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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GO OUTSIDE! It's Good Medicine

11:52 AM 4 Comments
My dear friend Jody over at The Hunter's Wife  wrote an outstanding post titled Excuses yesterday. I was sorely tempted to copy and paste and plagarisze the living daylights out of it, because she so well summed up my feelings the six weeks or so.

It's hard to write about walking with me, when the only walking I've been doing seems to be from bed, to couch, to the shelf in the kitchen that houses the brownies and Cheetos. The doctor did say I could try walking around the block - until some big mouth kid I raised pointed  out that around the block to  me meant around the section which equaled a total of 1 square mile. Scratch that. Sheesh.

But despite my best intentions of following the good doctors orders I could not..absolutely could not - stand that desolate walk to the brownie barn one more time. I snuck out. I broke rank. I defied those smart folks in the snappy clean white coats and went outside.

In the cold, and rain, and mud . Take that all you clean white coat wearers!

I not only went outside and walked,  I went outside and played in the mud and muck with those crazy waterfowl hunting people . Several in this crew had been teenage buddies with my "Stunt Double Son" , and I'm  pretty sure I had a couple of them by scruff  the neck at least once or twice during that period, but I'm proud to they've all grown into the wonderful men that I knew were hiding in those gangly teenage boy bodies.

Well that didn't kill me.. so I decided it was time venture further afield - winter oyster mushroom season is upon us and they are flushing by the  zillion.

Just have to add that my Prois Eliminator Series Rain gear - PERFECT for cold wet mushroom hunting!

Seeing how two trips out for some "Drive By Shrooming " didn't kill me, cause  havoc, or result in the earth' to stop spinning on it's axis...

Time to start scouting for birds and hitting the waterfowl hot spots! 

Yep, I am fully convinced that getting outside is the best medicine - and no matter how out of reach it may seem there is way to get yourself outside - even if it's just a short walk or roll in a nearby park. 
Mama was right she admonished us - "Go outside and get the stink blowed off! It's healthy!"

So I admonish all of you dear readers to do the same - Feeling stressed by the holidays? Fighting a case of winter ick? Have a chronic disease that's weighing heavy on your heart and soul? Well - 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saving my Sanity at SilverCreek

6:04 PM 2 Comments
The goose blind decoy I have now decided I cannot live without

0400  - My feet hit the floor and I started donning my waterfowl clothes.. nervous as a cat in room full of rockers, this was to be my  first trip first excursion to anywhere other than a doctors office or hospital in the last three weeks. The ordeal of being filleted like a catfish was starting to resolve. My drains had all come out  two days prior, my compression devices adjusted and refitted, my stitches are all still in and my restriction list still pretty long. But those pals of mine at Silver Creek Kennel and Hunt Club - my pit partners  had all assured me they had it solved. I needed to go outside, I needed to see birds. I needed to waterfowl hunt. It was going to be camera only hunting day for me. Still too soon after surgery for using a shotgun. Hell I still can't carry a milk jug or raise my arms above my head, or twist or about a thousand other things the docs seem to think are a bad idea.  But "I promise you, we'll make it work " Adam Rutkowski, my right guy Friday and best friend assured me.

The was the 0415 stop at the gas station for coffee and extra smokes.. a parking lot filled with trucks  that were holding dog boxes and pulling boats covered in blinds. Hugs all around and where you goings  the topic of discussion at the coffee pots and gas pumps.

North wind a blowin, it's raining, temps swinging down - it a perfect morning for ducks.

I was going home...finally after this craziness with the surgery and MS flare right before the surgery, I was going home to the woods and the water to do what I love.

Oak leaves skittered in the wind across the wet blacktop as I hurtled through the pre dawn rain , KDHX community Radio blaring it's Earth Songs Program...The perfect pre dawn Sunday music  for heading to the woods.. as the music drifted around me, I started seeing those familiar vehicles from past 430am drives through the river bottoms during waterfowl season, in familiar places.  The  various trucks loaded down with blinds and boats flashed our headlights at each other in the "good luck/glad to see you out" friendly good morning greeting at the turn offs, field gates  and cuts off the main road to  everyone's favorite waterfowl hole and boat ramp..recognizing each others vehicles from countless rainy Sunday mornings in the past. Finally..finally..waterfowl season is here... birds are flying, dogs are fetching and I'm going to love being cold and wet. These are the winter mornings and traditions that I live for.

Maybe it was a little leftover pain medicine from the night before but I could have sworn  Stacey Houston- outdoor sistah ,  fellow Prois staffer and WON Gun poked me in the ribs and giggled as I  closed in on the big river bridge "Girl Girl your going out to play at last" ....then there was a suspicious crinkling sound, the scent of flaming hot cheetos and a stray zebra stripe mitten that I was pretty sure Mia Anstine, another Prois staffer, WON Gun, and outdoor sistah  had stuck in my blind bag when I wasn't looking..Mia giggling too, raising a cup of GOOD coffee in a toast to life out of doors with Stacey. Yeah, my outdoor sisters were along for the ride this morning...

I felt a tear slide down my cheek as realized how blessed I truly was to have the outdoor friends and sisters that I have. As the the tears tracked silently down my face..I'm pretty sure it was Hawk Bow that whapped me on the back of the head and bellowed  " Stop that snivelin', cowboy up, pay attention or you're gonna hit that big ol buck up there that's getting ready to hop out in front of you. "

Standing just outside the tree line, at he edge of the winter wheat field along side me he stood, thick necked, wide beamed, head up - giving me the courtesy of nod vs a smashed front fender as I drove by. He knew he was safe from me today. My mind was on the ducks and geese.. I'd look for his antlers come spring.

Fresh coffee, sizzling bacon and my joint custody lab Piper met me at the door of the club house...
I was home.  Miserable cold rain, racin northwest wind..but we were last double check of the weather, the radar, and the legal shooting time hurriedly we piled on gear , loaded decoys, blinds, brush panels , my special layout goose decoy chair all thrown into the trucks as we headed to the pits, knowing...just knowing it was going to be ducky morning..nasty weather, a front sliding in from the north and even before light the high squeaks squeals and scrabbles of high flying giant strings of snows could be heard.

Rigged up in the chair decoy, customized for my inability to raise my arms , cameras secured in the rain I lay back and listened, and felt and watched. Life was good...ducks were fallin' , dogs were fecthin'  and I was back where I belonged.

This is good medicine...better medicine than big pharma can ever provide. This healing - outside the confines of hospitals and homes. This my lifeblood itself.

Let the healing commence! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

We All Fall Down

7:28 AM 3 Comments
We all fall time sometime, and this years fall deer, turkey,  and duck and seasons seem to be leaving a path of bodies in their wake before they even really get fully underway.

There's me and this whole factory remanufacturing of my chest nest week.

There's my friend Sonny - who will be spending hunting season on his porch because he suffered an untimely fall from a ladder and landed on his feet. His ankles did not thank him.

Now my friend, mentor, and dog lady friend Deb has taken a tumble and will be spending her duck season casted and using a walker.

I think we should found the  "There goes my hunting season! " club. But rather than sit around and whine about it- we are looking for ways to get back out there as fast as possible. Sonny has already determined that he can indeed shoot a squirrel from his wheelchair on  the porch.

So here Deb and I sit - salivating as we wait for opening day of duck season. Sit being the operative word. What rotten timing for us both.  Waterfowl Season opens on November 12th! Did anyone put in for the handicapped duck blind draw? Oh heck no- no one knew before the onslaught of injuries we were going to need them. 

I made a few quick phone calls and learned that we were lucky and there were still some open dates for the handicapped blinds. What date did we think we wanted?

Can I call you back after everyone is done with surgery next week?

The silence on the other end was deafening. I'm sure those site directors thought to themselves. The whole hunting party will be disabled? The whole hunting party is going to have surgery? Are these people nuts?

But being the good outdoor sistahs that Deb and I are, we have a plan. It's only her legs.. she can still swing that shotgun like a pro when the birds come falling in, and it's only my arms and chest...I can still trundle the decoys out. Between the two of us we make one duck hunter. It's simple teamwork! It's what outdoor sisters do!

So when the surgeries are all done, and the doctors have spoken, Deb and I will be making our reservations for those handicapped blinds, and between the two of us we'll slay ducks. And we'll hug wet dogs. And eat goose smokies and fried egg sandwiches in the blind while we giggle like school girls every time we see a batch of birds winging it our way. We'll not be surprised that together we pull it off after all.

Because as one of our  most famous outdoor sisters, Annie Oakley, stated ~ “Any woman who does not thoroughly enjoy tramping across the country on a clear, frosty morning with a good gun and a pair of dogs does not know how to enjoy life.”

And believe me - Deb and I know how to enjoy life! 

My Friend Deb during a late winter upland hunt test last year

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stockpiling Time and Treats

9:08 AM 0 Comments
I have indeed been suspiciously MIA from the blogosphere, the social media sites, and in general off the grid a bit the last week or so.

All is well - (well after a fashion - there was that whole stick in the eye incident last week)  I've just been stockpiling as much outdoor time and as many fall foraging treats as I possibly can.

The great filleting like a catfish day is now a mere  7 days away and counting down. I know that I will be ordered to the house the first couple weeks after. Never a good idea to be plundering around the forest with drains hanging out of your chest. With my klutzy, fall here, fall there, personality, I'd end up getting into a real fix. Probably wind up hanging from a tree limb by a drain line or IV tubing.

So, I've been stockpiling as much time and as many pohotos as I can from out there of late.

It will give me something to do, blog entries to write while I'm lazing around on the couch growling at Willie that the drain tubes are not chew toys.

It's been peak foraging season, fall trout season, deer season, retriever hunt test season,  and my beloved waterfowl are lurking right around the corner. I cannot lie - I cannot stay inside. I have this goofy idea that if I just stockpile all this glorious autumn outdoorness, I will survive the few weeks of being on house arrest.

We'll see.

Here's a look at some of my walking around lately.. there's good medicine out there right now, and I'm stockpiling it too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Owls, Orchids, and the Outdoor Sisterhood

12:07 PM 7 Comments

what a joyous sculpture to find hidden in the little pond
It's been a wild few days since my last post, and time to start getting caught up from all that outdoor time and start sharing. In my last post I shared that I was vacillating back and forth - trying to make some hard decisions.I am more than pleased to say that those decisions have been made, I'm happy with them, and exponentially less stressed and anxious since that  whole decision making process is behind me.

I arrived at my surgeons after the one and one half hour drive, literally still with no firm decision in place. I had driven my dear husband absolutely batty with it during the drive. I'm sure he was ready to tell me to just shut up and make a decision, but wise man that he is he just  told me to do what my gut said was best.
I was still in a twist when I walked in the door of the doctors office only to be told that after the long drive, the doctor had been held up in surgery and couldn't see me until much later in the day. Perhaps I'd like  to come back the next day.

Ummm - NO. It's a heck of a drive, it's harvest time here in Southern Illinois and I was already feeling guilty that my husband was wasting a day with me rather than being in the field cutting beans and sowing winter wheat. Nope not coming back. I'll see the good doctor later today.

Maybe it was fate, maybe it was all that positive energy and thoughts that I'd received in the previous days from outdoor sisters, but that delay was just what I needed.

The receptionist explained that a squirrel had managed to get in a transformer and  cause a power outage at the hospital next door where the doctor was performing surgery. I'm quite sure she thought I was crazy when that story made me laugh out loud.

You see, just the night before my dear friend and Outdoor Sister Tammy Ballew AKA Camo Mom and I had a good laugh about TeamWON being with me in spirit. I thought it would be good if the WON Guns were there in person, as I recalled my doctors oft heard complaints about the Canada Geese that had taken up residence in the office park lake and had become quite the nuisance. Tammy and I laughed that the WON Guns and our dogs could clean that problem up pretty easily.

Yep, if my pal and crack shot Tammy had been along that squirrel that upset the everything wouldn't have stood a chance. He would have still been toast, but not from the transformer.

Luckily for me the  Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House and Faust Park were only minutes from the doctors office. So what he heck I thought to myself - I'll take the camera, go photograph some butterflies and kill a little time. Dear Husband can catch up on his sleeping with a nap in the shade while I snap away. Sounded like a good plan to him and off we went.
It was a good plan - once I got there and saw that the October event was billed as Owls and Orchids I was excited..not only is The Butterfly House a wonderful place to view butterflies and explore, all during October  it is  also featuring orchids, another of my most favorite things. The owls part of the event actually was referring to the owl butterfly, rather than owls in the bird family.

Once I was safely ensconced in the warm moist air of the conservatory - butterflies of all types, shapes, sizes and colors were flying all around me and agreeably posing. The orchids in the conservatory from the Missouri Botanical garden added another whole dimension to the scene.

As I wandered throughout the landscape of brilliantly colored flying and growing natural jewels I hit me how similar  this was to my group of supportive outdoor sisters. We come in all different sizes, shapes, colors. We come from all walks of life and geographic areas, but our love of the outdoors keeps us together and supportive of each other through good times and bad.

While we are all different shapes and sizes, just like butterflies and the orchids that were spread before me in a brilliantly colored feast for the senses, we are all beautiful in own special way.

I began to feel that that all the positive energy, support and love I 'd been receiving lately from that Outdoor Sisterhood had in some fashion directed me to the Butterfly House so that I could clearly see it is not one single  piece of our anatomy, make up, color, or outside  wrapping that makes us who we are. And like the butterflies and orchids, it is our uniqueness that makes us special.

When my cell phone chimed the reminder that it was time to head back to the physicians office my decision had been made.

NO IMPLANTS put back in. I didn't need them any more than the gorgeous butterflies lighting on my lenses and head did. Thanks to my outdoor sisters, the beautiful butterflies, the glowing and wild looking orchids I knew - I was enough, my uniqueness in the great circle of life was enough, I am not defined by my appearance alone.

When I woke my husband from his nap and happily told him time to get going, I could tell he was confused my apparently sudden shift in mood...

I just grinned at him and said, " There were owls - tons of them..and orchids..and the outdoor sisters spirits..and well it's done. I know what to do now. "

He just laughed and shook his head, in that yes I am married to crazy woman fashion and said, "Leave it you to take advice from a flower , a butterfly and spirits -  but hey if it works..who am I to say.."

~Special thanks for  all the great support from the Outdoor Sisterhood. Believe in yourselves and who you are, because you are all special, each and every one.~

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Alive Is Enough

9:51 AM 15 Comments

I had plans to post about the great outdoors sisterhood - gals day in the woods that I enjoyed so much Sunday with a dear friend and her daughter - but then Monday sort of went up in flames and Tuesday slipped through my fingers and then I had a writing prompt fall in my lap that changed it all this morning.

The writing prompts are little helpers for us out here in the blogging world - often supplied by some great bloggers networks such as Outdoor Bloggers Network and BlogHer. Very helpful for wishy washy pea brains like me.  Very helpful when no matter what you just cannot think of one more crazy thing to tell the six or seven people who actually read your blog.

BlogHer introduced me to  Just. Be. Enough. - I've mentioned that before here.

Part of all this lack of posting the last week or so is because my brain has been all tied up knots trying to make some life altering decisions. It is October after all - and we're being bombarded with so much damn pink I want to puke. I get it ..I get it.. oh trust me I get it... Breast Cancer is BAD. I AM AWARE - I am so, so , aware right now.

As I explained in a my post Just in Time For October - my post mastectomies reconstruction  that was done 12 years ago needs revised. The implants have gone blooey and blown out like a bald tire on hot day. My chest aches, is misshapen, and my whole left arm feels like a lead weight. But - hey they were saline so it's not life threatening - it's just "a little uncomfortable" .  A little uncomfortable my ass. Typical medical - speak for hurts like hell.

Tomorrow is the big meet with the surgeon day, and by tomorrow I have to decide - put new ones in or no?

Do I want to have the perkiest 50 year old bust line in three counties or do I want to have a long healthy life?

What if the new  ones fail in ten years? Will I be healthy enough to withstand yet another surgery and filleting like a catfish? What if something new and foreign in my body triggers some huge immune system response that causes an MS relapse on top of everything else?

I'm thinking this is a perfect opportunity to "just say no" . My bust line does not define me. It is not who I am. It is not me.

I am enough. I can be enough with out silicone "gummy bears" (who calls an breast implant a gummy bear anyway?) sewn into my chest. Alive  and out running the forests and fields, the woods and water with my dogs is enough. 

Frankly - anyone who would judge me by my bust line or lack thereof  I really don't need in my life nor do I want them.

So at this moment in time - and it's certainly subject to change forty seven more time in the next 24 hours - I'm saying no to slapping gummy bears in my chest and parading around with an absurdly perky bust line for some one my age. 

Because without replacing the failed implants I will be healthy- I will be strong enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, and enjoying my outdoor pursuits  enough.

I will be enough!

~If this too much info, not outdoorsy enough, whatever objection you may have.. take it up with the pink bandits that are shoving breast cancer awareness down our throats at every turn. They've made it impossible for me to keep my mouth shut or forget about all of this.If I could use a shotgun right now I'd have blown my TV and all the damned pink crap to bits twenty minutes into the month of  October !~

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just in Time For October

7:50 AM 12 Comments

October - when deer archery season opens in Illinois, October, when we are working hard putting all the finishing touches on our decoys, blinds, and boats in readiness for waterfowl season opener in November. October, drenched in pink and breast cancer awareness.

Now I am all about the  opening day of archery season - and being neck deep in decoys and reeds and rushes in prep for waterfowl season, but I am increasingly finding the whole paint the town pink  campaigns  difficult to tolerate.

Perhaps I should back up and explain -  I am well aware of breast cancer. It killed my sister,  maimed my other sister, and caused me to end up filleted like  a catfish.  I don't need a pink ribbon, or shotgun, or label, or pink anything to remind me. I am angered by the number of firms who slap a pink ribbon on a product with the vague assertion that " a percentage of proceeds go to breast cancer awareness and research"
Where exactly do those proceeds go? How much exactly is that firm donating?

It seems to me, that slapping a pink ribbon on something is no nothing more than a marketing tactic for many firms.

I don't want to take away from those that do make a real difference - organizations like the Pink Whistle Society - the ones that are transparent and very clear  about how much money goes where and why.  But  I am just not enthused about pink and October first this year.

You see my winter hunting seasons  will not be happening this year, and I am little miffed and perhaps even a bit pouty about it. In a matter of one afternoon visiting the assorted doctors and technicians and hospitals  this week we discovered that one of the implants that was us used as part of my reconstructive surgery after  my mastectomies (yes plural )  has failed. In a nutshell, that means both implants will need to be removed, the reconstruction  redone, and new ones placed.

That's a big surgery. That means no hunting this year. Dammitt.

That means all this October Breast Cancer Awareness stuff is going to really be sticking in my craw. Trust me.. I am aware right now..very aware!

What I'd like to see these pink ribbon bandits  do instead of slapping a pink ribbon on a product is is slap a guide to breast self exam on their products, put a list of signs and symptoms that should send a gal scurrying off to her to her doctor for a closer look. A list of resources for low income and rural women.

Why can't we do that instead of proclaiming it "Booberday"  or some equally offensive thing? If it is truly about education and awareness then lets  educate - lets make young women aware that breast cancer happens before 40 (the American Cancer Societies age that we should begin mammograms) let's talk prevention and early detection.

Lets start asking for funding for the non insured and under insured who are fighting breast cancer.
It should be criminal that in a country such as ours women still die from breast cancer due to the lack of funds for diagnosis and treatment.  Yes there are programs to assist - but how many low income or  uninsured women are aware of these?

Yep - I'm cranky as October  approaches. No hunting season this year and way too much  pink in my face.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Beauty of Waterfowl

9:23 AM 7 Comments
Today at my "other" blog  - Through The Lens - graciously hosted by Heartland Outdoors; I had a little bit of a high speed come apart over the recent sentencing of Jeff Foiles, a "celebrity" waterfowl hunter who committed numerous and heinous violations of the fish and wildlife codes a both here in the United States and in Canada.

While there are many reasons why I'm angry about his sentencing - mostly it's the abject cruelty that he displayed to the waterfowl he "hunted" - and I'm using the term hunted loosely...very loosely in this case.

All I can say when I look at my collection of thousands of waterfowl photos  is "Why Jeff? WHY?!"

Even my joint custody retriever Piper wants to know Why Jeff ? WHY?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Shiitakes Are Sprouting!

9:21 AM 3 Comments

Shiitakes emerging from a log plugged two years ago

Yesterday afternoon as ambled out to the turtle tank (where I  keep the snappers to “clean out” before we clean and cook them)  I was shocked to find that my shiitake logs were spouting mushrooms! I had given up on having shiitakes. Not only were they starting to pop out, there were very good numbers, and very good looking shrooms. 

I was shocked because my shiitake saga started almost two years ago to the day, when I was the guest of a father and son team who have made an art out of raising shiitake mushrooms at their homes near Tamms, Illinois. 

The Borens preparing to begin the plugging process on a fresh green log
Knowing my penchant for all things fungal, Brent Boren, along with his father Roy invited me to visit during their October mushroom log plugging activities. 

The Borens began raising shiitake mushrooms at home approximately  6-7 years ago. It’s not a business, and they don’t sell them. “We have a big enough circle of friends and family waiting for them; we really don’t have any to sell.” laughed Brent Boren.  Boren also pointed out that “selling them would turn this into work and a job and take all the fun right out of it.”  Roy Boren also took the time to explain his process for canning the excess. “If you put a mess of them in with a roast, when everything’s done and you take your first bite, you’ll want to just throw out the roast and keep the mushrooms.”  he smiled. After cooking the beautiful specimens they so kindly sent home with me that day, I have to agree. 

The tasty ready to harvest shiitakes

In the cool morning air at Roy Boren’s home nestled in a valley outside of Tamms, the gentlemen set to work, explaining each step of the process in detail. 

A batch of logs of various ages placed in the filtered shade for optimum results

Green logs of an appropriate size are used, mostly oak and gum. The elder Mr. Boren explained that while the flushes of shiitakes were larger on the sweet gum logs, they didn’t last as long as the oak. Each year they add new logs in preparation to replace spent logs the next season.  Some logs I was told will produce as longs as four years, and that equals at least eight flushing of the shiitakes. Roy Boren had me pick up different logs of varying ages so that I could feel the difference, as the logs age and the mycelium trails and mushrooms use up the logs. The older the logs become lighter and more fragile feeling, the oldest and those close to being spent feel almost crumbly.  

Drilling the holes that will hold the shiitake plugs

During the drilling and plugging process the gentlemen explained the growing cycle. They plug them in the fall and the water the logs three times a day for two weeks, after that they soak them in a trough of water for about 24 hours, then they are placed on a rack in filtered sun at the edge of the tree line and left to let mycelium trails infiltrate the log.

Sealing the plugged logs with thin coat of paraffin
Log selection is an important part of process I learned. Logs roughly 3-4 feet long and about 4 inches in diameter are selected and holes are drilled 4 inches apart, around the log and the length of it. Into these holes, dowels inoculated with the mycelium and spawn are hammered in and then the “plugs” are sealed with brushing of melted paraffin.
Plugged logs ready to go

A closer look at the plugged logs

Roy Boren carries a plugged log to my car

Usually in May the first tiny shiitakes will start peeking their heads out.  I waitied with bated breath  the spring of 2010 – and I had one tiny shiitake struggle to the surface. I was crushed and called the Borens wailing about what I could have done wrong.

Be patient they advised me. Just be patient.

The initial spring flush is small and second that follows in the early weeks of autumn is bit larger. It’s the next year that one sees the good flushes…. the large flushes of the tasty, meaty, sought after mushrooms.  Fast forward to spring of 2011 – again just a few tiny little mushrooms peeked out from the bark. They didn’t grow.

They dried  up and fell off.

Another frantic phone call to the Boren men. Again –  I was told be patient, and that I shouldn’t worry too much as their crop wasn’t as good as usual this year either. Too much strange weather activity perhaps.
My excited shriek of "Mushrooms!!!"  sent the  big grinning snapper  scurrying to  bottom the tank. Finally! Being patient has paid off, the weather and fungi gods have cooperated and this year I have that shiitake flush that I’ve been waiting on! 
One of the logs with the long awaited shiitake flush!