My Lovely Fresh Air Intake.

In the north, we seal up our homes to stop cold drafts and save money on heating. All our windows and doors are tight with gaskets and levers designed to make them as impervious as it is possible to be in the cold north wind when the temperatures drop to -40C  (-40F). One of the unfortunate consequences of our eternal quest to keep out the cold is the air in the house gets stale. I suppose we could just open a window when it does, but then you have the cold draft, you have to recall when to open and when to close. Canadians generally get around this nuisance by installing a fresh air intake from the outside into our furnace intake.

After we got all the new windows installed, I noticed three new problems.

1) My allergies acted up when the house was closed. I am especially allergic to house dust and dust mites. While I am not allergic to my cat and dog, they certainly contribute to the dust in the place.

2) Our new windows were constantly wet with condensation whenever the house was closed up. Even with a dehumidifier running, the windows got so wet they just dripped and I was left with puddles to mop up on the window sills. When it got really cold, the neighbours watching our house complained of ice build up on our screen doors.

3) When we went to bed, I could often smell a funny sooty odour, an old soot smell, which would immediately go away if I opened the bedroom window a crack. We were creating a negative pressure situation in our tiny house and air was coming in where it could, including down the old wood stove chimney.

And then there was the radon issue. We bought one of those radon kits from Amazon to test our tiny house. The kits are really easy to do. You order the inexpensive little kit, put the detector in a main floor bedroom and leave it for a few months. You ship it off to the manufacture and about a month later you get a report back. Our little house came back at 176 becquerels per cubic metre. By Canadian standards anything under 200 is considered safe and about 200 you should consider minor mitigation and above 500 is serious business and you should move out until it is fixed. The best way to increase your radon is to have your house in a negative pressure situation. The radon gas gets sucked in. If you house doesn’t get into a negative pressure state, the radon mostly stays in the ground where it belongs. Now technically 176 becquerels per cubic metre is “safe” but there really is no safe minimum when it comes to radon. Less is always better. Another reason to be concerned about that soot smell.

It’s September now, and necessary to keep the house closed up at night because the temperatures are dropping to near freezing. We are not yet using the furnace because the house holds enough heat from the daytime and from cooking to be warm overnight. We started having that nasty musty smell and the soot smell return overnight and the windows were wet each morning with condensation.

Last fall, we had a furnace guy come in to add ducts so some heat went into the basement. He pointed out we had no fresh air intake and he said it would make the air stale and cause our windows to fog up. He offered to add one for us for $850. We were about to head south for the winter so we said we’d get back to him in the spring. We left a bunch of messages and he never called back. His company had a big contract installing new houses on a nearby reserve and he was too busy with that to accommodate us. (This is common in a rural setting.)

In the meantime, I was busy researching fresh air intakes. Most of the pages about fresh air intakes are about selling you a particular type but I did learn how they function. The majority of them work by having little electric fans that kick in when the furnace goes on. They have a filter inside and flaps and such, many that need maintenance. Because our house is so very small, we needed something that would work when I ran the kitchen fan or the bathroom fan even if the furnace did not come on. Running the bathroom fan is enough to create that negative air pressure. There are barometric additions to the fancier fresh air intake that keep the air pressure even no matter what. They were more expensive, much more. We also use electric heat and we don’t have a central air conditioner so a lot of stuff about code just does not even apply. While we don’t have a wood stove hooked up due to insurance issues, we do want to be able to hook it up again and use it if we were to have one of those infamous multiday blizzards with a prolonged power outage that are a once every ten year event out here in the boonies. We will really need a passive system if such a blizzard happens.

During my search, I found a relatively cheap made in Canada solution. It was ingeniously simple in design and struck me right away as so very sensible. The company is called Plusaire. It’s not the right system for all houses. It does not have a heat recovery capacity. Therefore, it does slightly increase heating costs. Because of that, in our insane drive to decarbonize the planet, that means it does not meet “code” in Ontario. I calculated how much time it would require to pay off the incredibly expensive 100% heat recovery units out there versus the increased heating cost this little lovely would likely cost me. I should live so long! The Plusaire unit needs no maintenance, filters, has almost no moving parts and there’s nothing to break down. We heat with “green” hydro electric power and I don’t believe in this whole decarbonization nonsense in any case. I decided screw the Ontario code. I don’t live in Ontario and this unit suits our needs and our lifestyle in our 480 square foot (not up to code but grandfathered in) house perfectly. I ordered it. Your  mileage may vary.


Work in progress connecting our Plusaire fresh air intake. (That was not the final placement of the ducting.)

Installation was actually easy. The unit came with an installation kit and instructions. I was able to install it myself after a few questions for another furnace guy who was also too busy to do the install but happy to share advice over a beer I bought him while we had a game of pool. (He won, barely. This is another way things often work in a small town.) I bought and learned to use tin snips. I read up on how to properly use the flexible ducts the unit came with. I broke the task into five steps. 1) Cut a hole through the wall of the house to install the outside intake. (Hubby dearest assisted.) 2) Mount the unit. (Hubby dearest provided some superior male intellect for me because I am just not strong enough to hold up the box and put in the screws.)  3) Install the big connector to the intake vent. 4) Install the little connector to the warm air output vent. 5) Tighten up all the flexible duct work, make sure there are no kinks and sags, put in supports, cut off excess in the flexible duct work, and use the provided roll of aluminum tape on all the places the directions said to. By spreading it all out over five days, it wasn’t quite so daunting. It’s a good thing I don’t try to get paid by the hour because I spent about three hours each day, mostly contemplating the best way to do it and double checking the instructions and rereading on line blogs. I will need to fiddle with the damper as the seasons change. I wrote the details of that right on the metal box in permanent felt pen just in case I lose the paper with the instructions.

After the first day when fresh air was now coming into the basement, I noticed an immediate improvement in the smell down there. The musty odour I was accustomed to was gone. After I got the connection made to the furnace intake, the freshness went through the entire house even with the duct work still sagging and kinked. We no longer need to leave the bedroom window open a crack overnight to keep the soot smell (and the radon) away. And best of all, our problem with the dehumidifier running constantly and still waking up to find the windows and the screen doors fogged up is gone, completely gone. Will this continue through to -40C when the furnace runs a lot? We’ll see. Will we lose so much heat with this passive system without heat recovery that we decide not to keep using it? Maybe. We’ll find out soon enough. Because when you live in Manitoba…

EPISODE 16: WINTER IS COMING | The Rambling Ramblers


A Small Miracle of Nature

It’s September and summer is over. The days are nice enough often reaching highs of 22C (72F) but the nights are cool now averaging about 7C (45F). This means it’s too cold to swim and so the pool has been dismantled and stowed for next year. I let the chlorine levels drop to zero before draining the pool into our little wet meadow. As I expected, the ground is still so dry all of it was absorbed into the ground and a lot going to the poor thirsty trees. As expected the pool left us a neat looking crop circle my husband loves. One less thing to mow, I guess.


Anyway while we were doing the dismantling we paused and glanced at the pond my husband created a few years ago and we were overjoyed to see a miracle. A wee little woodfrog has emerged!


She’s just the cutest little thing. (The frog is too young to decide the gender but I like to think it’s a girl.) For scale those leaves she’s sitting on are about 2.5 cm (1 in) long. She’s only just popped out her hind feet. We did have a male frog in our little pond this year. He serenaded us for about three weeks off and on. We never saw a lady frog so we assumed his forlorn calling was unanswered. We were wrong. A quick check in our Reptiles and Amphibians of Manitoba book and yes, it is a baby wood frog. How nice to know the lonesome calling of that male frog was answered. Wood frogs eat insects and invertebrates and they like snails and slugs. Our pond certainly has enough snails in it. We assumed that was what he was eating when he was not calling for a lady. Each frog has a range of about 64 square metres (77 square feet). Our yard and little pond could easily support that little male and maybe a lady frog or two.

We saw no frog eggs even though we looked. Our pond produces large numbers of dragonflies. If we find mosquito larvae in our rain barrels we pump them out into our pond and by the next day not one will be left. Dragonflies regularly visit and we have seen little dragonfly larvae shed their larval skins and climb out to fly off. Dragonflies and their larvae are such ferocious predators we assumed even if there were frog eggs none of the baby frogs could possible survive. The females will lay eggs in masses of up to 3000 eggs that they attach to plants. Maybe there were just so many little pollywogs that the dragon flies couldn’t eat them all. Maybe this one was lucky. Maybe she wasn’t just lucky but also smarter or faster than the rest. Sometimes it’s so very nice to find out we were wrong in our assumptions.


Bewildered By Tiny House Nation


My husband and I have been watching an episode or two of Tiny House Nation in the evening before bed. The show is a lot of fun to watch. The reason is Hubby Dearest and I downsized and lived in a travel trailer for five years while we journeyed all over North America so that part is familiar. We also purchased a small house in a small town. Our house is 480 square feet so it is also a Tiny House depending on how one defines such things. We see much that is familiar on the show and we get some neat ideas for life in our own home. Still, I just don’t get these Tiny Houses.


Sitting in a shower/shelter during a tornado warned storm in Alabama. Tiny Houses and Recreational Vehicles are unsafe in severe weather.

At the end of each show the proud new owners of the Tiny House get their custom designed Tiny House. As someone who has quite literally driven all over the USA in a travel trailer pulled by a pickup, I look at these houses and think, “No Way!” These Tiny Houses with all that custom woodwork, metal framing, appliances and everything else must weight a lot more than a travel trailer. Plus they are tall and that front flat and high peak is anything but aerodynamic. Between the weight and the lack of aerodynamics, it’s going to cost a fortune in fuel to go anywhere. Assuming of course it doesn’t just fall apart bouncing around on the highway or get the top chopped off going under a low underpass or tree. And all those custom modifications? When the new owners arrive the Tiny House is decorated with potted trees, and lawn furniture, a huge deck and stuff like flower pots on the window sills. You cannot go down the road with window sill pots because you have to be under that 8 foot limit for the highway. Who wanted to be taking all that inside every time you move? It’s just not practical. The only driving I can see with a Tiny House is to drive it to the nearest spot you plan to park it at and not move it again. And that will only work if you find someone to insure the thing.


I just can’t see a Tiny House Nation tiny house competing with these guys on the highway.

The next puzzle I have it where do they end up parking it? In a few cases they are obviously parked in RV parks which is great for places like Florida. However, I have lived for months at a time in privately owned RV parks and they just aren’t that great. The space between plots is often so small you can touch your fingers on your trailer and the one next door. The fees are usually not much less than renting a studio apartment. Plus my experience has been there is no place with more rules and regulations than an RV park. So the idea of wide open spaces and freedom is just not there. We hated most of the private RV parks we stayed at. National Parks and State/Provincial Parks, which generally do have the space and freedom from silly little rules, have limits on the length of stay. Typically the limits are about 14 days. The other problem with parks is that unless you are in the south, most are not open year around. Where do you go in winter? Parking your Tiny House on private land is a possibility but you need to find that private land and you need to be in a place where local codes let you park and live in a house on wheels. Such places are few and far between.


Exceptionally nice parking spot in a Army Corp of Engineers campground in Alabama. Most private campgrounds have much smaller lots of each camper and most don’t let you hang your laundry among a whole lot of other rules. The more expensive the campground, the more rules.


This is the view of a typical private campground type spacing between parked rigs. In fact this park was actually on the more generous size. We have seen much smaller spacing. The fire in the background is a controlled burn by the campground owner. It’s his/her land and she/he can do what he/she likes without your permission. If you don’t like it, you are free to leave.

I also wondered about cost. They never bring up the money on that show. I had to go on line to find out. I was astonished to discover these deluxe Tiny Homes start at $100,000. That’s totally nuts! You can buy the very best top of the line recreational vehicle for life on the road. If you look in the right places you can also find small houses in rural communities in need of TLC for less than $100,000. These older small homes are grandfathered in so they can be under the minimum square footage most local codes require. Plus, if you buy a house on a piece of land, you no longer have to worry about your landlord because you own the land. We have our tiny stick house and there is a big driveway to park our travel trailer for when we go traveling.

Our tiny house is 480 square feet. It has a full unfinished basement, a double lot with garden space and mature trees, a garage bigger than our house, and plenty of room for our travel trailer.

Watching the Tiny Nation I have concluded that Tiny Houses are really cute, creative and wonderful masterpieces of fun building. They are also totally impractical. If you want to travel around North America, consider saving your money and buying a good travel trailer or fifth wheel designed for the open road. $100,000 buys an awful lot of recreational vehicle. If you really want to live in a custom Tiny House, consider buying an old house and fixing it up or go for a neighbourhood where rules are changing to accommodate smaller Granny suites or garden suites whatever the name is for a tiny house and put it on a foundation instead of on wheels. The tiny house on wheels as shown on Tiny House Nation is a combination of the worst aspects of living in a recreational vehicle and living in a stick house with few of the benefits of either. That being said, I still just love watching that show.

Our tiny 480 square foot house, was built in 1960. We even added a heavily reinforced basement tornado shelter, just in case.





Rain, Rain, Sweet Rain – Garden Update

It’s been a very bad summer for gardening. Although we have had a few thunderstorms with down pours we have not had even one of those three day drizzling rains considered normal where we live. I have been watering but as any gardener will tell you, nothing works like rainwater and a heavy down pour of 15mm (6/10s”) in twenty minutes may fill a rain barrel but it won’t properly water anything. We also suffered a late frost in June that wiped out or damaged many of my bedding plants. The consequences for my garden have been profound.


Misty likes the rain and was playing in it until she spotted me with the camera.

My zucchini were nearly destroyed by the late frost and lack of rain. The result has been hardly any lovely garden zucchinis have come in but only stunted and thick skinned ones. The pepper plants have produced but they are stunted and super hot and have brown spots. Beans, usually I have so many I get sick of them, but this year we only got a few supplements for our dinner vegetables. I didn’t get any to freeze for later in the year. I had two plantings of corn and one has produced only a half dozen scrawny half cobs. I have already given up on the second planting and pulled up the stunted little plants that barely got tall enough to brush my hips as I pass. Some of them even developed corn smut and that was part of why I just gave up. Better to get rid of the diseased plants than hope they might make a cob or two before freeze up. Cucumbers? I had to replant them all after that late frost and so the possibility of pickling cakes was already set back. Add to that how even with daily watering they were often wilting, I have gotten exactly three and only three small jars put by. Potatoes don’t seem as dependent on rain as opposed to watering with well water and they are doing very well and have made nice big potatoes. My carrots and beets are tiny jokes compared to previous years. Tomatoes, my glory of the garden and our favourite thing to eat are down to less than one quarter of what I usually get. I have not done any canning of tomatoes and we are eating them as fast as they ripen.


This pathetic looking zucchini is among the best I have gotten this year.

One good thing has been our grass has gone brown and dormant and crunches when you walk on it. You don’t need to mow crunchy grass. The native wildflowers, so much better adapted to take prairie drought, have been popping up above the crunchiness and since they aren’t being mowed, we are being treated to bright yellow and deep lavenders and fire engine reds. Our little garden pond has become a sanctuary for the birds and frogs in the area whose usual watering spots have dried up.


The cat hates the rain. After our drought he is the only one complaining.

I can be philosophical about the poor garden showing for a couple of reasons. When it comes to my homemade pickles, they keep for at least two years and 2018 and 2017 were good years with lots of fine pickles. We have barely finished with 2017 pickles and not started on 2018. We will be fine as long as next summer is a normal one even though I only made three jars of dills. The second reason is that we are not pioneers living miles from any other source of food. I can go to the grocery store and buy the produce my garden failed to produce this year. How awful a garden year like this must have been back in the days when one did not have a grocery store nearby and the means to buy from it. Without that grocery store this would be a hard winter of eating mostly potatoes.

The hardest thing about this drought has been the effect on the trees. My poor poor trees have been yellowing and dropping wilted curled up green leaves and generally looking miserable. Many younger trees have just given up and died. I have been faithfully watering my own trees but trees generally don’t like well water loaded with iron. A little iron is good, too much iron can be worse than none. One little weeping birch on public land was planted a couple of years ago. I happen to love weeping birch and the sapling’s distress was painful to see. It was going yellow and what leaves were still green were curling. I poured many buckets of well water on the poor little thing each day for weeks and the green leaves uncurled and lost their brittleness but the yellowing leaves dropped and fell off anyway. Other trees from that planting just died.

Finally, finally, finally we are having a proper rain. It began with thunderstorms Friday night and it has been raining off and on since then. We’ve had heavy down pours that filled my rain barrels and soaked everything. We are approaching three inches. Today is a long slow drizzle day, the most perfect kind of rain for a garden. The trees are so happy with the rain. They have greened up and lost their drooping look. The grass has lost its crunchiness and we have enough water now that there is even a trickle running in the ditch indicating the soil is becoming saturated at last. Maybe the drought is over. It didn’t end in time for my corn but my trees are safe. I might even get a few more pickles.

Thank you Master of the Universe when you send us rain in the proper amount in the proper season. Thank you for sending enough rain to save the poor trees this August.


Gopher Wars – The Solution


Early Girl

It has been several days since we have seen any fresh northern pocket gopher activity. We tried live trapping. Failed. We tried the other kind of trap. The gophers jammed the device with a perfect sized rock and after we moved the trap to a new location and reset it, they moved the rock to the new location and recycled their tool. I have not seen northern pocket gophers on the list of animals that use tools but it is now clear to me that the list needs revision. Since we undertook our more recent biological warfare attack, I have not found a single fresh mound in the yard. I think we have finally found our solution. I thought I would share it with you since it is easy, cheap, environmentally safe, and apparently highly effective. I’m not sure about using our solution on large commercial scales but it is definitely something the average small gardener can do.

The gopher wars had been on going for weeks and the most recent mounds appeared in our tomatoes plants. In order to understand the ferocity of my husband’s response, you must understand he loves fresh garden tomatoes the way hobbits love mushrooms. Therefore, the threat to his beloved tomato plants required stern, harsh and immediate retaliation.

There were articles on line about using male coyote and fox urine crystals and spreading them around gopher holes. This apparently convinces the gophers that there are foxes or coyotes present and they leave and go elsewhere. If you have ever cleaned a bathroom shared with a man, you understand why they advertise male coyote or fox urine as particularly effective. The male urine crystals were available on Amazon for about $70 with shipping costs. I told my husband about the idea.

“There is no way I am paying $70 for male urine when I am on all these diuretics and producing vast quantities for free!” he emphatically replied.

Shortly thereafter, a jar appeared in the bathroom. He had apparently decided direct application might disturb the neighbours. He then began making trips out to the tomatoes plants with the full jar on a regular basis.

After the first hole got an application the gopher responded by not just plugging the hole, but also filling it with rocks. After the second application the response was to create a new hole and cover the previous hole with a six inch mound. I am guessing it took six inches to cover the smell. After the third application, carefully  poured into each apparent hole and over all mounds, all further gopher activity ceased. (This third application required more than one jar.) It’s been days now and we don’t see a sign of any gophers doing anything anywhere nearby. Hubby dearest applied a few more treatments just to be certain they were gone. He’s now back to flushing. Like most tough problems you need to find the right tool for the job. Apparently I just had to find the right kind of hose.


So there it is. Male urine doesn’t have to be restricted to coyotes and foxes to drive off northern pocket gophers. Happy gardening.

Recovery continues

I wish I could say everything is wonderful on the recovery front. It isn’t. We are not back where we were. We are in a holding pattern with very slight increments of improvement.

That being said, I do have a lot of positives to report. The most important is my husband has learned to pace himself with the stroke fatigue. We have accepted it as a real thing and we have adjusted to account for it. For example, Tuesday evening is my husband’s pool night with some buddies. In preparation for the evening yesterday he rested a lot during the afternoon, deliberately taking a long nap and spending a lot of time lying in bed with his laptop doing things that require little or no mental energy. The result was he was able to enjoy the evening with the fatigue only starting near the end of the last game. Now I realize that we are very lucky that he can even walk over to the senior’s centre by himself and play pool. Many people after a stroke simply could not. So I am grateful for that. However, if my husband has to miss his pool game because of post stroke fatigue or miss pool because he can not walk over there, he is still missing his pool game due to the stroke. So this adjustment is a major and extremely important one though it might seem very small.

It is the same thing with his work. He is retired but he loves continuing to do science to and mentor people.  We recently finished a paper linking code biology and our differentiation waves. He did all the final editing of adding the references and numbering the figures and the process of submitting it. He did it at a much slower pace than he would have before but it did get finished. He did not stay up all night and push hard to get it in on time at the last minute. That would have been the old pattern. This time he deliberately got it done well ahead of the deadline so there would be no last minute crush. Other things were neglected in the meantime but it got done.


I am happy to report he is taking this recovery and rehab thing very seriously. He has been using his treadmill desk faithfully and dropped two inches from his waistline. That is the only risk factor he has for stroke that he has any control over. He doesn’t drink or smoke. He can’t control genetics or his age. He can control his weight and fitness. Plus he has started a ping pong club with his friend Frank Chen for Thursday evenings at the community centre. Ping pong is very good for working on hand eye coordination and forcing the body to use the slightly weaker left side. He was exhausted after the first session but it was a good kind of exhaustion. We even had a good turnout with seven people showing up.


Our friends the Chens have a new dog and they have been bringing the dog over for play time with our Misty. Both dogs have great fun and it’s good for us when they wear each other out.

We have both suffered a blow to our sense of invulnerability and immortality. He could have died. The feeling of shock is wearing off but we are still both looking over our shoulders watching for the grim reaper. We went out to view some property with a friend and his family that they are considering purchasing. We were having such a nice time on this rural property that we did not keep track of time and we did not hydrate. We abruptly had to leave because my husband had a dizzy spell. The drive home took forever and I was panicking while pretending I was not. I knew rationally that this was likely a side effect of the meds. We had been warned about that. It was most likely not another stroke. We got him home. The blood pressure monitor confirmed he had dropped too low, and we got fluids into him and he had a chance to rest and recover. I had my heart in my throat until he woke up feeling fine.

Afterward, everyone said how wonderfully calm I am in an emergency. I am faking it. Inside I was coming apart at the seams and I’m sure if I had used his machine to take my own blood pressure, I would have blown the thing up. Once it was all over, I had to go and vent to my good friend who is marvellous about listening and nodding sympathetically and just being supportive. Another lesson learned. No long hikes without hydration before, during and after. Hopefully, at the three months post stroke check up we will be told the artery is healed and we can begin cutting back on some of the more powerful meds or reduce the dosage.

We got a bunch of money back from our insurance plan for the drugs he’s on. To our disappointment we only got about half back. It turns out that in Manitoba pharmacists can charge all kinds of extra things like dispensing and counselling fees and there is no regulation on these. It is a free market. We found out our local pharmacy is among those who double the cost of drugs with those additional fees. Who knew? Next month, Manitoba will finally join the rest of Canada in regulating those extra charges. Meanwhile, we are looking for a different pharmacy. We will now be shopping around for the lowest additional fees instead of going where it is convenient and the pharmacist tells a good joke or two. Another lesson learned.

Now those slight increments I mentioned. Before the stroke my husband would typically join me at bedtime around 11:00 am and then get up about 1:00 am and work until about 5:00 am and then wake up with me about 7:00 am. When we first got home from the hospital, my husband needed a good sleep with no working at night and about eight naps, some of them two to three hours during the day. In other words, he was sleeping pretty much all the time. He is now down to about four naps a day and most are only about forty five minutes though there is usually one that is over an hour. He is working at night for thirty minutes to one hour. Part of the improvement is simply he needs less sleeping which is real recovery and part of it he is getting the knack of pacing himself and resting before he needs to sleep. That is our small incremental improvement.

In the meantime, our world remains much smaller. A trip to town for groceries we can’t get from Frank’s little store in town and a short visit, left him worn out the next day and unable to accomplish much even though he slept during the one hour drive there and back. We have a regular dental check up coming up in a couple of weeks. That is also a one hour drive. We have our son, his wife and three grandsons coming for an overnight visit. I am a bit concerned about managing. Trips into Winnipeg are basically out of the question. Our world is going to be centred as much as possible around Alonsa for a while yet. Given all the support and friendship we have been enjoying, I can think of no better place for us to be stuck.

Yesterday Felt Normal.

Yesterday felt normal. That seems like a strange thing to say but all day yesterday I felt like life was as it should be and had been before the stroke. In fact, I didn’t think about the stroke even once during the day. I realized it as I fell asleep and I awoke contemplating how that happened. There are two main reasons. First it was cool and it rained off and on all day. It was also the Sabbath. A slow sleepy day of doing very little and relaxing and taking a long nap on such a day was entirely normal before the stroke and so the slow pace felt entirely normal yesterday.

The second reason is our new doctor told us to only do the blood pressure thing with the new monitor three days a week. We are to measure blood pressure morning and evening Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The blood pressure thing was what the doctors fussed so much about during and after the stroke. During the stroke his blood pressure had soared up to 220/180. The first twenty four hours after we got to the hospital he was hooked up to a monitor that sent telemetry to the ICU because whenever his blood pressure went over 180 on the top number they added drugs to his IV to bring it it down. For the first night they were giving him so much they were worried about accidentally stopping his heart. The blood pressure was the thing they continued to fuss over until he was released. It was such a relief when he got home that it went from 180ish to 140ish in 24 hours. (Hospitals are stressful places.) After the first two weeks and a change of one of the three blood pressure medications back to his old one, the one we knew worked, it dropped again to the 120ish range. Each time we take out the monitor it is a reminder of the events. When it reads as normal we have a sense of relief but there is still that reminder. Saturday we had no such reminder.

My husband is now back at his regular work although at half the pace. He has several collaborators from around the world. Many of them are students or junior professor types and some of them are from countries where the education is spotty or English is not the first language. Much of his time with them is spent doing things like explaining why you need a scale bar on a micrograph or how to better word an abstract for publication or how to write a grant. He also spends a lot of time converting the universal language of science, bad English, into native English (albeit American English.) It is not just junior people. He translates for scientists who are senior in ability and expertise to him in their fields with whom he collaborates. He does all this via Skype and Google Hang Outs and similar communication methods. Prior to the stroke, he dedicated Mondays to collaborations and he would literally spend 12 hours giving each person one hour of undivided time. He has been having on line meetings with a few people this week where projects are urgent and his presence cannot wait and that has been going well, even at the slower pace. Tomorrow he begins his regular mentoring day once again. He has switched from one day of twelve, hour-long blocks, for two days of hour-long blocks interspersed all through Monday and Tuesday with down time in between. He will not get as much done of his own writing on Tuesday but he thinks he can handle the mentoring/collaboration this way even with the fatigue. He has warned everyone that if he gets too tired they will have reschedule. They are all being so supportive it is heartening.

We missed the wild Saskatoon berry picking season we always took in during previous years because of the stroke. To our delight and gratitude a group of young people in the community picked pails and pails of a bumper crop and shared with us. I made Saskatoon pie and it was heavenly. Even if there wasn’t enough to make jam it still felt so normal to eat Saskatoon pie in summer. Bless those kids. I’ll bet they have no idea how much they brightened up my special normal day with their small gesture of kindness.saskatoon

On the home front we have always split the household chores. He makes breakfast and I make supper. He does the laundry, I do the dishes. We share the lawn mowing. He has been too tired to do his share since we got home. Because it was raining and it was a slow sleepy day, it didn’t matter. He was able to do things indoor as he normally did before. He took a mere four naps/rests instead of the typical eight to ten he was doing. And we even managed to get a nice long walk with the dog in-between rain showers. I am hopeful this indicates an upward recovery trend. It felt so good to feel normal.