Friday 27 July 2018

Home! (...but Deefer's in the Dog House)

Home in time for the pea harvest
Back home then to a rapturous welcome from the three dogs. I just fall to my knees and let them all have at me at once, sniffing and nuzzling, rather than stand, bent over while all three try to jump up for a fuss at once. They were delighted to have me back but Elizabeth had tipped me off that #1 daughter (Deefer) was in SERIOUS TROUBLE having killed our last turkey poult. Silly girl. The Woman of the House was hopping mad (she did it in front of Elizabeth despite a warning shout) and is now still "doing time" for it. If Deefer was in the Military, she'd be doing "jankers", scrubbing the toilet floor with a toothbrush or something. I know better than to undermine that by trying to do "Good Cop", so she stayed on punishment detail till late that night.

Opening up this year's "Parma" ham.
I don't know what it is about turkeys specifically - Deefer does not have a problem any more with tiny hen-chicks, ducks or goslings. Maybe it is the high pitched whistle-cheep triggering some kind of 'vermin' response rather than a 'valuable baby bird' one. She immediately goes all tense and twitchy with prey-focus, like a good sheep dog. There is no talking to her. A quick snap and bye bye poult. She has now killed all three leaving the (chicken) hen that we put them under to brood and who had since been rearing them, totally distraught. We will never trust her with turkey poults again, that's for sure.

However, I promised you a livestock round-up in this post, and quite a story it is. At Elizabeth's visits to the hospital, I must have been focusing a bit too much on the fox-attack stories. I was worried that I'd have to get home a bit quick while we still had some hens. No need to worry. We have plenty of hens and plenty of young 'followers' coming on behind. I think it was only the one we lost while I was away. When Elizabeth made the feed rounds that evening, which she does by broadcasting the grain in the yard, surrounded by chickens of all ages, turkeys, ducks, Guinea fowl, and geese and goslings, she seems to be knee-deep in birds. It is a pleasure to watch! I will try to find the photo.

In no particular order then.......

The pigs have come on well. The big female (left) is ready.
Bees: The main colony is still going strong and the swarm which I spotted had invaded the lure box is still active. Regular readers will probably know that Summer bees in Ireland, only live about 6 weeks each, dying worn out by all that hard foraging. If you get a swarm and it lasts beyond 6 weeks, then you have hit the Jackpot and snatched a viable, queen-right one. She will have been laying eggs from days of arrival (as soon as the wax-loaded workers drew her out some comb) and these new bees will be able to take over after the 6 weeks to keep the colony going. I will have to check my dates, to see if our 6 weeks are up.

Elizabeth doing 'shepherd'. She has no fear. She knows the
sheep will follow so she strides off with her bucket and, of course,
all the flock trot along behind.
Pigs: The pigs have come on leaps and bounds under the new management and the female, who was always a bit bigger than the boys, is now ready to go on that final journey. The boys we will hold back another month or so, if mainly due to lack of freezer space. We have booked her in on the Tuesday, so we now need to do all that trailer-familiarisation training thing that we do, over the weekend. It will be fun. We only want her in the trailer, but all three are likely to get enthusiastic at once. Watch this space. The freezers are completely devoid of pork now except for a small tray of (3?) trotters, so it will be nice to get some meat back in there.

The big ram lamb is on the left here. 
Sheep: Here too, two of the lambs are now good and ready and one of these, the ram lamb is also starting to mature and to 'jump' anything that moves. We dare not risk him getting the ladies pregnant, so he and one other lamb are also booked in, this time on Monday. We have decided, in the light of the uncertain health of the staff(?) to ease things a bit this winter and to try something new. The remaining 2 lambs (both ewes) will stay with us round till next Summer and then be killed as "hogget" rather than lamb. Hogget, the half-way stage from lamb to mutton, is supposed to be very tasty. We will not bring a ram in this winter, so we will not be 'doing' lambs next Spring. The girls can have a year's rest.

Young poults roosting where ever you look.
Birds: Plenty birds about, as I said, though not many eggs forthcoming. Too many birds are sitting eggs, or rearing babies, or they are babies themselves. There are 2 currently AWOL, the female Guinea fowl, and a white Sussex hen, 'Connie', we hope well hidden up from the fox, brooding eggs. We have no idea where. We see Connie occasionally, so we know she is still alive. We are knee deep in young poults, most of whom I lost track of which 'Mum' they came with while I was away.

Not ducklings any more. Silver Appleyards
I am very taken with the 'new' ducks. These, you may recall, were just a rag-bag purchase in a hurry when we needed ducks to replace the females killed by the fox. Mike the Cows had a family of Mum and 5 half grown ducklings of the "Silver Appleyard" variety. These youngsters have done really well and almost caught up with Mum in size, making it quite tricky to tell which actually is Mum. They have bonded well with our original drake, a Khaki Campbell, and now move round as a tight group of 7.

They have also taken over the pond, which they head for the centre of, as soon as danger or an intruder looms, or a dog gets too close. This good news may well be the reason why (touch wood) we have not lost any to the fox yet. I am delighted and amazed. They spend their time between the pond and the safety of the yard, sprinting between the two in a waddling 'crocodile'. They never stray out to the perimeter where Mr Fox might lurk in the long stuff. Long may it continue.

Emma and Flora start on the jungle formerly known as
"raised flower bed"
Humans: I finally got to meet the two latest Help-X lasses, Emma and Flora. I was worried I might miss them all together if the hospital stay continued into a 3rd week. They are pure delight, full of youthful vigour, happy, relaxed, and keen to work. Elizabeth had been 'minding' them and setting them their tasks, but she handed me that job as soon as I was back.

Trying out the 'chimenea' - could be quite
handy as the evenings start to cool. A lovely
gift from Steak Lady.
I have had them out cutting briars in the East Field, cleaning out the duck house and now, clearing the valuable plants from the weed-bed formerly known as "raised flower bed". This space had become so weedy that it really was simpler to dig out the good plants and start again. The plan is to dig it all clean over, then cover in weed-proof membrane and gravel, planting the (cleaned) good plants back through this, like we did to the front rose bed.

Crocosmia (Lucifer) giving us great colour
at this time of year.
That is surely enough for this one. Anything I missed, I will try to rope in for the next post.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Coming Home

Excellent progress to report here, I am pleased to say, and I am 99.9% certain to be going home this afternoon. I have the "taxi" (Hi Elizabeth) booked for 3pm - hoping she turns up with a pair of jeans or some other outdoor trousers - and I am just waiting for some paperwork. They send you out of here with a very thorough wad of instructions telling you how to cope in the "Cardiac Re-hab" environment, listing all the drugs you are on and how to manage them, what follow up clinics you need to attend to and what you need to get your GP practice to do (blood tests etc). You can't leave until you've had your de-brief and been handed your paperwork. A big sign in the corridor says "We will try to get you away for 11 am, so that you can  get to the pharmacy". They tell me it's usually more like 3 pm.

This 'going' home thing was first mentioned by the main doc on doc's round yesterday morning. I was paying close attention to their chat and suddenly heard him say "...and we need to get him on to an out-patient drug regime". He then turned to me and said "Would you LIKE to go home, Matthew?" (as if there might be a doubt!). They changed my diuretics about and declared that the "steroids have worked their magic". I had lost 14 kgs in fluids by then and my ankles were well down - I can see tendons, veins and bones "rippling" under the skin. My lungs feel amazingly clear, so that I actually struggle to recall how BAD we were when we first came in. The team just needed to get the Respiratory Doc back in for a final consult, to make sure she had no pressing reason to keep me in, and I could be cleared for take off.

Resp-Doc was excellent. She swung by mid afternoon. She is a lovely lady and more than willing to show me X-rays and the "salami slice" pictures of the CT scan while explaining the illness to me and the process. I love all that technology anyway and am quite knowledgeable (in an 'A' level / 'Leaving Cert' kind of way) on human biology. She was able to click on the 'salami slices' at the top of my chest and then slide down through the images, that dark circle is the single windpipe.... now see how it has divided in two, now see the dark area, that is clear, air filled lung and this, surrounding it is the fluid. "How much fluid would that actually represent, Doctor?" About 2 litres, she said. Scary stuff. That scan was a week ago, so back in the bad old days. Good to know all that fluid has pretty much been 'widdled' out now in my 14 kg.

So where am I, as I hop in the car this afternoon and get to see the farm again, be with Elizabeth, let the dogs go mad sniffing me and finally get to meet the 2 Help-X students, Flora and Emma. Well, not quite fixed is the answer. My lungs, though clear of fluid do have a few weeks of healing and recovery to do, in which I must take it easy and just do gentle stuff about the place, certainly until I have had a follow up clinic with Resp-Doc in 4 weeks time. I have a small collection of meds to keep taking at home, including managing the 'taper' off of the steroids over the next few weeks. I have to carefully manage my fluid intake, sticking to 1.5 litres a day and weigh myself every morning, keeping a careful eye on any 'big' (e.g. 1 kg) increases which might mean that my heart is back to its former inefficient "fluid build up in the lungs" behaviour.

Then there is the elephant in the room, my "regurgitating" mitral valve which will eventually have to be replaced. This is serious, major surgery (obviously) and has to be done in Dublin or Galway (in and out in a week, if you are lucky). The plan is to get me completely stablilized on all this fluid thing and 100% clear of any problem infections, where upon I may go on a waiting list or, I am told, may just get a letter one day asking me to present myself at Dublin at 09:00 on what ever date. More on that in a future post, I presume.

So, sorry no pictures in this one. I will make sure I get round the farm thoroughly before the next post and promise you loads of lovely pictures. That'll be Friday. For now this patient has a need to pack up his stuff and clear the locker and a Re-Hab debrief to attend. Bring it on you drugs experts. Talk to you soon.

Finally, a paragraph choc full of praise and immense gratitude. This to the whole team here, who have been 100% brilliant from the first Receptionist and the Triage Nurse I met at 7 pm on that first night, though all the stages - nurses, doctors, porters, caterers, phlebotomists - to the guy who is about to do my de-brief and the nurses who will presumably wish me well on the way out. Also my ward-chums. It was pure pleasure to meet you and talk to you. And to all the expressions of support, visits and good wishes face to face, by letter, verbally and via social media. Thank you so so much. It really helped. I will never forget you.

Friday 20 July 2018

An Ultra-Sound Guided Pleural Aspiration

A shapely turn of ankle? Looking more like
ankles and less like white pud'ns after 12.2 kg
of fluids drained out of me.
Medical Notes: (For those who weren't paying attention on that day in human biology class). On the big tough left hand side of the heart, at the top, a collecting chamber called the left auricle collects fully oxygenated blood coming back from the lungs. When it contracts, this blood is forced down into the bigger, meatier left ventricle, through the one-way mitral valve. The ventricle then contracts and whooshes this blood onward up the huge artery, the aorta (serious plumbing here, this one can be 2 cm+ diameter) through another non-return valve.

Another customer for the hospital?
In a healthy heart, this job of pushing all your blood up through the next one-way valve, leaves each chamber empty and with very little pressure, ready to fill again from up stream. My problem is that the prolapse on my mitral valve allows a small amount of blood to stay put in the chamber (or return to it) which means back pressure onto the lungs. It's this back-pressure, that forces the fluid out across the lung membranes into these pools and accumulations the doctors have been trying to clear. With good success, I should say - 12.2 kg so far.

The Help-X lasses cooked 'Madeleines'
Progress report: Today I am done with antibiotics, so no more infection. I am still being checked every day for electrolytes after the water-draining 'diuretics', and today I had to take a couple of big, 'Smartie' sized potassium pills. The physio comes every day and takes me a for a walk round the corridors, wired to a 'sats' (Oxygenation saturation) monitor, and has me doing exercises to keep me in condition - the stronger and fitter the better, apparently, if I am to go under the knife for this valve replacement surgery.

Potatoes 'dauphinoises' under construction,
Help-X style
Meanwhile, in the course of all these X-rays and the CT-scan, the main doc discovered some pools of fluid outside the lungs but inside the ribs, among the 'pleural' membranes, so he engaged a new doc, a 'Respiratory Specialist' onto the team  She needed a sample of this fluid for the labs, so I got new procedure, an Ultra-sound guided pleural aspiration. Basically a bigger needle stuck in between the ribs far enough to get its tip into the liquid that they could draw off 20 ml of the stuff. They watch their own progress on the ultra-sound.

Other than that, we just chug on enjoying the lovely hospitality, working hard to get well while patiently losing all this fluid and trying to get my breath back. It's working. I noticed today that I could blow my nose like a proper 'Care' - a good aul' ripping snort requiring plenty lung volume.

Elizabeth takes up the sourdough baton, and
'Reginald' gets a new home and well fed.
Back in Roscommon, I must say again how grateful and delighted I am at the current 'cover shift' on the farm, Mainly Elizabeth but also the 2 Help-X lasses, Emma and Flora. I am trying my hardest here not to be patronising, but I guess I had fallen into that trap a bit - they are MY livestock and I am the only person who'd look after them 'properly', so I'd better set Liz up with lists of detailed instructions and training etc. Of course they are just sheep, pigs and birds, and as long as you remember to give them all water and food and a safe home anyone can mind them. So the 'Woman of the House' took over back in June when I went crock, and everybody survived. I will quickly (and rather shamefully) confess, that I even wandered round after her and checked a couple of times, but each time there was fresh water in the pigs trough or feed in the feeders and I came away happy.

"The Bumbles", 4 Buff Orp chicks hatched
under these 2 hens, plus the dark chick snuck
in by Elizabeth.
By now, 4 weeks or so in and it has all settled down. When Elizabeth comes up on the visit she brings 'Farming News' and pictures - plenty of anecdotes just like I would do when it was my job. Who's hatched, who the fox has tried to snatch, when the Guinea fowl went to bed, which babies are thriving, which need help. We somehow had a dark chick hatch in the current, volcano-shaped goose nest (some brave chicken gone in there 21 days ago to drop one) which needed rescuing because the geese were never going to accept this one into their family. Luckily, we had a little group of new-hatch Buff-Orps under 2 hens in the Tígín. With a bit or effort and persistence, she managed to sneak this little dark baby into the family and now, 'The Bumbles' are out and about and away, possibly our last broody this season. She also, single handedly, moved all the sheep from East Field to the Orchard, where the herb layer was getting a bit tall to even be called grass (plantains, docks, silverweed, pine-apple mayweed, buttercup). This is good. They can graze that down for a week and we will be able to get the girls back on it with the mower and then we will be able to SEE these 4 tiny goslings trying to follow the Mums and Aunts through the long grass.

Finally, just another huge thank you to everyone who has sent me supportive messages and good will - friends, rels and family on Twitter, Facebook, by word of mouth through Elizabeth,from the village, by post from UK. You name it. I am feeling very supported and looked after. Thank you everyone.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

8 Kilogrammes

The iconic Ben Bulben seen from the ward windows
We're still here and feeling very grateful for the huge out-pourings of support and get well messages especially all over Twitter and Facebook.Also the ones called in to Elizabeth from friends, rels and people around our superb village. (She brings me a check list each day and calls them out to me. It's great!) They're all much appreciated and make me feel very cared for and looked after. Thank You.

That big screen in my "private" room (OK,
single bed bay) which became the place to watch
the World Cup England game
This end, I am behaving myself, taking all the meds and willingly submitting to all the treatments and investigations, so I am recovering fast enough for the doctor but slowly by my own normal standards for just a 'cold' or a 'man flu'. They all tell me that a pneumonia is another whole species of 'sick' and I now believe them. My thing was the accumulation of fluids on the lungs and in the tissues generally (mainly the ankles due to gravity). I am here 8 days and have lost 8 kg now, which is a whole new lease of life on the breathing.

As I go through the recovery phase, I also move around the place and gain and lose technological gear. At my most wired, when first in here, I counted 15 lines and wires including the 10 leads connected to my chest and extremities from the heart monitor, the oxygen or nebuliser line, oxygen saturation to a handy finger tip, blood pressure, fancy spiral "push" for my diuretics, etc. I get some of these tests still but that is at the periodic nurse's rounds.

The 'Airvo' oxygen pump.
I am now in the 6-bed, lower intensity bay and have just one machine 'permanently' connected to me, that being the "Airvo", supplier of heated and wetted oxygen to my nose. This is a fine piece of kit now that I have the heat turned down. When the nurses first gave it to me it was a hot afternoon and I just wanted to go lie down on some cold concrete or something. The air-con was on, so my bod was comfortable, but then I got this 'desert' wind coming into my nose, heating my head up and making me sweat into the pillow.

Hospital jewelry. My drip line
Ah well, we put up with it, and it was only the next day when I happened to comment, that one of the nurses said "Oh, you don't have to have it THAT hot, let me turn it down a few degrees!" Bliss. The only other brush with new tech lately was when I was done CT scan. This is a fancy-pants X-ray machine shaped like a thin flat do-nut which they slide you through. The X-ray 'gun' or receiver whizzes round your chest as you slide, 'salami slicing' an image which is then much more useful diagnostically than a straight chest X-ray.

I will hear nothing bad about the food, which has been
excellent throughout.
So, pretty much it is all going well and I can't imagine I will be  in here too long. There is only one question I would LOVE the answer to and I don't think I will ever get that one due to the total lack of engagement with the docs for 6 years. How did this huge "aggressive" pneumonia creep up on me so sneakily. In the morning I felt as right as rain and was actually doing 3 hours of heavy work (beef muck) without a bother on me. 3 hours later, early evening, I suddenly couldn't walk 30 yard without leaning on a fence gasping for breath. It is as if something hit a trigger point and just let go, like a modern car deciding to pre-emptively slow you down to 56 mph because it has detected a brake-bulb blown. Whoa! You need to get some help.

Sorry about the pics in this one - taken on the Android so not of the usual quality.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Coronary Care (3) : The Waffle

No more science or medicine, I promise. I will also try to get you some pictures, though they will be off this dodgy, ten year old Android, so they may not be up to much. Bear with me.

There I was, 3-4 weeks ago still in 'healthy' mode. I didn't need doctors and hospitals. I had been reading the news the same as everybody else, so I "knew" in theory all about HSE waiting lists, people stacked up on trolleys in the corridors awaiting triage or unable to be found a bed. Well, I have to say that my own experience this time was nothing like that. Sligo is rapid, efficient, professional and full of excellent, attentive medical types.

We pitched up here at about 7:30 at night with just a letter from the GP and a washbag. I was pounced on within minutes and run through triage, booked in and what not. A most excellent fella (Dr Miles) took control of me and found me a corner of a 'holding area' (reception ward??) with a bed, curtained off from the rest of the room, which was bursting with people at computers, beeping machines, stacked up equipment etc. Here, between then and 03:30, I was subject to a battery of tests including the expected blood pressure, temperature, blood samples.

The iconic Ben Bulben mountain. This pic blagged off t'Internet.
Half way through this process they told me they were keeping me in (handy because my 'taxi' was long gone), and, as it was 10 pm, I climbed into the bed and made as if to get some sleep. The testing and sampling carried on with them waking every half an hour for a new one "Sorry, Matt, waking you again but we need to weigh you". Then, at 3 am, I was told they had me a bed on the Coronary Care Ward. I was whizzed up by a couple of porters and installed. This was not just "a bed", it was like a private room - a one-bed bay with clusters of equipment all around. From the window I could see the iconic "Ben Bulben" mountain. Above the door was a big-ish screen plasma TV which meant nothing to me but turned out to be THE PLACE a few days later when England were playing in the World Cup.

Next up the best part of a week of 'living' in that bed, being a patient while the team here went through the process of finding out what was wrong with me and trying to sort me out. I had the boss-doc, growly-voiced Dr M and his entourage of fresh, shiny new, enthusiastic students, an army of nurses round the shifts (too many to list here but hi Una, Margy, Catherine, Veronica et al, the ladies that bring food, the porters who push you down to X-Ray or the heart investigation suites (Hi Dom, Paul, Gerry) - every one of them are just THE BEST. Huge respect for the team.

They were very quickly on to the 'liquid/goo in the lungs' thing and starting treatment which was all about clearing this plus the fluid which had accumulated on my now-podgy ankles. We are making good progress on this and I can breath again (which is handy) so I have had 5 chest X-Rays now which show ever clearer airways (fewer Accumulations/Consolidations).

Of course, I shot myself in the foot by getting better nice and quickly, and "The System" decided they needed my nice 'single room ' for a more unhealthy person and I have been moved down to a 6-bed ward. Again, perfectly good  ward, 4 other nice lads in it and the same level of TLC as before. So it goes.

Meanwhile a couple of anecdotes, two of which are similar in being "what goes round comes round" in shape. And a news flash. 10:44 Sunday I have just been taken off all the 'telemetry' (monitors). I am beeping no more.

Thank you very much niece Em-J and nephew M (20 and 12 I think) who came up from Silverwood land to help and support Elizabeth with the household stuff, livestock and fox-watch. Those guys are back on the train home this afternoon but I was amused by the idea that 20 years ago we did plenty of babysitting of Em-J and now she is up here baby-sitting us!

2nd-ly that football. England playing Croatia in the semifinals of the word cup. I'd not normally watch it but hey, it was in my room. We lost eventually but we went ahead first with a lovely free kick which lobbed over the "wall" of Croat players and dipped into the net. With England having got to the semis, of course, all the fans were singing that "Football's coming home" thing that refers back to England's previous effort in 1966. Then it came to me. I was in hospital for that, too. One of my earliest memories of Dad was that he was there too and as soccer-clueless as any 'Care'. I remember wailing at him that the Germans were cheating, standing in the wall so that our guy would not be able to kick at the goal. I have vague memories of the shame of being shushed by all the other boys and girls on the ward. I would have been 9 then. Never did learn any football.

....and finally, the dogs who I miss terribly have been amusing Elizabeth and frightening her half to death. When the three were let go yesterday on a fox-chase, Deefer and Poppea returned, exhausted within the normal half hour or so, but no sign of Towser. 2 hours later when she had almost given up on him, and it was 10 pm+, he staggered back in 'maggotty' from the grass and brambles and headed straight for his 'safe' place under the oven unit. We have no idea what happened to him or where he'd been but Liz said that the look on his face was like a Vietnam veteran returning from an unspeakably harrowing mission...... You DON'T know...... You WEREN'T there!

Saturday 14 July 2018

Coronary Care (2)

So, for those who would like a little more detail around those hard facts in the previous post, some human biology. If you were not paying attention on that day in school where they did respiration and circulation you will need the following fun facts to help you understand my condition.

Lungs are MEANT to be air-filled sacs Ooh, you knew that?. The 'skin' of them (lining) is allowed to be moist or wet but it is intended that the big air-pipes coming in at the top, branch into the two lungs, then branch and branch and branch ever finer like the tiny twig-leaves of a tree or some bizarre rubber mould for a cauliflower head. All these tiny sub-branches and fine fine ends are still air-filled tubes in a healthy lung. When you breathe in the ribs and diaphragm drag this 'sponge' out bigger in all directions, and air rushes in  to all the tiny pockets, nooks and crannies.

The heart is a fist sized, 4 chamber pump made of muscle. The two top chambers (auricles) are there to collect blood from round the body and then fire great charges of blood into the meaty bottom chambers (ventricles), stretching them like a very tough balloons. At the end of this 'whoosh' of blood, the auricle finishes its 'stroke', the blood flow stops and a one-way valve slams shut. This keeps the blood in the ventricle till its turn to 'fire', when the contraction fires all that blood into the main round-the-body artery (aorta) through another valve (aortic valve). The one-way valve to which I referred, between auricle and ventricle is called the mitral valve.

So, what has gone wrong here?

My lungs became temporarily NOT air-filled. Instead they quietly built a pool of thick, sticky "phlegm" which crept up on me, just feeling like " a bit wheezy". I am (was) a great one for avoiding the doctors and the medical people so I did not take myself off to the GP, being convinced that it was just man-flu and I'd recover. Then on June 17th, it all shut down. I'd been doing some fairly hard work in the morning, moving cattle-muck but I have no reason to think that had anything to do with this. Three hours later, that evening, I was suddenly unable to do anything - walk more than 30 yds,  lift a tin of dog food, get the kettle on. I was banjaxed. When I tried I would quickly be stopped by lack of breath, my breath trying to come in great, wheezy, crackly gasps and my airways feeling like rough cardboard tubes. I could no more fill my lungs down to the diaphragm with "deep breath" than fly to the moon. Clearly a problem.

My heart, we have found in the course of all this medical investigation, has a slight pro-lapse of the mitral valve. That big one-way valve I mentioned? In one place on the rim of it, part of the edge 'farts' back into the auricle like a whoopie-cushion. It's not a disaster, it may have been there years, and it may have no relevance to this pneumonia but such leaks can make the flow of blood and liquids round the body much less efficient, so might have helped the build up of fluid on my lungs and my swollen ankles. This goes into the category of "noted". If work is needed then it may well be replacement of the mitral valve with a mechanical bit, but for now the team are going with the fluid reduction solution. THEN they will worry about hearts.

That's it for this one.

Coronary Care (1)

 A quick change of pace here since the previous post. I am typing this using our laptop in the Coronary Care Ward of Sligo Hospital under the TLC of all the wonderful staff here who are trying to cure me of a savage attack of pneumonia. Just in case there are friends/rels who just want to know what's wrong with me and the latest medical stuff, I will do this a a series of 3, ever more waffly posts. This will also assure me that this "guest" broadband will allow me to type chunks in without blowing me out.

So I have pneumonia, which had been allowed to build up and get well established by mid June when it suddenly stopped me breathing for anything other than standing, sitting or very short, 20 yd walks. We went via the local GP system, got seen by Sligo Hospital back in June, back to the GP and then finally back here, referred in a bit of a hurry "You are VERY sick", on Monday evening. I am now on Day 6 of the team here trying to give me my lungs back. I am recovering but not very fast.

Meanwhile, because this was an unusual case which did not tick ALL the usual pneumonia boxes, I have also been thoroughly investigated in the heart dept and have been found to have a small prolapse in my "mitral" valve (big powerful valve between left auricle and ventricle. Discussions continue as to whether the prolapse needs fixing sooner/later and how much it had to do with the pneumonia. If it does need fixing, this will probably mean heart surgery and a replacement (mechanical) valve.

There you have it for now.

Friday 6 July 2018

50 Rainless Days

Met Éireann got bored with publishing pictures of the cloudless
island and started commenting on how not-green the latest pic
was compared to previous pics.
By my reckoning, we have just racked up 50 days without rain and, without a wet one between our two batches of sheep shearing (21st May), this figure would be 61 days. Driest blah blah for 42 years. The poor farmers are really starting to struggle now coming out of a long, cold wet winter which used up all the silage and hay reserves. They lept on the chance to cut early silage when this hot spell started if they had any growth, and then enjoyed a bit of unprecedented hay making but are now looking at all this close-shaved aftermath and wondering will they have to start feeding 2018 silage already, still warm off the baler! Who'd be a farmer.

For most of them, the only hay making gear they have is kit bought 40 years ago to go with what are now lovely vintage Massey tractors. It is the same kind of equipment I would have used in my student days baling and hauling small "bricks" of hay. It is lovely to see trundling round slowly clearing fields at way below 2018 rates.

The 4 new goslings in their paint roller-tray
At risk of harping on some more (woe is me) about my own health, I will just give you an update for the record. I am still knocked sideways by this breathlessness and getting poked and prodded by the local Medical Fraternity. Top culprit seems to be some kind of chest infection associated with a 'hard' kind of phlegm which might need steroids to give the lung tissue back its flexibility.

4 baby turkeys being shepherded around by their 'Mum'
From MY point of view the main thing I notice is the lack of lung volume. We 'Care' blokes are known for giving a good trumpet when want to blow our nose - fill your lungs and let her rip. The ceiling lifts an inch or two and everybody in the building knows you have blown your nose. PARP! Best I can do at present is a little quarter-full in-breath and a delicate ladylike 'perp'. It is 3 weeks now and I just want a good lung full of air deep down to my diaphragm. Unfortunately on one of the work ups the doc found a possible heart murmur, so now I need to go for some 'echo' tests on that before they dare give me anything like steroids for the "asthma". I am currently using (to brilliant effect and relief), a 'Ventolin' inhaler which is a new one on me. More on all this when it pans out.

Bit easier to see the babies here.
2 good things have saved me from despair. One, already mentioned is the superb timing. If you are going get kicked out of your normal work ethic by such a disease, then it is good to do it just after your recent Help-X volunteer has made the place as neat as a new pin. The grass is mowed (and the lack of rain means it is not growing back), the sheep sheared, the dogs clipped, gutters cleared. There are no heavy livestock jobs imminent and it is so hot that no-one wants to work, so you don't feel THAT left out. Also (Sorry Sue), my good friend Sue came out in sympathy with a similar set of crusty chest problems and breathlessness. Can't bend down to lift a tin of dog food? No! Me neither! Meanwhile, a HUGE 'nother Thanks to Elizabeth who is still hanging in there picking up all the livestock rounds, car jobs and shopping etc. Better news soon, I hope.

Home made chocs from Sue
Oh, and Sue also turned up with a box of homemade chocs, coffee truffly ones and ones filled with fruit 'cheese'.

Finally, in the livestock Dept, just some newer, better pics of the clutches of which you have heard already - the geese came off the nest(s) yesterday with 4 goslings and Elizabeth put a paint-roller tray of water down for them. The new turks were brought off by both the 'Mums' and we have another "2 Mums, one chick" group too. Donaldina managed to nearly lose one 3-week old chick into a full size bucket yesterday but I rescued it, dried it and then warmed it down my 'cleavage' for an hour or so while it recovered. That is now back with 'Don'.

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Maternity Mayhem

A first tiny turkey emerges.
As is usual for here, our poultry 'breeding programme' has long since left behind the  realm of "a bit organised" and is accelerating towards "Ah well, what harm can it do?" Regular readers will know that we were steadily building up a little kindergarten of Mums, each with a well disciplined band of chicks at foot, all fussing around Mum, coming when called, enjoying being shown how to scratch in the dirt, what was food and what wasn't, how to dust-bathe, where to safely drink and so on.

....and this year's first gosling.
A friend on the Internet who breeds only nice beautiful Buff Orpingtons and 'tweets' as @TheFloofLady has me smiling every morning with a series of 'Good Morning Floofs!' videos which show the same - nice neat groups of Mum with babies at foot. I am in envy of her pens of identical hens and chicks and her organisation.

2 turkeys now for the 2 Mums
Our gang had started with Silvergirl, who went broody in the bad old "Beast from the East" days and hatched 5. They all growed up now but still hang as a little group (of 4, one vanished). This gang were quickly followed, you may recall, by a grey hen who hatched 6, Shtumpy who managed 5, and then Donaldina (in the duck house) who came off with 7 babies. I hope these numbers are right - you do tend to lose  track.

The (now) 7 ducks have now settled on the pond as their
'safe place'
While all that was going on we had a random outbreak of everybody going broody in the Tígín (tool shed) and quickly got out of hand with stray hens climbing on the nests to drop in an extra egg, or climbing in to lay and decided to stay overnight brooding the displaced Mum's original clutch. If Mum was a less dominant hen, she'd just have to sit there clucking her frustration till the usurper would let her back on. One went broody on nothing at all (it's quite common) and I slipped 7 turkey eggs under her. Sometimes you'd see a little pile of 6-7 eggs, apparently abandoned in the nest. At other times there seemed to be 4 hens all piled in there squishing each other out of the way in their keen-ness to contribute some broody-warmth.

You do what you can in terms of sorting them out, pulling the usurpers off, creating private cages round the known broodies, stealing back new eggs which you know were not there yesterday, but it is not an exact science. Luckily, hen maternity instinct comes to your rescue at this point and the Mums do not actually fight over the babies, but go into a Mum-and-Aunt mode, sharing the rearing to start with. Later, one just seems to take over the whole clutch and the other goes back to the flock to rejoin the rooster(s). So, at present, as well as our kindergarten of para 3, we have two hens minding 4 baby turkeys, 2 hens minding one chick. We have also lost ace-Mum 'Shtumpy' to the fox, so her 4 babies, at 5 weeks are now orphans. They will do OK. She was a good Mum and rears them tough. She would normally kick them out at 6 weeks anyway.

A good job tackled gently. Our collection of rather fragile
tubs are getting emptied, moved and refreshed.
The geese are also starting to hatch some goslings and now, with Gander George in charge these are being brought out into the sunshine. Elizabeth is in charge at the moment and tells me there are currently 3. Sorry about the rough pictures of these new kids so far. I will try to get some better, cuter pics for the next post.

Swarm lure box gets some interest.
Finally, on breeding (of sorts), I was delighted to note that my hive-bee swarm lure box has caught the attention of a local swarm (possibly, but by no means certainly, our own). The front is covered in bees and there is plenty of coming and going through the entrance hole. No counting chickens yet - this box now needs to sit for at least 6 weeks to establish whether we have a valid, queen-right colony or just some gang of scouts sniffing about. All good clean fun as our drought and blue skies continue.