Friday, May 29, 2009


PBR likes dandelions too.

Mom has been restless all night and all day today, so that's all I got. She wants nothing more than to walk outside, but the mosquitoes are so bad I can't let her do that. Augghh!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dandy Art of Alzheimer's

This is actually one of the early Art of Alzheimer's installations. I came in the kitchen and found this on the counter. She had picked a bouquet of dandelions, found a bowl to put them in, and put a little bit of water in her vase.

I've never viewed dandelions as a noxious weed that must be totally eradicated at all costs. As a matter of fact, I was raised just the opposite.

Dad liked to make wine for home consumption,(even won some ribbons for it) and one of his favorites was dandelion wine, made from the flower.

Us kids would ride our bikes around town, scouting out the best patches of dandelions in public areas. Then we would ride back home and tell Dad where we had spotted some. Before the day was out, Dad would pile us into the old woody station wagon, ice cream buckets in hand, and we'd go dandelion picking. After picking for an hour or two, Dad would often reward us with a stop at the Root Beer Stand for a gallon of root beer, or maybe a cone from the Dairy Queen.

So I don't mind dandelions at all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Guarded Sigh of Relief

Simba there, the one on the left, has been scaring me the past few days. She is having trouble walking. There was fear of a blown ACL, or two, but that seems to have been ruled out. This is good news, because I couldn't pay $4000.00 for the surgery to correct it. I've been shedding many tears over that thought. The test for Lyme's was negative, and her hips look good on X-ray. The vet doesn't really know what is going on. We are treating her for Lyme's, just in case it was a false negative, and starting her on steroids for the next month.

I'm not doing the peasant dance of joy with wild abandon quite yet, but I am rejoicing in the sound of her tail thwapping the floor next to me as I type.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quick Mom Story

Getting Mom in and out of the truck can be a bit of an ordeal. Sometimes she simply doesn't know what to do, and other times she is actively resistant to getting in. It usually involves me picking up her foot and physically lifting it up into the truck. She is usually clutching the door handle, so I have to duck under that arm in order to reach it. If she is in the resisting mood, she is pushing down with all her weight on that foot. Once I get the first foot up, then she is usually resting against the edge of the seat. I have to hold her there, lift the other foot up, then lift her over fully onto the seat. It takes some time, even more if she is resisting.

Yesterday we went to the pharmacy to pick up her pills. When we came out, I discovered that someone had parked very close to her side of the truck, and I couldn't get the door fully open. It made a difficult job even more difficult, trying to work in cramped quarters. I was standing there, Mom's arm around my neck, her sort of half laying there while I'm trying to lift her over on to the seat, when Mom says, very earnestly and in her most helpful tone, "I think you can get in on the other side." Yep, Mom, that's a good idea! I guess she thought I was going to climb over her to get in.

Mom will go for days (weeks) without saying much, and certainly not in full sentences. Then she'll surprise me with a comment like that. It makes me wonder if she just didn't have anything to say? She's in there, but is perfectly content to not say anything unless necessary? Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The Alaska hat is done. I'm pretty sure it will fit her this time. The pattern is roughly based on the Turn-a-Square pattern. I didn't do the striping, the yarn did it a little bit on it's own. I only used 80 stitches, and didn't increase after the ribbing. The yarn is 50%alpaca/50% Cormo wool handspun.

Here you can see the barely there striping. I do like how the bottom is green.

It is a little more noticeable on the top, as the squares form.

As I was outside taking these photos using the trunk of my car as makeshift lightbox, I got buzzed. At first I just watched, and then realized I had my camera in my hands. With no time to change camera settings, I just clicked away. In slight silhouette, you can't see the bright ruby throat.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dust bath

I have four square raised beds right outside my kitchen door, what I euphemistically call the herb garden. I like to grow some lettuces, spinach and herbs right by the door, so I can nip outside and cut what I need for a meal real quick like. I grow more in the main garden, but it is nice to have some just steps away when I'm in a hurry, darkness surprised me, or it's raining.

That was the plan, anyway. The free ranging chickens have taken over the beds.

He looks like he owns it, doesn't he?

They think I built the beds as dust baths for them, so they kill anything I try to plant there.

I have a plan involving hardware cloth, garden staples, fencing nails and a couple of kumquats. Not really on that last, I just like saying kumquat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Your helpful hint of the day: When you're having 30-40 miles per hour wind, just open your windows. Pretty soon, all of the dust bunnies will be blown out from under your couch and other heavy furniture. Then just sweep them up! No heavy furniture moving required. Isn't that handy?

I'm knitting a hat for a friend. She lives in California, but is going river rafting in Alaska soon. She needs a hat. So I'm knitting away, thinking, wow, this seems too big. Is this too big? It seems too big. After a couple of inches of thinking this, I finally thread a yarn through it and take it off the needles. I thought I was knitting a hat. Turns out, I was actually knitting her a tight-fitting sweater. Oy. I've started over.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Professional Shearing

Yesterday I helped a fellow alpaca owner shear 25 animals in less than four hours. She hires a professional shearer, but you still need several people to help. The shearer brought his own "headman", which was his daughter. I tell you it was poetry in motion, a perfectly coreographed dance. His daughter knew exactly where to position the animal, moving the head and ears in the perfect series of moves so that the shearer could just keep shearing. It is highly efficient, but also beautiful!

As the "bag lady", I was sort of part of it. You have to watch the shearer, move the garbage fiber out of the way so that the good stuff he will be cutting doesn't fall on top, (you don't want to mix the good and the bad) then get the good fiber bagged before he starts on the bad again. There is a particular step in the process where you better grab the fiber then get your hand out of the way, because he is going to put his foot there and you'll get stepped on. I always managed to avoid that.

The wonderful fringe benefit of being the bag lady? My hands were immersed in warm alpaca fiber for most of the day! My friend has breeding animals, both huacaya and suri, ranging from a 14 year old dark silver gray herdsire to a light fawn cria that I wanted to take home with me. Beautiful animals, with beautiful fiber.

I was able to pull the truck into the barn where we were working, and Mom sat in the truck watching/napping. I outfitted her with coloring books, magazines, a few snacks, and she was happy as a clam. It worked out well. It was a wonderful day. They took us out for Mexican food after, and Mom made tortilla chip art. I didn't have my camera though.

I also finished the ploomed scarf/shawl. It is 8" by 63".

I need to find a better model, the chair doesn't work the best. Here, it is closed with a red oak shawl stick.

A close-up of the texture.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


You know what sucks about living alone (in effect) in the country in the spring? When you discover a tick in the middle of your back in the middle of the night. That spot that you cannot reach by yourself, no matter how you contort your body. The tweezer doesn't reach either. You get out the rubbing alcohol, hoping the burn will make the tick back out. Nope, but your back is nicely sanitized! You try going back to bed, thinking you'll call your friend (and neighbor) in the morning. Except you can't get back to sleep knowing there is a tick in the middle of your back. The slightest touch of fabric to your skin makes you think there are ticks crawling on you. You get back out of bed, grab a butter knife from the kitchen drawer, and finally, scrape that sucker off, along with several epidural layers. You figure the new rug burn in the middle of your back won't get infected because your back had been doused in rubbing alcohol. You head back to bed, the Brad Paisley song running through your head.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Continuing my fascination with corn rows. This one makes me dizzy if I look at it too long.

I was in desperate need of dog, cat and chicken food, (well, not me really, the dogs, cats and chickens were!) so yesterday Mom and I ventured off the farm and went to the bigger town about 20 miles away. We managed ok at Fleet Farm, until we tried to leave. Pouring down rain. So I just parked our trolley of already paid for stuff by the door, and we walked around a little. We happened by the umbrellas, and it seemed prudent to go ahead and buy one to keep in the truck for just this type of occurence. The rain had let up a bit anyway, and Mom was in a raincoat, so we managed to get into the truck fine.

This is where we just should have gone back home. I hate to make the trip and only go to one place, and I did need a few things from the grocery store. Ever since I discovered the store delivers, I usually order on-line and let them make the trek to the farm. We were right there, and sometimes I can't find what I want on-line, even though I know they have it, so I decided to go ahead and do some grocery shopping.

We actually did pretty good, until we hit the meat department. They have a meat counter along the back, and Mom and I were standing with our backs to it, looking in a long freezer bank. Mom was two steps away from me. This is where everything went into slow motion. The meat counter guy was in front of the counter, and had the three of the display windows up. They're hinged at the top, like the hatchback of a car, you know? I don't know what he was doing exactly, but Mom made a beeline for the display. She managed to touch a fancy, dolled-up chicken breast before I could stop her. Crap! I saw the price and felt a little ill. Meat counter guy was oblivious to the whole thing, but I told him she had touched one, so I guess we'll buy it, and pointed out which one she had touched. I told him to go ahead and give me another one, so at least I could make a meal for both of us. In the meantime, the display windows are still up, and it's all I can do just to keep Mom from going after the filet mignon etc and move her away from the meat counter. He came back around and put the now wrapped up chicken breast in our cart for me. I finally manage to get Mom away from there, and we continue on our way through the store. As I am putting everything on the conveyor belt at the check-out lane, I note the price of the fancy chicken breast. Let's just say that it was heavily(!!!) discounted. Aw, thanks meat counter guy!

Now we just have to get out of the store. They have a #@%@#^$(&* revolving door that I swear will be the death of me yet. When I feel it is safe to go in, we venture forth. As we are about half way in the door part, the apples fell off the back of the cart. I can't back out of the door, because the bag of apples is there. Mom is standing in the door part, and the revolving door is coming up behind her! I yelp, but the door stops just before it hits her. In the meantime, there is an older man wanting to go out of the store too. He helps me pick up the apples and get Mom to a safer position. He murmurs, "Memory issues?" I say "Yes," and he helps me with the umbrella and Mom and the cart all the way to the truck.

I sure do appreciate grocery delivery, but it is nice to be reminded of the kindness of strangers too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Plooming Prep

This will eventually become another peg loomed (ploomed!) scarf/shawl. Yes, my love affair with the peg loom continues! It is 100% wool, and deliberately overspun, as I like the little curlique. Since it won't be knit, I'm not worried about skewing. I want to figure out how to do beehives on a single. I think that would look great on a ploomed item. Actually, any novelty/art yarn would look great, because you can see the character of the yarn better than if it is knit.

Gotta go, I have more spinning to do before I can get to the plooming!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tangle and Toileting

Toileting with Mom has always been a little difficult. Once I finally get her to sit down, she tries to get up immediately. I have discovered if I give her something to fiddle with/concentrate on, she will sit long enough and finally, um, go. My something of choice is this little thing called a Tangle Toy.

Unfortunately, the little sections pull apart. With Mom, the little section goes right in her mouth. This just means that I only use the Tangle Toy in the bathroom. Since I am always right there anyway, it doesn't matter so much. It works like a charm though.

I have been reading the Alz Assoc. caregiver forum off and on for a few years, but never registered or posted. I'll be honest, there seemed to be too much drama, which turned me right off. Maybe that has changed. Anyway, I was reading their new forum regarding the documentaries, and felt compelled to register and defend Nick the cameraman/director. So I'll do the same thing here to set the record straight, in case anyone wondered.

During the stone incident, Nick kept filming. He wasn't intrusive, did not get in the way at all. I was so focused on what I was doing, I didn't even notice him. Afterwards, he apologized, saying he didn't know what to do, try to help or keep filming. He did exactly the right thing. Mom would have struggled even harder if he had tried to do anything. And of course the incident should be shown. It was the perfect example of what can happen, what caregivers have to deal with, how exhausting it can be to always be on the lookout. At the time, there was no question in my mind that it wouldn't end up on the cutting room floor.

Ok, enough of that. Look! The orioles are back!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mowing, or not.

Today is a good day for mowing with the scythe. Cool and rainy, it helps keep the grass soft so the scythe cuts easier. I went out and mowed some earlier. I've learned that I can't do things the way I used to without Mom around. I have a riding mower, but I can't really use it anymore. For one thing, I can't hear the baby monitor that I use to keep track of Mom while I am outside doing chores or whatever. If she is outside with me, she tries to follow me around while I am on the mower. That is just too dangerous. I can't say that I really miss the rider though. As a matter of fact, I don't miss it at all.

Scything is wonderful! I can hear the birds and Mom sing while I mow. I get some badly needed exercise. I don't have to buy expensive gasoline to run the rider. I can smell the newly cut grass and my own sweat without overtones of mower exhaust. I can see the small patch of spotted violet that survived the winter, and avoid cutting it down.

My goal is to not mow with the rider all summer. I'll let the animals into the yard to eat what they want, and hit the rest with the scythe. I hope.

Of course, I might get accosted by a peeping Tieck while I am innocently working at the computer, but she just makes me laugh anyway, so it's all good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Art of Alzheimer's

How does she do it? This was sitting on the nightstand in her bedroom. I just saw the top of my blender, and thought, great, now how long am I going to be looking for the little plastic part that goes in the middle. I should have known better. When I got closer I could see the red water jug top. How does she manage to find the object that fits perfectly in the hole?

I wanted to thank everyone for your kind comments. You know, I'm not doing anything different than the legions of other caregivers out there. By comparison, I have it easy. Mom is pleasant and happy for the most part. Besides, I learned from the best.

Mom took care of my aunt (her sister-in-law) after she had a stroke. She was wheelchair bound, lived about a block away, and Mom would go down every night, around 10:30 pm, to chat and make sure my aunt was ok and got into bed ok. Every night for I don't know how many years. We would also take her for walks (me pushing her wheelchair) around town and down by the lake.

Mom also helped an elderly housebound neighbor lady for as long as I can remember. Mom did her laundry, her grocery shopping and other errands, and just visited every day. Us kids shoveled her sidewalk and mowed her lawn. She had a huge bed of Lilies of the Valley. Every year at the appropriate time, she would call me over to pick a vase for her, and a vase for me. I loved them, and we didn't have any. Win all around.

P.S. I found the little plastic part for the blender almost immediately, it was sitting on the counter next to the blender.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm freaking out!

The documentary airs here in less than an hour. I'm feeling nervous, and I don't know why. I've seen it already. It has been available for viewing on-line for a couple of days now at HBO. I know it is out there.

When I started this blog, it was a place for me to write down stories about Mom in one place, and to have the art photos in one place. But then people actually started reading. I made some really good friends, and found a lot of support from fellow caregivers. Little did I know it would lead to this.

Welcome to new readers. Feel free to pull up a chair and poke around a bit. Unfortunately, I'm not real good about labeling the Mom stories, you'll have to find them on your own. However, click on the Art label over there in the side bar, and you'll see more of Mom's Art of Alzheimer's photos, usually with the story behind it.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Yesterday was a hard day here at MapleCorners. I was feeling a bit piled on like Ursa here.

A little topsy-turvy like Judy.

It was one of those days where I just wanted to escape. I wanted no responsibility for any living thing, sell the farm, find homes for everything but the dogs, and go back to California where the biggest decision to be made was how much cilantro to put in the taco salad. (Huck the whole thing in!)

Don't worry, Mom is fine, and it wasn't the AD caregiving thing that had me in a funk. Actually, Mom helped bring me out of it. We sat in the lawn chairs as the sun went down, cats on our laps, dogs at our feet, and even the chickens gathered round to keep us company. The frogs and robins were singing their nightly songs and the geese were honking in the distance.

A little spinning later,

and the peace of this place is starting to soak in again.

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Click for big and look very closely. You can see that those clouds continue under the blue section. The blue section is like a giant shadow on the sky. Cool.

Not cool is the 2-3 inches of water in my basement. We had a heavy downpour (and even some small hail) earlier, but I hadn't realized how heavy until I saw the lake in the field. Seeing that caused me to check the basement. Yep, flooded. I set up the pump though, so it is getting emptied. The joys of a over 100 year old fieldstone foundation. All of my mechanicals are up on blocks, so nothing is damaged, just a pain. It would be nice if the rain moved on for the day though.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In the Garden

I managed to sneak in a little gardening this weekend too. I use raised beds, no tilling required. A combination of alpaca manure, leaves, grass clippings and sometimes shredded paper put right in the bed and allowed to compost makes a wonderful, crumbly soil rich in organic matter. Now, in the spring, I just mix in the previous years mulch with what my Dad always called a scratcher (a cultivator? a long handled tool with three offset curved tines). Mine is old. When I saw it at an auction, I made sure it went home with me. It is exactly like the one my Dad had, and reminds me of him.

As I was scratching away at the bed, I saw the soil move. What the?

Isn't he cute? It makes me very glad I don't use a tiller. He would have been chopped to bits. Instead, his nap was just disturbed. I put him back in the bed, covered him with a little soil, and he soon buried himself proper and went back to sleep. Or whatever it is toads do when they bury themselves.

My goal is to be a good steward of the land, so it makes me feel like I am doing something right with the soil if toads like to overwinter in it.

I also found this.

Aren't birds amazing? Master weavers and builders. It was very windy, so it must have blown out of the tree. Assuming that it a new, unused one, judging from the lack of feathers or bird poop, I am saddened to see all that work go down the drain for the birds. On the other hand, I'm glad it fell down now, empty, rather than going when it had a little bird family in it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Before and After

Before shearing. This was taken Friday afternoon.

After shearing,taken this afternoon. I told them to, but they wouldn't go position themselves in the exact same positions as the first photo. Llamas, go figure.

We did get them all done yesterday. My helpers had to leave at a certain time, and we got them done with time to spare. They are going to come back on Friday to help me pull more burdock.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Thousand Points of Light

(Click for big for maximum effect.) The grass in the hayfield is coming in nicely. This grass is very important to me. Without it, I have to buy hay to feed the animals over winter. Buying hay pretty much blows any profits I might make from my fiber sales right now. When I see an expanse of perfectly manicured lawn, I think, Do you know how many animals that lawn could feed? I am not a fan of manicured lawns.

Does anybody else see swizzle sticks?

I have plans to get in a couple of hours of @#$$#@ burdock pulling before my shearing helpers arrive at 8:30, so I better get moving. We only got two done on Friday night, I hope to finish today.