Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Bag End Buffet

Filling the feeders for the third time today. There should have been a fat ball as well but we've run out! Middle right jug is some very expensive Royal Canin food that Ollie refuses to eat - the birds don't seem to mind it.

The Blackie count has risen to 15 and our pretty Redwing has been back for another visit.

The £80 delivery from The Birds' Bistro in December isn't going to last as long as I'd hoped. This is the shopping list (so far) and will be added to before Richard delivers next week.

The Hi Vis vest that is also on the shopping list? We have no streetlights here (hurrah) and it can be VERY dark when I take Hairy One out for his bedtime stroll, about time I got a vest to bung on over whatever coat I'm wearing.

Blackbird City

The very cold weather is back and with it come most of the local blackbirds who seem to think the Bag End Buffet is the best place to hang out. Have counted at least 12 on many occasions, this morning I could snap 7 under the sunflower feeder and there were more by the shrubs.

Then I realised the brown bird on the edge of the group was our first Redwing, identified by the red on her body and a very distinct eye stripe. No time to change the lens, managed a couple of not very good shots before she went out of range.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Trying to catch up

Don't you just hate blogs that leave it so long without updates? (grin). Everything is fine at Bag End; Christmas and "life" have got in the way of gardening and blogging, but we have done a few bits and pieces outside.

Sunday 7th December
Finally got a huge Leylandii trunk into movable pieces which are now waiting to be chopped even smaller and put into the log store. This horrible beast of a tree was completely blocking the view to Skiddaw and its trunk was much thicker than the length of the chainsaw bar - it took a lot of sawing but like all wood in this garden, it did not defeat a determined Hobbit! We took two huge sections to use as chopping blocks - one for the regular splitting maul for when Husband is doing lumberjack impersonations, and one for me to use when splitting logs with splendid new toy from Sweden.

Without pictures, it is easy to forget just how damn big these trees were

It looks better now!

Sunday 14th December
The very cold weather continued and we decided to make inroads into one of the log piles that has been laying around since the Spring. We cut the large pieces into log-sized lengths, split them, and moved them to the Log Store working in wheelbarrow-sized loads and getting each load completely finished before starting on the next (unusually organised for us!). Husband makes a much neater job of stacking logs than me, so he got that task and I did most of the splitting with aforementioned new toy.

Bit of a mistake - we have made the base too high therefore I was lifting the weight above shoulder height more than I need to. This meant that by Sunday night I could hardly move my arms and on Monday driving was more than a tad difficult! Before we split any more logs, the base is going to have a few inches taken off it.

Sadly we did not get the large trunks chopped up which was our aim, but at least we have an area that is "nearly" tidied up . . .

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Saturday, 27th December

Sunrise over Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head

Thermometer on study window: -2 C

Boxing Day

Husband often apologises for the number of times he comments on the wonderful weather we enjoy. Many times we are basking under a clear blue sky whilst Skiddaw or Grasmoor sit under a blanket of cloud. Today however, we have enjoyed the best - crisp, clear sunshine at home, and wonderful views as well. Anyone up here on holiday could have enjoyed some excellent fellwalking today, we wimped out and kept the Aged Canine one company!

Just for Dave & Ros - zooming in on Ullock Pike

Oh yes, and finished puzzle #2, "Quilts for Sale" from an original painting by Diane Phalen

This was an unusual puzzle. A gift last year from my dearest friend J. in St Louis, this American puzzle had very large pieces (hence it filled our board even though it is still a 1,000 piece one) and thanks to Husband, who completed at least half of it with me, it was finished inside two days!

Am currently sorting pieces for the next one that we both want to work on - all 1,500 of them!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Acupuncture update

Ollie has now had four sessions of acupuncture. It is very hard to pinpoint the difference it is making and be specific but we are both convinced that he is happier in himself and moving more freely. It is now possible to stroke his back without him collapsing away from the discomfort and in general the incidents of stabbing pain are far fewer and when they do occur, usually seem to be less severe.

A break now until the new year, with our next appointment on 5th January.

Everything seemed to be going so well - until last Wednesday. I thought Ollie had been a little wobbly and unsteady on his legs all day, but that is nothing particularly unusual - he often has "slow" days. At 5.45 it was definitely time for him to go outside for a 'comfort stop' - he'd not moved off his bed since the pre-lunch stroll that constituted his "morning" walk. We were in trouble the minute I got him onto the patio - every step had him stumbling and dropping onto his right-hand side, lurching badly to the right as he tried to move forwards - frightening to watch and looking very much like he had had a minor stroke although he didn't seem distressed, just confused that he couldn't stay upright.

By 6.00pm we were back at Millcroft Vets. Clare diagnosed the problem immediately and it was good news - not a stroke. Apparently a fairly common condition that I'd never heard of - Vestibulitis. In English, a dysfunction of the vestibular part of the inner ear which controls balance. A key part of the diagnosis was to watch Ollie's eyes which, when his head was held still, rolled alarmingly to the right, again, and again, and again. Very distressing to observe but he didn't seem too perturbed!

Clare described this as being like the worst case of sea-sickness or motion sickness you've ever imagined - like when you get off a boat and your legs don't respond properly to solid ground. On a scale of 1 to 10 he was no more than 1½. There was no sign of inner ear infection and she described the condition as "idiopathic", in other words - "we often don't know what causes it or the best way to treat it".

We came home with instructions to give him lots of TLC, keep him very quiet, no walks except for toilet breaks in the garden.

By breakfast time on Thursday he was bouncing about wanting to walk around the block, eat breakfast, bark at the birds, and generally looking and behaving fairly normally! One week later he continues to show fewer symptoms every time he goes out although there is still a slight tendency to veer to the right as he tries to walk in a straight line, but the stumbling and falling over his own feet isn't happening too much.

Our Christmas morning walk at Rannerdale

There are times when loving an elderly dog can be very stressful . . .

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas, and an apology

The view this morning from Bag End.

Not too shabby, huh? (the would be the view, not the picture quality which is dire but I'm not spending hours on Photoshop this morning!)

The apology - despite my best intentions to keep up with email, December has been one of my worst months for trying to stay on top of things and my Inbox is full of messages from friends who have not yet received the courtesy of a reply from me. I ~will~ catch up eventually, if you've written to me in the last few weeks, please forgive me!

Supporting Local Businesses, and Quantum Physics

The first puzzle to be completed at Bag End had its final piece in position yesterday.

Great fun and very satisfying, but absolutely fatal - why is it when I have a puzzle "on the go" it is nigh on impossible to do anything else?

I am sure scientists do not need to go to Geneva and spend millions of pounds on Large Hadron Colliders, all they need to do is look inside jigsaw puzzle boxes. Why? Because inside every puzzle is a small black hole into which my ability to measure time disappears inexplicably!

Even better than solving all quantum physics questions is the discovery of one of the BIGGEST selection of puzzles I have ever come across - and it is beautifully located down the road in Grasmere. Barney's Newsbox sell more puzzles than I have ever seen in one place, and have a great website and online store too. Support the Cumbrian economy - get your puzzles from these extremely nice people!

The puzzle I've just completed is Country Kitchen from House of Puzzles and should look like this.

Now which one of the large supply in the coat-cupboard shall I start next?

Monday, 22 December 2008

Solstice Greetings

On the shortest day of the year we have seen neither the sunrise or sunset in Cumbria (although we have seen a Red Squirrel or two in the garden), it has been damp and driech all day, however, that doesn't stop us feeling like the holidays have started and wanting to wish all our friends a happy and healthy Yuletide.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported us this year as we begin the wonderful journey of settling into our new lives in this wonderful place.


Solstice Greetings

On the shortest day of the year we have seen neither the sunrise or sunset in Cumbria (although we have seen a Red Squirrel or two in the garden), it has been damp and driech all day, however, that doesn't stop us feeling like the holidays have started and wanting to wish all our friends a happy and healthy Yuletide.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported us this year as we begin the wonderful journey of settling into our new lives in this wonderful place.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Scarface returns

The nasty scab on his nose seems to have healed up but left a mark which certainly helps distinguish him from all the others.

Catching up, #1

Don't you just hate blogs that suddenly stop updates?

Everything is fine at Bag End, but I have finally accepted I am exhausted and have to slow down. Not just 'exhausted' as an alternative for 'fairly tired', but completely and totally worn-down-to-the-core-exhausted. The sort of exhaustion that comes from nearly two years of constantly being on the go; firstly getting our Hampshire house ready to sell, then making the 350 mile move to Cockermouth, then living in limbo in a rented property, and finally moving to Bag End in the Spring of 2008 - with all the subsequently documented trials, tribulations, and endless hard work!

This state of affairs was not helped one iota by doing myself a couple of physical mischiefs which I could have well done without! Sunday before last we spent (probably) too long in the garden and the Log Store now has logs - whooppeedo -

(room for lots more before it is full!)

- only, I overdid it and by Monday I could hardly drive because my shoulders were so sore (not good when Ollie had an acupuncture appointment in Appleby). Not content with sore shoulders, on the Tuesday I fell foul of the frozen roads whilst walking back from the postbox. Despite knowing the road was icy and taking extreme care I still managed to go flying and land extremely hard - not a dainty and ladylike slip and a stumble, oh no, this was a complete legs straight out from underneath me leaving head, shoulders, hips and elbow to smash onto the ground in complete unison and with great force! The sort of landing that leaves one laying there, looking at the sky through a lacy screen of leafless trees wondering "is my wrist broken? it certainly hurts enough, hmm, can I actually get up?". Needless to say I spent the rest of the week very quietly . . .

The most strenuous thing I have done since is put up Christmas decorations. Must take photos . . .

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Double Trouble

As this cold spell continues the amount of food we're putting out has doubled, and the number of visitors has more than doubled.

It was good to see two squirrel at the same time, although they declined to be photographed together, and two huge male pheasant.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Playing Tourist

A journey to Keswick to collect something should mean a quick trip up and down the A66. However, it was beautiful (if cold) day and neither of us felt like working in the garden. Therefore load up car with Ollie, a flask and the camera and take a detour via Surprise View, down Borrowdale to Honister, up to Newlands Hause and then back to the A66 via Braithwate!

The remains of a small inversion over Derwentwater. There is far less snow on this southern-facing side of Skiddaw than we see from home (where we're looking at the north & west faces).

Ollie thought wandering around the woods at Surprise View was great fun and did not want to get back in the car. It is really too soon to expect any positive benefits from the acupuncture BUT he was on great form today, bouncing around, no pain and very happy (and noisy).

I don't remember this sign last time we were here?

At Newlands Hause the Hairy One felt the need to have a damn good roll! Fortunately he didn't chose sheep poo or anything obnoxious.

Our initial plan was to return down from Newlands Hause and go home via Lorton. 100 yards down the road we realised the car in front of us had spun on ice and was stuck across the road. Husband ran down to help, I reversed back up the road before anyone came down and got stuck behind me. I stopped the next three cars to warn them and everyone immediately parked and ran down to help. The driver was not hurt, just a bit shaken, and the car was barely dented. With no mobile signal in the area it was good to see total strangers happy to help out. However, this left the road from Buttermere blocked by upcoming traffic which didn't feel able to get over the icy patch. Made me very thankful I drive a semi-4x4 because half a hour earlier I'd driven up over that ice with no difficulty.

Saturday, 29 November 2008


The cold weather has ensured that we get even more avian visitors than usual, the sunflower seeds and peanuts have been replenished twice today (and it is not dark yet).

There were another three on the feeder next to the hazelnuts but they weren't feeling photogenic.

Saturday, 29 November

Sunrise over Grasmoor

Friday, 28 November 2008

Friday, 28 November - an hour later

Cloud moved east revealing a fresh dump of snow over the North Western fells.

Zooming in on Ladyside Pike (l) and Hopegill Head (c)

Grisedale Pike

Friday, 28th November

Zooming in on the back of Skiddaw (Southerndale)

and Dodd

Acupuncture in Appleby

An overdue Ollie-update.

On Wednesday we went to Helen Gould in Appleby for Ollie's first acupuncture session. She was absolutely brilliant with him and I was very impressed with her. Helen's interpretation of his X-rays is slightly different (although the end result is the same). She feels that the osteophytes (in green on this picture) near his tail have probably bridged in the past but this is a fracture which is why we went from nothing to acute pain almost instantly.

It was a very interesting experience to lay on the floor of her consulting room whilst she inserted at least 15 needles into the Boy, some of which were in place for up to 30 minutes. He was not impressed a couple of times when the needles went in and put up some token resistance but it did not take too long for him to calm down and either accept we were trying to help him or that resistance was futile (grin).

I was warned that we were unlikely to see any improvement from either the first or second session and in fact, the next 24-48 hours might even be worse. Wonderfully - this has not been the case! He slept soundly from getting home until bedtime, ate a good meal and bounced out of the back door wanting to play "tug" when we walked around the block. He wasn't too active yesterday but he was not in unexpected excruciating pain either. Today he is quiet but that could be boredom - I am waiting for friends to arrive and we're going up to the beach at Crosscanonby so he's only had a short walk around the block today and I suspect that is not what His Hairyness wants!

The other bonus was taking a short walk around Appleby before coming home. I settled Ollie in the car, gave him a drink and went exploring. Appleby may well get the award for friendliest town in Cumbria with the unexpected treat of finding this lovely lady on sale in one of the gift shops.

I have a small and very special collection of these Jim Shore/Heartwood Creek Christmas ornaments since first finding them whilst in a Christmas Store, in May, in St Louis with my best friend.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Progress (with pictures)

It may not be the neatest Log Store in the world but we're pleased with it and comments from neighbours have been favourable. Guttering is needed at the back of the roof and a waterbutt at the side. For now the front is open to the prevailing wind and rain but when we eventually get around to having a shed (which will be in front of the store), this will protect the logs. Sadly the wrong time of year for "real gardening" because I want to put a Clematis Montana Rubens on the left-hand side and watch it scramble all over the store.

To anyone else this will look like a photo of a muddy patch but I know the ground is much clearer than it was. Slow progress, but at least it IS progress!

Tuesday, 25th November 2008


Zooming in on Skiddaw, Ullock Pike, Skiddaw Little Man

Progress (without pictures)

Sunday - got Log Store finished, and no-one fell off a ladder.

Monday afternoon - unexpectedly back at home due to cancellation of the Hairy One's acupuncture appointment so was able to make good progress on clearing up the debris left over from our bonfire. The ground is disgustingly wet and the areas that (once upon a time) used to be grass which have had brush & rubbish on them for weeks/months are a horrible muddy mess.

No photos because on both days by the time I'd finished it was too late (and the light was too bad) to get the camera out. Will try to rectify tomorrow.

Acupuncture update

We were half way to Keswick when I got a call cancelling the appointment (and no, I wasn't driving when I answered the phone!) Re-arranged for Wednesday. Disappointing because I wanted Ollie to commence this treatment as soon as possible but there was a good and valid reason for the change.

After discussion with our vet we are taking Ollie off Predno-leucotropin (steroid) and tomorrow will resume using Metacam (NSAID). After the initial burst of steroid-induced energy he has been in more pain than previously, so much so that today we can see he is very loathe to get up and move just in case he gets "stabbed" again. Yes, we could increase the steroid dose but neither Husband or I believe this is the right thing to do, and the vet agreed that stuffing loads of steroids into him is only a short-term fix which might not even work.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Well, yes and no. Arthritis is a useful catch-all term that covers many different conditions. When making the acupuncture appointment for Ollie, Helen Gould said "it sounds like this is spondylitis - I would expect a good pain-relieving result with this condition", so of course, I have to investigate spondylitis in dogs. Google can be a blessing (or a curse) but on balance I would not like to return to a time when I couldn't easily search for information.

The description of Spondylosis Deformans perfectly matches Ollie's symptoms and the illustration at the bottom of this page mirrors the bone overgrowth and "bridges" that have formed and can be clearly seen in Ollie's X-rays.

This is his upper back and the three areas marked in red show where osteophytes have joined up and the two vertebrae are fused. Sadly this is not all the fused bones, just the ones that show up best. Of the pair marked in green, the left-hand vertebra clearly has a bone spur growing.

This is his lower back. On the pair marked in red it is obvious how the two vertebrae are fused together. The pair marked in green are where we believe the current problems to be. The gap between the osteophytes is about 1mm and we think it is these two bone surfaces which are grinding together if Ollie moves in such a way as to bend his spine just enough for them to catch. It sounds awful, but he will be in less pain when the condition progresses further and these two spurs fuse together.

There is more information, but not much, here.

On this hip x-ray the top of the left femoral socket shows some degradation, but nothing to be too concerned about at his age. The right hip can clearly be seen on the x-ray (but will not scan) and is in fairly good condition.