Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.

Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

Simcha

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Over to Aspen Roots. No, not a nursery, our hair stylist Jackie’s place. We’re as beautiful as we can get for a couple of days. Thence to King Sooper for soup ingredients: golden leek and potato. Picked up fresh sage, fresh thyme, leeks, Yukon Gold potatoes. And, some pita chips while Kate went to the bank.

Back home to cook. Simple, but labor intensive. A pound and three quarters of potatoes halved and sliced thin. Garlic sliced thin. Leeks washed and, yup, cut thin. Made a bouquet garni. Cheese cloth with the sage, thyme, bay leaves tucked in and tied up. Fun, but I find it tiring to stand so long. Maybe an hour plus.

The soup went with us to the mussar evening group. It was enjoyed. I’m always a bit nervous taking my cooking outside our house. My cooking style is innovative, not always to the recipe.

Kate presented on joy, simcha. I read Wendell Berry’s poem: Before Dark. We discussed the barriers to joy, how to cultivate, recognize joy.

Rabbi Jamie had to leave the group early. The second or third kid who drew swastikas on cars at a school parking lot came in for a talk. With his very dressed up parents. Jamie does this every once in a while. Last year he spoke to a kid who didn’t believe in the holocaust, an active anti-semite. He said the kid came around in the conversation. This kid and the others had followed along. Still pernicious, of course, but different.

Home in the behemoth. We have a Nissan SUV that looks like a gun boat and drives like an RV. It was the only thing they had at the Enterprise agency last Friday. The new Rav4 is at Caliber Collision having its rear bumper and rear door repaired. Kate’s accident a month ago or so.

Leaving early this morning, about 6:15 for Corneal Consultants in Littleton. Kate’s having her first cataract removed. The next one in two weeks. Hope to get some mitigating in later today.

Wandering. Bored. That’s me.

Fall and the Full Sukkot Moon

Made shawarma yesterday. Not bad. Used both my cast iron skillet and the instapot. Seared the chuck roast in the pan, deglazed and put it all in the instapot. An hour or so later, done. This is a favorite food for me, so I’ll work to perfect this. Also made tabbouleh and bought some hummus. A real Middle Eastern meal. Put some of the leftover meat in the borscht I made for Kate a week or so ago.

Kate, a much better cook than I am, backs me up, gives me the benefit of her knowledge. On Friday, for example, I wanted to make french toast from a baguette that had dried up. It had to be easy, I imagined, but I still didn’t know how. Instead of using a cook book I asked Kate. Vanilla in a beaten egg, coat the bread, fry them. Cinnamon and sugar on them while they’re cooking. And it was so.

Both of us have less of an appetite in the evenings so I made this meal for late lunch, Sunday dinner.

Still bored. I guess that’s the feeling. Don’t wanna do this. Don’t wanna do that. Wandering around. Tried the chain saw, get started on fire mitigation, Round II. Starter rope won’t pull. Guess I really fixed it when I took it apart and put it back together. Going to the chain saw e.r. today.

Had some success yesterday with wu wei. When I cooked, I cooked. When I ate, I ate. When I painted, I painted. But I got back to wandering around. Felt like I was waiting for Godot.

In that mood I decided to mess around with my webhost. They’re the folks that provide a server and security for Ancientrails. Got right in there and changed my PHP settings, then added SSL. Closed out AncientrailsGreatWheel and CharlesBuckmanEllis. Don’t use them, no need to pay for them.

Felt good about all that. Clicked on Ancientrails to see if things had changed. Ah, they’d changed. Ancientrails had disappeared! OMG. So I messed around a bit more. No joy.

Knew that this was not a matter to settle while I was tired, so I waited until this morning. It was baaaaccckk. Why? I don’t know. But, I’m glad.

Still not able to load images. Gotta get on that in a more disciplined way.

This whole year plus, since last September 28th, has been a transitional time for both of us. At first the transition focused on Kate’s health, especially her malnutrition and her bleed. Then, while in for her pneumothorax in April, a pulmonologist thought he saw lung disease. That got added to the cart.

In February, I had the flu and my annual physical. PSA 1.0. Too sick to recognize it for what it was. But you know what happened when I tumbled to it. Radiation, lupron. Ongoing. Last month I went in to see Lisa about some tightness in my lungs. COPD. Oh, damn.

The transition has forced us both to acknowledge that our lifespans are probably not as long as we imagined. Sobering. But, o.k. They were limited to begin with. Death is not an optional experience. Or, as an Arab saying goes, Life is an inn with two doors.

The wandering and the boredom, I think, comes in here. A month ago I was imagining beating prostate cancer and living into my 90’s. Now? Not so sure. What does that mean? A foreshortened life span? Maybe. And what would that mean? That’s where my ikigai got lost, I think. Unclear how to live into this reality.

So, wandering and bored it is. Except when I engage. You know cooking, shopping, doctor appointments, fire mitigation. Getting the new Rav4 repaired. At some point a new direction will emerge. Perhaps it will simply be what I’m currently doing, but I don’t think so. Just don’t know.

Hmmm

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

A culinary Saturday. With a few oddities.

Invited Jon and the grandkids up for a High Holiday meal of brisket. I bought a brisket, two actually, at Safeway. Brought them home, froze one, put the other in the fridge for the meal. Looked up a holiday brisket recipe. Found one for the Instapot. Chopped the onions, salted the brisket, added the tomatoes. Put it in for 65 minutes. Got it out. The meat was tender. Looked good. The jus in the pot also smelled wonderful.

Kate came by and looked at it. That’s corned beef, isn’t it? Oh, boy. Category mistake. I had bought, technically, a brisket. But, well… Anyhow I’d also picked up a white cabbage for the borscht I wanted to make for Kate. It only required a quarter of the head. I cut up the rest, threw it in boiling water and, voilá, corned beef and cabbage! The meal included baked potatoes, not normally part of this actually Jewish, too, dinner, but they fit well with the original brisket plan.

Everyone said it tasted good even though the menu got altered in a strange way.

Made mine with golden beets, too.

I did make the borscht, too. That was all day in either the grocery store or the kitchen. Tired.

Jon and the kids were late. Very. When Jon came in the door, I’d just gotten off the phone, the dogs were sending up their usual storm of barks for visitors. I came into the living room. Jon, I gotta tell you, I’m pissed. Oops. Not in front of the grandkids, Charlie. Too late, outta the mouth.

OK. I’ll try to remember this.

I wanted to talk to him about his chronic lateness, explain that it upset me, see how we could change the settings. Kate suggested this after I fumed when they were almost an hour late. She was right. Didn’t intend (mostly, anyhow) to do in that manner.

Apologized to Jon, Ruth, and Gabe. Not for what I said, but for when and how I said it.

Family. Not always easy.

Guy Thing I Did

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Better rested yesterday. Less fatigue.

Though. Workout a.m. New one. First part is cardio, twenty minutes. Treadmill. I’ve been doing this for years, 25 at least, and yesterday I struggled with breathing as I went up on speed and elevation. I made it through the twenty minutes, pushing myself further than I have in a while, but it was tough.

Gonna see Lisa about respiratory issues. Don’t really want to go down another medical trail right now, but it’s time to get some clarity.

Did, for me, a serious guy thing. I took apart my chain saw, cleaned it, and, ta da! Put it back together. I know this is minor league for most of you, but for me it’s a big deal. Last time I used the chain saw I tried to cut the stall mats with it to make Kate’s walkway to the garage. Did. Not. Work. It did however coat the saw with rubber particles.

Getting ready to make use of fall weather for fire mitigation work. Going to start at the thirty foot ignition zone by taking down trees, limbing them, bucking them. Gonna hire a teenager or two to help move slash, clean up the back. We’ll see about my stamina. If necessary, I’ll take frequent breaks.

Below freezing last night with a spitting rain or meager snow. 34 when I got up. With Mabon behind us and the autumnal equinox tomorrow we’re moving toward fall and already in it. Great sleeping.

Made pork tenderloin last night. Used a Joy of Cooking recipe. Cut the tenderloin into 3/4″ chunks, doused them in beaten egg and covered them with bread crumbs. Plopped them in my new Lodge cast iron skillet. Tasty.

Old Guy. New Tricks.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Old guy. New tricks. Took our 2018 Rav4 into the shop yesterday for an oil change. Waited in the Toyota temple as I always do, this time reading Neal Stephenson’s newest: Fall, or Dodge in Hell. These waiting areas are third spaces in architectural parlance, places where strangers gather and potentially meet. Not much meeting going on here as folks tap on tablets, punch the keyboards on laptops or look at their phones. The ubiquitous TV has lost much its allure to the handheld screens.

Alex, my Express Service guy, came in, found me, gave me my keys, a printout of what they’d done. All free because we’re still in the two year Toyota Care period. Back in the Rav4 I looked at the printout, double checking as is my habit. Huh? No oil change.

Walked back to see Alex. Nope, no oil change, just a tire rotation. Uh? Your car had an oil change at 4,750 miles. Oh? Yes. And that means the next oil change isn’t until 14,750 miles. Synthetics go ten thousand miles between changes. I was at 10,100, so I just thought…

The sticker, that little reminder beloved of car service centers everywhere, now lists mileage between tire rotations, not oil changes. What?

After 50 plus years of oil changes and service visits based on 5,000 mile intervals, this old dog was left shaking his head. Not to mention all the strange and wonderful features on this internal combustion engine powered computer. The only constant.

Driving back home through Evergreen, I saw a small herd of elk strung out along Maxwell Creek just after the turn from 73 onto Brook Forest Drive. Some were lounging, others drinking. We’re in the rut now and we’ll see more and more elk as it progresses. No bugling yet.

Back home Kate had managed the installation of our new dryer. Don’t think I mentioned that our old one died last week. The motor. $500 and a one year warranty. Nope. This white Speedqueen with a ten year warranty, a promotion, looks retro. It’s white enamel, sitting low to the floor, with an opaque door. No peeking at the socks as they tumble. Did two loads yesterday. Works fine.

A nap. Then off to On the Move for the second round with my new workout. I needed the second run through. Several of the exercises required me to do things my body found awkward. One of them, a lunge with a set of bands, Dave changed so I wouldn’t get off balance every time.

Over to King Sooper, not far from On the Move, to pick up my online order. In this case King Sooper employers pick your groceries, then bring them out to you on a small wagon filled with plastic totes. I pull into a slot marked Pick Up, call the phone number on the sign, tell them which slot I’m in, “#1.” and a worker brings out the groceries, loads them into the back. Slick.

Back home I cut up the watermelon I’d just bought, put it in a plastic container for Mussar Vaad Practice Group. Kate and I have gotten back, at least semi-back, to the rhythm of Beth Evergreen. I like that because we see friends, talk about ideas.

Under the Harvest Moon

Lughnasa and the full Harvest Moon

You can imagine the old reaper and threshing machines working throughout the night, the dusty project lit by the harvest moon. A moon that stays up a bit longer, is often fuller and brighter than a normal full moon. Now the combines (combine reaping and threshing) move through the wheat fields with horse power generated by an internal combustion engine, headlights and floodlights for use if necessary. Contractors come in droves to bring in the nation’s wheat harvest.

Up here on Shadow Mountain the full Harvest moon makes hunting easier for predators like the mountain lion, the ferret, the bobcat. No fields flat enough for a reaper though I did see a guy mowing alfalfa at the bottom of Shadow Mountain Drive where it hits 73. There’s an irregularly shaped piece of land, beloved by deer, elk, and moose, that has grass, hay. Once a year a small harvest.

Kate and I went to see Gabe yesterday. Much improved. Talking, holding a plush baboon. “Did you fart yet?” “Yes.” “Good.” That’s important. He had bowel surgery and the intestines have to get back to work after a shock. He will be at the hospital until he poops, showing they have full function.

Afterward we ate at a small restaurant, The Hungry Wolf. Southern cooking. Ribs, pulled pork, greens, red beans and rice. Peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. Our waitress, a co-manager, was as attentive as if we were at a fine dining restaurant and more kind. She let these two old folks move to a booth that opened up, getting us off the rickety high chairs.

Forgot to mention in all the news from yesterday that I took my lab order to Quest laboratories, sat down in the phlebotomist’s chair, rolled up my left sleeve, and received a painless stick. My first post-radiation PSA.

Get livin’ or get dyin’

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

The Sword of Damocles

New workout. Met with Dave, personal trainer at On the Move Fitness. He’s a thin, muscled guy, a bicyclist’s physique with a hearty, but haunted manner. The curving scar from just above his left temple to parallel with the middle of his left ear explains the haunted part.

He’s an outlier in the world of glioblastoma patients. His surveillance scans were, up until this April, clear. It looked like he had been cured. Then, boom. A seizure. Then, another one. Trips to the E.R. Another scan. The cancer was back.

Since his journey and mine share a lot of similarities, we’ve bonded. Seeing him yesterday was a chance to catch up. He’s been at home most of the time since his surgery, taking chemo and getting his mojo back. I mentioned the awful decision he and Deb had to make about whether to radiate after surgery.

I didn’t want to take all my cards off the table, he said. Meaning he didn’t want to become cognitively deficient, yet alive. A real possibility if he chose radiation. Not radiating made it more likely the cancer could return. Hobson’s choice*. There are instances when living itself becomes a problem. I talked to a lot of smart people. The chemo is a slow trickle. He shook his head, I didn’t want to take all my cards off the table.

We agreed that this cliche has real meaning for both of us: get living or get dying. There’s a choice even here. Do you face toward your life and the world or do you face the disease and death? How you choose matters. The irony of our being together to make my body strong was not lost on me.

Lodge skillets

Afterward I drove over to Evergreen, where I bought a 12″ cast iron skillet. Been wanting one for a while, mostly to sear steaks and roasts. I had a tenderloin roast in the fridge. Tony’s Market, again. Went to the King Sooper next to the Village Gourmet and picked up some potatoes for the evening meal.

Stopped at Congregation Beth Evergreen and made copies for my bagel table on Saturday. I like that we’re merging back into congregational life there.

Guess who was coming to supper? The eminence grisé of the former Crane Engineering. He even has a card, designed by mutual friend Mark Odegard, that says so. Tom’s here for a visit.

Speed Queen 7000 series

Before that though there were matters domestic to take care of. Had to order a new dryer. A Speed Queen. 10 year warranty. These folks trust their work. Appliance Factory. Buy new sheets for our bed. Amazon. Also had to get the malfunctioning O2 concentrator ready to go off for repair. Harder than it could have been. Or, should have been.

Plopped that tenderloin roast on the heated to high cast iron skillet and seared away. Worked well. Coulda been on a chuck wagon on top of Shadow Mountain instead of in our kitchen.

It was good to share the table with Tom. The dogs clambered around him, saying hi. We caught up on his life. Saw each other as only long time friends can see each other.

He and I head over to Bailey this morning for breakfast. We’ll plan, in a very loose sense, our day. Friendships require nurturing. Tom’s excellent at it.

Thomas Hobson

BTW: The phrase is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest to the door or taking none at all. wiki

Second Act

Lughnasa and the 1% crescent of the Moon of the First Harvest

Workout yesterday. Used my new 10 kilogram kettlebell for goblin squats. My legs could tell. Even this morning coming up the stairs to the loft. Good to feel the work.

Kate finished up the peaches, preserving them in oj. Put them in the freezer, ready for dessert or snacking anytime we want. Western Slope goodies.

The hot flushes have held off the last couple of days. Good. They can stay away. Side effects from the Lupron not bad so far. I’ve hit the cancer back, hard. Kept up exercising. Altered my diet some, not as much as I could.

2015, first act

Spent some time yesterday blocking out a plan for wildfire mitigation, the second act. Lots of moving parts, many requiring a chain saw. Not sure what my stamina is like now, but I hope to do much of the work myself. Before the snow.

Not sure if I mentioned our new neighbor Derrick. He lives in the rental next to us. They’re heating with wood, so I imagine most of the downed trees will end up at his place. Good for him, good for us.

Today is finish mowing the fuel day. Also roundup on the grasses and plants around the house, the shed, and the garage out to five feet. Where the landscape cloth and rocks will go. It’s been way too hot for tree work. At least for me. Cooler days are ahead.