A bug policy change

I have a live-and-let-live attitude towards most living things around the house. There are a few things I kill any time I see them, like fleas, ticks, roaches, mosquitos and flies. If I find a big spider in the house, I catch it and release it outside. If it’s a small spider, I generally pretend I didn’t see it. I sometimes catch moths, or centipedes or beetles and release them. I have caught scorpions in the house and released them outside, usually with a stern warning not to come back. In the past we would see scorpions inside maybe once or twice a year. In the last two days we have seen three. Now I kill all the scorpions I find inside and even those I find outside within a few feet of the house.

I am not particularly happy about that situation, but somewhere between one or two scorpions a year and three scorpions in two days, the scorpion population in the house crossed a line. I doubt that my new policy will make a noticeable difference in the scorpion population outside or inside the house, but that’s now the rule.

The late, last scorpion, pre-mortem

The late, last scorpion, pre-mortem

And now the wasps.

I usually ignore wasp nests, unless they post a danger of a sting. I had to spray a nest that was on the under side of the front walk handrail after Leah was stung, but I have left a large nest in the shed where I keep the lawn mower. The door slides up very close to the nest, but they haven’t seemed to pay any attention to it.

A few days ago a wasp stung me for no apparent reason as I came in from the deck into the bedroom we use as an office. I slapped it off my upper arm and stepped on it. I went inside prepared to put an ice cube on it, but it didn’t really hurt. I was not happy about being stung, but I know it happens. A wasp lights on your arm and then your sleeve presses on it and it stings. That’s just the way it goes.

The next day I was on the lower deck starting some nails in some wood blocks I needed to screw up on the upper deck ledger board. A wasp came up and bumped into the ladder, and then flew at me. It stung me on the forehead and then, after I swatted at it, on my right ear. I think I have mentioned in the past that I can no longer run because my knees are worn out. It turns out that if a wasp is stinging my ear, I can still run. I ran across the deck, up the stairs and into the office, where I struggled to get my shoes off before running into the kitchen to get an ice cube.

The sting in my arm the previous day didn’t really hurt, but the sting on my ear hurt. A lot. It hurt so bad that my stomach started hurting. It felt like I had swallowed the damned wasp. I sat at the dining room table, held an ice cube on my ear and tried to calm down. I melted two ice cubes against my ear. By that time my stomach was OK and my ear wasn’t hurting too much. As I write this, two days later, my ear is red, and itchy but the pain is gone.

I had seen wasps on the lower deck earlier so I had tried unsuccessfully to find a nest. Night before last I sprayed some wasp killer blindly into a crevice under the deck and a few wasps fell to the ground. Last night, armed with a fresh can of Rain wasp and hornet spray, I thoroughly doused the nest.

After an ear sting, I’m afraid wasps are now going to have to get the same treatment as scorpions.

Rainy night in Georgia

Wednesday evening, without any warning, it started raining hard. Soon there was thunder and lightning, and then some small hail.

What is this stuff falling from the sky?

What is this stuff falling from the sky?

The sky took on a yellowish-pink glow at sunset.

yellowskyrain

I had to let the camera use its flash to get the sky to look anything like it did to the eye. The flash caught rain drops, and a hummingbird leaving our feeder (at the left above the red plastic flower on the feeder).

It has been raining for about two hours; the gauge shows 1.12 inches so far, and the weather radar shows a lot of rain to our west.

I don’t know whether Robin’s comment to the last post has anything to do with the rain, but I’m going to ask that she make the same wish the next time we seem to be stuck in a dry rut.

It’s still dry

When I posted on August 6 that we were dry, we had received 2.24 inches of rain since May 10. In the time since, nature has been taunting us with heavy rain to our west, moving our way, and then a few drops when it reaches us. This was the weather radar this morning at 10:40.

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There was a very nice and fairly large thunderstorm passing just north of us. We could hear the thunder. We didn’t even get a sprinkle out of it. We’re at the pushpin.

This was all lined up and heading towards us later in the afternoon.

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We’ll get rain out of this for sure, right. Here it is 20 minutes later

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And then this. It looks like we’re getting rain here, doesn’t it?

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And then it was gone.

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But, look, here comes more, out to the west.

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You know we’ll get a lot of rain out of this one. Here it is, and we’re in it.

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And then it was gone. I checked the rain gauge. Three-tenths of an inch for the day, and this is what it looked like later in the evening.

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So with this 0.3 inches of rain today, we have had 2.58 inches since May 10. The rain chances for the rest of this week are going steadily down, and the forecast is for 90s the rest of the week peaking at 98 F by Friday. I wonder if it will ever rain again.

Heartening results

I went to see one of my two cardiologists on Wednesday to get the results of an echocardiogram I had the previous week. I was diagnosed last summer with reduced heart function. The amount of blood my heart was pumping (the ejection fraction) was measured as 35 percent of the volume of the chamber at rest, which is somewhere between 50 and 65 percent of normal (there is a range because the average amount of blood the heart pumps relative to the volume of the chamber has a range of 55 to 70 percent). An ejection fraction of 35 percent is the point below which dangerous heart arrhythmias can occur, thus indicating that an implantable defibrillator might be warranted. The ejection fraction measured this time was 45 percent, which is somewhere between 64 and 82 percent of normal. This cardiologist, whose specialty is electrophysiology, said he wouldn’t need to see me again.

So this was good news. My heart function has improved by almost 30 percent over the last few months. I’m not sure why. It could have been medications; studies have shown that the medication I’m on can help increase ejection fraction. It could be the increased exercise I started after the diagnosis. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve ejection fraction. Or I could be recovering from a possible unknown and undiagnosed viral infection.

I suppose it’s also possible that a different person read the echo results and calculated the ejection fraction differently. It’s hard to get a good idea how accurate and repeatable ejection fraction calculations are using a 2D echocardiogram.

The second bit of good news was that the short EKG I had in the office showed no premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). PVCs don’t necessarily indicate a serious heart problem; a lot of people have them with no serious consequences. I, on the other hand, had a very large number of PVCs when I first went to the doctor. I suspected that an EKG would show a decrease in PVCs because the things I associated with them had almost disappeared. Those things included discomfort when I laid on my left side, and the inability of my home blood pressure monitor to count my pulse accurately. When I mentioned to the doctor that there were no PVCs, he said, “But that was only over six seconds.” I said, “Yes, but I had so many before that I would have expected to see some in that time.” He looked back at the previous EKG and agreed with me.

I was relieved as we walked out of the doctor’s office. I had already decided to stop worrying about it, and now I think I actually have a good reason to do that. Leah is also relieved, but she still worries. She also thinks that doctors should be able to say why I had the problem in the first place and why my heart function has improved. I have a much less sanguine attitude about the state of medical knowledge.

I was a little amused by the doctor. I could almost see him losing interest in me as he looked at the echocardiogram results. Since I was no longer a candidate for an implantable defibrillator, I was no longer a candidate to be his patient. He didn’t exactly give us the bum’s rush, but he was not inclined to talk about what might be going on with me.

I guess I understand that attitude. Doctors like him see lots of patients every day (multiple appointments at the same time) and it must be hard to look at every patient as an individual rather than as a heart that needs some work. I do think a doctor ought to be able to hide that attitude.

My heart function is still below normal, but I’m also still asymptomatic. I walk the dogs a couple of miles every day, down the mountain and then back up. When I get back home, I ride a stationary bicycle for 50 minutes. And then I go outside the work on the house. I’m hopeful that my heart function will continue to improve. It will be interesting to hear what the other cardiologist has to say at my appointment in September.

All hands on deck

Our deck has not weathered well. Many of the boards are warped and cracked (which might apply to me, too). Since I’m in the middle of some much-needed exterior maintenance, I decided it was time to replace some of the decking.

There are three problems. The first is that the current boards are tongue-and-groove, the result of a not-so-great idea by my framer. That means I have to run a circular saw down the joint between the boards to free them up to remove them.

The second problem is that the boards are nailed rather than screwed, which is also the result of my framer’s practices (plus the fact that he apparently didn’t have a good drill to use for deck screws). Deck nails tend to rust in place, which makes them hard to extract. Each nail is a little mini-project in itself.

The third problem is that tongue-and-groove two-by-sixes use some of their width for the tongue and groove, leaving the exposed face between a quarter and a half inch narrower than a standard two-by-six. That means that every new deck board has to have a thin strip ripped off the edge. Twenty boards by 12 feet means I have to rip about 240 feet of pressure-treated lumber. My father’s old table saw bogs down severely on every inch I rip. Ripping each board is a somewhat bigger mini-project in itself.

In the two hours (selected carefully so that they would be in the hottest part of the day) I worked Sunday afternoon, I got three boards down. I takes somewhat longer to get all the nails out than it does to rip the board, and I have to do it all on my hands and knees.

Here are the five new boards I installed over the last two days, along with some of the shards of tongues and grooves plus other assorted chunks of wood removed during the nail extraction process. The missing stiles will be replaced and stained some day.

deckboards

Our spindly tomato plant makes a cameo here, too.

The deck faces due south, a real advantage for solar gain in the winter. Unfortunately, solar gain also works well in the summer, too. Since having a heart problem diagnosed last fall, I have been exercising enough that my weight went down from the upper 160s to the upper 150s. I have been weighing around 157 to 159 each night. This afternoon when I stopped working on the deck, I weighed 150. That means I lost nearly a gallon of fluid in two hours Sunday afternoon. It was 82 F up on the mountain. I don’t know what would have happened if it had been 92 as it has been for the last few days.

I had three glasses of iced tea with supper. I am now planning on one Shock Top Belgian White as a finishing touch. I’ll probably be completely rehydrated by tomorrow around noon, just in time to start working on the deck again.