Thursday, September 20, 2018

Home Safe!

 After some 210 days in two hospitals, we're safely home - not without a lot of little problems to work out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Discharge Glitches and Dreams

We're still on track to head home Thurs. morning, though not without the usual glitches.  Twice in 10 days my wheelchair has not charged overnight.  And in some circumstances the battery drops like a stone, so I have to keep a careful eye on it.  We also haven't received our final estimate for the chair we want, with the 'eye-level technology'.  I'm getting the impression that this vendor really doesn't want to sell us a chair.

The ceiling lift is not yet installed at home, but at least the short lift at the garage door is installed, so we know I can get in the house.  After some last minute phone calls we're getting a portable 'Hoyer' lift to use in the meantime.

Medication lists seem to be left to the last minute, but there are still some unanswered questions.  Hopefully they will all get resolved tomorrow.

The biggest surprise is that we may not get any homecare!  The medical team here recommended two hours per day, a common pattern for homecare assistance here, but in fact there are no staff available in our local community so apparently we're not going to get any.  A few politicians are going to hear about this!

On the positive side, it will be wonderful to be home, and for Mrs. F.G.'s 4 hour trips to London to be over.  It'll be nice to see friends and develop our routine at home with all the exercises I'll have to be doing.

I have hopes that I'll be back on my big computer in a few days, and be able to regale you with pictures of the gardens here.  I may not be back for 2-3 days, but wish me a safe transition.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Healing Power of Social Support

Nature is a great healer, but so is the support you get from relatives and friends.  I wasn't really aware of what was going on for the first few weeks way back in Feb., but recently I've learned that my wife, my son, and my sister were all there for three weeks straight.  That was a huge part of my survival!

After that, they all took turns coming for 1-3 days a week.  Sure made me feel wanted!  My room was known to the nurses as the room with the music, the photographs, the cards and the flowers.  It was all an enormous support.  Other  friends supported my wife, who I'm now totally dependent on.  The role of caregivers is sadly under-estimated.  We have a long list of friends wanting to visit once I get home.

I can't leave out the nurses, who provide all the day-to-day care, and the therapists who have brought me to this point.  And here at Parkwood the patients get to know each other.  It makes you feel like you have an extended family.

I'm even at the point of appreciating social media.  When something like this happens, you need all the communication tools you can find.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Healing Power of Nature

As I near the end of my stay here at Parkwood, I think about things that have helped me recover.  One thing that was really important were the people who supported me.  The other thing was nature, the outdoors and the fresh air.

 It doesn't have to be wild nature.  As my cousin said on one visit out in the gardens here, "It's just so GREEN!"  For me it's the trees, the huge ornamental grasses, the breeze in the leaves, the birds, the pathways that let me get out and enjoy it.  There's lots of shade and lots of sun.

Parkwood is unusual in this respect.  Originally built at the edge of the city, it retains a lot of open space around it - there are no city buildings in sight to the south or east at all.  But above all are the gardens, several acres of pathways, trees and resting spots, ideal for visiting.  They have made good use of ornamental grasses, there are two water features, the frog pond and a small fountain, and there are seven raised beds of flowers and veggies.

This morning, like so many others, it was beautiful.  I was out early, and the sun was shining bright green through the leaves.  And along came a pair of Monarch butterflies, their wings brilliant orange in the sun.  Out again later I saw two Monarchs again, these ones by the frog pond.  The flock of House Sparrows is still here, lots of Blue Jays are calling, and now there are other birds, apparently heading south.

The chance to get out in this magical place every day has come to mean a great deal to me, and I know the gardens have been great therapy for me.  I'm a firm believer in the healing power of nature.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Travelling Vicariously Through Blogs

I've always enjoyed blog posts that tell the story of a big trip.  Before this all happened my wife and I had big plans for further travels in the next decade.  Now that's not going to happen, but I fully expect to find bloggers writing about their travels so I can follow along.

In the immediate future, Al and Kelly of Travel with the Bayfield Bunch, are leaving for the maritimes in the next few days.  I expect to really enjoy their trip, as will many others among their faithful followers.  Another style of blog is Travels with Gord and Cathie, written by Gord, a good friend of mine.  His blog is in the form of a trip journal, something they have always kept over years of travel.  He only established his blog recently, but he has uploaded the stories of 11 different trips dating back to 2007.

There are numerous other blogs that emphasize travel, a number by full-time RVers.  Let me just cite three examples.

The first blog, Island Girl Walkabout, by Hector, Brenda and Angel, is now retired.  But you can still read it, and find the story of their several month long trip to Alaska in 2015.  It's illustrated with spectacular photography; Hector now has a professional photography website, H.M.Lopez Photography.  And there are lots of stories of their trips around the southwest where they now live.

Another example is The Chouters, who went on a similar trip to Alaska in 2016.  Their stories made great reading.  Finally there's Take to the Highway, by Suzanne.  Suzanne travelled through all four of the Canadian Atlantic provinces in 2017, and provides some great stories of the out-of-the-way places she visited, especially lighthouses.  Her photography is spectacular.

I'm sure there are many others I could cite, but these ones stick with me.  Do you have any favourite travel stories from the blogs you read?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

New Chariot!

There was a car show here last night, featuring about a dozen vehicles adapted to carry a wheelchair.  It is amazing how technology has brought us to this point.  Side-entry, rear-entry, and various cranes that reach out and lift your chair into the vehicle.  We're buying a simple side-entry van I can drive into, and be locked in place.  A big step toward getting out and exploring once we get home.

My next-to-final wheelchair has arrived, and it's a great chariot!  This chair, unlike the loaner I've been using, has a battery that lasts - two or three days so far.  It also goes FAST!  This chair has four gears and I haven't gone above 2nd gear yet, which is a good deal faster than a person can walk. It's also comfortable, which is pretty important when you spend your entire day in it.

I've explored further down the hospital hallways than I dared before.  I was taken out across the big parking lots, across a busy four-lane road to a restaurant, and back again.  I left my chaperone in the dust.  I've been out in the gardens practicing riding on grass, up and down slopes.  It worked fine in all cases.  And it's fun to drive.

The one glitch is that this chair does not have the vertical-rising feature we had ordered, so we're going to have to come back to pick the final chair up in 5-10 weeks.  I was not impressed, but we're living with it. In the meantime I'm certainly enjoying this one.

One week and counting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Another busy day

Another busy day here, but still on schedule.  Our brief 3 day cold spell has passed, but the days are shorter and shorter!  Just ran out of time tonight.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Bureaucratic Frustrations!&$#£{!

I had another post in mind on travel blogs, but it's been "one of those days"!  Eventually I'll tell you about it, but for now just relax annd know that I am one day closer to discharge!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Living Vicariously Through Blogs

I often think the bloggers don't realize how important their blog is to some of their followers.  Certainly blogs on my reading list quietly disappear at a discouraging rate.  So I want to write a post or two on how much blogs that I follow mean to me.  I can't possibly mention more than a few of the dozens I follow, so please don't be disappointed if yours isn't mentioned.

Now that I'm in a wheelchair, this has become enormously more important to me.  I expect that reading blogs will be a real lifeline when I can't get out and do some of these things myself.

Perhaps my favourit is Al, who writes 'Travel with the Bayfield Bunch', and it's because Al likes to do things that I enjoy, like going for a drive in the country.  There aren't many of his posts that don't feature some cows, birds, forest trails or farm fields.  I look forward to it every day.

Patsy's blog, 'Chillin' with Patsy' is a daily journal about what they've doing.  I guess it's mostly ordinary stuff, but based on a rural country property where they park their 5th wheel for 6 months a year, I can really relate to it.  And her husband Bill builds and flies model airplanes - not something I will ever do, but a fascinating hobby.

Further away is DJan, who writes 'DJan-ity'.  Based in Bellingham in the Pacific Northwest, DJan was sky-diving well into her seventies.  Now she's replaced that hobby with hiking in the mountains, another thing I'd like to do more of.

As a final example, Jaqueline Donnelly writes 'Saratoga woods and waterways'.  Jaqueline is a serious botanist, and writes about what she finds exploring forest trails, lakes and rivers near her home in New York State.  Perhaps the most specialized of these 4 blogs I've mentioned, but one I
really enjoy and almost always learn something from.

The point is not these particular blogs, but how much I enjoy them.  Reading them means a lot to me, and in the future will mean even more.  Each provides a taste of the outdoors that I like.  So bloggers, don't ever think your writing is not worthwhile, because it is.  I get outdoors vicariously through your stories.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It's Cold! Real Food and a Big Decision Made

Woke up this morning to a sudden dramatic change in the weather.  It was actually COLD outside, even after I was wrapped up in a jacket, toque, muff for my hands and a blanket over my legs.  Felt like an old invalid.  It's my hands that get cold the most, all day long, even inside.

But I did graduate to real food today.  The speech pathologist came by yesterday and watched me eat various solid foods.  So now I get things like salad, veggies and meat that I have to chew.  Certainly nice to step up from having everything minced to having real food.

The decisions are slowly coming together, not without considerable stress, and today we finalized the big one - a vehicle.  You have no idea how much it costs to modify a van to be wheelchair accessible. And how difficult it is to find a van large enough to carry a wheelchair, but still comfortable for Mrs. F.G. to drive.

Moving ahead steadily if slowly.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Another Busy Day

All these decisions are mentally draining, but we are making good progress.  Departure date has been moved to Sept. 19th, mainly because of delayed wheelchair delivery, but we're anticipating everything will fall into place by then.  With changes at home and a new (used) vehicle and more, this is getting to be an expensive business!,

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Migrating Monarchs!

The Monarchs are migrating!  After my post the other day I've heard from several sources of Monarchs migrating or all clustered on trees.

I remember from my childhood stories and photos of Monarchs gathered in great numbers on the north shore of Lake Erie.  But neither of us have ever seen anything like that.

Today Mrs.F.G. was driving down for her weekly visit when she saw, along one of our favourite back roads, a whole cloud of Monarchs fluttering around the car.  Many were clustered in a couple small trees.  She stopped for 15 minutes and got several photos with a dozen or more Monarchs in the photo.  She estimated there were probably 200 altogether.  Sorry I can't share the photos.

That's a first time for us, and to my mind indicates that the Monarch butterflies are having a good year!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My Brain is Overloaded!

Another beautiful day here but far too hot.  I've been chasing down all the people we need to talk to before my discharge, and building a list of questions to ask.  We have so many questions and ideas it's just a scramble!  A good day, but my brain is now too fogged to do much.  See you tomorrow.  I did see another Monarch!

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Two Butterfly Day!

Butterflies have become scarce with Sept. arriving, but Monarchs seem to have had a really good summer.  We've seen quite a few over the past two months, but the Butterfly Bush that's out in the sunny part of the garden here has pretty well dried up.

However, there's a second Butterfly Bush in a shadier spot by the frogpond that has come in bloom.  I was there watching the frogs today (they seem to have been very active the past few days, up to 10 at a time), and a dark flutter caught my eye.

It was not one but two Monarch butterflies, and I did manage a picture or two.

It's been alternately sunny and rainy today, but the timing was good.  No rain when I wanted to be outside, but a heavy downpour as soon as I came in for lunch.  Out again later, and the rain came again as soon as I went in for dinner.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Another Beautiful Day

It rained a bit this morning, but the past several days have been beautiful.  It's just the right combination of warm temperatures, plenty of shady spots to sit, and cool breezes.  I must admit that my own temperature preference has gone wonky -  I actually enjoy sitting in the sunny spots and staying warm.

 We've had several three trip outside days. Mrs. F.G. Is here Thursday Friday Saturday mornings so we pick up our coffee downstairs and head for the  picnic shelter.   Some days a little treat gets included too.   Once we have finished our coffee we wander further down the garden to see what the raisedbeds have visiting. It's mostly bumblebees these days,  but the cabbage whites are still fluttering around.

 The tree leaves are fluttering in the breeze.  And I just sit and relax usually meditating on the future. The third trip outside is in the evening after dinner and I'm just about to head out myself.  But the sun is setting earlier and the shadow spreads across much of the garden by six leaving only one or two spots where I can just sit in the sun in the evening.

I've written  this entire post using the voice activation.  It's working better than I expected maybe it's  going to replace the need to type with my clumsy fingers in the future.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Westminster Ponds

Immediately south of Parkwood Hospital is Westminster Ponds, a large area of forest enclosing three large ponds.  A short distance to the southeast are two more ponds known as Pond Mills.  These are all kettle lakes, depressions left in the Ingersoll Moraine by the last glaciation, and today they are all protected public land.

There is a long history of the ponds as a favourite haunt of local naturalists, especially the famous W.E.Saunders who was heavily involved in several conservation organizations in the early part of the last century.  It's the remarkable diversity of plants that accounts for the interest.  And the ponds are surrounded by a variety of walking trails.  They are in remarkably natural condition too.

Their history last century was not always oriented to protection.  The city had a landfill nearby that it wanted to expand, the hospital lands have changed over time, and subdivisions were encroaching.  Starting in 1943 the development of facilities for veterans became a major influence, including the village described in the previous post.

The area becamepart of th city in 1961 and subdivisions were expanding.  An activist with the local field naturalists club led a campaign to see the area protected starting in the late sixties.  It was a time when I was doing my first degree here at Western, so I was well aware of the campaign.

Over the nearly 50 years since there have been a number of studies  of the area, and designations have changec as the city adopted an environmentally sensitive are policy, tightening protectionfor the area. The Westminster Ponds are a big highlight among the natural areas of London.

If you check google maps, and choose the satellite view you can see a great aerial image of the ponds and hospital.  The 'Westminster Ponds/Pond MillsMaster Plan Update 2005' provides a very detailed ecological description and  history.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Westminster Veterans' Village

Just south of the hospital here is a large conservation area, the Westminster Ponds, now totally surrounded by the city.  But back in 1943 this was rural farmland and forest beyond the city.  This is where they built the Westminster Veterans' Village, one of seven in Canada.

Built to treat veterans returning from WWII with 'shell shock', it picked up on the idea that natural surroundings would help their recovery.  This idea was pioneered in Canada by Dr. Richard Bucke here in London.  The 'village' was surrounded on three sides by forest, so it was a good location.  As well lots of recreation facilities were developed, including a swimming pool, baseball diamond, and small golf course.

Originally there were 11 buildings, of which 7 were demolished, and 4 still stand.  Three of these are boarded up, but the 4th is in use as office space for non-profits, including Thames Talbut Land Trust. An interesting detailed description is available in a 2013 report on a cultural heritage plan for the area.  Most building space provided beds for veterans, but there were recreational and dining facilities too.  The tops of the foundations of the demolised cottages can still be seen, as well as the big stone chimnies of fireplaces.  With the 4 old cottages, several exposed foundations, and a view of one of the ponds, it's an interesting landscape.

Now there is a plan led by Reforest London, to restore and develop the 4 remaining cottages as an environmental centre.  Reading about it, out there just a kilometre away, was fascinating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Another Busy Day

Another busy day here with visitors, time in the gardens, and physio.  Making good progress and now just hoping things are ready at home.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ontario Land Trust Alliance

The Thames Talbot Land Trust is just one of  34 land trusts that are members of OLTA, the Ontario Land Trust Alliance.  Modeled in part after the Land Trust Alliance in the U.S., it provides education and support to all these land trusts.

I was actually involved in establishing OLTA back in 1997, when it was the Ontario Nature Trust Alliance (ONTA).  I served as the Chair of the group as it evolved into OLTA by 2003.  Starting with a group of 13 trusts it has grown to 34, including 3 that are provincial in scope.  After 2003 I turned my efforts to establishing the Ontario Farmland Trust.

OLTA's main interest is in education.  It was a very creative time for the volunteer conservation sector and new ideas were developing rapidly.  We soon discovered that the best source for 'how-to' were other land trusts who had already tried it.  And thus the annual 'Land Trust Gathering' became the highlight of the alliance.

Trying to capture the new ideas and techniques that were evolving, another land trust leader and I wrote 'Creative Conservation: A Handbook for Ontario Land Trusts'.  The book is still in use today.  Most land trusts focus on fund-raising and purchase of natural areas, but with changes in legislation, conservation easements were also promoted.  The Ontario Farmland Trust uses these exclusively.  Keeping up with land and tax law is challenging!

Together the members of OLTA have conserved over 85000 acres of significant lands, and have become the driving force for creative conservation here in Ontario.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Going Outside

It's been a good, day here, though a little hot and humid for my taste.  At least it's sunny.  I'm going.  to trade my blog writing time for another hour outside.  See you tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Thames Talbot Land Trust

An old friend from my land trust days dropped by today, and reminded me I wanted to write about land trusts.  Land trusts herein Ontario are non-profit community-based conservation groups that work to preserve natural areas and farmland.

Let me start with the land trust he's involved in, the Thames Talbot Land Trust here in London.  It covers the city an a large rural area in the upper Thames River wateshed.  To date they have preserved over 1300 acres in 16 properties.

Most of their work consists of raising money and purchasing properties,  but a few landowners donate land too.  After that they need to manage all these lands with care.  It turns out that their office is right here beside the hospital, in one of the old cottages of the vetran's village.

They are also a member of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, a provincial organization I helped establish.  More tomorrow on those things.   It has also opened my eyes to a range of other blog topics.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Signs of Fall

Running out of topics to blog about, but then I headed outside in late afternoon to find there was a definite chill in the air.  I had to hold on to my hat in the cold breeze.  I've never thought fall started on the fall solstice.  It really starts in August in my mind, even though October is the 'fall colour' month.  And fall is in the air.

There are a lot of signs of fall already.

A lot of our summer birds have already vanished, and they stopped nesting long ago.

There aren't many flowers in the gardens here, but those that are here are starting to fade.  The bright yellow Yarrow are turning brown.

There's been a great harvest of tomatoes from the raised bed gardens, as well as a few other veggies.

The wasps now come to bother you if you're eating or drinking outside, but not many mosqitoes left.

The days are shorter and the evenings cooler.

So we're getting into early fall, one of 12 seasons I think of around here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Ride Across Town

I had a follow-up Dr's appointment this morning, all the way across town at University Hospital (where I lived for 5 months).  This was the first of several doctors I'll expect to see for follow-up apts over the coming months.

The apt. was early, so they woke me at 6 to get ready.  They did arrange an early breakfast tray for me, so I did get to eat before I left.  I was taken in a large van from Voyageur Medical Transportation which was very easy to drive the chair on to after the power lift raised me to the right level.  But I was sitting so high I got a very limited view of the road and sidewalk, and I was soon feeling woozy.

This trip was to see a Nephrologist, a kidney doctor.  They want to ensure my kidneys stay healthy so I can avoid going back on dialysis.  The doctor found that all was good in that department, and reinforced what a miracle it was that my kidneys resumed working after 4 months.  They consider 2-3   months the maximum for recovery, and even then it's very rare.  So for me to recover after 4.5 months seemed pretty well unbelievable to the other doctors.  And I want to keep it that way!

We waited an hour for our ride back, which was in a different type of mobility van, a Dodge Caravan.  Even though it was a smaller vehicle, I could see out the windows of this one and felt quite comfortable.  It was a little trickier to manouvre the chair into the front passenger seat, but the view was great.

We got back to Parkwood in time for lunch and then my cousin arrived for a visit.  She stayed all afternoon and the three of us had some great conversation.  Turned out to be a great day!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

'Recovery' or Acceptance of Disabilities

I'm getting close to the end of my stay here and I'm facing some difficult decisions about how far I should push my recovery compared to accepting and adapting to my disabilities.

Most people who enter hospital do 'recover' from their injuries or illness.  But in my case, and others who are here, the possibility of complete recovery is remote or non-existant.  I will certainly be unable to walk for the rest of my life, so I will have major continuing disabilities.

Yet all around me people are telling me that I have done an amazing job of 'recovery', but I feel like I'm up against the limits.  The staff here set goals that I should reach before going home, but because of my complete paralysis below the waist, it's been impossible for me to reach some goals.  Everyone else I see here only has partial paralysis.  If you can just stand up and walk a few steps it makes an enormous difference.

So I face a mixed bag of recovery and continuing disability.  The question is, how hard do I push myself further, or can I accept things as they are (which an incredible step from lying unconcious in bed!).  There is also the probability that I will continue to improve over the coming months.

So that's where I am at the moment.  Beautiful day here too, the cold temps have retreated for the time being.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's Cold!

We've had a sudden change in the weather; fall has arrived!  It's cold!

The cool temperature and cold breeze chased us inside tonight, even though the sun was shining under a blue sky.  Time to change the clothes I wear to go outside and I might even get out my gloves.

But we did sit in the cafeteria and go through the information on beds, mattresses, lifts and ramps that Mrs. F.G,. has gathered.  We're now ready to finalize things with the vendor in Owen Sound and start getting things installed.

Although we've received good advice, you're still left sorting things out and arranging installation yourself.  And we still don't have a final price.

It's been a good day.  I'm still feeling good after Patsy and Bill dropped in   to visit yesterday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Rainy Day Visitors

We had rain on and off all day here today, but it tapered off after 3, so I picked up a coffee and headed out.  Stayed under the picnic shelter until I finished my coffee.

Coming outside after all the rain, the gardens had that bright green sparkly glow that lights up the world when you get sunshine after a rainfall.  The wet leaves were sparkling, the sparrows were splashing in the puddles and mist was rising off the roof I was under.  Nice temperaturesx and a gentle breeze, it couldn't be better.

I headed further to the butterfly gardens and poked around there a bit.  Sent a couple of messages using voice activation on my iphone - like magic!  I'll definitely be doing more of that.

Then who do you think came walking down the path but Patsy and Bill!  Incase you don't recognize the names, Patsy writes an interesting daily blog at  'Patsy is Chillin'.  Sorry I can't link you directly, but check it tomorrow and you just might find a picture of me.  We sat in the garden and talked for most of an hour.  They're in town to get some minor repairs on their RV.

Patsy and  Bill are snowbirds, heading to the southwest for 6 months every winter.  Then they bring their big fifth wheel back here for the summer.  They park it on a rural property about 45 minutes south of here.  Patsy has a garden, and brought me a fresh tomato which tasted delicious.  We visited them there (with George and Suzie) last year.

I did get a good picture of the happy couple, but of course you'll have to wait for that.  Thanks so much Bill and Patsy for taking the time to find me.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tree of Heaven

Woody wins the prize for suggesting that my mystery tree is a Tree of Heaven.  All the descriptions I can read online seem to fit.  It's native to China but has been planted elsewhere.  First I've seen though.  See his comment in last night's blog.

Long day here, but we're down to a final list of changes needed at home.  The vendor came today and spent two hours measuring and discussing options with Mrs.F.G.  She's exhausted.  I think having to make all these decisions is one of the more stressful things we need to do.  After awhile your brain just goes fuzzy.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

More Birds and a Mystery Tree

I can report twonew birds this week, one of them a Hummingbird my son saw on the Yarrow flowers this afternoon while we were sitting outside visiting (but I missed).

The other is a Red-tailed Hawk that has been screeching in the sky - one of the easy bird calls to recognize.  Then it flew quite low right over our heads.

The  mystery tree is a puzzle to me, even though I did write a little tree guide.  The leaves look for all the world like Sumac leaves, but it's a tree 40 or 50 feet tall.  The trunk has smooth bark, and the seeds are somewhat like  maple keys.

Can anyone help?

It's been a beautiful day here, more people outside than I've ever seen.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Walk in the Gardens

Sat. morning is time Mrs.F.G. and I can spend together with no therapy sessions scheduled.  Today was a beautiful day here, so we headed downstairs on the elevator (I'm getting better at handling elevators).

We stopped in the coffee shop/cafeteria and picked up two coffees and two donuts.  Maneuvered through the exit doors to the patio outside - sunny and warm.  Then sat in the picnic shelter while we finished our coffees, surrounded by a foraging flock of House Sparrows.  A good chance to just chat.

Presently we headed out to the further reaches of the garden, through a tunnel of bright yellow Cup Plants.  The small fountain is always enjoyable.  There's something special about the sound of running water.

Back to the main path we went and stopped by the raised beds to check for butterflies.  No luck today.  Then we realized what time it was and hurried back in.  My lunch was getting cold.  Shortly after Mrs. F.G. left for home.  I just heard from her, 4.5 hours later.

The other day when she was here we went in search of the art studios for veterans.  Amazing - three big studios for pottery, fabric and wood-working, all cluttered with projects, equipment and finished work.  What great facilities!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Finding the Joy

Thank you all so much for your encouraging comments day after day.  More than you know your words do pull me along the road to recovery.

After yesterday's post about the moments of feeling discouraged, I thought I should turn to the positive side.  One thing that really helps me is thinking of what brings me joy, so here are a few of them.

Childhood memories - I remember playing at the beach, big dinners at my grandparents, going to church with my own parents, and much more, all from before I was five.

Legacy - a friend who dropped by the other day reminded  me that I have left a big legacy in the work I did promoting land trusts and conservation in Ontario.  It's comforting to feel you've left something positive behind you after 35 years of work.

Family - of course my family is my biggest strength.  I can't begin to describe the love I feel from and for my closest family - my son, my daughter, my sister, my cousin and above all my wife.  At this stage in life, supporting them is my own goal.

Travel Memories - closely related to my family are the trips we've taken over the years, first the cross-country camping trips when our children were young, and later a number of trips my wife and I have taken.  My northern canoe adventures were a highlight.

Friends and Relatives - beyond my close family there are dozens and dozens of others who have supported me.  I know I sometimes take them for granted, but the many cards and the hand written messages in them I've received tell me that they all really care.

Nature - whether it's the gardens here or the tiny backyard at home, the waters of Georgian Bay or the forests of northern Ontario, being outdoors with all that greenery and fresh air has always inspired and comforted me.

This Blog - writing this blog is another source of joy, having such a tangible thing to do every day keeps me going, as do your comments.

So in spite of the hardship and frustrations, there are positive things for me to think about and remember or look forward to.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Rehab Challenges

Many of you have commented on my positive attitude to my situationn, but I'm not sure I'm giving you a very balanced picture of my rehab.  There are in fact all kinds of challenges and frustrations too.

At the heart of it, I'm not in control.  I can't get up when I want or go to bed when I want.  I can't easily move around or reposition myself.  It's all the hospital schedule.  I've had so many different nurses I've lost track, and they all have different ways of doing things.  I don't always remember what I'm supposed to remind them of.  Then they leave and I'm stuck.

As we get nearer the 'going home' date, they are focussing on a few skills I need, and making me do as much as I can myself.  To be honest, it's hard and tiring when you're sitting in a wheelchair.  Some of the things they're pushing me to do in physio seem impossible, and it's physically exhausting.  I can't do it and then I feel like a failure.

These stubby fingers don't help either.  I'm typing this blog entirely with the baby finger on one hand.

We now have to follow-up on all the equipment at home as I mentioned yesterday, and that's all going to fall on my wife's shoulderss.  It's a lot to arrange.  I'm getting tired just thinking about it.  So things are often very difficult, but we're making the best of it and trying to focus on the possitives - I am still alive after all!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Good News on the Home Front

We're at the stage of assessing what new equipment we'll need for the house for me to move back home and carry on.  And there's a lot of it, from a ramp or lift to get me in the door to a hospital bed.

The two of us have been discussing this for some time, but first there's a government agency that has to inspect you house and say ok.  She arrived Monday, and the good news is that she was pleased with our plans.  Having the main floor all level and only two  steps up from outside is a big help.

Later Monday a vendor of mobility aids also came to assess things.  He also had some good ideas, and Mrs.F.G. found  him easy to talk to.  That's important, as all the arranging is falling on her shoulders while I'm  still here in London.  Best of all, he said they could loan us equipment for the first few weeks, so I can safely get home as scheduled.  More good news.

There is of course some paperwork to go along with this, and we need to get started pronto.  More good news is that it appears government subsidies and our health insurance will cover almost all the costs.

Feeling more optimistic about getting home on time now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Learning to Drive - Again!

I now have the use of an older electric wheelchair so tthat I can practice driving before we head home. It's not as easy as you might think.

It takes a little bit of fuss to get it fitted to me.  I don't think we got it quite right this morning, because it's quite  uncomfortable at the end of the day.  Just about everything on this chair is adjustable.  But there's no tray across the front, so I've had to adjust to eating off the little hospital table which I had been using to store things on.

There are two other disadvantages.  It only has a tiny and flimsy little pouch for storage, barely big enough for my cellphone.  And the battery only lasts about two hours, although that's probably just the older battery in this particular chair.  And you can't read the tiny little control screen if you're outdoors.

Oh, but the independence!  After my therapy sessions were done, this afternoon I headed out all by myself.  Stopping in the cafeteria, I picked up a Tim's coffee and straight oudoors.  I explored most of the gardens, but spent a good while sitting by the butterfly garden watching for things to photograph. Nothing new today, but I got pictures of some of the veggies.

I'm finding it is easy to drive, especially down the straighter paths, but it's tricky in small spaces like elevators.  It's almost impossible to position yourself to be able to press the buttons - so I now have an elevator wand to use.  I'm very pleased to finally reach this stage!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Butterflies and Birds

I've seen several more birds since I first posted my list of birds here at Parkwood.  And we've been seeing some interesting butterflies recently.

- there was a small flock of pigeons ('Rock Doves') that flew over when we were out in the garden.
- I've seen a few swallows dipping through the air outside my window (presumably Tree Swallows).
- we were sitting by the raised bed gardens when a Downy Woodpecker landed on a post 4 feet away.
- finally, I'm sure I saw a Purple Finch mingling with the sparrows one day.  It has no dark stripes on its head, unlike the more common House Finch.  And it really should be called the 'Pink Finch' rather than purple.  That's the most unusual bird here so far.

As for butterflies, there have been quite a few Cabbage White and Monarchs around all along.  It's the best year for Monarchs I've seen in some time.  We must have seen 40 or 50  - or half a dozen that fly around a lot!  Lasr year I only saw 1 or 2.

We've also found a big caterpiller of the Black Swallowtail.  It's bright green and black, with yellow dots, very similar to a Monarch caterpiller.  Then the other day I saw a Red-spotted Purple on the Butterfly Bush.  The red spot on each forewing is very inconspicuous, but it has a bright row of blue spots along the back margin of each wing.  And the 'purple' looks almost black to me.  It should be called the 'Blue-spotted'.

I got some shots of a Hummingbird Moth on the same plant, and today there was an Eastern Swallowtail when we went out.  Quite a spate of interesting butterflies in only 4 days.

I know you're asking 'Where are the pictures?' , but you'll have to wait yet.  Once I get home where I can download them, I'll start sharing photos.  I have over 400 so far; they'll keep the blog going for some time!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Financial Records for Spouses

Are you in a marriage or partnership where one partner deals with all the finances - banking, bills, insurance, investments and taxes?  Have you made up a record sheet giving all the vital information so your partner could take over should you become incapacitated?  If not it's high time you did.

We have an older friend back in Guelph whose husband managed all the finances.  He died suddenly and she was left helpless (to say nothing of the grieving).  She could not even turn on the computer, which was password protected.  She struggled for weeks to figure out just how to get started.

So a few years back, before my first heart surgery, I prepared an info sheet for Mrs.F.G.  It had info like the passwords for our online banking and a dozen other things, info on how we pay our bills (in an online world we pay bills three different ways), and key contacts who could help, like our insurance agent and financial advisor.

A key piece of the picture is to get yourself a good financial advisor.  We have an excellent one at home in Meaford, who deals with both our investmens and income tax.  And I've made sure to get Mrs.F.G.  in to meet him so she's comfortable seeing him without me.  Another key piece is to make sure  bank accounts and investments are held jointly.  This makes things so much easier (banks don't like giving you access to someone else's bank account, even if they are your husband/wife).  A third key piece is to have you financial records filed in the same easy-to-find place.

So this time, when I was lying comatose in a hospital bed for a month, Mrs. F.G. knew where to start.  The staff at the local branch of our bank has been very helpful, and our son came to help sort out more details.  But having that basic information was very helpful.  I have not looked at banking statement or bill since mid-Feb, but it's all been taken care of.

There's more I could list, but I hope I've made my point.  In an online world, where everything is password protected, you owe it to your partner to pull all this info together.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It's Carnival Day!

I woke to see people setting up tent canopies down the pathway, toward the Veterans' end of Parkwood.  Turned out to be their annual carnival, scheduled from 1-3.

So after lunch we headed out to see.  There were about eight games set up under the canopies, from a fish pond (where everybody wins) and face painting to roulette wheels.  I think the vets enjoy their gambling!  There was quite a crowd of people coming and going too, vets, family, staff and volunteers.

We sat and watched the musicians set up and had some ice cream. Then we briefly looked inside and found a large gathering room where events are held.  There was a bar in the corner too.   There must have been 60 vets out, and almost all were in wheelchairs.  Part of the support came from a motorcycle club in Windsor.  There were six big bikes parked oiutside.

Passing through the raised bed gardens we spotted a Monarch feeding on the Butterfly Bush, and snapped a few pictures.  I continue to be impressed by the cell phone's camera.  You can't adjust either exposure or speed, but the camera seems to choose what's just right.  My pictures are sharp, clear, and properly exposed.  I haven't had my big camera with me in hospital.

The meals continue to be great too.  Lots of food and it tastes good.  I eat the meals twice - once in my mind when I'm filling out the menu choices, and once for real.

Friday, August 10, 2018

First Real Meals

I've just finished my first day of  three 'real' meals since Feb.  And they were delicious!  A salmon fillet tonight as good as any I've ever eaten.  I am really impressed with the food here, and three meals provide three more events that I can enjoy during the day.  What a big change in my life here very suddenly.

I'm almost ready to post pictures of my meals as some of you do.  Those have been a real inspiration to me the last few weeks as I got closer to real meals.  And I'm really looking forward to savouring every morsel once we get home!  I will never take good food for granted again.

As for the wheelchair, it really is  magic - for the price it should be!  You steer it with a joystick, which also controls acceleration and braking.  But it's not easy at first to drive in a straight line.  The curves on the other hand, are great.  It will turn a complete circle on itself very easily.

For an hour I was fitted to the chair and learned about the controls.  Then I tried driving it, which is pretty intuitive except for those straight lines in narrow corridors.  And then we were allowed an hour on our own.  Sadly, the chair had to go back with the sales rep, but I expect to get one on Monday that will keep for several weeks.

For those of you wondering, it really doesn't go very fast, but it gives you a lot of independence compared to being reliant on someone to push you.

A good day today, my closest cousin visited, I had those three great meals, and this evening got good pictures of a Hummingbird Moth with my cell phone camera.  I only wish I could post them to show you.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Step Two - Success!

No time for a full post tonight, it's been an intense day!  But I passed the swallow test and had my first real meal since Feb.  And it was delicious!  Also got to drive motorized chair just like the one we'll be getting.  Great fun!  More tomorrtow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Step 1 -- Success!

The tracheotomy came out in five minutes just after 8 a.m. this morning.

I actually had a terrible night, waking in pain from my shoulder at 12:30.  Got a shot of tylenol through my feeding tube, but a bit gurgled up into my throat and I lay there coughing til 6 a.m.  No sleep for me.  I was really afraid they would decide to postpone it.

But the Respiratory Therapist arrived and shortly it was all over.  Just a large bandage covering it, which will fill in in a few days.

Lookingforward to the swallow test tomorrow.  And I was told this afternoon that I will get to try  a trial motorized wheelchair in the morning, not the permanent one, but similar.  On  we go!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Big Steps!

I'mm up for a couple of big changes in the next twodays.  Tomorrow morning my traecheotomy comes out.  Not a big deal itself, but big implications.

It means that I'll be able to leave the  floor on my own - lounges, the cafeteria, the whole building to explore.  And those gardens!  I'll be outside every day!  And it let's them schedule the swallow test.

The swallow test is on Thurs., and if all goes well I'll be eating and drinking by Friday.  Yeah!  Big changes compared to the last 5 months.

Now just  bring on that motorized wheelchhair!

Monday, August 6, 2018

The History Of Parkwoof

In 1874 the Hospital for Incurables was opened by the Women's Christian Association in London. Over the century and a half since then, the hospial has  moved to four locaions, the newest it's present one, in south London.  It's now known as Parkwood Institute.

Parkwood is a specialized hospital, focussing on rehabilitation and the care of veterans rather than the usual acute care most hospitals do.  For example, on my floor they deal with acquired bain injury, and amputees as well as spinal cord injuries.  The focus is on getting you back home.

A brand new building is the newest facility at Parkood.  Opened in 2014, it is the Mentjal Health Care Building, and picks up on 150 years of mental health caare in London.

Mrs. Furry Gnome has been at home in Meaford for a few days and has turned to making jam of several varieties.  With more jam than we can easily use over the year, I'm thinking I'll be eating it by the spoonful!

I'm sitting here looking out the window at a rainy day.  It's a holiday here, so things are quiet.  But my stubby fingers are not cooperatinng, so I think that's it for today.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


For centuries, perhaps dozens of centuries, we have relied on wheat as the primary grain for making bread (and beer).  At this time of year, halfway between the spring solstice and the fall equinox, times would have been hard as food supplies ran low.  It was natural that a celebration was held as the new harvest came in.  It was natural too, that a portion of the new harvest would be given to the landlord and the church.

One of my favourite harvest pictures from last year.

Lammas reflects the continual unfolding of the seasons, but is perhaps one of the most important to recognize.  We have the equinoxes and solstices, but the halfway in between points, Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain, are less recognized.  And they all have a touch of paganism about them.

Of these, Lammas is the one I usually remember as it passes by.  The annual harvest is both important and very tangible.  And I do love a nice chunk of freshly baked bread (and a good beer).  So here's to the harvest this year;  we certainly have good weather for it.

In case you hadn't connected the two, we do still have celebrations of the other three mid-point Pagan festivals, much evolved.  Imbolc has become Groundhog Day, Beltane is May Day, and Samhain is Hallowe'en.

And so the seasons continue to unfold.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Choosing a Wheelchair

Have you looked closely at wheelchairs recently?  I'm familiar with the standard manual wheelchairs with the large wheels,  but today there are a wide range of wheelchairs, including motorized electric chairs with a variety of amazing features!

We anticipate that I will be in a wheelchair the resr of my life, so it's important to get a good one.  We also want to maximize my tindependence, so a motorized chair is appealing.  Luckily for us, the Ontario government heavily subsidizes the purchase of wheelchairs.  Yesterday we went to get measured up.

We've chosen a motorized wheelchair, with a large tilt mechanism, so I can tilt back and go to sleep - very helpful to avoid skin sores and muscle atrophy.  You can tilt almost horizontal!

But that's not all!  This wheelchair has a lift mechanism that will raise the eat platform by about 18" so I cen be eye-to-eye with someone else.  It uses small scissor jacks under the seat to do this, and it will even work while you are moving.  You can guess what we decided on.  I look forward to still being able to get dishes out of the kitchen cupboards.  I am NOT just going to be a helpless invalid!

Of course there is a price tag for all this, would you believe about $25,000!  Not even a good sewing machine costs that much, though some come close.  With the subsidy and health insurance, we'll only pay a few thousand - still a lot, but I'm going to live in this chair 12 hours a day for the rest of my life.

One thing I realized as we've gone through this process is that we will never be able to visit friends or stores again if they have steps or a curb leading up to their front door, a serious limitationof a wheelchair life.  Haven't solved that one yetbut I think I'm about to become a advocate for wheelchair accessibility!


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Birds at Parkwood IIhehe

The rest of the birds I've seen here are all actually going to stay here all winter.  Here they are.
Ut as Blue Jays
House Sparrows - the little flock has grown to about young.
Goldfinch - just a few individuals but they are brilliant yellow.
 Cardinals - furtive at this time of year, but we've seen a few.
Crows - one or two soaring past the window.
Mourning Doves - a pair that sat in the spruce tree one day.
Blue Jay -two or three dashing  about as Blue Jays do.

You may note that there are no Chickadees or woodpeckers on the list.  They are still dispersed in the forest raising their young.  Certainly  it makes a big difference to have some live creatures around outside.  Adds some iterest to our walks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Birds at Parkwood

Shortly after arriving here, we went walking by the frogpond, and found an older lady who feeds the birds.  With a handful of cracked corn, she had attracted a busy flock of House Sparrows.  I decided it would be fun to keep track of the birds I see here over my stay.  So far I've seen14 species.

So here is the first list of birds.

American Robin - scattered across the lawn digging up worms.
Flicker - on the lawn with the Robins, digging up grubs.
Redwing Blackbird - I first saw several females joining the House Sparrows to feed.  Later the males got bold enough to join in.
Blackbirds - a large flock swirled through the sky outside my window a few days ago.
Chipping Sparrow- one solitary bird in the flock of House Sparrows .
Turkey Vulture, one, soaring through the sky with its huge shallow 'V' shaped wings.

This group of birxds will all leave us for the winter, migrating  to warmer climes, though I increasingly hear of Robins or Vulture s staying in southern Ontario over the winter.  Lots of other birds that  migrated here in the spring have raised their broods and quietly headed off again.  It's so obvious when they first srrive, with their sprirng mating or territorial calls , but now they just quietly vanish for another year.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Happy Anniversary!

Yes, it was 46 years ago that the Furry Gnomes got hitched.  We're still together, what more can I say?

I don't think any young couple realizes the ups and downs they may go through as a married couple.  from careers through children to teenagers, to the challenges of older life, a lot of it is not easy, and some of it is an incredible challenge!

I also don't quite know what keeps us going, what keeps us loyal and what gives us strength,but something did and here we are, struggling with this latest challenge.  All I know is that Mrs. F.G. has been an angel sent from heaven the last few weeks,

So Happy Anniversary dear, only 14 more to reach 60!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Is the end in sight?

  • Life in the hospital here at Parkwood moves haltingly ahead.  I'm being kept very busy, but there are lots of gaps in the schedule I have to fill, especially on weekends.  I get two hours of physio and occupational therapy each weekday, and I'm supposed to practice the exercises in between.  Butjust getting up, washed and dressed takes 3 hours of the day, and I fear I'm getting lazy just sitting here reading blogs.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I still can't eat or drink.  I've been on a tube feed since I arrived.  I could SO enjoy some real food and drink!
I'm sitting at my window looking out at the gardens while I write this (wih one baby finger and one thumb mostly), and it's a beautiful mixture of greens - trees, grass and plants with paved pathways interweaving between them.   There are several small shelters within sight, as well as the frogpond.   And visitors pushing patients in wheelchairs.  Often there are families around, so there are children too, though it's quiet on weekends.   There's an active day care centre aound the corner during the week.

There are amazing areas to explore here in the building itself, from a bowling alley tothe chapel, from thelibrary to the Tim Horton's outlet, and lots of lounges.  It's a very interesting building and community.  Unfortunately for me, I'm not allowed to leave the floor alone until my tracheotomy is removed.  Hopefully only another week or two.

They held a 'family conference ' the other day to report on their initial assessments of me, and lay out what I need to accomplish before I can get out of here.  It seems like an awful,lot of work and dedication is required, but my planned discharge dat is Sept.11th!  Can we get the house ready for me to return to in time?

Friday, July 27, 2018

How Do Read Your Blogs?

I receive notice of the blogs I follow either in my email or in my Reading List on Blogger. I usually read them that day. I comment if I notice something particularly interesting, but not all the time.

Having missed almost 6 months of blog reading, I'm now in the unusual position of being able to read all the sequential posts from one bloggger day after day or week after week to atch up.  It is givivg qme quite a different impression of those blogs.  You get glimpses into a blogger's life the first way, but you get to follow the story of their life for a while the other way.
For example, I'm currently catching up on Al's 'Travels with the Bayfield Bunch, one of my favourites.  In March they were driving their RV home from the south.  Reading it this way lets me follow their whole trip day after day, which I really enjoy.  I'll probably put in one great big long comment at the end.

Soon I'll get to some of all those other blogs out there awaiting my attention.

As for readers commenting on my blog, some comment rarely, others comment if I  comment on their blog.  And finally there are those of you who comment regularly regardless.  You're the ones who have kept me going these long dark months.  On reflection, I'm going to read more blogs sequentially rather than as isolated posts, and I'm going to try and be more generous in my comments.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

First Day in the Physio gym!

I had my first chance in thephysio gym here this morning, and it was amazing!   This is the rehab I dreamed of. Lots of equipment and a 1/1 staff/patient ratio.  In one case it was 4/1 as a patient tried to learn to walk again.  I have a long way to go to get my fitness back after nearly 6 months lying flat!  But I think I'm really going to enjoy a carefully supervised hour inthe gym every morning.

Then I was hit with another hour of exercises this afternoon.  Had to have m a little nap after that!

Last nightI I woke at midnight to the brightest, longest brilliant lightning show that I can remember!  My window gives a great view, and the lightning lasted nearly 45 minutes, with heavy rain.  I loved it!  Too bad I couldn't get my paralized legs out of bed to take some pictures!

Monday, July 23, 2018

What Actually Happenedk

Lasr January I went in for some admittedly serious heart surgery.  We were told there was a 4% risk, but everything that could go  wrong did.  I ended up almosr in a coma for a month  and then spent 81 days in ICU.  I  haxd  kidney disease, a chast infection  and am paralized from the waste down.  It hasn not been easy !

The tips of four fingers  and all my toes were amputated - it's VERY slow writing this!  Then the miracle happened .  My kidneys recovered, I could stop dialisys, and that part of our catatsrophe was over.  That opened the door to a lot of things.  I now have a good chance of getting homeaathough life won't be like it was.   I'm daydreaming about sporty motorized wheelchairs.  Above aall this opened the door to rehabilitation.

After ICU, there were 75 days in recovery  and now I have been transferred to Parkwood Instsitute, one of the premier hospitals here dealinqg with brain injury, amputation, and spinal cord injury.  I'll probably be here for a couplae of moncths or more for rhabilitation.  Then I'm looking froward to getting home againf.

Outside my window is a large area of gardens, with paved pathways, and lots of alcoves so visitors
 Cana sit with patients.  Lots of trees too.  More on the gardens to come.

Help.  Has anyone figured out how to post from an ipad and import pictures from a cellphone?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Nature in the city,

Even though I have been living in a cement monstrosity for the last six months, I have  appreciated deeply the little corners of green that I can  access  here  at the hospital.   There is a fair amount of green grass around the Hospital buildings and quite a few planted semi-mature trees.  There are three gazebos we take advantage of.   If we're lucky it's sunny, cool and a nice breeze.

A family of House Sparrows took over the biggest gazebo as their territory in the spring, so even though they were just squawking House Sparrows, we were surrounded by birdsong.  We watched the parents nest-building, feeding their, and then dispersing to raise second broods.

Did you know that the young appear bigger than their parents because they still have fluffier feathers and they hold their wings out wider appearing quite fat when begging for food?  We've seen as many as three fat, fluffed out yougsters following a slim hard working adult.  Today two were having a dust bath.

Those aren't the only birds we've seen.  Earlier in the spring the Canada Geese control the morning ramparts, honking to let the world know they're here.  Once the goslings are born, the adult males act as traffic cops while the females lead the young ones across the roads.  Now we don't hear them much, as they've dispersed learning to fend for themselves.   The hospital is located close to the valleys of Medway Creek and the Thame River, so there's lots of natural habitat for them to explore.

At other times our lives have been enriched by the red flash of a cardinal or the long musical song of a House Finch.  We regularly see Turkey Vultures soaring outside the windows.

 After spending several hours over several days trying tp insert pictures for this post directly fjrom my ipad, I have given up.  If I figure it out  I'llshare, them with you. . Cheers!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Day 141

The Furry Gnome reporting in here.  About time you may say, and you're right!  It's day 141 in my visit to the big London University Hospital where I've been spending my latest healthcation.

There are lots of details you'd like to hear, but I'll leave that for later.  Fit to say, I have been taken off dialysis and I'm peeing lots --- a minor miracle for anyone with kidney disease.  Only took five and a half months!  I've now been accepted to Parkwood Hospital's Spinal Cord Rehab Unit, one of the best in the country.

There are a number of smaller points of progress.  I can ride my own wheelchair around the hall (but boy is that hard work)!  I've learned where all the cracks in the sidewalks are  and avoid them.  But outside there are several nice places to sit with plenty of green to sooth the mind.  Even the lowly House Sparrows have been fun to watch.

I'm looking forward to more progress and will keep you up to date.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Furry Gnome Progress and Upcoming Birthday

Hello friends.  It has been a wild rollercoaster ride that the Gnome and his family have been on, but I am pleased to say that he is now out of ICU, after 75 days!  As one Dr. said of Stew - " You are a legend in ICU!"   He is now on a regular hospital ward and is able to do a few things independently, such as using a callbell to summon  the nurse!  It is a real tribute to his strength and determination that he has made such progress.  He remains on dialysis  and hopefully he will regain his upper body strength with physio and rehabilitation.  He is now complaining of feeling bored which is a good thing! His sister, Marilyn, our son Matt and myself continue to  share bedside duty, reading to him, playing music and providing support.  He particularly enjoys us reading nature related books and articles.
We want to thanks all his blogging friends for their support, positive thoughts and prayers.
On May 12, Stew will be celebrating his 70th Birthday, a milestone that we are most grateful for. Please send greetings and Birthday wishes that I will share with him on that day!
Kindest Regards from the FG and Mrs. FG.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Dear blogging friends,  the Furry Gnome had surgery 18 days ago and was hoping to be back home by now.  Unfortunately he has experienced some setbacks and is still in the Hospital ICU.  The last few days has seen some improvement in his condition and we are hopeful that the worst is over.  He is receiving the best care imaginable and we are grateful for the brilliant expertise of all the dedicated professionals treating him.  I have been keeping him up to date on some of his favourite blogs and have come to appreciate the wonderful adventures you take us on and the stories that you tell.  Your encouraging messages, and prayers will be uplifting and motivating as Stew enters the rehabilitation stage of his recovery.  Hugs. Mrs. FG.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yet Another Walk in the Woods

The other day I joined a friend at his own place out in the country for another snowshoe walk.  It was a short and peaceful walk in a very different sort of woods, but it still took us over an hour.  And I enjoyed the wildlife!

The property backs onto the Bighead River, which was mostly frozen, but we had to step gingerly over this small stream to start our walk.

There were Wild Turkey tracks all over the place, and I thought we might see at least one.  They often walk in single-file, so leave more of a track than individual birds. 

A number of the spruce trees had piles of shavings from squirrels tearing the cones apart for the seeds.

I think this magnificent old Beech tree is one of the most beautiful trees I've seen.

And this enormous old Hemlock, now dead, is home to a Porcupine.  We actually saw it in the back of that open hollow, but it snuggled down lower so I couldn't get a picture.

 We tramped around the back corner of the woods, to the fence that used to separate it from a pasture.  A line of big old Sugar Maples marks the edge.

And then into the White Pine plantation, which my friend planted about 25 years ago.

There's something about all the bits of snow caught up in the branches of pine trees after a light fluffy snowfall!

Then we saw the first Turkey - but at a distance.  Can you see it behind the trees, walking along the edge of the field?  We ended up seeing two more cross the trail in front of us in the distance.  I also caught a glimpse of a big owl fly away out of the top of a tree.  We had heard one a few nights ago; they've started nesting here.

Then it was back down to the river, gently across the stream, and home.  A long and peaceful walk because we stopped often and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.


Tomorrow we head for my next enforced medical 'vacation' in London.  This is the big one; I'm sure I'll have an interesting story to tell after I recover.  all thoughts, prayers, and crossed toes will be gratefully accepted.  I'll be gone for a week or ten days, and maybe back here in two weeks.  Try not to miss me too much!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More from the Woods

A few more photos from my three walks through the Hemlock bush over the past week.  I think I'll be exploring this place a lot more in the future.

Some very nice big Hemlock in this forest gave a dark appearance in places, though obviously the snow brightened it up.

These weren't huge Hemlock, but a few of them were a good size, tall and straight.  I've read that half the original barns in southern Ontario were built of Hemlock, and the rest of the Hemlock were cut for tannin used in the tanning industry.

Another of those low branches that dumps snow down your neck if you brush the low end of the branch.

Lots of Beech saplings in the understory.

I also spotted a patch of the fertile fronds of Ostrich Fern in the distance, down in the lower area by the creek.  They stand up above the snow all winter.

I was glad I had a friend to lead me in the first time.  When we got through to the back part of the woods there were few Hemlock or Beech left, and it was mostly a deciduous forest of Sugar Maple.

But I did spot one big old double-trunked Yellow Birch.

At one point I did see what I thought was a huge big Hemlock in the distance, but as I tramped toward it, it dissolved into two separate smaller trees.  And they're not Hemlock either, just poplar.

How's this for some distorted wood grain on that big old gnarly Beech.

And these are some of the fungus that attacks the Beech trees.

How's this for a pattern!?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another Walk in the Woods

Over the past week I have discovered another beautiful woodlot to walk through, led initially down the trail by a friend.  It's a larger woodlot, not far away, and very interesting to walk around.  I've actually been there three times over the past week, on snowshoes each time of course.

It turned out to have a large patch of Hemlock-Beech forest, a forest type I don't see very often here in the valley.  I can't think of another example as nice as this one.

Those tiny Hemlock needles are easy to identify once you learn them, at least on the shorter saplings where they're close to ground level.

There's also a lot of Yellow Birch, making this woodlot even more interesting.  This is like an undisturbed old climax forest for southern Ontario.  Can you recognize the large trunk to the right of centre with it's curlicues of paper hanging off the bark?

Surprisingly, there isn't much Sugar Maple, although this one is a great specimen - tall and straight.  Sugar Maple is usually the most common tree in our deciduous woodlots.

Another big tree, a White Ash.

There were a lot of American Beech, but they're often not looking very healthy, attacked by the beech bark disease, a combination of an insect and fungus that usually kills off the large trees first.  There seems to be little that can be done about it.

While the leaves are still hanging on on the smaller saplings, the unique long sharp buds are already there, waiting for spring.

There's a stream flowing through the woods, closer to the north side, with quite a steep embankment where you can look down on the stream from above.  I think we need a bridge someplace!

If you get through to the back of the woodlot there's a large pond that's been created which looked very inviting.  I expect it's a great place for wildlife in the spring.

The beech bark disease causes severe cankering and results in misshapen tree trunks.  This one was a classic example!  Can you see right through?  Must be a big hollow in here.  This is a woodlot I'll be back to regularly, and sharing more photos of sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Lichens on the Tombstones

Last week I showed you a few of the lichens I've seen on trees at the cemetery.  How about the tombstones?  Actually very few of them have any lichens at all, but on a few there are some quite neat orange lichens.  Obviously the type of stone used makes a difference.

These are three of very few tombstones that I've seen lichens on.  Come summer I'm going to have to have a closer look at the differences.

Here's a small patch at the base of one monument.

And have a closer look - remarkable pattern!

Another two patches on another monument.  All of the lichens on gravestones seem to be bright orange.  After Woody, of 'In Forest and Field' suggested it, I found I did have on my shelf the Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski.  And I think I've successfully identified these lichens as the 'Elegant Sunburst Lichen' Xanthoria elegans.  Thanks for reminding me Woody!

In contrast, this is another of lichens on a Sugar Maple, just so you remember the difference.

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