Chicken soup still good medicine

Tuesday I finally succumbed to the pollen – I couldn’t lay down in bed, or my sinuses would close up like Tupperware. My dog Badges was also having some sort of breathing problem – same as a couple of weeks ago, he was coughing and gagging, as if he had something stuck in his throat. 

So, having laid awake since 1 am, I finally gave up the bed about 2:30, pulled up my little ottoman and settled into my cushy Walmart office chair to see what was on the late show. Oh, my God, all kinds of crap.

I like NBTV, out of Santa Rosa. It’s a small privately owned station that has lots of different shows. The other afternoon I watched a half hour documentary about a century run called  “The Barkley”.  Very interesting – the kind of stuff you used to see on PBS before they went all cooking and home improvement.  

They produce their own shows too.  At about 4 am the owner hosts his own show – “Creature Feature”.  Tuesday night he was playing one of my all time faves – The Head That Wouldn’t Die!  So I turned on the coffee pot and decided it was too late to try to sleep.

Last time this happened he was playing “Little Shop of Horrors,” the original from 1960.  I had never seen that, always felt left out – wow, it was great!  What Schlock!

But yeah, the party was over when the sun came up and I realized I’d pulled an all-nighter.  My eyes were so dried out I couldn’t decide which was worse, closing them or holding them open. My neck and head hurt from sitting in a chair all night. 

I had wanted to go to a “Local Government Committee” meeting at 3:30 that afternoon. I realized that was out. I knew I would not be able to take a nap, and by 3:30 I’d be a piece of walking toast. The North wind was already picking up outside, and at 3 am the weatherman had told me – there would be a pollen “advisory”.  

Nothing beats the pollen like a bowl of chicken miso soup.

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Comfort food.

My husband had just bbq’d an enormous boneless chicken breast. We get those in a 40 pound box at Cash and Carry. They are frozen in a big wad – I usually leave them in the sink overnight, they soften up, and I can separate them, wrap each one in plastic wrap and put them in Ziplock bags for the freezer. They are full breasts and probably twice as big as the chicken breasts they have at Safeway. I fillet them for the grill and we get at least two dinners and sandwiches for a couple of days. 

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We got four fillets out of one double breast, here are two of them. Each fillet is almost as big as the single breasts they sell in the pack at Safeway.

I usually make soup with a raw chicken thigh, but it’s certainly easier to use the cooked chicken. I saute the onion and celery tops as usual, then add the chicken, cut into bite size pieces.  I try to keep chicken broth on hand, it’s good for cooking rice and other dishes.  I added about two cups and then another two cups water, with a teaspoon of salt for each cup of water.

Once this is simmering along, I ladle out a little of of the broth into a cup and mix it with a couple of tablespoons of miso paste, then put it back.

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Miso is getting so available now.

I’ve just started using miso paste again since my son gave me a little container. It used to be hard to find and expensive, the packaging was such that I could never use the whole thing before it went bad. Nowadays there are lots of different brands, and good old Westbrae has it in these neat little plastic containers. There is a plastic film inside to keep the remainder fresh. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, and it’s hanging in there fine.

To that I add chopped carrots and more celery. When the whole thing is really cooking I add noodles. This time I had the rest of a pack of dry udon noodles – we use these for stirfry alot.

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You can keep these dry Westpac noodles around the house forever. Since I made this pot of soup we found Safeway again carries the “fresh pac” noodles, in the produce department, near the mushrooms. But these were good in a pinch.

The dry noodles have to be boiled for about 8 minutes to attain that fat, slippery udon texture. The fresh ones just need to be heated – you can dump them in and turn off the pot, leave it setting on the stove. The great thing about udon noodles is they just keep getting fatter and yummier. 

I call this “instant soup” – it took less than half an hour to put together. We ate it for three days – the first night we had soup and salad for dinner.  After that we ate it gladly for lunch and anytime we needed a pick-me up.  It really made us feel good to come in from the pollen storm to a pot of soup. 

Here we go again!

A little over a year ago, my nine year old Queensland Heeler Biscuit came down with an illness that left her emaciated and weak. She had some infection that attacked her pancreas, liver and kidneys and left her with diabetes.  For over a month we nursed her as if she was our child, sleeping on  the living room floor so we could get up throughout the night to take her out, hoping she wouldn’t barf up the food and medicine we’d plied into her over the course of the day.

She got so skinny her collar and harness just hung on her, she got so weak my husband had to carry her up and down the stairs of our apartment, and set her in the car to go to the vet. We racked up a $1300 vet bill within a few days.

The important thing was, she got well, back to her old self, even a little stronger. The diabetes had  been sneaking up on her for a while, but with the insulin and a strict diet, she really got strong again.  She just had a check up two weeks ago and the doc said she was doing great. They really like her down there, because she likes them. When she goes in the front door she always barks really loud until one of the staff acknowledges her, and her tail swings back and  forth across the magazine stand, wop-wop-wop.

Yeah, everything was just great, until Sunday, when it seemed to be starting all over again. She barfed her breakfast, didn’t want dinner, ate it anyway, and barfed in the middle of the night. Like five times.

I kept telling myself, she ate something weird, she drank creek water – I was secretly angry at my husband, wishing he would stop taking her to Bidwell Park every morning, where I believe(d?) she got laptospirosis, a virus that is prevalent in skank water.

So we waited out a very scary night and we called the vet first thing in the morning. She couldn’t see Biscuit until 11 am – I had been awake since 12 am, when she first cried to be let out, I couldn’t go back to sleep. My husband had slept fitfully, waking with a start at any noise. We both felt like an old plate of crap.

The doc gave her a shot that would help her eat – anti-nausea – and sent home a pack of anti-nausea pills. The shot helped her feel better, but we still had to spoon feed her and hold her mouth shut, rub her throat to get her to eat. It took us two hours to get a cup of food in her, and that meant we could give her a half a dose of insulin. Then she started to feel better. But, we still had to force feed her dinner.

And now, at 6:07 am, I am getting ready to shove that pill down her throat, so I can force feed her some more food. This is the routine that worked a year ago, so I am resolved to do it again.

The vet took some tests to find out the cause of Biscuit’s relapse, but told us, with diabetics, the major organs eventually go. Frankly, Doc didn’t seem to think it was Biscuit’s time to go, and neither do we, so here we go again.

This morning she actually seems stronger, pushing at the gate for a walk, she even nosed the baseball bat.

 

 

Take a hike! Humboldt Road still there

While I won’t blame the weather for all my problems, it has been a little onerous being stuck inside during these howling dumpers. It’s kind of fun to watch the trees swaying and the clouds whirling from inside our comfy apartment, for a few hours anyway. But after a couple of days of this stuff, a person is busting to get out.

We had a break in the weather yesterday, the clouds broke up over town, and the sun came beaming in. I’ve been getting a cold, and wanted to stay inside watching tv, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw a couple of loads of wash on the clothes line. As soon as I got out into that fresh breeze, I felt a tremendous rush of well-being. Spring took my face in the palms of her icy hands and said, “Hello Sister!”  

My husband was also feeling the tug of Spring.  We decided to take the dogs out somewhere different. We headed east up Hwy 32 to get a look at the big thunderheads that were circling like big black warships. 

Hwy 32 lays along the remnants of the old Humboldt Road, built over a hundred years ago by our town founder John Bidwell and his partners. It was a toll road, and Bidwell made his fortune from the fees paid by eager immigrants, toiling their way toward the gold fields. There is a short section of the original road leading out of Chico, you can take that section for a mile or two out of town and get back on Hwy 32 to take you the rest of the way to Forest Ranch.  That section is very  pretty,  but we decided to go farther.

Stage coaches left Chico a few times a day during the big Rush.  The grade was so severe they were lucky to make it ten miles – as evidenced by the road signs marking the sites of two popular boarding houses of the time – 10 Mile House, and 14 Mile House. Of course there are new subdivisions at both sites – who could resist those vistas?

Whenever I drive Hwy 32, I think of those people grinding along in those stage coaches. The old road was a winding series of switchbacks, and very steep. The new road was cut through in the 1960’s, with modern equipment, they went right through bedrock to make the road straight. That’s how they saved so  much  of the old road. 

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

There is a section of the road along the Peregrine Point disc golf course. This land used to be part of a private hunting club, acquired by the  city about 20 years ago, not sure exactly when. The parking lot for the course sits right on the old road. You have to know it was there – no pavement is left, but you can see old ruts in the lava cap, from when it was an unpaved wagon road. 

If you follow that section east, through bushes and over boulders in some places, you will find the section of road Badges is standing on above. In some spots you can still see the white center line. 

As we strolled along the old road, watching cars and trucks whiz by on the new road just below, we came across a section of what people used to call “the Chinese walls”.

 

This trail doesn't look legal.

This trail leads onto private property, so we turned around.  It’s too bad hikers did not respect the wall here, but I have the feeling it’s been going on since before I was born, when this property was part of a private hunting club.

You will see these rock walls around the eastern end of Chico, into the hills above town along Hwy 32. They were built by workers clearing fields, used as property boundaries. They still make a fine  cattle fence. When I was a little girl, my grandpa told us this was “The Great Wall of China” – he was such a kidder! He believed, as most people believed at that time, that the walls were built mostly by Chinese laborers. Since that time we’ve found out, there were all kinds of laborers involved, including conscripted local natives. But whoever built them, they’re beautiful remnants of our colorful history, I’m glad property owners have maintained them in most places.

The sun was bright but the wind cut right through my sweater as we hiked along the highway. We could not see the mountains through the curtain of storm clouds, but we could see the Sutter Buttes, which look like a big spaceship sitting in the valley. 

We were gone from our house for less than an hour, but came home feeling great.  It’s simple but  true – fresh air and sunshine are good for you. Get out there!

 

 

Fall back! And try something new – Walkin’ the Dog

 

I like to get up early.  No matter how many times I watch the sun rise, it never gets old. This time of year there’s lots of pink.

It's hard to get all the colors with my little digi-cam, but this morning the sky looked like a blue tiger with pink stripes.

It’s hard to get all the colors with my little digi-cam, but yesterday morning the sky looked like a blue tiger with pink stripes.

But I forgot about “Fall Back,” got up at 4:30 by mistake. Today will be interesting.

Fall pushed us back inside for a while, the chilling  temperatures were kind of a shock after that 3-digit Summer.  But we started lighting our camp stove outside almost every day, using the wood we got from our dead trees. So, I like to make my coffee before I feed the dogs, then go out and set some sticks burning in the stove. By the time we get the dogs fed and our coffee and a couple of chairs from the shop, the iron is hot and steaming. That heat sinks into our hands and knees, makes us feel young again, ready to work.

Biscuit’s diabetes has us up early because we need to keep her on a regular feeding and shot schedule. We’ve also bought a glucose test kit – we bought the human kit because it’s so cheap compared to the dog test kit. Our vet told us we just need to add another 20 percent to get an accurate idea of the dog’s reading. Then we take her in every few months and get a reading from the vet to see how she’s doing.

It was very frustrating at first. We’ve been feeding her the same stuff every day at the same times, we gave her the insulin shot just like we were told, and her readings were all over the place. Some days very high, some days very low, some days in the middle, but never the same more than two days in a row.  I wondered, was I handling the test strips too much, were we getting enough blood, etc.

The high readings started to worry us – there are many side-effects, like blindness.  Low is bad too, they can die.  Her behavior seemed okay most of the time, but we worry, worry, worry.  The smiling vet assistant acted same no matter what readings – once over 400! Their only suggestion is we get her back on their expensive crap food – white sugar,  corn meal, brewer’s rice, chicken fat, etc. I couldn’t do that, so tried tweaking my homemade food. That didn’t help, her readings were still all over the place.

We knew exercise was important, but what we were reading was very confusing. Sometimes exercise lowers blood sugar, sometimes it makes it go up? The information was all for humans, who can tell you how they feel.  We were on our own.

We had to use common sense – we know she likes exercise, and it makes her perky and happy, so that must be good. We thought we were giving her enough exercise – we live on a big place, we walk all over and she follows at our heels, we play ball with her every couple of hours, and she’s got her little pal Badges for spontaneous squirrel chasing and tug-o-war.

A toy is always better when it is fought over.

A toy is always better when it is fought over.

Still, that didn’t seem like enough. We noticed her readings were better when we took her for a morning walk. And it needed to be more than just a stroll up and down the street in front of our house, she and Badges both seem happier with a ride in the car and a good hike. And they  seem to enjoy a change of scenery, instead of going to the same old place again and again. We do too.

We live within walking distance of lower Bidwell Park,  but the traffic between our house and the park is usually too busy. On weekends it seems everybody in town walks their dogs past our house, which is stressful, because you never know how dogs will react to each other. So it’s nice to get in the car and drive somewhere else.

One place we like to visit is Verbena Fields, located along East First Avenue and Lindo Channel. For many years it was a gravel quarry, and the channel was cleared regularly with a bulldozer to keep the flood waters from backing up.  As housing moved in, there was pressure for the city to stop the gravel mining operation and allow the channel to “go back to Nature.” The location sat unused, essentially a dog park for neighbors by day and a worsening bum camp by night, so various groups worked with the city to clean this little spot up, plant native plants, and put in a trail system, most of it paved with gravel. There are even signs that describe the history of the area and identify the various plants.

Lindo Channel itself, a flood channel under the management of the Department of Water Resources, is a wonderful place to walk your dog or your kids. The trails wind up and down the banks on both sides. In Summer the water dries up allowing for BMX trails and jumps. At this time of year there’s fresh water, the dogs like to get their feet wet.

A new place we’ve checked out is Comanche Creek Park, which is still in the works. There’s a nice but short trail, then the money ran out I guess, and the trail deteriorates into Bumville – a tangle of invasive, non-native plants full of garbage and poop. I hope they keep working on that park, the trail is a nice commute route for people living in the Southwest end of town.  But, as is, I wouldn’t go there after dark, or too early in the morning.

 

It is finally 6am – I had to feed Biscuit and give her the shot by the old time, slowly wheedle her an hour later. Today I’ll say goodbye to Orion as he is sinking more quickly into the west and now I will be getting up an hour later. For a little while I will have to hustle out to greet the sun, but within a couple of weeks she’ll get pretty lazy and I’ll have plenty of time to loll around under that pink sky. 

 

 

Dogs Days are about to heat up

Biscuit says it's time for a belly rubbing.

Oh yeah, every dog has her day, and some dogs have more days than others.

Yesterday I got up at about 4:45 and wandered outside to look for Orion. Orion is walking during the day now, so if I want to get a look at him, I have to watch him mount the sky just ahead of the sun.  Not to mention, the way things are heating up around here, I like to get out there and get right back in the house.

The sun was already lighting the sky, but I got out just in time to notice an unusually bright, sparkling red star hanging low in the Southeast. I thought it was Betelguese, but apparently it was Sirius –  one of Orion’s dogs, following faithfully at his heel as he tromps out into the day.

This is what I have always thought of “Dog Days” – Orion and his dogs are out in the daytime.

It means a little more than that to astronomers. Tomorrow, July 23, Sirius should be rising precisely with the sun.   Orion will disappear from the night sky altogether for a couple of months. I will look for him again some October night.

In the book, “Sounder,” the boy’s mother tells him that Dog Days make dogs go crazy with the heat. Of course it’s good to watch out for your dogs in these triple digit days, make sure they have some shady shelter, a big dish or pool of water. I wouldn’t take my dogs out after 9 am – the ground gets hot, and your dogs release heat through their mouth/nose and the pads of their feet, so if they are walking on a hot sidewalk or even hot ground, they will have a hard time staying cool.  When night time lows are staying over 65, you will notice, the ground does not cool off, even after the sun goes down. Be careful out there with your four-legged friends.  

Local weather men are predicting one heck of a heat wave starting this weekend.  Chico News 24 brings in a lukewarm forecast of 103, while Mike Kruger over at Ch 7 says Chico will hit 107 by next Tuesday – ooo – 110 in Redding! Red Hot Redding!

I think it’s probably a good idea to get ready for 110, and then try to look disappointed when it only hits 105.

Dog Days is a good time to get out and howl at the moon.

Dog Days is a good time to get out and howl at the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

Life’s been out of kilter around here

I reset my alarm clock for an hour earlier today – I want to beat the sun. Waking up to sunshine always makes me feel behind. 

I notice it’s a hell of a lot quieter at 5 am. The freeway doesn’t really get itself going until about 5:30. At this time, you can hear one car winding it’s way along for minutes – clacka, clacka, clacka – then passing by with a swish, then goooooooonnnnnne.

Biscuit’s diabetes has put us on a schedule, she needs to eat a good breakfast and have her insulin shot by 7 am, then again at 7 pm. We don’t do it at exactly that time, but we keep it within that 6:30 to 7 range. There’s also some strain on her liver and kidneys, so the doctor has prescribed a low-protein food – my husband, reading the ingredients on the bag, calls it “Captain Crunch.” It’s made mostly of corn and chicken fat, and one of the first five ingredients is sugar. That’s right, “sugar.” It’s only available through the vet and it’s (excuse me) fucking expensive. So we’ve been supplementing with our own food, and some “senior” diet stuff we bought at Northern Star Mills. The vet seems unaware at this point, the tests have been fine, and we just don’t say anything.

My husband gives her the shots at this point, but I’m getting there. I was shocked my husband could do it, he’s the guy who hit the floor when we took our baby to the hospital lab for those early tests. But he stepped right up to the insulin shots, does it just like a pro. I have promised to start doing it by the end of the month, so he doesn’t have to worry about it all the time.

This has become manageable because we had to take our own initiative, go online to get the needles and insulin, because the doctor was charging us a lot for those necessities.  I don’t know how long we could have gone on paying their price for that stuff. We had to ask them to okay the prescription over the phone, and there was some sort of reluctance, delays – we tried to believe it  was out of concern for the dog, but when they started scheduling her appointments farther and farther apart and forgetting to call us with test results we realized we’d been put on a back burner anyway. I won’t criticize – they are so busy down there, I think the receptionists are chained to the floor. 

I realize, my husband and I don’t get any health care, aside from the annual visits to the dentist. I just had to deal with an infected finger – got something under my fingernail and it started to swell up and turn black, a little green spot next to the nail. I had to remember back to other incidents for which I or a family member went to the doctor. My kid had a similar problem when he was about six years old, we thought it over and tried to remember everything Davin had told us to do.  Davin Finn was our naturpath/homeopath.  For years, we could depend on that guy, but he retired, and you won’t find anybody as devoted nowadays. 

But Davin taught us a lot.  I always keep a bottle of French green clay, which is good for making a poultice for drawing out gunk from a pimple or a wound. I soaked my finger in hot water with salt and goldenseal, and then I applied a poultice made of clay and goldenseal. It hurt for days, I could feel my heart beating in that finger in the middle of the night.  It was under my fingernail, I thought I would lose that nail for sure.  When the puss finally drew itself out, I cut it with a fresh razor blade from my husband’s tool box. I’ve had to do this before, at least this time the affected finger was on my left hand.  BOOM! SPLAT! It was over and I was wiping puss off the bathroom mirror.

Oh what a relief it was! 

 After the wound was open, no more poultice, but I still soaked it and then I wrapped it in a paper towel and applied a heating pad about four times a day. This drew out the rest of the gunk and dried out the wound. Today it’s a big dry blister, the skin is all dead around it and will soon flake off. I can use it pretty normally again after walking around the house holding it in my other hand for the past week.

Today I will make the first loaf of bread in over a week.  We’ve been surviving on Dave’s Killer Bread. Which is, I must admit, killer.  The price, unfortunately, is also a killer – five bucks a loaf, we can’t do that for long either.  But it’s five bucks well spent, I will also say.

Life has been out of kilter for a couple of months around here. My husband and I have been really busy, and basic things about our lives have been changing dramatically.  We look to each other and our kids and dogs for some sort of peaceful sea. It’s good to have a family. 

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First you’ve got to get mad

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street just love to hear the Robin goin' "tweet tweet tweet"...

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street just love to hear the Robin goin’ “tweet tweet tweet”

Robins have been swarming my lawn and the neighbor’s yard twice a day to gorge themselves on bugs. I’ve watched one after another wrestle big night crawlers out of the ground. As my husband mowed our lawns yesterday afternoon they gathered in our oak trees, waiting to swoop down on displaced grubs and pill bugs.

The pollen tree over my driveway has popped out with lots of dusty flowers. I watched a green cloud burst across the window pictured above – which has been shut tight the last two days – and then the wind caught it and it seemed to dance like a green ghost as it disappeared.  The shiny green dust is all over my patio. I can’t wait for RAIN!

Biscuit continues to thumb her nose at  the skeptics. She likes to play, but she’s so emaciated and weak, it’s going to take her a while to get up to speed. Meanwhile, Badges is constantly offering her a ball or a rope or a bit of stick. 

I try to keep to my routine, it helps me to stay busy. My husband found me some cheap strawberry plants at Home Depot, about 50 cents a plant. This time I am skipping my strawberry pots – too hard to water – and putting my little plants in individual plastic pots in the green house. They’re doing great, I’ll have to get more. They will produce new plants at the end of the season, so it’s a good investment.

Drought again, I know. I’ll be careful what I plant this year. I put garlic in one of my raised beds a couple of months ago, and now it needs water. Every time I turn on the hose I feel Cal Water fascists staring down over my shoulder.

I realized the other day, we’ve got more people living on our property than we did in 2011 – a family replaced the childless couple in the house, and we replaced the single guy in the apartment. So I am appealing our water “budget,” I’ll let you know how that goes. They have a form here,

https://www.calwater.com/conservation/drought/appeal/

We’ve done everything they asked, and we still go over budget at least a ccf or two. I’m tired of living like this, Chico has water. They just want money for their unfunded pension and health insurance liabilities.

I found their Securities Exchange reports here

 

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1035201/000103520116000009/0001035201-16-000009-index.htm

In a report from 2015 I found a note about Cal Water’s pension liability, and a warning that it could negatively affect their investment returns:

Adverse investment returns and other factors may increase our pension liability and pension funding requirements.

        A substantial number of our employees are covered by a defined benefit pension plan. At present, the pension plan is underfunded because our projected pension benefit obligation exceeds the aggregate fair value of plan assets. Under applicable law, we are required to make cash contributions to the extent necessary to comply with minimum funding levels imposed by regulatory requirements. The amount of such required cash contribution is based on an actuarial valuation of the plan. The funded status of the plan can be affected by investment returns on plan assets, discount rates, mortality rates of plan participants, pension reform legislation and a number of other factors. There can be no assurance that the value of our pension plan assets will be sufficient to cover future liabilities. Although we have made contributions to our pension plan in recent years, it is possible that we could incur a pension liability adjustment, or could be required to make additional cash contributions to our pension plan, which would reduce the cash available for business and other needs.

Furthermore, the report predicted employees might even walk off the job if they were asked to either prune their benefits or pay their own benefits. Cal Water management currently pay nothing, and I’m guessing the lesser ranks pay less than 10 percent.  Like most public workers, Cal Water employees retire at age 55 with 70 percent of their highest year’s salary.

And they just expect us to pay for it. 

I always think of the old movie, Network, at times like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMVMbmQBug

“First you’ve got to get mad…”