Wednesday, April 20, 2011

     I admit my hands are killing me but I would never tell you that.  You would never know from what I do.
 The Main Garden Entry
I think I am done with concrete for this year.  I have created a new entry to my studio, a concrete curb to contain my blueberries and replace the railroad tie skirting at the front of my garden with a little concrete stem wall.  I even gathered up some scraps and samples of metal work and made a fence for this section.  My entire garden is now fenced in and gated with three entry gates.  I am tired now.
   I had a complete physical from my regular doctor this week.  He is the one who originally discovered that I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January a year ago.  I passed with flying colors, mid-normal in hundreds of categories and not near
high in any of them!
   My hands will take years to get better he says, it is more of a process of getting used to it!  Not what I want to hear but at least I can still do things. This time last year I was in the middle of my chemo series, the
twelve sessions that almost killed me.  It is like a forgotten nightmare now.  If I hadn't blogged so much about it I might think this happened to someone else, or didn't happen at all.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Greenhouse

    I have lived on this little third acre for over forty years, the same place but it is always in flux, changing as I grow older.  For a city lot it is interesting, not your flat mowed lawn kind of look at all.  Nothing "plastic" and there is a lot to do here.  It doesn't invite an audience but encourages participation.  You can dig holes on my property, and build things and make a mess, build anything you like.  It has an interesting diagonal division, a drainage ditch that runs through town and exactly divides my property in half.  One triangle is the house side
with its tiny front and back lawns and a rabbit shed and the house itself.  The other side is mine.

Front door to greenhouse.
    One of the first things I built, forty years ago, was my greenhouse.  This is a proper greenhouse not a walk in cold frame bought from a kit.  I can heat it with a 60 watt little heater in the coldest months.   The trick to this is providing enough mass to capture and retain the heat the sun offers for free during the day.
 The South wall of my greenhouse, mostly glass with slate.
It has a one foot thick concrete floor and concrete stem walls about three feet up on all its sides.  Inside the bench is one piece on three sides and is made from concrete with inexpensive ceramic tiles for a counter top.  The North wall is wood framed and insulated and the rest is mostly glass.  It is designed to be wet and on a sunny day has the humidity of a tropical jungle.
    The Southern wall and East and West are mostly glass, set in wood framing with slate veneer between the glass panels.  The slate looks great and I don't have to paint it and it too holds the heat of the day.
 Tomatoes in the greenhouse

The greenhouse is not very big, about 7' x 12' with the concrete benches on either side and a three feet walkway.  I have had 150 tomato plants in there, all heirloom and all started from seed, about eight varieties.
I can grow lettuce all year around.  And I start about a zillion flowers!

For a complete walk about of my garden, visit me HERE.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Garden

 The forms are in for a little stem wall.
   My garden was abandonded last year, left to the weeds and unusually cool and wet season.  It was a bad year for tomatoes.  The cancer and its voodoo cure left me without strength and ambition.  All in all it was a good year for this tramatic experience.
   This year will be different and I have already begun to tackle projects I was afraid I could never do again.  I am getting stronger day by day.  Oh, it is not as fast as it used to be, but I do it in steps, a little at a time and it gets done.
    My entire garden is one giant raised bed, about 16" or so inches higher than the surrounding area.  When first constructed about twenty years ago this was surrounded in railroad ties and over the years I have gradually replaced these with a concrete stem wall.  Now it is the time to do the front.
 Trumpet Vine Entry to Garden
    I have a real "Garden Entry", gated and arched with a Trumpet Vine calling your attention and invited closer scuntiny.

It will be a good year this year, slow and steady and directional.
I am thinking I will turn this blog over to my garden and gradually give you the whole tour!

In the meantime, there are more Garden Photos HERE.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bigger Tasks, Done a little slower!

     Last year was the worst weather for my tomatoes in my memory.  Spring came late, wet and cold. Fall came early with winter rains making it the shortest season ever.  If I had to pick a time to get cancer I couldn't have chosen a better one.  I was officially retired and collecting Social Security, haha, just like old people!  But between the cancer and the cure I was just about wiped out.  I had no energy and pretty much left my garden to the weeds.
   It has been over a year now, nine months since my last chemo voodoo cocktail and I am regaining my strength.  That too is a very long process, day by day.  I am left with neuropathy in my hands and feet and a continuing shortness of breath, not so bad that I need a resperator but enough to keep me out of racing, no more marathons for me!
   I am discovering that I can do anything that I used to be able to do, just a little slower.  It is an altering of time and not chastizing myself for being slow to get there.  Except for the clean up and spit polishing I have completed the new entry to my studio and am happy with it.  Now I am on a roll.
 Job in process, new entry to my garden.
   My garden area is about 25' X 50' and the entire area is a raised bed, about 16" higher than the surrounding walkways.  At one time it was framed in used railroad ties, popular in the '70's and discovered poisonous in the '80's.  I have replaced them except for the very front section with concrete curbing. Now I am replacing that.
    These railroad ties are 9' long and might weigh over a hundred pounds each.  With the help of a steel bar, one by one they come out, like removing this cancerous crap from my garden!  I got them out in about four hours and then I rested.
For two days!  I am better today and will clean up this mess and set forms for the new concrete curbing. Then I will probably rest for two more days!  Then I will pour the concrete!  That's how I do it, little sections at a time and before I know it the job will be done!  It is not a fast job but it is a continous process.  When it is done I will post a photo of it.
Lots of garden photos are HERE.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Nakedness of Cancer

   The process of discovering you have cancer and the resulting treatments to come can lead you feeling naked and examined to death, vulnerable and exposed.  Not much modesty going on here, you are a body to be examined.  A lot of this is done behind closed doors, under a microscope at the cellular level.  The x-rays and Cat Scans and Pet Scans offer a detailed, didgitalized image from head to toe.  Constant blood analysis
furthers this image and becomes a part of your chart.  Item by item you become this information and from it the doctors can prepare their line of attack.
    "Jerry, you have Stage 3 and a half Hodgekin's Lymphoma and a 40% chance of survival."
Forty percent is all I understood of this, a good 80 proof whiskey, 94% payback on the slot machines, more likely to be struck by lightening than winning a lottery ticket, a 3000psi concrete mixture.  I understood the math.  Stage 3 and 1/2 meant it had spread.
    It was just a little lump I saw while shaving six months earlier.  I noted it and looked at it and for awhile actually tried to will it away, but it took six months before I went to the doctor!  It wasn't bothering me, I felt fine.
   "It has spread into your spine and spleen and throughout your entire lymph system," the doctor was giving me the basics here.  "Here, let me show you!" he was happy with his didgital display and it looked as if my body had been seeded much like the gold mining days with a shotgun.  I had cancer pretty much everywhere.
    There is a lot that they can't put into that computer.  Me, for instance.
A friend of mine now has cancer and that is the reason I recount this story a bit.  My Blog on ArtWanted I no longer use but I keep it as a reminder to where I have been, on a train wreck to the very edge of hell.  If you ever look at it it reads best if you scroll to the very bottom and read it backwards.  It is a day to day from discovery to leaving the station and every step in between.  I read it from time to time myself, like life in a rearview mirror.  This is the site, you have to click "BLOG" at the top of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Psychology of Being Poor

I have decided that there is a psychology to poverty and the same idea apply to living with cancer or recovering from the horrendous voodoo cure.  This concept will be rambling because it is not fit for publication yet, but bear with me.
     Our first "brand new car" didn't last very long.  We were in a car wreck and I've told that story.  We replaced it with a Toyota Station Wagon, a new 1978 Model for $6,235.  It was a great car and never gave us any problems.  With some reluctance, in 2008, yes, almost thirty years! we were ready to replace it.  It was a great car and served us well, hauling the kids to their school stuff and soccor games, hauling hay even, and a series of animals, dogs, cats, chickens.  30 years old but with just under 200,000 miles and she still ran like a champ!
   I decided on a whim to give it to our neighbors, nice people, lots of kids, no job, no money, the proverbial
no pot to piss in.  They were thrilled and spent the day taking turns just driving this car up and down the street.  Now here is the part I never thought of.  Owning a car comes with responsibilities, like putting gas in it and having insurance.  Well, that never happened and the car, my trusted stead, got loaned out to someone and then abandoned in Eastern Oregon, about 200 miles from home!
   Now, here is one more related thought and then I'll try to tie these together.  I sell my "Art Stuff" and a lot of it sells right out of my backyard. I have an apprentise for about six months a year, a good chap who has been with me for a long time.  He has learned a lot from me over the years and I thought he was ready for a huge advancement.  So I tried to explain to him that the more attractive my backyard is and the cleaner and more organized the shop is, the easier it is to work and impress the customers.  It really isn't that bad, two guys for one week and it would be perfect!  My offer to him was in return for his investment of one week's time I would give him 50% of the business.  Now this isn't an offer I would make to anyone, he has been with me for 15 years.  I told him that I am getting ready to slow down a bit and am thinking of other interests.
So, 50% to him this year, 60% next, 70% the third year and after than I wanted 20% for the use of my studio and gardens for his business.  Now, I would have jumped at that.  He can't think beyond a week and thinks I am ripping him off.
    The upshot of all this is I am doing this Spring Spruce Up by myself and am enjoying the process. He is doing I have no idea what.  I am delaying further projects until I have completed these tasks, so basically he is out of work and he is happy with that.  I know there is a psychology to this I just don't understand it.
   How this relates to cancer I am not sure but I have never thought if I wasn't going to get paid that I wouldn't do something, have never thought that if something causes me pain or discomfort that I wouldn't do it.  I have always thought beyond tomorrow, beyond next week, that whatever inconveniences I am in at the moment would pass and better days will be here.  Cancer?  No, it didn't stand a chance with me!
My Other Blog is HERE

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lost the Recipe!

    I don't remember the dates but the Early Greeks of Plato's era had concrete and used it in their buildings and bridges that are still standing today.  Then some idiot lost the recipe!  For over 1,000 years no concrete was poured, anywhere!  It is a mixture of one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel, but where do you find the cement?   I don't know either and rely on Home Depot but it is a particular type of lime that has been burnt and then ground into a powder.   Anyway, I like it and seem to have a lot of it around here.
 New Concrete Entry to my Studio.
I can drive my little truck all the way to the back of my property where my studio is and that is a road about 150 feet long, and then there is a turn around.  The greenhouse floor is concrete and so are its stem wall up about three feet. And then there is the little plunge pool I made with my daughters, that took about six yards of concrete!  And my studio floor, about 20' by 40 feet is all concrete, and there are concrete curbing or little walls around each garden area.  I have poured a lot of concrete in my day and all with a little mixer that does about one wheel barrel at a time!

I wanted to do this last year but I got distracted with the cancer!  Actually I did pour a lot of concrete when I had cancer I just didn't know I had cancer.  The cancer didn't slow me down too much.  It was the voodoo cure of unspeakable chemo cocktails they give you that put my concrete pouring days on hold.  Well, they don't really give them to you.  It costs $130,000!!!
   For awhile I could barely walk and even the idea of pouring concrete would make me tired.  But I am here to tell you there is hope!  I am back at it again!  Yes, I got the souvenir of neuropathy in my hands and feet and my right hand especially is pretty bad!  I use to do everything without gloves!  Welding and concrete work.  I didn't own a pair of gloves!  Now I wear them all the time.  They soften the sensations and make my life a little easier.
At night I wear my fur lined gloves and even wear them to bed!  I think this might just be the way it is going to be. They hurt all the time whether I am working or not.  They hurt a little worse if I sit and feel sorry for myself and then I get nothing done at all.  I lie a little bit and tell myself this is a new type of orgasm. It is longer lasting than the old kind but just as extreme!
The next job is to clean the mess and get the power washer out!
If you haven't seen my studio, garden and all this concrete work, then you can visit me HERE!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Project

 My Studio Entry Project
BC (before cancer), this would have been a two day job.  Dig it out, form it up and pour the concrete all in one go.  I just don't have the strength for that.  Rather than thinking that I can't do this at all, I divided it up into much smaller tasks.  On the first day I dug the footings for this little garden retainer wall that is critical to the new entry for my studio.  It is only about 15 feet long.  I dug the footings, placed the forms and got the gravel cement mixture there, ready for day two!
  Before Cancer, Day Two would have seen the completion of this job.  If I poured all the concrete at once, the footings, the little wall and a walkway about 5' x 15' it would be about two yards of concrete, something I have done many times in the past.  That would just be impossible now.
    As I was doing this I thought about all of the concrete that I have poured, not everywhere, just in my backyard.  It is a lot.
 Blueberries behind the little retaining wall.
I like concrete.  I put a lot of reinforcing steel in it and like the permanency of it. It is the defining edges of my garden and in a way, it's strength represents the defining edges of me.

On the second day I formed and poured the little retaining wall,
a boundary separating the path to my shop and a patch of blueberries. My hands are killing me!  Each effort a struggle of wills.  I admit that there is a part of me that would just like to sit on the curb and cry.  But there is another part of me that wants to see this done, wants to participate in the process, wants to create things and make a new entry to my studio.  That is the dog I feed.
   I can rest today and allow the concrete to cure, but I won't rest too much. I will get another truck load (think small truck!)
of gravel in preparation for the next phase. I have some more digging and forming to do for the walkway and then that to pour.  I have decided that it is okay to break this task into segments and do a little at a time.  I am in no hurry and it will get done.  As I progress I will tell you about it and post the occasional photo and when it is finished we can pick blueberries together and I think you will like the new entry to my studio.

My entire garden can be found here.