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.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Saturday, 22nd November

Happy Birthday Husband, who missed this lovely sunrise because he's cream-crackered from a week in London and sleeping in.

Backups #2

I have no other way of thanking Roddie, who left a comment on my earlier post, and this might help someone else.

He wrote "Firefox creates a backup every time you change the bookmarks. Look for a file something like bookmarks.bak"

I found a series of files named Bookmark-DATE.html in an Application Data folder and tracked down the most recent entry. This gives me an HTML page version of all my Bookmarks and means I haven't lost some URL's which would have been a nuisance to try and relocate. As my Bookmarks were due for a bit of an overhaul and clear out I will not reload all of them but it is great to have a record of the links and I've saved the HTML page somewhere safe!

Thanks Roddie.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Does this look like an unhappy dog?

Had to go to Keswick yesterday morning to collect a newly sharpened chainsaw chain so we went via St Bega, Bassenthwaite and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. The walk to the church is virtually completely flat on a fairly smooth path and there is a stream at the end - a nice safe one that is only a few inches deep.

I think the steroids are taking effect, he ran around barking and bouncing and I had quite a fight to get him out of the water! He seems quite oblivious to the fact that it is freezing cold and if I did not bully him back onto dry land I know he'd stay in the water until he was too cold to move.

"Puddling", well, that is what we call it. Ollie loves to paw at the stream bed stirring up mud and, if we don't stop him, making the pads of his feet quite sore in the process.

Ollie spent the afternoon
crashed out on the bed behind my chair in the study and sleeping deeply, and was allowed to sleep on the human bed last night where he snuggled down and did not move until morning time. I thought he would be knackered this morning but no, leaping around, barking his fool head off. We saw a neighbour whilst on our morning excursion who commented "he's got a twinkle back in his eye" and that's a lovely way of describing his current mood. I had forgotten how damn noisy a happy Beardie can be - bark, bark, bark, BARK, BARK!!!

"Hmph, if you won't let me play in the water I'll just have to chew this nice stick"

Thursday, 20 November 2008


I am normally very good about taking backups, in fact, I can be quite obsessive about backing up my data and have my photos and files replicated over three separate external drives.

Sadly I have not been as efficient in backing up a simple thing like all my bookmarks, and whilst updating to Firefox 3 yesterday I managed to lose a large number of very carefully organised and sorted bookmarks. B*gger. No-one's fault but my own but it will take me an age to restore them all.

Go on, toddle off and backup your Bookmarks - now!

November images

It hasn't all been endless slog and hard work. Occasionally there has been time to stop and play with the camera.

Waiting for the chainsaw:

Waiting for the log store (and the log splitter):
I could photograph logs all day! Wonderful textures and contrast and constantly changing light.

A strange but very clever plant. At the same time this plant has flowers, developing berries (red ones) and ripe berries (black ones). A very good way of ensuring propagation regardless of seasonal and climate changes.

Bracket fungus:
Discovered on the rowan tree near the squirrel feeder. Think it is Polyporus squamosus (common name Dryad's Saddle).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ollie, update

Sadly, the woofing did not continue.

Whilst we have not had incidents of screaming in pain over the last week, we have not had a very happy little puppy either. It has been one 'not bad day' followed by one where he barely wants to get up, let alone eat, walk or play.

It was time for some more intervention and therefore yesterday evening (Monday) we started him on a 10-day course of Predno-leucotropin which is a combination of Cinchophen, a fairly mild NSAID, and prednisolone, a steroid. We did not want to do this unless we had to, if you scroll two-thirds down this page (under "b. Steroids") you will see why steroids are absolutely not the answer to canine arthritis.

We have also booked a course of acupuncture with Helen Gould that commences next Monday. This is a treatment which can give tremendous pain relief and I'm very hopeful that it will give Ollie a much better quality of life.

Husband and I have, obviously, spent a great deal of time recently discussing The Hairy One, and at the weekend Husband had one of his genius insightful moments. He said "do you think sometimes, when Ollie can't be bothered to get up and doesn't seem to want to walk, it is not because he's in pain, maybe it is because he's bored with gentle walks around the block and even if he cannot manage the fells any more, he wants to go out somewhere interesting"? Lightbulb moment - we have a hugely intelligent dog who adores trips in the car, visiting new places.

Therefore, despite it being grey, cloudy and somewhat blustery, yesterday's early morning walk took place at Crosscanonby, an easily accessible beach on the Solway Firth, about 15 minutes away. I thought we would keep to the sandy/grassed area above the beach - easy walking, relatively flat and nice & gentle underfoot. A certain Hairy Person had other ideas and was absolutely determined to feel sand between his toes! He skipped a little, barked a lot, stood facing into the wind tasting the air and obviously throughly enjoyed himself. Sure he was very tired yesterdy afternoon and he's not up for much this morning but the change of scene definitely made him very happy.

Plans to go out tomorrow morning as well, which I will keep to myself because announcing plans on the Bag End blog always results in failure!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Log Store progress

A bright, sunny Sunday saw us back out in the garden. Husband moved most of the brush & debris that didn't make it to the bonfire last weekend and I cleared up leaves from the drive. In places the magnolia leaves had blown 6" deep and all are now in my Log Box near the compost bin. Hopefully in a year or two they will be lovely rich, moist leaf mould.

We took the opportunity of good weather to do more work on the Log Store first bracing the tops of the upright posts.

Putting on featheredge boards to make a roof was not, sadly, without incident. Husband is a very lucky boy, he fell backwards off the ladder (missed his footing as he was about to descend) and landed almost flat on his back. Fortunately he hit soft earth which was probably the best thing he could have landed on, 12" away was a tree stump - his elbow caught that. He also graunched up his calf which got caught up on the ladder. Despite 90 minutes in a hot bath when we'd finished he could barely walk by the end of the evening.

So I ended up crawling around the roof with a drill - something I am quite capable of, just hadn't quite planned to include it in Sunday's activities.

I detest having my photo taken at the best of times, if you think I'm going to "look up for the camera" when perched uncomfortably on half a roof which is not strong enough to support me then forget it!

The light was nearly gone by the time we packed up and came in. Although the photo makes the store look a bit wonky, for a "make it up as you go along" construction we're very pleased with it.

Conflagration #2

It really was a most SPLENDID bonfire! Bit by bit during the course of the evening chairs and benches were collected up from all around the garden and moved upwind of the fire so that those not actively engaged in feeding the inferno could sit and enjoy the spectacle.

Everyone said how much fun it was, whether they were busy moving rubbish or just sitting enjoying the atmosphere. There is something very elemental and basic about a good old-fashioned bonfire party!

It was quite funny to see the chairs being moved further and further back from the fire when it become too hot to sit in the original positions and even funnier when folk gave up and stood behind the chairs because they were too warm sitting down.

It really was a very big fire! Yes, we did have a visit from Cumbrian Fire and Rescue who were driving around the area checking on parties. A quick word with Husband and a couple of other neighbours seemed to reassure them that we were under control and off they went.

This last silly picture was taken around 9.00pm when folk were leaving. Despite three hours torrential downpour everything on the fire continued to burn and this was the huge ash/ember pile which remained. Our perfectionist friend hates this picture because it is so fuzzy - what else do you expect from a six-second hand-held exposure!

All pictures thanks to our friend James. Amazing that he actually found time to take any because according to Husband "that man worked like a bl**dy Trojan all evening and never stopped". (There, what use are friends if you cannot thoroughly embarrass them?).