes he comes in for a bite but then goes out immediately because he has a job to do, to be on guard.

On top of the snow pile gives a better view of the road

He has several vantage points beside the driveway and in front of the house and sometimes on the hill behind, but wherever he is, he is always watching down the hill towards the road and the possibility of strangers. He knows all the vehicles of everyone who lives beyond us. The town serviced part of our road ends at the next house but the road continues narrowly through the woods for four other places that are off-grid. When a strange vehicle drives by on the road below he gives a bark of warning. When someone comes up the drive his bark varies depending on whether it is someone we know or a stranger. As soon as I come out to see he sits by my side quietly, ready to assist as needed. I did not train him to do so.

Summer bunker beside the driveway

In summer he has bunkers he digs out beside the drive so he is cool and somewhat hidden. However comfortable he may appear, Murphy is ever vigilant. When he perceives someone or other who does not belong he will bark in a way that sounds like he is about to go into attack mode, but every time I go to the rescue he is invariably lying comfortably with his paws crossed using the least effort for the most gain.

When I work in the yard stacking wood or other chores he positions himself near where I am facing the direction of possible danger. If I am away working on the road he follows Ann around as she works in the garden and protects her in the same manner. Sometimes I join him but he is not to be distracted from his primary focus, that of guarding his peeps. 

Sometime around noon Murphy starts expecting his second walk of the day. I like to walk as late as possible so that it segues into tying him for the night and is closer to the evening meal for him but he is there to remind me all afternoon if it goes too long. Oddly he could take himself up into the woods whenever he choses but he wants to patrol with me even though we are rarely together in the woods. He ALWAYS knows where I am and I am frequently surprised when I am looking back up the trail for him only to turn and see him standing down the trail looking at me quietly to see when I notice him. At that point he runs madly at me and then dizzyingly around in circles making sharp quarter horse-like turns to fetch up beside me panting and grinning.

He does not usually want to eat right away but I know when he does because he brings himself to the leading edge of my sidewalk to bark so that I come out and ask if he wants food and he indicates yes. We go in the house and he waits patiently for me to prepare his meal which is a raw diet of ground chicken and bone mixed with liver, raw egg and grated carrot, zucchini and apple. I drizzle salmon oil on it and put about half a pound of this mixture in his bowl. If he wants more he walks around the table to the pantry and I dish out a second helping. He continues that until he has had enough and then he goes to the door wanting to get back on the job. Great Pyrenees are especially nighttime guard dogs and will bark all night long, ruff ruff ruff, pause, ruff ruff, repeat. It alerts all potential ne’er do wells that they should avoid our neck of the woods. I allow him to bark for a few hours and then I come out to tell him it is time for silent mode so the neighbours can get some sleep. In the summer he wants to stay out all night so he does his best to be quiet. I give him two warnings and if he can not be quiet I bring him inside for the rest of the night. In the winter I always bring him in and he parks himself on the rug at my feet and moves upstairs when I go to bed.

That has been our routine daily for eleven years. Now the day, the yard, the woods feel empty without his energetic presence. Parts of my life will be less complicated with Murphy gone but I don’t relish that. I won’t have to make sure Ann is ok to walk him twice a day when I go on the road and traveling to visit my closer friends and family by road will be easier but he will be missed by many.

He happily came along on road trips to Martha’s Vineyard to visit my bro, New Brunswick (Canada) to see my cousins in Bonney River, The Northeast Kingdom in Vermont to visit my long time friend, and near Kingston Ontario where we lived part time for a while with friends and their two dogs. We kept up the same daily schedule in those places substituting beaches on The Vineyard, shore walks and woods in New Brunswick and woods and beside Lake Ontario with his buddies for our usual forays. 

South Beach, Martha’s Vineyard. Murphy’s first trip.

New River Beach on the Bay of Fundy, NB

Murphy ahead of me on the trail at New River Beach, NB

Murphy and Iggy Delicious at Sand Banks Provincial Park, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Waiting for the Chappy ferry in Edgartown with my brother in June 2010

Boxing Day on Lucy Vincent Beach, Martha’s Vineyard 2012

He never spent a night away from home or away from me until Friday, 16 March 2018 when he had become weakened from not eating or drinking and was unable to effectively empty his bladder. We had been to his vet on Monday as soon as he started exhibiting symptoms and was started on a course of antibiotics and special food thinking it might be a UTI or stones or crystals in his urine. I even raced a meager urine sample back to the vet on Tuesday before our big nor’easter snowstorm started.

We continued to walk a couple of times a day down the road

The morning walk, Wednesday, 14 March, the tail end of the storm

and on Thursday he even took himself down the road unbeknownst to Ann as she walked to the start of the road to get the paper, only noticing him when she turned to walk back. So on Friday I carefully drove him to Midcoast Animal Emergency Clinic in Warren arriving when they opened at 1730 to get x-rays and ultrasound to see if we could find a reason and help him. 

I stayed for several hours and left him in the caring hands of the vets and assistants there who gave him fluids and emptied his bladder and gave him pain meds. In the morning when I called he had eaten and taken his meds and treats easily and was much more comfortable. Twenty minutes later the vet called me to say that with the morning ultrasound, easier to do with him being more comfortable, they had found that one of his kidneys was entirely a mass of some kind with a tendril coming off it and floating fluid-filled cysts in his intestines and something preventing them from inserting a stable catheter and stopping him from being able to eliminate his bladder on his own.

I made the painful decision for euthanasia reasoning that any further procedures would not be tolerated well by Murphy at his relatively advanced age and I did not want to subject him to more getting in and out of my truck and drives to vets. 

Ann and I arrived at midday and I settled the bill first. He heard us right away and was whining and barking for me. We were escorted with Murphy to a private room where we did the morning greeting, smelling, leaning, pushing together and generally re-establishing that we were each ok. He was so much better than the day before. With the added fluids, pain meds and empty bladder he was energetic and after about fifteen minutes of hanging out he started to indicate by moving to the door that we ought to get out of there. I did not want him to become anxious the longer we stayed so I had Ann call the vet assistants in to begin the process by injecting him with anesthesia.

He walked around the room and came to us for love and I spoke to him telling him what a good job he’d always done as our guard and when he was starting to totter a bit I talked him into lying down beside me and I leaned over him kneading his neck and shoulders and continuing a constant patter in my hypno-voice telling him he was my shining star and that he had nothing to do right now but relax, he was the best dog in all the land and was my fabulous and most excellent companion. Ann was rubbing his hips and I talked him right under and continued to talk in his ear as the vet came in and gave him the lethal dose.

I spoke and praised and worked his neck and shoulders leaning over him as I told him how much he had been loved and appreciated for all his vigilance on our behalf until the vet said that his heart had stopped and still I talked to him and told him it was ok to let go and we were so grateful for all he had done for us and then he was gone.

I stayed kneeling on the floor beside him with my face buried in his neck ruff for a couple of minutes until the unique smell that was Murphy began to fade and I knew he was really gone from that beautiful vehicle that he had inhabited for just over twelve years.

Pyrs are difficult, almost always alphas, thinking they know best and are slow or reluctant to follow the commands other dogs obey like marines because why on earth would they sit, come, stay, down when they know what they are doing and have to be ever vigilant? And yet if you can allow for that stubbornness and the suspicion of everyone who is unknown, they are loving and loyal and protective and quiet (indoors) and smell good (when they haven’t surprised a skunk) and leave a huge hole when they are gone too soon. 

Happily on holiday at New River Beach, NB

Murphy was a shining star of a Great Pyrenees, doing what he saw as his job right to the end and I am so grateful that he came into my life.Thank you, Murphy Badurphy, Burfie, sweetest of dog companions. You will be missed.

 

 

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On Project Turkey and Farming Cooperatives

I am so proud of my friend Ariella as she pursues her vocation/passion as an organic farmer. As I am not a farmer I have great respect for those who are. I have a whole new appreciation for where my organic food comes from. Check her out!

The Nomad Farmer

Project Turkey has begun at Rootdown – a.k.a. the six day-old turkey poults arrived in the mail from the hatchery last Tuesday. They are still cute right now, before they turn into awkward and homely turkeys. A few weeks back Simone and Sarah approached Aurélie and I and asked us if we wanted to take on raising some turkeys, with the idea being we would raise one turkey for each of us. All would share in daily turkey chores, but Aurélie and I would be the ones keeping tabs on what the turkeys needed and when and why. We were definitely into it.

Apparently, however, turkeys are very sensitive to temperature and can die if they get too cold, and there are a few diseases that they are prone to catching that can be fatal. They also need to be shown repeatedly where their food and water is in the…

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Recycling: Why I can never throw anything away

Almost anything can be repurposed, renovated, re-invented, renewed.  With that realization I am going to have an even harder time clearing out my closet.

As an example: Sometime in the 90’s one of the shirts I made when I needed a nice wardrobe for work on the road  was an oversized military-style shirt made with purple silk charmeuse.  At the time I had discovered  ‘designer ease’ which fit right in with the extra large silhouettes of the time.  Ease is the amount of room built in to a garment.  Wearing ease is big enough to be comfortable, not too tight but designer ease can be anywhere from four to ten inches, huge in other words.

Why the big shirt?  Because it was the style, dude.  And I thought I was bigger than I am.  Who knew?

Why the big shirt? Because it was the style, dude. And I thought I was bigger than I am. Who knew?

I wore this shirt a lot in its initial form, long sleeves with cuffs and long enough to belt with skirts.  finally the cuffs were starting to wear and I was wearing shirts shorter so I cut off the extra length and made short sleeves and wore the shirt that way for maybe ten years.

I KNOW, who keeps shirts that long?  Well I do, for one.  If you take good care of your clothes they really last.  I always wash my silk garments by hand with a silk wash.  I like Forever New.  The clue is in the name, folks. The only real change over the years is that parts of the shirt more exposed to the sun have faded which just makes the garment more interesting.

So, in recent years I haven’t worn it much because it was still too big for my current look, wide through the torso, but the fabric is still good so I had a flash: why not turn it into a vest?  I’d been wanting a new purple vest to replace a finally worn out raw silk reversible vest that I finally gave up on.  I have a purple vest that reverses to olive green quilted silk but it’s more a fall/winter vest so My thought was; single layer for summer.

The shortened version before conversion.

The shortened version before conversion.

I opened the side seams and cut off the sleeves.  Then I removed the pockets and flaps because they were too high for the vest.  I also let out the inverted pleat in the back. then I used my pattern to cut the fronts keeping the front placket and buttons.  When I removed the pockets and flaps the holes from the original stitching were visible so I cut bias strips of purple silk chiffon and some tie material in a painted silk jacquard.  I added extra pieces for style then I repositioned the pockets and used the epaulettes instead of the flaps. A small scrap of another purple silk charmeuse became bias binding for the edges and the widest parts of the sleeves became the belts in the back.  Now I have a useable and fun layer for summer work.

Detail of the vest front.  Cobalt blue glass buttons

Detail of the vest front. Cobalt blue glass buttons

I like vests because they tie an outfit together, help to disguise my asymmetrical form, and take the place of a jacket when it is too warm to wear a jacket.  Of course this one will push the envelope for the business look but I go for the quirky, bohemian boss-lady image: firm but fun.

Vest back.  The vertical strips cover the previous stitching holes

Vest back. The vertical strips cover the previous stitching holes

No one told me it would be like this

contemplating the universe; most amusing and is something I perfected while hanging  with my giant dog friends

contemplating the universe; most amusing and is something I perfected while hanging with my giant dog friends

Getting old is not for the faint of heart, not for weaklings, not for sissies.  Yeah, we’ve all heard that and it makes sense in an abstract way but I’m here to say that it’s a lot different than what I envisioned and I’m a bit annoyed that no one let on how it would be.

I’ve never avoided birthdays nor have I felt anxious about the usual milestones, 30, 40, 50, all, no big deal.  My experience has always been that every year is better than the those before and it’s increasingly more fun to be me.  Until the big six-oh.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  I”m feeling good, mostly.  I walk several miles a day every day.  I get even more exercise in the winter shovelling snow and snow-shoeing on my walks.  I’m stronger than I was in my twenties and I weigh within five pounds of my high school weight.

BUT, even though I don’t feel old and if I move fast enough I don’t look old, there is something about saying you are sixty-something that just SOUNDS old.  And there are things that start to go wrong that I wasn’t prepared for.

When I was in my twenties i looked forward to having laugh lines and and character marks.  Still there are a few more than I had figured on.  My solution is to bob and weave and move so fast that the wrinkles are a blur.  So far so good.  Eventually I’ll be 90 and sprinting everywhere.

It’s the aging eyeballs that really are the most troublesome.  This is important to know.  No one told me this.  I thought that the big thing with aging eyes was the need to have reading glasses and eventually catarracts that would need to be addressed surgically.  It’s not that simple.

Last winter first one eye then the other got a floater which is a loose bit of protein that moves around independently  and sometimes can be very distracting.  I ignored the first one then when the second appeared I went to my optometrist who said it’s a normal thing with aging eyes and eventually the floaters submit to gravity and drop down to the bottom of the eye.  I wondered if I could  do some heavy G thing like deep diving to speed up the process but apparently not. Occasionally I’ll be reading and a floater will whiz across my eye and I think an animal is in the house.  A mouse or something.

Then my eyesight got wonky last fall.  I thought I just needed a stronger script again but it turns out that my eyes don’t work together anymore (weakening muscles, I’m told), so I am seeing double, the main reason that I haven’t blogged in a while.  I can close either eye to see 20/20 but with both eyes open everything is a blur.  There is an eyeglass fix for this.  Prisms are put into the lenses to make it easier for the eyes to see together.  I have new computer glasses with prisms that help but don’t make it perfect, so if I want to see if I’ve spelled something correctly and make sure everything makes sense, I still close one eye.  Just call me Squinty.  The idea is that closer is harder to pull the eyes in tandem, but even my distance vision is difficult.  I tried an eye patch, going for the pirate look, but it’s not comfortable with something smashed against my eye.  I’d like to find a clip on black lens so I could just eliminate one eye or the other.

Then I have another thing eye-related: epiretinal membrane.  Both of my eyes have developed an extra layer on my retina.  Normally the cross-section of the macula should look like a broad, gentle valley, instead, my left eye looks like a mountain and the right like a tiny steep gorge.  So far this is not affecting my ability to correct to 20/20.  I keep track of it in case.

I mention this because I know many people who have never had to see an eye doctor because their vision is perfect and then only get magnified glasses to read with once they get to be over age 42.  I am here to say that there are things that can happen to your eyes that you probably never heard of and regular visits with an optometrist after a certain age is advisable.

I use my eyes a lot and it’s very annoying when I’m trying to figure out why my serger isn’t sewing correctly and I can’t see it properly.  No one said what this aging thing was going to be like.  I feel young enough.  I did one of those stupid Facebook quizzes the other day to guess my age and it came up 23.  Ha!  I know I don’t look as young as I feel and I certainly don’t see as well as I did but I refuse to start complaining about my aches and pains and carry on about all my medications.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m just warning you.  When you get to a certain age, take care of your eyes.

The things you see when you don’t have a camera

Note to self: endeavour to bring the camera on the walks.  The morning walk began as usual, dropped my basket of dishes and French press in the house entryway, attached Murphy’s leash and headed down the hill.  There is sun today to melt wherever it shines but ice in the wind coming out of the west.

At the bottom of the drive I stopped at my neighbour’s because, not 8 meters from me and under one of her numerous bird feeders was a beautiful red fox.  The fox stood still for long enough that if I had had my camera I could have taken several shots.  Murphy had no view because of the ploughed up snow by the driveway so I didn’t have to struggle to hold him and we stood in the road for a couple of minutes until it moved off to the nearby row of apple trees and crouched down.  I still had a good view so we stayed in place. My neighbour feeds the birds throughout the year in an over-the-top way so as well as having way too many birds than is natural in her bit of woods, her place attracts squirrels and mice in abundance and other critters and the predators to hunt them.

As I watched, a grey squirrel ventured too close to the fox and she leaped and grabbed and disappeared below the hill.  Half a minute later I could see her streaking for the woods at the bottom of the field, hopefully successful at reducing the squirrel population by one.  Good to see the fox looking so good after this long and cold winter.  Good hunting.

Malingering WInter

The morning walk of 13 March, before the plow truck

The morning walk of 13 March, before the plow truck

 

Malingering, according to my Shorter Oxford means    to pretend illness in order to escape duty, said especially of soldiers and sailors.  I have a new definition:  lingering in the vicinity with malicious intent, for example, this winter that is still here, lingering maliciously via a wintery mix, two days after the spring equinox.

Now, I’m a big fan of winter in general.  What’s not to like?  There’s the magic of snow falling, blanketing the world, forcing a slowdown, and bringing a quiet that is rare even here in the woods.  I think most people who don’t care for the vagaries of winter are those who have a hard time slowing down and those who allow the weather to limit their activity.  My days don’t change much through the seasons.  I walk twice a day, at least, every day because I feel better for doing so and the dog requires that routine.  Even though he could go for his own walks, he likes to know that I am on patrol as well.  Walking in the winter is actually easier because I can add clothes layers as needed to suit the conditions and I have excellent traction devices as needed too.

Garb for the super cold days, -25C and NW wind requires layers of wool, hat, hood and fur collar and headband as well as double mitts.

Garb for the super cold days, -25C and NW wind requires layers of wool, hat, hood and fur collar and headband as well as double mitts.

Dogs stay cleaner in a cold winter.  No mud.  This winter could have been better with more actual snow and less wintery mix, (freezing rain and sleet ruin good snow for snowshoeing) but it was nice and cold for a  prolonged time.  I have a trail we walk in the afternoon up the hill.  I go fast uphill and Murphy and I both love running downhill in the snow.  I run no matter the footgear, snowshoes, cleats or bare boots.  I run because it’s easier to get momentum and keep it and I figure if it’s slippery (which it usually is, especially where I have already compressed the snow) then the less time my feet are on the ground the less chance to slide suddenly.

 

Ice on a staghorn sumac.  Everything had an inch of ice on it for two weeks at the end of December.

Ice on a staghorn sumac. Everything had an inch of ice on it for two weeks at the end of December.

The crusty conditions this winter made running downhill more of a challenge.  The frozen trail was mostly a ribbon of mini moguls and stepping to the side could mean going through crust to softer deeper snow.  Concentration is key, but I get laughing as I run because Murphy is often right on my heels so I can’t stop.  I think he thinks it’s funny to run downhill in the snow, nearly on top of me.

This winter we had not enough snow that got crusted with freezing rain, frequently, so I walked shod with cleats mostly and finally found some kickass cleats that  allow me to tap dance on icy hills like our driveway this past December.  My new cleats, Katoohla Microspikes, are like tire chains for my feet.  They have come in really handy when I needed to climb the icy hill no matter the conditions to retrieve Murphy from his bark about patrols.

Several times a week Murphy doesn’t come home from the walk and instead does his patrol of the ridge: ruff, ruff, ruff, pause, ruff, ruff.  Repeat.  He’s a Great Pyrenees by temperament and he could do this all night long.  Slow to learn me, I only just realized that we have been playing a game of his devising.  I call it stalking.  I head up the hill and try to circle around behind and get close enough to him so that he has to acknowledge me and come.  He won’t come when I call because he is on a mission, eliminating all denizens from the area.  I usually fail at round one.  He moves farther away or goes silent.  I concede by walking back toward our dooryard.  In December I would do this so as night fell I could more easily see to get back in the near dark.  I have a headlamp but it is still hard to bushwhack in the dark with a small light.  Easier with deep snow to follow my tracks.

Anyway, once I start walking away, I make some noise and then stop.  Within a minute Murphy comes racing up to where I am, winner of the second round.  Sometimes he really surprises me by leaping out from thick trees nearly in front of me.  I yelp and he looks most gratified.  He gets cookies  and praise and leashed and we head for home.  Sometimes if it’s not too close to nightfall we stop and contemplate the universe.  When there is snow on the ground it’s more easy to see where Murphy sits to keep an eye on things below.  I’m sure he is getting most of his information with his nose but I mostly look and listen.  Crouched on the top of a frozen hill in the spooky woods in January I hear the wind waves in  patterns like the ocean waves.  Ah, to be a bird and be able to surf those waves.

Alas, wingless, bound by gravity, still there is fun to be had.  Now that Spring is here we occasionally get a slightly warming day with some melt between  the sub-zero and wintery mix days.  There are patches of smooth ice on the edges of the road still frozen on the morning walks.  I go cleat-less  and run and slide as far as the leash will let me while Murphy checks the pee-mail.  He gets to make his mark five feet up the trees courtesy of the snow banks beside the road.  Later, those that can perceive it will think a giant dog lives here.

There are lacy ice-edged, frozen puddles to crunch along and later in the day, if it warms enough, slushy snow to squash beneath my feet.  Running downhill then has a lot more slide to it.

While waiting for Murphy to catch me up on the trail loop I discovered a big old pine tree drum.  I was breaking dead branches off the bottom and the remaining bits have several nice tones depending on my striker so I stop as I walk by and drum on the hill sometimes.

It’s all fun and mostly I’ve had a good winter, even trapped by the ice storm over the winter holidays.  I got chains for my truck so I could climb the ice hill so no worries there. Still, I have about two days of wood left in the garage and I will need to move some of my last cord of wood that is stacked (and covered, luckily) outside.  I had hoped that more snow would be gone but now it looks like I’ll have to hack out the pickup and clear out the back so I can load wood and move it.

So for many, maybe most, winter is lingering with malicious intent, but I’m still playing here.  Yippee!

Impossible for me to capture the sparkle of the ice everywhere in December when the sun finally broke through the freezing rain.

Impossible for me to capture the sparkle of the ice everywhere in December when the sun finally broke through the freezing rain.