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Friday, July 27, 2007

Girls Day Out

Before my surprise hospital trip, Kat and I had planned that she would spend this week with me and we had several day trips to places of interest, like Old Bent's Fort; Amache, where a Japanese internment camp was located during WWII; the Sand Creek Massacre site; and Bishop's Castle, in the Wet Mountains, south of us.

Our plans were edited due to my lack of energy, but on Thursday we managed to have a great day out.

First we headed south through the lovely Wet Mountains, which were so green with multitudes of multi-colored wild flowers, to Bishop's Castle. Mr. Bishop has been personally handbuilding this fairy tale fantastical castle, and feuding with numerous local, state, and federal agencies, from native rock from his property, hauling the large stones up the walls with a primitive block and tackle method. In addition to unbelievable towers, he has a dragon's head smoke stack sticking out of the top of the castle, where the smoke from the fire puffs out in the winter. The castle is adorned with much airy metalwork trim, since the Bishop family have have long owned a metalwork business in Pueblo. As we have watched him build it higher and higher through the years, I've hoped he was as good an engineer as he is a designer. It has become an important tourist attraction in the area and he funds it entirely from free will offerings and a gift shop where he sells photos of his castle as well as all kinds of appropriate style items made by local craftspeople. Several years ago I bought the Celtic cross I wear at the giftshop. I've taken the grandchildren to see the castle several times when they were visiting, but this was Kat's first visit and she was properly awed by it.

We then traveled on south to San Isabel Lake, where we sat at a wet picnic table (on my Audubon throw as it had just stopped raining) and ate our picnic lunch, while watching squirrels, chipmunks and blue Stellar Jays looking something to eat. I was able to get a couple of photos of a small ground squirrel but the gorgeous Stellar Jays refused to cooperate and pose. As we were getting back into the car a deer walked across the road right in front of us and stopped to stare for a moment, but I couldn't get my camera out and operating fast enough to take her photo. As a photographer, I make a good fisherman, always talking about the one that got away.

Kat asked how close we were to the town of Rye, since her oldest and closest high school friend, Klee, lived at Rye. Since we were just a few miles from Rye we drove there and found her husband's name in the local phone book and Kat called and got directions to her home. It turned out that her address was Rye but their place was about 25 miles east in the broken canyon and mesa land at the foot of the mountains where the old Hatchet Ranch had been divided into mini-ranches about 10 years ago. We drove on narrow, gravel roads that wound around and up and down over the ridges and only lost our way once. We managed to figure out where we went wrong and after retracing part of our drive we finally found the road Klee lived on. Because of the broken nature of the land, not to mention it's extremely rural location, the cell phone service kept going out, which made checking the directions problematic. Now we understood why her three daughters had done their schooling online. Klee's husband, Steve, is able to do most of his work at home by computer, also, and only has to travel to the office every couple of weeks to meet with his colleagues.

Klee is an amazingly talented woman who raises several breeds of sheep, angora goats, and angora rabbits for their wool and fur, which she cleans, dyes, spins and weaves into marvelous pieces as well as selling the wool and yarns. I had last seen Klee at a family barbeque in Fowler for Missouri Day a couple of years ago. As we visited she was spinning her own wool with a drop spindle. She also makes lovely small baskets from pine needles as well as making papers from fibers, such as sunflower stalks, and okra pods. She and the girls make masks and collages from the home made papers. The family also grows a lot of their food in their vegetable garden, sing professionally at places like The Royal Gorge and are heavily involved in all aspects of theatre, which they started years ago at the Nomad Theatre in Boulder.

Steve and Klee designed and built their spacious and airy home which is designed around a solarium for growing plants as well a providing passive solar heating and cooling. They still have to complete some of the final construction tasks; finishing laying the stone veneer on the fireplace (the flat stones are carried down from the ridge behind the house a few at a time), and installing the door and window trim, etc. The views from the windows are spectacular from Greenhorn Mountain on the Western skyline to sweeping views of stony ridges and grass covered hillsides dotted with sunflowers sloping to the house. I loved hearing the baaing of the sheep and the song of the Rocky Mountain Canary (donkey braying) as well as the whispering breezes.

For dinner, Klee and Steve fed us homemade bread, home grown lamb and onions grilled on skewers, and the best coleslaw I've ever had made from a fresh picked head of cabbage with red grapes (I don't think they grew the grapes, but if they think of it they will probably put in a vineyard.) We had such a great time talking, laughing, and admiring the girls' artwork that we stayed later than expected and Klee led us back to the I-25 in the dark and sent us on our way home through Pueblo (rather than the mountains in the dark) with hugs and waves. On the way to the highway we were surprised by a black cow suddenly showing up next to the car on the side of the road. According to Klee, the locals all know that you have to watch out for those black poppers that pop up when you don't expect it.

It was quite late when we got home and altogether it was a wonderful day!

By the way, I want to express my appreciation to all of you for your prayers and encouragement. When I discussed the results of the echo cardiogram with my family doctor we were surprised to find out that I do not have Congestive Heart Failure, the test showed that my heart is beating strongly and the medical staff is mistified by what caused my condition. I now have appointments with a Cardiologist and my Pulmonologist in August and September for more tests. My doctor wondered, along with me, if this could be related to the Sarcoid that affects my lungs. I researched online and found that when Sarcoid affects the heart it can mimic heart failure. So now I play the waiting game again. At least I can breathe and my feet and ankles are normal sized and don't hurt so bad any more. But I am so weak and tired and my brain is just not functioning well, I am so forgetful and confused.

I actually managed to do more work on my June 12 x 12 the other day. This is the base piece which had to be quilted before I add the photos. The first sewing I've been able to do in weeks. And I am playing with the idea of doing something with the fantastic imagery of the echo cardiogram for my July piece. I'm also hoping to do some experimenting with a piece based on a drawing of a fantasy tree by Brena, Klee's middle daughter. She was gracious to allow me to photograph her drawing and do a fabric interpretation of it. She only asked to be allowed to receive photos of the process of creating it. Thanks,Brena.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Phantastic Photography Blog

Those of you who have enjoyed my brother's photos, that I've posted from time to time, will be pleased to know that I have convinced him to start his own blog. He is currently posting photos from his recent trip to the Oregon coast, and I think his are as good as any professional photos I've seen in books, magazines, and calendars. Check out his blog and please comment so he knows that people are seeing his blog, Images on Tile.
Thanks to you all for your comments of caring and support. I am feeling so blest and loved and wish I felt up to responding personally to each of you. I found a great encouraging phrase from my Quilting the Psalms group; "God is the strength of my heart." _Psalm 73

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Home From Hospital

It turns out that the asthma and allergies causing my problems, weren't. After 9 hours in the ER, a night in ICU, and another day in the hospital, multiple punctures, pictures, etc., I have been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), which came as a major shock to us.

I had gained nearly 20 pounds in the last 2 weeks and looked and felt like I was in training as a balloon float for the Thanksgiving Day parade. When it got so bad that I felt like my chest was being crushed and I couldn't breathe, the Doc sent me to the ER. After figuring out what was wrong, they administered huge doses of Lasix intravenously and by the next morning I had run off around 25 liters of fluid. Needless to say, I didn't get any sleep that night.

Doc said I had improved much faster than he expected, and attributed part of that to the Bible I was reading when he came into the room this morning. I can breathe so much easier and feel so much better. I expected to come home and start gardening. But.......I can't go out in the hot weather, and I am so weak and tired I can hardly sit here. My daugher, Kat, is coming to stay with me tomorrow morning (we had planned for her to visit next week anyway) and I hope I feel good enough for us to do a few fun things together.

After a Stress Echo test of my heart on Friday, they will have a better idea of what is causing this and how we will treat it. I would love to hear from any of you who live with CHF to see how you handle it. The Doc thinks that it was precipitated by my high altitude camping trip and the extremely hot weather we're having putting too much stress on my heart. Evidently it is more common in people with Diabetes or lung diseases, both of which I have.

My room on the second floor of St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City had a nice view of Fremont Peak and the Skyline Drive across the ridge of the Hogback on the West side of Canon City. The early settlers here called the skyline of Fremont Peak the Sleeping Indian. If you have a good imagination you can see him lying there at the top of the peak. The Royal Gorge runs through on the south (left side) of Fremont Peak (named for the Pathfinder Fremont who explored through this area after Pike discovered the Gorge.) Skyline Drive is one of our tourist attractions with a narrow one-way road following the ridge and the city straight down the east side and U. S. Highway 50 running through a valley, on the way to the Royal Gorge, straight down the west side.

I could use good thoughts and prayers for an independent old Granny to learn to be less independent and to stop trying to be Wonder Woman. I'm exhausted and need to go to bed for a while.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

Here are highlights from our annual July 4th family camping trip to Snowblind Campground, northwest of Monarch Pass, in Colorado.

Our tent with screened porch, and the car with the trailer it took to carry all of our camping gear.

Over the past 50 years, I've evolved from sleeping on the ground, in a tiny two man tent (our under the stars when it didn't rain), to this spacious two room tent with stand up headroom, sleeping on an air mat on a foldable cot. I have dearly loved it; but these days with a trunk full of oxygen, a generator to run the travel oxygen concentrator, Bernie, my oxygen cart, and Ursula, the shoulder pulse dose oxygen pack (which I can't use in the mountains, because I have to have constant flow oxygen at high altitudes), not to mention arthritic joints that make it exceedingly difficult to get up several times a night from the low cot; I fear that my days of tent camping have come to an end.
See Granny Fran attempt to keep warm at the campfire, while the kids show no sign of freezing.
Since I'm on oxygen I have to keep six feet away from the fire, which gives me a good excuse for not helping with the cooking.

Here are the kids' tents and the fireplace circle.

The aspen grove across the road and next to the privy.

The swimming hole (brrr! Water melting from snowbanks) in the Tomichi Creek running next to our campsite.

Gathered around the fire; Greg grinds limb stubs off Mandy's aspen walking stick with a rough stone; note that Coloradoans do drink their own Coors beer; the tarp over the woodpile and the poncho on the back of Joe's chair indicate the rain that blew over the mountains every afternoon.

Doug, Joe and Greg enjoy the fire.

Jennie demonstrates how to cook breakfast biscuits in a Dutch oven, the way the cowboys did (well, they probably didn't use charcoal briquets.)

Come and get 'em while they're hot! With sausage gravy and fried potatoes they were delicious (no, we don't stick to our diets while camping.)

Mandy and Evan celebrate Independence Day with battery operated fireworks. We love the forest too much to risk burning it.

Wild roses and other native flowers were bloooming all over the area.

A Broadtailed Hummingbird partakes from the feeder we always provide for them.

Mr. Chipmunk is overjoyed to find the raw peanuts that Evan liberally spread around the site.

Evan playing with some of the local Fauna.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Update on New Dooryard Garden and Patio

After the delay caused by my introduction to the joys of asthma, I finally laid the last paver of the tiny patio between the house and the new raised Lavender garden that I built in May. The umbrella table and chairs are in place and a few pots of flowers were stuck in the corners. I have a couple of glazed pots that I plan to turn into a fountain but that has to wait until we get back from our annual July Fourth campout at Snowblind Campground in the Gunnison National Forest. While sitting on the new patio I realized that the wall of the house is a large bare expanse that needs to be decorated. Now I'm trying to decide what kind of flowering vine I should plant and what style of trellis I need to install. I've planted various herbs in the narrow bed along the side of the house for their scent as well as their beauty.

I've used the red concrete pavers in the Toad Haven garden because that is what the woman who built the house had put in; a few red
concrete pavers and garden edging around the house and the trees in the yard. Having lived in Boulder for many years I love the red flagstone that is quarried in that area and I adore red terra cotta pots so I figured I'd stick with the original materials here, instead of trying to replace them all. Then I discovered that blue glazed pots look great against the red pavers so I began collecting different sizes and shapes. The table and chairs are generic green plastic Wal Mart specials. How can you go wrong with green in a garden?

Granny Fran relaxing, admiring her new patio and garden, while resting her poor soy swollen ankles. She hopes the allergy doc she goes to see on Monday, after getting back from camping, will figure out how to help her get over both the asthma and the edema.

My garden decor is very shabby chic (well, shabby, at least). I love weathered wood and all kinds of old rusty metal pieces and parts. Some of my prized possessions are a couple of long old rustic wooden benches that I picked up at a farm auction north of Canon City about 18 years ago for probably $2 a piece. I used them to display wares in our antique store in downtown Florence for a while. A German film company, that was filming a western in the Wet Mountain Valley, offered me $300 for my benches, to use in the film, but I couldn't sell them, even at that huge mark up. I told Joe, you can't create benches like that in a few short years, and I'd just spend the money and not have my lovely benches. They did buy some of my pieces that were for sale and even paid me some ridiculous price for the tattered and holey old green window shades from the vacant rooms upstairs over the store that we would have thrown away. I guess it's true that one man's junk is another man's treasure. My junque is treasure, Joe's is just junk. (Don't tell him I said that.)
Have a happy Fourth of July! This will be my bed and breakfast for the rest of the week. No fireworks allowed but we will have a campfire each evening with hot chocolate and s'mores. I do have battery operated simulated fireworks for the grandkids and me.