Sunday, January 26, 2014

Slow, Snowy Week at the Aerie

It's been a slow week for me. I was home at the Aerie watching the snow and the thermometer fall. Three days we had lows below zero and highs below 15. But we had some snowfall every day. Sure, some days it was barely a dusting, but three times it added up to enough to require some work with the shovel. (The third snowfall is a work in progress and I probably won't get to it until Monday morning.) If each snowfall had been four inches I would have used the thrower, six or more the tractor, but, damn it!, two inches at a time? *sigh*

I was careful to wear warm gloves each time I was outside whether to shovel or to haul more firewood into the garage. (Yeah, barn gone...I hear ya!) The ring finger and thumb are peeling like they had a bad sunburn only worse. The "new" skin beneath the peeling stuff is still callus-like and the tips are numb. As for the middle finger.... I snagged a part of the dead skin on a log as I brought firewood into the house. This caused a flap of thick, dead skin that I felt needed to be clipped off. I then treated the area with Bacitracin and wrapped a band aid over it, I'll see the doctor a week from Monday and let him deal with it so long as it doesn't show any signs of infection.


Terry was down in South Carolina from Monday til Friday visiting a very ill (brain cancer) cousin. She enjoyed herself as much as she could as she reconnected with folks we don't get to see nearly enough, met a new baby, taught the "next generation" how to make stuffed cabbage, and more.


We should be closing on the four acre lot next door to the Aerie later this week. It's a matter of setting a time and place acceptable to the seller and drawing a cashier's check to pay for it all.

The environmental folks in NJ are still diddling around with the oil spilled from the underground tank. Last week's snowstorm bumped their scheduled inspection and testing to this week. The real estate agent is talking about the possibility of going through an escrow sale so the purchasers could move in sooner rather than later. The estate would still pay for any remediation needed due to the oil spill, but at least someone would be in the house.

Terry and I will make another run into NJ this week to gather up the few items that are still in the house and garage that wee want. Purchaser has said they wouldn't mind having the furniture...if it's free. That, at least, would release us from the responsibility of disposing of the bulk of the furniture. We had intended to donate it to either Big Brothers and Sisters or the Salvation Army.


I'm getting tired of seeing the same old group of birds at the feeders. We've 13 or so species that are regulars and a few rare visitors or fly overs (ravens, crows, pileated woodpecker). It got so bad I went for a drive on Friday to see what might be out there.

The answer is "not much!" I drove up to Ives Run/Hammond Lake to find it completely frozen over. Only a couple of red-tailed hawks, crows and a solitary Eastern Bluebird which flew along side the truck for a short distance. Went over to The Muck off Route 287 and...nothing! The marsh, too, is frozen solid but there were no birds in the grasses or woods nearby either. Finally, I went over to Darling Run on Pine Creek. There was a female Hairy Woodpecker working on the locust trees in the parking lot. And that was it. The creek was still flowing with a channel perhaps 10-12 feet wide but the banks were iced up and ice floes were grinding along the edges. I couldn't help but think that it wouldn't take much to create an ice jam. I had hoped that the open water might mean an eagle or two would be around. (I had given up on any waterfowl as soon as I heard the "soosh" of ice-on-ice.) But there was nothing. I drove an 80 mile loop to spot four species of birds and couldn't even confirm something as easy as an English Sparrow. Next time I stop at Wal-Mart. *sigh*

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week 26: Cold. Very cold. Oh. And snowy.

Yesterday marked the 26th week since I had my knees replace. That's the six month mark and things are progressing swimmingly. The twins are performing well in all facets of life but one: I can't kneel down worth a damn! Putting the knees onto a hard surface like the floor is very, very painful. I'll have to invest in some serious knee pads soon. Or, at the very least, remember to roll up a thick coat, throw rug, or cat before I attempt to kneel even to fetch a bowl from the back of the cabinet.


Terry got home around 5 PM Sunday, swapped out her clothes in her suitcase, grabbed a few hours sleep, and hit the road south at 6 AM Monday morning. She made it to Columbia, SC by 5 PM with only a few short stops along the way. The road was clear and she reported plenty of sunlight along the way. When she called to let me know she had made it, it was nearly 60 degrees (it was just 25 at the Aerie). This morning it was just 5 degrees here in the Northern Tier of PA and snowing again. (It's been lightly snowing since 11 AM on Monday.) At least there's no wind...yet. There IS a high wind warning for later today. She may not want to come home.

She and her cousins were taking all too much pleasure in mentioning the new palm tree they have in the yard...and the 60 degree temperatures. Wait until hurricane season!


The light snow has accumulated only about an inch maybe two since yesterday which is fine by me. This particular storm, dubbed Juno by the folks at, is dumping much more snow to the east and south according to the forecast maps. Southeast PA and northern NJ may see up to a foot. Like I said, Terry may not want to come home.

The snow plow has been up and down our hill already this morning. It seemed to have trouble just on the lower edge of our property. Whether there was a patch of ice or the driver just had trouble getting the right gear, or setting up the cinder spreader correctly he had to back up several times to get a running start that carried him the rest of the way up the hill. I'll know more about his troubles when I go out in a bit to fetch the mail. Should be quite a bit between the post office being closed on Monday and my being occupied shoveling snow on Saturday.


I spent the better part of Monday turning a bunch of semifrozen butternut squash into mash and then freezing the results for use in pies and soups. The garage turns out to be a poor choice for long term storage when the temperatures get down to single digits--or lower--for extended periods. That or the squash need some insulated protection if they are to reside there. Perhaps I should have put them in one of the styrofoam coolers. In any event, I got four containers of two cups each put into the freezer.

I'll be enjoying the small amount that was left over with a little brown sugar and butter as a side dish for my dinner today.


While digging out the containers for freezing, I discovered the shelf in the cabinet was cock-eyed. I had to pull everything out, cut a couple of "legs" and put them in to support the shelf and then put everything back in. (Hence the complaint about kneeling above.) Conclusion: We have way too much stuff in there unless we are prepared to open a bakery. Why have five or six pie pans (metal, glass, ceramic), five or six muffin/cupcake pans, five bread loaf pans (again, metal, glass and ceramic), two bundt pans, a couple of specialty baking pans (heart shaped? Really?) and scadie-eight gazillion plastic Tupperware containers and their lids, not to mention at least eight different configurations on a frying pan?

I'm sure Terry has some justification for all of the above. If not she'll just point to my fishing/hunting/wood working gear and say, "Well?"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Certainties: Snow, Death, and Taxes

A series of winter lows are moving along the edge of the cold air that's bulged southward. Again. Friday's low dumped between 2 and 3 inches of light, white powder on the Aerie while the cold air moved in afterward. Two or three inches isn't enough to fire the tractor up nor is it enough to run the thrower, so I spent three hours in 18 degree temperatures shoveling the driveway. Luckily, there was no wind to blow the snow back in my face and my flannel-lined jeans, wool coat and fleece-lined gloves kept me warm when standing still. Once I was swinging the shovel, I even broke a sweat.

Three hours walking back and forth pushing the snow shovel. (I try not to lift and throw too much. Even the light stuff can get to you after a while.) As someone said on Facebook, I really gave the knees a workout. This morning I was still a bit achy. One thing I can be sure of, this won't be the last snow of the season.

Last night's little zephyr passed south and east of us and left only a tiny dusting of powder on the ground. (They say the next couple will do the same.) And the temperatures fell even further reaching a low of 8 degrees at dawn this morning. Yeah, it did shoot up to 22 degrees this afternoon under a cloudless, sunny sky, but it's going down tonight and tomorrow we may not see the teens.

This afternoon, I refilled the firewood rack in the garage from the woodpile behind the garage.  The job would be easier if not for the hump left from the ditch the well drillers had dug and filled. That and the amount of stuff in the garage form Mom's house. The dirt hump means I have to walk about 10 feet from pile to wheel barrow while all the stuff in the garage means I have to do the same at the opposite end. Four trips back and forth to fill the rack but at least I'll be toasty the next couple of days.


Terry returns form her stitching weekend tonight. She won't be home long. She was going to go to New Jersey to see how things are progressing there, but then we got a phone call from South Carolina. Her cousin Lorraine, who has been battling cancer, has had her brain cancer stop responding to treatment. The prognosis is not good with the doctors saying she could survive for "up to three months" but it's really day-to-day. So, after a change of clothes and a night's sleep, Terry will be rolling down to Columbia and Sumter.


All the tax info is starting to arrive in the mail. I just pile them up for Terry to deal with. She speaks better bureaucratitis than I do. She can read through the forms without screaming...much. But this year, with Mom's death and all, even she is throwing in the cards and we'll be seeking professional help. As usual, I'll still be writing the checks.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Frostbite Update and More

Two weeks ago (Friday, January 3rd) I suffered a case of frostbite on my left hand. The tip of the middle finger developed huge blisters and, when the fluid got reabsorbed, a lovely rainbow of colors on thick, dead tissue.

After visits to the ER and my primary car physician, I got to see a specialist up in Corning, yesterday. He pronounced it frostbite and confirmed that there's lots of dead tissue particularly on the pad of the middle finger. (Duh!) I may lose the nail. He may have to debraid the dead tissue and possibly snip off the tip of the bone. He would then have to do a skin graft to cover the tip of the finger. There was lots of speculation but little hard decision making. He wants to wait a couple of weeks to see how things develop and if there's any improvement.

He did say there was no need of a bandage anymore. The dead tissue ("mummified finger") provides all the protection I need. And it's all natural! Without the bandage I can bend the finger more and that increases circulation which may increase the chance of some healing.

So, its' a wait and see game. I go back on February 3rd for a further evaluation.

Only one thing is sure: I'm going to need some better mittens.


So as to ensure that the trip up to Corning wasn't a complete bust, Terry and I also went over to Red Lobster for dinner before stopping at Michael's and Barnes & Noble. Dinner was good, Michael's had some of what Terry was looking for, and B & N is still a fun place to browse even if we only bought a couple of Sudoko puzzle books. (I'm way behind in reading what I've already got at home. Same for Terry.)


We've swung back into the colder weather. From a couple of days in the 40s we're back to just about freezing. What little snow we got three nights ago, has melted and the rabbits and deer are taking advantage of the lawn. A red fox has been hanging around--probably looking for those rabbits. Never heard one barking before. I thought, maybe, someone had lost a hunting dog until I saw the fox moving back and forth in the woods. We even had a couple of young raccoons come up on the deck a few nights ago to raid the bird feeders. They spooked when I went out of the deck and took off with a little encouragement. 


Terry is off on another stitching weekend. This one's only a short trip to western PA.

When she gets back, weather permitting, she may be heading to NJ to see what's up with the forensic study of the "oil spill" from the old tank that was in Mom's yard. No idea yet on how serious the "spill" is but it can't be too bad or they would have been jumping up and down and rushing to "mitigate the disaster" if it was. Mom had the tank drained and sand filled under the watchful eye of the town inspector a number of years ago. Can't imagine there was more than a quart of oil coating the innards of the tank when they got done. No oil sheen in the sump pump a short distance away also indicates there was little let loose into the ground water.

The house is sold and we are only awaiting the conclusion of The Great Oil Leak to be cleaned up so the closing can take place. (Since this is in freakin' LINDEN, New Jersey, home of some of the largest oil tank farms on the east coast, I find the concern over a few drops of home heating oil somewhat off putting.) Purchasers wanted to have it prior to January 30th but that now seems like a remote possibility.


We're still waiting to hear of a closing date for our purchase of the 4 acres adjacent to our property. Should be soon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Frostbite: It's Serious!

Last week I posted pictures of the honking huge blister that had formed on the middle finger of my left hand after I foolishly allowed it to be exposed to minus 6 (-6) degree air for an extended period of time while clearing the driveway of snow. (See Frostbite: Take the warnings seriously! )

Yesterday I reported on my second doctor's visit (among other things) wherein it was decided I should see a specialist because there was an abundance of dead tissue on the tip of said middle finger and that some debridement (i.e. removal) of said tissue might be warranted. How much needs to go is to be determined by the specialist.

I also mentioned the veritable rainbow of colors sported by that half inch of finger tip. To prove I wasn't kidding, I've got photographic proof:

Nail side of middle finger.

There is some sensation of touch from the cuticle back toward the hand on the top (dorsal?) side of the finger. Going forward to the tip of the finger...not so much.

Pad of the finger.

Hard as a rock with no, nada, zip sensation of touch. Some lovely colors, however!

Side of finger toward the index finger.
There's a bit of sensation in the "healthy" looking skin area, but the orange/yellow not so much. The same is true for the side toward the ring finger although the unhealthy colors extend further down the finger toward the hand. (Couldn't twist my wrist sufficiently to get a good photo of that.)

You will note that I wasn't exagerating about the "rainbow of colors" here. I see red, orange, yellow, green (along the cuticle), blue, indigo (toward the side not presented in photo, sorry) and violet...lots of violet!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 25: Knees, Fingers and More

Approaching six months since I had both knees replaced and things are going just swell! The only hint of pain I still experience comes from climbing stairs snd even that is les than I was having in the weeks prior to surgery. Once the weather cooperates and I can get out there walking the trails and woods I expect that even that will disappear.


Meanwhile, I had a follow up withthe doctor about my frostbit fingers. The thumb, index and ring fingers are still numb at the tips--almost like a callus--but they are normal in color and seem to be recovering. The middle finger is another story. The blisters I photographed last week are shrinking as the liquid is being reabsorbed but the entire pad and tip of the finger is numb and a rainbow of colors--predominately purple. The doc was not optomistic about my saving all of the finger. His prognosis is that theres a lot of dead tissue and deep. That could lead to infection or worse. He referred me to a hand specialist/plastic surgeon in the orthopedic offices in Corning. I've an appointment set up for Thursday.


The weather here at the Aerie has been, shall we say, changable. A week ago Saturday we saw minus 13.5 degrees and then this Saturday it was positive 48 degrees. A 61+ degree swing. While things have cooled off a bit, it has been into the high 30s and mid 40s the Sunday and Monday. As a result, nearly all the snow and ice has melted. The grass in the lawn is once more exposed and deer and rabbits are taking advantage of the fresh forage.


I've been taking advantage of my forced idleness to peruse the Burpee's Seed Catalog. One of the most difficult things about this time of year is standing on the deck and looking down on the gardens and thinking of what I would like to plant this spring only to realize I won't be able to even turn the soil until the middle of April--if I'm lucky.

Still, looking at the pictures of vegetables, fruits and flowers--both annuals and perennials--lifts the spirit. I always seem to go way overboard when I order from the catalogs which is why I've been picking up seeds and plants at Agway and Lowes the last few years. Besides, finding a window or setting up a light system with trays and heat to propagate seeds with four cats who like to chew on greenery is problematic. Might do it anyway.


The water from the well is running clear. It's a pleasure to have not a hint of red or gray coming from the taps or even going into the cistern. It even tastes excellent.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Frostbite: Take the warnings seriously!

So you want to know what frostbite looks like? Kinda like this: Only the last joint of the middle finger suffered serious damage. The ring and index finger are still numb and tingly at the same time (!) three days after exposure.

Blistered Finger

Blistered Finger

Bandaged Finger

The loose bandage (after applying some moisturizing cream) is to protect the blisters. Do NOT want them to burst!

I've a follow-up appointment with my doctor this afternoon. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Week 24: Knees? What knees?

Monday marks the 24th week since I had both my knees replaced. And it's been one hell of a week!

Wednesday night into and through Thursday we got snow. About 8 inches of light, powdery snow. Why was it so light and powdery? Because we also got really, really cold air. Like minus 8 degree air. At least we didn't get the high winds that they were predicting...until Friday night into Saturday. Even then the winds came from the south and had little impact on the Aerie which is protected from that direction by Armenia Mountain Ridge.

This was the second large storm of the season. After the first one we had several days of warmth that melted all the snow. This time we won't be so lucky. After nearly reaching 40 degrees today, we will be getting rain, freezing rain and cold air. Long range forecasts aren't promising any warmth in the near future.


I spent four hours on Friday in bright sunshine but cold, cold air clearing the driveway using the tractor. The job wasn't difficult but I paid a price just the same. The glove on my left hand kept slipping off my finger tips and I got  a severe case of frostbite. The middle finger of my left hand turned deep purple and is now one giant blister. It looks like I stuck it in the fire for a couple of minutes. Whether I lose any part of that finger and/or need a skin graft won't be known for a couple of weeks according to the doctor at the ER over at the new Guthrie Hospital in Troy. Three other fingers (index, ring finger and thumb) are also a bit tingly but they never changed color or blistered

I'll call my doctor Monday morning for a follow-up consultation. I'll be seeing him on Wednesday anyway for a colonoscopy...which has been scheduled and rescheduled several times. The last cancellation being Friday morning.


Terry and I signed  a contract to purchase four acres adjacent to ours. We're overpaying for the lot considering the seller is keeping the mineral rights, but there's a flat area near the road with electric brought into that spot. There's also a building site that has had a perk test in the back end of the lot and a home built there would pretty much close our land to any hunting as well as sandwich us between two neighbors. 


Oh, and my neck is still sore as heck. Heat hasn't helped. And pain pills haven't helped (Although they--the pills--probably don't know what they should target. *sigh*)


The well is doing as good as you might expect. There's some sediment still coming through but the filter has been stopping nearly all of that crap and the water going into the cistern  and out of our faucets is clear.


My knees? What about them? They have been doing great! Either the other pains have distracted me or they really are virtually pain free...even on the stairs.