They look lovely when on the trees and even look quite pretty when the dropping petals first land on the footpath, but…
They stick like glue to the footpath making them almost impossible to sweep away unless…
Someone walks over them, where they stick like glue to the soles of shoes or to Frankie the cat’s fur, again making them almost impossible to remove, unless…
The aforementioned shoes or cat come in contact with the carpeting in the car or the house entry points where those damned petals stick like glue to said carpet and become impossible to remove even with the vacuum cleaner, unless…
I pick up each decaying petal one by one where they stick to my fingers and I find them impossible to remove, unless…
Blogging has almost become a way of life. While I don’t spend all that much time creating posts of my own, I do spend considerably more time reading and commenting on other blogs. Over the past month or so I have spent much less blogging time than has become the norm. The most significant factor for this is a semi-persistent low level migraine.
But if you prefer I not go into details. stop reading any further and simply enjoy a few of the flowers on display in our front garden at the end of September and beginning of October. This year the spring equinox weather has been more varied and extreme compared to the typically variable and fickle weather and strong winds usually experienced at this time of the year, ranging from the extremes of winter to typical summer weather with the space of a few days and then back again! Our garden has suffered as a consequence, but still there is much to enjoy:
Migraines are funny things. One can look up textbook definitions of the various types of migraines, but in reality few migraineurs fit tidily into such definitions. In this regard, I’m no different. My migraines have been described at various times as migraine with aura, hemiplegic migraine, chronic migraine, acute migraine, vestibular migraine, complex migraine, migraine with brainstem aura, acephalgic migraine, and atypical migraine. But from personal perspective, it’s what I experience rather than what others observe that really matters, and in this regard, they are are all much the same, varying only in the intensity of various aspects of the disease.
The one thing I am grateful for is that as I have aged, the extremely painful throbbing headache that is often associated with migraine has become infrequent as have bouts of nausea. I appreciate that many people assume a migraine is just a painful throbbing headache with some nausea thrown in for good measure, and for some people that is what a migraine is, but for a significant minority of migraineurs these are the least significant aspects of their many symptoms. It is for me.
So what have I been experiencing over recent weeks that have kept me out of the blogosphere?
While not a particularly “scientific” term, brain fog does describe what I experience with most migraines. It affects cognition. It’s hard to describe precisely as it affects the very skills one needs to be able to accurately recall one’s experience. Perhaps it can be described as feeling distracted continuously, being unusually forgetful, and finding it difficult to complete even simple tasks. I may find it difficult to recall what a word means or being unable to locate the correct word to use. Sometimes I might be able to understand individual words but not be able to comprehend a sentence made up of those words, and at times I may not be able to string a sentence together that is understandable to others.
Brain fog often results in short term memory loss. I can start reading or writing a paragraph, but by the time I reach the end of it, I have forgotten how it started, and have to read it again. In a worse case scenario, I simply give up as I’m unable to get the gist of a single paragraph, let alone several in sequence.
Not being entirely in the here and now means that some tasks such as driving are particularly dangerous. Being unable to concentrate may mean I do not detect potentially dangerous circumstances until too late., and even then, may not be able to choose the most appropriate (or indeed any) action to take. At least these days I am aware that I have brain fog – something that didn’t always register only two decades ago. Mindfulness training has helped in this regard. So I do know when I shouldn’t drive, much to the Wife’s frustration as she prefers being a front seat passenger even though she can drive.
Every migraine I experience affects some aspects of my vision. One of the most frustrating aspects is the inability to see clearly. It’s rather difficult to describe, and while sometimes what I see can be blurry, as in being out of focus, sometimes it’s not a focusing issue, but the inability to process what I see. One way for you to grasp what I mean is to fix your gaze on one word in this paragraph and while doing so try to read the words above, below, to the left and right of it. Difficult, right? And words even further away get progressively more difficult to read, and outside a very small window become impossible to read even though you know they are there. Well, for me during a migraine the best I can see is that word one or two away away from the one you have fixed your gaze onto.
Other common visual disturbances I experience can be seen in this next video clip where, through a virtual reality headset, others experience realistic simulations of what a migraine with aura looks like to the sufferer:
Other visual disturbances include blind spots. By this I don’t mean small areas that are blank, but a functioning area of the brain “fills in the details” for another area that isn’t functioning as it should. For example I may check the time by looking at a wall clock, but the clock appears to have vanished. All I see is the wall and there doesn’t appear to be any blanks spot at all. However if I move my eyes away from there I expect the clock to be, it suddenly appears, as if by magic. What has actually happened is that I do in fact have a temporary blind spot, but another part of the brain recognises the pattern on the wall and reconstructs it to fill in the blind spot. We all have a small blind spot where the optic nerve leaves the eye, and we all have the neurology where a part of the brain fills in the missing details by “filling in the gap”, but usually we’re unaware of it occurring at all.
These are many and varied. They go from the simple such as finding it difficult to write legibly or tie shoelaces (hence most of my shoes having velcro fasteners) through difficulty with speech and balance (giving the appearance of being drunk) to hemiplegia where the right side of my body, especially the face and arm, but to a lesser extent my leg, lose strength and fail to respond unless I make a conscious and determined mental effort to control them, and then only clumsily.
Over the past month none of the aforementioned symptoms have been at their worst. In fact each symptom has by itself has been barely noticeable to others, but when so many conspire to be present at once, even in “mild” forms, the net result is a person who is unproductive, however that term is understood, and unmotivated, and when pushed to do something, performs it badly. Such is life.
A few weeks ago we decided we take The Cat, aka Puss, to the vet for a health check. Although she seemed to be in good health, there was the question of whether or not she had been spayed, and whether she needed vaccinations and flea and worm treatment. So we hired a cat transport cage and took a very indignant cat off to the vets.
We came back with Frankie, and he is a desexed three year old purebred Chinchilla born in the Wairarapa, several hours drive from Feilding. No we didn’t swap felines. It turns out that Puss, is Frankie, micro-chipped and he lives lived at the opposite end of our street. He was on the vet’s books and was last seen only three months previously for flea and worm treatment. So the vet contacted the guardians of Frankie (they don’t use the term “owner” for companion animals, and besides, does anyone really own a cat?).
Within ten minutes, Frankie’s official guardian was in the veterinary consulting rooms. She was a very nice woman and she and her family had been quite concerned for Frankie’s wellbeing. Since they obtained him as a kitten he has been spending more and more away from home, and over the last year or so he’d return perhaps once or twice a week to sample his food and then disappear again. Once she learnt that Frankie spent most of his time at our place, she agreed that it was probably in Frankie’s best interest if we took over guardianship,
We’ve noticed that Frankie likes quiet (a trait quite common with the chinchilla breed), and after learning what his previous domestic life was like, it’s hardly surprising he sought out an alternative home. His previous home consisted of two adults, three pre-teenage children, two dogs, and another cat who thoroughly disliked Frankie and make that very clear at every available moment, plus an assortment of poultry and goats.
So we became the official guardian of Frankie, and after he received his annual vaccination and quarterly flea and worm treatment, we brought Frankie home with us. And here he remains. Occasionally he might disappear for an hour or so, so perhaps he might visit his old home on some of those occasions, but now he’s well and truly settled in having laid claim three spots as his own: the deck chair on the main front balcony where he can observe the street below, an armchair in the lounge, when the weather makes the desk chair less than ideal, and on top of a pile of duvets and quilts on a spare bed in an upstairs bedroom, the dormer windows from which he can purvey his kingdom and watch birds cavorting on the roof outside.
The bedroom is one I frequently use so as not to disturb the Wife – I’m a restless sleeper at the best of times but restless leg syndrome (Willis-Ekbom Disease – a condition I inherited from my mother and which has progressively intensified over the last fifty years) keeps not only me awake, but also the Wife. On such occasions I move to the other bedroom and Frankie moves from his pile of duvets and snuggles up against my chest and/or neck keeping well away from my constantly moving legs.
Frankie may have a pedigree, but his fur has “cosmetic faults” that make him “pet quality” rather than “show quality” or “breeder quality”. He has a long and luxurious coat, which he manages to keep well groomed all by himself apart his chest area between his front legs, and his lower neck, which I discovered is prone to matting and tangles, big time. Now that most of the matting has been removed, Frankie has learnt to guide my hand to that area with his paws as I brush him. We now spend ten to fifteen minutes, several times every day carefully grooming his chest and throat, even though it obviously hurts at times.
Summer is just a few days away. In this part of the world summer “officially” starts on the first day of December. I’m already looking forward to late autumn.
A characteristic commonly shared amongst autistics is hyposensitivities and hypersensitivities when compared to non-autistic folk. Depending on the senses involved being hypo or hyper can be an blessing or a curse. For example I’m mostly oblivious to low and moderate levels of pain. It’s not until it reaches the level one experiences of momentary pain when slamming a car door on a finger, or the ongoing pain when the body unsuccessfully attempts to eject kidney stones, or when attempting to move muscles affected by polio that I experience “real” pain. Breaking my arm or gashing my foot exposing the bones resulted in curiosity about the outcome more than any conscious sense of pain. In fact I experience more pain from the noise of a typical shopping mall or from lighting effects commonly found in modern forms of entertainment.
I do not like warm weather. I have a narrow band of “comfortable”. Below 18℃ (64℉) I start to feel the chill, while anything above 24℃ (75℉) feels unpleasantly warm. As I age, the level of discomfort I experience increases when the temperature goes outside my comfort zone.
As temperature drops, it’s a simple matter of adding an extra layer of clothing to maintain a level of comfort although I have to be careful to avoid spontaneous “attacks” of Raynaud’s syndrome in my fingers and/or toes, which can be very painful as the symptoms wane. Coping with heat is a different matter.
Take today for example. Our indoor/outdoor temperature gauge, shows the outside temperature as being 27.2℃ (81℉) in the shade and inside as being 26.4℃ (79.5℉). I find myself extremely restless, pacing about aimlessly, unable to concentrate much on anything apart from wishing it was cooler. If I had my way, I’d close the windows and doors and switch on the heat pump, and allow it to maintain its default setting of 22℃ (72℉) as it does during the colder months of the year.
Unfortunately The Wife has other ideas. She relishes such temperatures. My suggestion that we turn on the heat pump resulted in a very emphatic “No!” What happened to so called neurotypical empathy? So in order to maintain domestic harmony I find myself wandering aimlessly about our home, keeping out of her line of sight as she finds my pacing “annoying”.
The Wife acknowledged my efforts not to annoy her in my discomfort and provided the perfect meal for a day such as today – somen (cold Japanese noodles).
Awahuri Forest to be precise. It’s one of the few remaining remnants of lowland podocarp swamp forest surviving in the region. I use the word “surviving” with caution. The forest has been devastated by introduced animals and plants, and without human intervention, all native species, both plant and animal would disappear within a hundred years, probably sooner, and be replaced by exotic species.
Rats and possums are currently the target of trapping and poisoning programs as both species predate on native bird and plant life that has evolved over 80 million years in the absence of mammalian predation. There are reminders at the entrance to the forest that for our own safety it is necessary to keep to the paths.
Currently plant control is concentrating on the removal of willow trees, bamboo and tradescantia fluminensis, the latter carpeting the forest floor preventing the regeneration of native plants from the few seeds that rats and possums don’t consume. Birdsong is often being interrupted by the sound of chainsaws attacking the willow.
There’s also an active replanting program and thousands of native plants have already been planted, with many more thousands planned.
What saddens me is the thoughtlessness of some visitors to the forest. The sole surviving silver fern is dying due to people removing fronds. When the wife and I visited the forest yesterday, workers were building a fence around it to protect it from “human predation”. But as one of the workers commented to me, it’s probably too little to late to save it. It’s really sad because just a few kilometers away there’s hundreds of silver fern growing, and while not quite as convenient (no adjacent boardwalk) they are readily accessible.
We try to visit the forest at least once each week, depending on the weather. There’s little wind under the forest canopy so unless there’s rain it’s alway pleasant, even if a little chilly. And the smells of the forest are so delightful. So here’s a few images from walks the wife and I have made though the forest in recent weeks.
Since the 7th of May, our household has been generating some of its own electricity. Given that it’s only another three weeks until the shortest day of the year arrives, we’re achieving better savings than I expected. We have an all electric home (no gas, oil, coal, or wood), so we do consume quite a lot of electricity – 818.8 kW/h in 25 days of May to be precise. We generated 40% of that ourselves from 23 PV panels mounted on the roof.
In the highly deregulated electricity market of Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a considerable difference between the price supply companies sell electricity to consumers and the price they will buy back surplus home generation. Their sell price is typically around four times their buy price. The price differential made it tempting to install storage batteries so that we could call on surplus power when generation was low. But after discussing that option with several installers, we concluded the the return on investment was longer that the estimated life of the current generation of batteries.
Instead, we have installed an “intelligent” inverter that diverts any surplus electricity into the hot water storage system. Instead of maintaining a constant 55°C (131°F) the water is allowed to fluctuate between 40°C (104°F) and 78°C (172°F). Only after the water has reached its maximum temperature does the inverter allow electricity to be exported to the grid. Don’t worry, a regulator ensures that the maximum temperature at the tap (faucet) is no more than 55°C. In effect we’re using the hot water system as a sort of battery. We haven’t needed to use grid electricity to heat the water since the solar power was switched on. Even so that has been a few days where we have exported small quantities of electricity. I expect that in summer we’ll be exporting considerable amounts during the day, and as the heat pump will be switched off, our nighttime use should be minimal.
Covid alternatives to travel
For the most part we Kiwis have been largely unaffected by Covid-19 with the exception of international travel. In our case, it meant the cancellation of an extended holiday in Japan. We’ve concluded that at our age, it’s unlikely that we will feel the urge to undertake the journey once the dangers of the pandemic have passed. Instead we put the funds intended for travel towards solar power. Of course it’s not just a case of having the panels installed. The house, and especially the roof was in need of a repaint, so it made sense to paint the house before the solar panels were installed.
But if we’re going to paint the house, there’s a matter of some repairs that have been on the backburner for a while. The front door for example. Aging had caused fine cracks to develop in some of the wooden panels allowing daylight to be seen through them, not to mention a draft in windy weather. And if the door is to be replaced, why not replace the horrible single-glazed yellow sidelight with something that allows more light into the entrance lobby while reducing heat loss?
To cut a short story shorter, we had a new thermally isolated door and sidelight assembly custom made. The door has a digital lock so that’s one less key I have to worry about. The installers took only two hours to remove the old door and sidelight and install the new assembly. The transformation is quite amazing! Some of the recent changes can be seen in the images below.
The front door – before and after
The front (2 images) and rear (1 image) of the house before the repaint. The rear view clearly shows to state of the roof.
The final result with PV panels installed – 10 on the east facing front, and 13 on the rear facing west. The original paint scheme consisted of eight colours, the new has just four.
I appreciate that for some of my readers, it’s still Christmas Eve, but for us in Aotearoa New Zealand, Christmas day is drawing to a close.
The wife and I travelled the 110 Km (70 miles) to Paraparaumu for lunch with our daughter’s family and some of her friends. As usual it was an extended affair where we all ate too much, and by the time dessert and coffee had been served it was 5:00 pm. Three hours later I am still uncomfortably full. I think it was the third helping of the wife’s truly wonderful trifle that finally told me I had consumed too much. Although it might have been the second helping of tiramisu or pavlova…
It’s the realisation that many of my readers (most are in North America and Western Europe) will not be so fortunate this year, being unable to celebrate the festive season with friends and family, that requires me to acknowledge how fortunate we are to be living in a Covid-free bubble of five million people.
Top: What was left of mains after everyone had taken their first helping. Bottom left: My first serving of mains. Bottom right: Selection of desserts.
Perhaps not typical Northern Hemisphere Christmas fare, but hey, it’s summer and the only fire burning today was the gas barbeque used for cooking the lamb chops and sausages.
The wife is fond of reminding me that I never bring her flowers. It’s not quite true, but the ridiculous price we must pay for a bunch means they are not high in priority on my shopping list.
We’re attempting to have a garden that has some flowers regardless of season, and when I reminded the wife that we have plenty of flowers, just not in a vase, she retorted that they don’t count as they’re not a gift from me to her.
She wants flowers. I can’t afford to buy some. Solution: pick some from our garden. Here’s the result.
Today is day one of a six week renovation project, the major part of which is our main bathroom upstairs. And being the first day, it is, in the words of one of the project chippies (Kiwi slang for carpenter or builder) the best part of any project: knocking things down. That means noise – lots of noise!
Noise is one of my autistic hypersensitivities, And although it’s just half an hour after noon (at time of writing) I already feel somewhat jaded. Roll on 5PM when once again silence will reign until 8AM tomorrow morning.
Being mid-winter here, the option of retreating to the garden isn’t really an option on most days. Yesterday was an exception, warming to 15°C (59°F) and I spent most of the afternoon outdoors, but today it’s on and off drizzle, a stiff breeze and a high of 11°C (52°F). So, when chaos reigns…
…relive the calm
What better way than to enjoy the garden as it was yesterday. It might be mid winter but there’s sufficient flowers out to remind us that spring is just around the corner. To top it off, there’s the sweet perfume of over a dozen Daphne shrubs scattered alongside the pathway. Here’s a few snapshots taken in the front garden yesterday
As we near the end of day 11 in lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand, there are some activities I am beginning to miss. Perhaps the one I miss the most, is doing the boardwalk through the Awahuri Forest. It’s just a short 4 Km drive from home, but under the current COVID-19 restrictions, it’s too far by about 3.5 Km for non essential travel.
The forest is a remnant of wetland forests that once covered much of the region before 19th century settlers destroyed most of it by converting it into pasture for sheep and dairy farming. Some of the remaining trees are over 800 years old and probably started life before any humans set foot in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Until the 1980s the forest was slowly dying. Introduced pests such as possums and rats prevented its regeneration by eating seedlings,fruit and berries, allowing non-native plant species to invade and smothering those seedlings that hadn’t been eaten.
Fortunately there is now active management of the forest, including the ongoing destruction of introduced pests. Native bird life is making a comeback, and it’s a delight listening to the calls of so many birds. And of course the pīwakawaka is often flittering within arm’s length as they perform their aerobatics catching insects that we disturb as we make our way through the forest.
Back problems force the wife to keep to the boardwalk which is a loop of a little over one kilometre and bench seats are dotted along the walk at approximately one hundred metre intervals. If I’m by myself or with the grandkids, I like to take some of the alternative tracks that can add up to another 5 Km of somewhat uneven surfaces – some of which is impassable in wetter months.
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