Saturday, April 25, 2015

Out and About: Birding and Gardening

Got out and got active today...finally.

Started the day out at Hills Creek State Park with the weekly bird walk sponsored by the Tiadaghton Audubon Society. It was cool (35 degrees at 7:45 AM) but sunny (it got up to 45 degrees by 10:15 AM) and only a mild breeze blowing. We had seven folks show up and had a nice long walk (almost 2 miles) starting at the overflow parking area and going up to the amphitheater and on into the woods at the north end of the lake.

Things were quiet on the lake with only a few ducks, mergansers and grebes on the water. The shoreline was a different matter as there were hordes of warblers (mostly Yellow-rumped) and swallows (mostly Tree Swallows but others as well).

Here's the full list of species we saw today.

Canada Goose
Wood Duck 
Ring-necked Duck
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Blackburnian Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch


After lunch, I grabbed a shovel and went out to turn the gardens over. I worked slow but steadily and finished four of the five garden plots. Almost ever shovel of soil turned over exposed three or four earthworms. I'll have no trouble obtaining bait when I decide to go fishing! 

With the soil turned, I'll let it dry a bit before spend time with the rototiller tomorrow afternoon to break up the clods of clay that  forms much of our soil despite the bags and bags of garden soil and peat moss I've added. I still have to get down to the store to pick up the snap pea, beet and radish seeds as well as onion sets. 

For now, however, I'll relax and watch the Mets do to the Yankees what the Yankees did to the Mets last night.

Monday I take the Tundra to get repaired. Tuesday, I got to the urologist to have the stent removed. Wednesday, If the weather permits, I'll get those seeds and sets in the ground.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chelsea Rose Faber

Born on Monday night April 20th at 11:17 PM (PDT).

She took her sweet time arriving. Sandy entered the hospital on Saturday and they proceeded to induce labor. Saturday turned into Sunday and Sunday into Monday. While Chelsea got into position, she could not get her (very large) head to move through the birth canal. Sandy then underwent a C-section to deliver this beautiful little (?) 8.39 pound 21 1/2 inch bundle.

All are doing well and are scheduled to head for home Thursday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April...You Can Keep It!

A couple of most interesting weeks.

I would have been posting about my 12th week post back surgery, but other issues have arisen that have placed recovery from that operation on the back burner. So I'm going to halt those reports for the latest news.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I broke out in a fever and chills on Tuesday, April 7th. The chills stopped and the fever subsided somewhat on Wednesday into Thursday morning. They both returned Thursday afternoon along with some pain in my right back/side. I thought the pain was muscular. I was to be proven wrong.

I broke out in night sweats on Friday and again Saturday with my temperature spiking around 103.5 degrees. Idiot that I am, I insisted in trying to tough it out until Monday morning when I could go to the walk-in clinic in Mansfield. Someone had other plans, however.

Sunday morning just as Terry returned from Church, I virtually collapsed being unable to breath or even take more than two or three steps without gasping for breath. Terry fired up the Jeep and hauled my ass over to Troy Community Hospital’s ER. By the time we arrived (about a 15 mile drive) my breathing had returned to normal but the fever and pain were letting themselves take control.

A quick examination in ER and a CATscan proved I was suffering from both a urinary bladder infection and a 5mm kidney stone that was wedged in my ureter (the tube from the kidney to the bladder). I was assigned a room and begun on a regimen of IV antibiotics, painkillers, and fluids—lots of fluids.

I would stay in Troy Community Hospital for only a couple of days before they sent me over to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. (It’s where I had my back surgery in January.) Troy doesn’t have a urologist on staff nor does it have an OR with the facilities of Robert Packer. I arrived at RP late on Tuesday afternoon, was allowed one final meal before being shut down at midnight so I could go into the OR on Wednesday to have the stone removed and a stent placed in the ureter. Only the IV fluids, antibiotics and painkillers were allowed after the witching hour.

Being low man on the totem pole (i.e. having a non-life threatening condition and being a nonscheduled, last minute addition to the roster) I waited all day with nothing but the IV drips going for the call which finally arrived around 3:30 PM. Even that was a perfunctory, “They’re calling for you in the OR.” Since I hadn’t had a meeting with the surgeon, and had never met the guy before, I said, “Hang on a minute! I need to see this guy first and talk about what the heck he’s going to do before I go under.” So I had to wait a bit longer for him to show up and introduce himself and explain the procedure and implications.

Eventually I did get to see him and agreed to proceed. I got wheeled down to the OR, met the anesthesiologist and the rest of the crew, had the stone removed and the stent inserted. Then back to my room and a nice slice of pizza and fruit smoothie that Terry picked up at the cafeteria for me.
The next morning, Thursday, I got some more IV antibiotics and pain killers before getting the okay to go home.

And that’s where things stand now. The back pain I had been suffering has been replaced by some discomfort when I urinate in both the kidney and bladder but that should go away when the stent is removed on the 28th. I hope. Then I can get back to recovering from the back surgery. I hope.  Meanwhile, some oral antibiotics and pain killers have been prescribed. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but her appearance has been booked.

I have to say that while there was an awful lot of hurry-up-and-wait involved at both Troy Community and Robert Packer, the people themselves were extremely pleasant to deal with. I think the nurses were happy enough to deal with me as well. I was pretty much independent (except for the damn IV stand that went wherever I needed to go) and demanded little in the way of care (except when the IV bags were empty and needed replacement).

Sandwiched in all this were four (4!) bouts of auto problems. The Tundra got its windshield replaced and is awaiting parts for a repair (secondary air pump?) as is the Aveo. The Jeep dealer had all the parts needed to fix a sensor and cracked ring. None of the problems rendered the vehicles inoperable, which was good, but needed/need to get repaired. They were all the result of either being stored for the winter (Aveo), inactive for a long period of time (Tundra had to sit while I recovered from back surgery) or dealing with the usual early mud season where the road might be a quagmire one day and frozen into a rutted mess the next morning.  

And the cats all had to go to the vet for their booster shots and exams. I did two on my own and then Terry had the privilege of doing two by herself while I was in hospital. She got the easy ones (Chester and Julie).

I think I would like a do-over on April 2015. Except for the Mets. They can keep on doing what they are doing. (Currently 7-3, 1st in the NL East.) But, please get some folks healthy ASAP.

Oh yeah, almost forgot: I’m waiting to become a grandfather as Rick and Sandy will be delivering Chelsea Rose some time in the week ahead.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Oh Crud.

Tomorrow is our first bird walk at Hills Creek State Park. The ice is out, the rain of the last two days has abated and it may even be a nice day.

Alas, that achy, feverish, shivery, thingy that swept through my system on Tuesday afternoon/night, seems to have made a return visit. Along with it's friends mucus and congestion. All that's lacking is the shivering.

As much as I would like to get out there and do some birding with the gang, if I wake up tomorrow morning at 6 AM feeling as I do now at 8:20 PM, I may just push Terry out of bed to feed the cats, roll over and go back to sleep.

Bad News, Good News


The Tundra went in to the shop to have the "Check Engine" light diagnosed. What they found was that there was "water in the secondary air pumps"--whatever and where ever they are. The cost of repairs? $1900+

The good news? Toyota recognized this as a defective design problem and extended the warranty on this particular case to 10 years or 150K miles. My Tundra is a 2007 model and has 126K miles so all it's going to cost me is time and $ for gas to go back and forth. Initially I was told the job would take 4 hours so if I wanted to go home, they had a loaner for me to use. A brand new red RAV with about 170 miles on the odometer--and very little gas in the tank. (I put $25 worth in there just to e sure I could get home Thursday and back on Friday. Came t-h-i-s close to filling the tank.)

I say I was initially told it would take 4 hours. In fact, they barely got started when they discovered they were missing one necessary valve. Why? Because 1) they have had a rash of similar repairs in the last week and 2) the strike/slow down in the west coast ports are delaying delivery of parts. So that valve is back ordered and expected the first week of May.

Unfortunately, they would not let me keep the RAV until then so I had to go retrieve the Tundra and return the pretty, red car. (Never had a red car before.) They said I could drive the Tundra but that the "Check Engine" light would be my constant companion. *sigh*

Except for that darn light, the Tundra is running fine. A little shimmy in the front end but that could be because of clay/mud from the dirt road in the wheels or elsewhere. I can live with it until I go back after they call to say the part is in. I'm hoping that will be in 3 weeks. Meanwhile the TUndra and I will continue our rehab routine. Together.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Week Eleven...

...of my recovery and it's been an interesting one. Things have happened. Luckily those things have little to do with my recovery which is going pretty well, actually.

Last Thursday when I was coming back from birding a truck heading the other way on Route 6 kicked up a stone of which I became aware when it smacked into my windshield--right on the edge of the windshield, right over the passenger's seat. Unlike the stone that hit the windshield back in 2010 and left a nickel-sized bullseye about two inches in from the left edge, this one left three straight line cracks which, if I remember correctly would have just continued to spread as the temperatures warmed up.

I called the insurance company and then made an appointment with Safelite to get the windshield replaced. Problem solved. They did the work on Tuesday afternoon. It took them a little over an hour.

Tuesday. PT in the morning and then over to Wellsboro to have the windshield replaced while Terry and I went to Timeless Destinations for lunch--which was delicious, by the way, despite the sudden onset of something that had me shivering uncontrollably even after a couple of cups of hot tea and a bowl of soup. And I ached all over. When I got home, I went right to bed and threw a second cover over myself. I eventually stopped shaking and started to sweat. I stayed in bed all afternoon and all night and by Wednesday morning I felt better. Still ached in muscle and joint, but it was better. By noon I had finished my rehab exercises and the aches had faded to the background.I've no idea what hit me, but I'm very happy it didn't last long.

Thursday I have PT again. Then I have to take the Tundra in to have its engine checked. It told me it needed this service on Tuesday morning when that damn dashboard light did not go off after starting turning the key.

Oh, and we got word that we owe about 9K in taxes--almost all of it federal, which didn't surprise me. I'd rather have to pay than have to try and get MY money back.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter 2015

Wishing all friends and family a very Happy Easter.

Terry and I are celebrating on our own here at the Aerie. (Well, alone except for the four cats.) Terry prepared a nice ham yesterday and a leg of lamb today. We'll be eating leftovers all week! She also baked a three layer cake--from scratch!--and iced it with vanilla icing and sprinkled it with coconut. With the babka she/we made the other day we've had some good eatin'!

The weather that had been so nice the end of the week to a turn to the north again and we've had clouds, sun and finally snow today. It should end before 4 PM but we've already got--at 1:15 PM--almost an inch of snow on the ground. That would be the same ground that a half dozen Robins were hopping about on as they searched for insect/worms at 9:30 AM.

The yard to the southwest of the house.

The woods to the south of the house.

View to the west.

Common Redpoll says, "I knew it! THIS is why we didn't head north!"

Dark-eyed Junco (aka Snow Bird) lives up to its name.

The good news is that the major league baseball season gets underway tonight when the St. Louis Cardinals play the Chicago early April. At least, this time, the weather will cooperate as it's supposed to be in the 50s and clear in Chicago.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Baked Babka!

Terry baked some fresh babka today. I helped a little when she went down to church. She did all the hard work including making sure I understood what I had to do. (Punch it down one more time. Let it raise again for 45 minutes and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it. What did you say?") It was still baking when she got back so it was her responsibility to take it out of the oven.

Baked Babka
This is the first time we have successfully had a bread rise properly. Normally the house is so cool that the yeast just won't do what it's supposed to do and we end up with something that's very,very dense. Like dwarf battle bread dense. I made sourdough one time that I could have used as a discus in the Greek tradition. Or driven a nail with the flat sides. Even the birds and squirrels passed it up. Probably didn't want a bent beak or a chipped tooth.

This time Terry put the dough in the microwave with two cups of warm water and the yeast did its thing the way it was supposed to do it. (We had tried the "heat the oven and then turn it off" trick once. Didn't work.) It didn't hurt that the house was a toasty 68-70 degrees.

I may just have to start a batch of sourdough again.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until after she gets the Easter food blessed tomorrow at noon. (Unless I can realy, really fake sleep walking....)

More Birds From Around the Aerie

When I got home from my birding expedition on Thursday, the feeders were being hit hard by the horde. I had filled them up around 7 AM and Terry had done so again around 11 AM, but by 1:30 PM they needed filling again. *sigh*

Some of them should have headed north by now. The Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls nest way up north in the coniferous forests of Canada. The rest of the crew are found around this area all year long.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

House Finch

House Finch

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin showing the yellow on the wings

Common Redpoll (Why are you still here? Besides the free food, I mean.)

American Goldfinch (A little scruffy as it molts into its summer yellow.)

White-breasted Nuthatch claiming the suet feeder

Downy Woodpecker