MM – August 07, 2014

Money woes… still worrying over where the money is coming from but the recent tests all went well. I have been advised that I have an excellent chance of surviving with this disease for at least 10 years and possibly as much as 20 years and with the progress that has been made in the last decade who knows what advances will be discovered given time! Test results showed that the rest of my organs and body functions are all in great shape, if it wasn’t for the damage now caused by cancer, I could have lived to be a hundred.

One of the side effects from taking the Bortezomib is Neuropathy (damage to the nerves in the extremities, fingers, toes and such) I am experiencing this side effect and it’s one of the reasons the Doctor reduced the chemo treatment from twice a week to once a week. Unfortunately, it came back worse than ever in July. Both of my feet up to the ankles have the sensation of tingling and mild pain and across the top of my feet at the base of my toes is tender and feels like the area is bruised, although there is no visual sign of bruising. The soles of my feet feel like I am walking on tender puff balls, although there is no visual sign of swelling. The sensation regularly goes up the back of my legs, from the calves to my knees as well.The Doctor has stopped the treatment and has advised me to stop doing so much walking and to keep off my feet as much as possible or I may have permanent damage. This is all well and good, but I still have to get about to all these tests and appointments and I can’t afford to drive everywhere.

Stem Cell Separator machine

Stem Cell Separator machine

I have taken the G-CSF injections, (I self injected to save on the repeated trips to the hospital and monopolizing nursing staff that have far more important demands on their time over a long weekend). Although, I did suffer a couple of days of associated bone pain and headaches, not really headaches as much as my skull hurt, very weird sensation. But I did end up with a migraine one of those days.

For the most part, the preparations outlined in my previous blog went along great with only needing 1 full day of being hooked up to the 2 – IV lines for Stem Cell collection. Everything went so well they were able to collect enough stem cells with just 6 hours of being hooked up to the separator. I was so relieved to not have to go back and be re-hooked up for another day to that machine.

I panicked for a bit because I had to arrange for a volunteer driver to get me back and forth to the hospital for the collection, even though I had called and made the request several days in advance, apparently no one was available. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but at the last minute it was covered by two of the BC Cancer Agency Volunteer Drivers. This is such a needed and wonderful service, done by some very caring individuals. But I find arranging all these details very demanding on my limited energy and when they fall through I find it hard to cope. The stress from all of these combined worries is unbelievable.

Looking forward to a much needed ‘break’ from hospitals for a few days before the next and more challenging part of this proceedure, which is the upcoming pre-Hickman Line insertion blood work, Hickman Line catheter insertion, 8 hour Chemotherapy treatment and then the actual Stem Cell Transplant, which is when they give the stem cells just collected back to me. They advise the first month will be the most incapacitating time for me during recovery. So I will use this ‘break’ as best I can to prepare in advance for when I can’t do things easily for myself, such as cooking/freezing pre-made meals and cleaning away as many household germs as possible.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

The Wonderful and Amazing Advantages to Mulching

When I first started to garden professionally, many many years ago, 🙂 I became obsessed with the perfectly clean, weed free, garden bed, edged in neatly trimmed boxwood hedges or framed with lovely planks of raw wood. All arranged in a very neat geometric pattern, with connecting pathways made out of traditional materials and all very formal.
Wow! Absolutely gorgeous to behold for that one moment when everything is done and there’s not a weed in sight.

But… what a lot of work!

When I look back on what I was able to accomplish given this penchant for achieving perfection, I have amazed many but none as much as myself. However, as the toll of all that labour over the years has taken its effect on my poor, ageing and abused body. I have found myself not visualizing the perfectly formed, symmetrical garden anymore, but rather thinking on how much bounty can I achieve without breaking my back and being bed ridden for weeks in recovery from too many hours spent bent in the same position while performing that never ending chore of weeding. As a result, I have taken more and more interest in the various forms of mulching, that perfect garden cover that provides heat and frost protection, significantly reduces or eliminates the need to weed, minimizes watering and conditions the soil, all at the same time!

Ruth Stout is renowned for gardening into her 90’s, due to her ability to develop a garden with such rich, loose soil that she no longer tilled or weeded or did anything much other than shuffle over a bit of mulch, throw in a few seeds and let nature take it’s course. Ruth used a permanent mulch on the surface of the garden to maintain an on going composting process and in this way fed her garden soil while minimizing the weeds. Any weeds that did occasionally dare to show themselves, would get pulled and added to the decaying matter before it could set seeds. In this way, Ruth was getting an abundant harvest from minimal work. I would say she was definitely using her brains instead of her back. And since my back isn’t so great anymore, I have joined Ruth in her philosophy of less work with more results through the use of mulching.

However, I still plant my crops in loose rows and have a semblance of order in the garden. For example, my potatoes … first I clear the soil of any sizable weed remnants that may have occurred in the off season, then I lay a strip of 4 ft. wide black landscape fabric down over the soil, weighing the edges of the fabric down with some rocks that are laying around the pathways. The fabric, with holes cross cut about a foot apart down the center of it’s length, is porous, allowing water to go through to the soil but preventing light to penetrate. Also I can use it repeatedly for many seasons, so a worthwhile investment in my opinion. Then I place a seed potatoe in each of the holes and walk away. If I use 2 or more strips of fabric side by side I can plant along the edges where the two pieces meet as well.Mulching

Once the potatoe sprouts have started to poke through the holes, I mulch the surface of the fabric with hay or some other loose organic material, such as; straw, leaves, or canary grass. I do this so the black fabric doesn’t cook the potatoes if there is a really hot, sunny spell and because the combination of both mulches, fabric and hay, almost eliminates the need to water. I rarely use actual compost on the fabric surface, as I find the potatoes will grow too many leaves and only produce small potatoes due to the overabundance of nutrition from too much good compost.

When the potatoes start to die back I just lift the fabric, mulch and all, off the garden bed and pick the potatoes up that are laying on the ground underneath. I generally get about 200lbs of potatoes from 20 lbs of seed that way and never use a shovel or water or weed. Once I’m done picking up all those lovely potatoes, I flip the fabric, mulch and all right back onto the bed and leave it there until I’m ready to plant something again. Every time I do this, I have less and less weeds to contend with. If it is nearing winter time or the bed is expected to rest for an extended period of time without being planted , then I will pull the fabric out from under all that mulch, leaving the organic materials behind, in order to put the fabric away from the prolonged exposure to harsher weather elements and in this way prolong it’s life span. I’ve used the same fabric for 10 years so far.

This same method works really well for tomatoes, all the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.), pumpkins and any of the summer or winter squashes. I usually just use a hay mulch around my beets, carrots and beans, after they have sprouted, although the timing is important because if I wait too long then the weeds will sprout too and I’ll be back to weeding again before I can mulch.

I haven’t become quite as smart as Ruth, in that I still have not achieved a completely permanent mulch system but I’m working toward that.

Hmm… to get started you need about 8 inches of organic material such as old hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, sawdust, seedless weeds or any vegetable matter that rots, covering the existing soil surface. An equal amount of those same materials should be readily available to add to the garden regularly to keep the process going. Scatter a bit of green sand, now and then, along with maybe some other organic amendments, like crushed egg or oyster shells, kelp, or some compost made from kitchen scraps and if you can get it, composted animal manure and you’re on the way to a rich, loose soil base for your entire garden.

By the way, there are lots of references to Ruth Stout’s method of No Work Gardening techniques online. Well worth a Google.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess