The Odd Thing about My Old Eyes

Can vision problems reverse themselves with age?

I’ve been nearsighted for most of my life. I began wearing glasses in the fifth grade and switched to contact lenses nearly full time when I was in college.

Over the years, my vision has gotten progressively worse. Each eye exam resulted in a slightly stronger prescription. I was lucky, though. Even though my natural far vision is bad, it’s very correctable. The contact lenses I’ve been wearing for at least 20 years — Acuvue disposable daily lenses — fit me like they were made for my eyes’ size and shape and bring my vision to 20/20 or better.

My near vision, on the other hand, is amazingly good. With glasses and contacts off, I can see nearly microscopic detail of things within 4-5 inches of my face. I can even read the micro text on $100 bills.

Of course, with contacts on, that close vision disappears. And as my far vision prescription got stronger and stronger, my close vision with contacts on got worse and worse.

At first, I combatted the close vision problem by letting my stronger eye do distance and my weaker eye do close vision. The ophthalmologist did this by prescribing a strong lens for my right eye and a much weaker lens for my left one. This worked pretty well, at least for a while. But then I realized that what it was really doing was making both my far vision and near vision less than satisfactory. So I went with contacts for good far vision in both eyes and began using reading glasses for close vision when my contacts were in. My back up eyeglasses were progressive lens bifocals.

Last year, my contact lens prescription was -6.50/-7.00 (right/left). My understanding is that that’s the equivalent to 20/650 and 20/700. Again, with the lenses in, my vision was about 20/20.

This year, however, I began having trouble with my vision. It started in the autumn when allergy (?) issues made it impossible to wear my contacts for more than a day or two. My eyes were itchy and teary. I wore my glasses quite often. I could see okay through them, but not great.

Then I started my drive south for the winter. I was wearing my contacts again and should have been seeing great. But I wasn’t. Everything in the distance was a bit blurry. I was having trouble reading signs. Objects in the distance on the side of the road that I thought were shrubs turned out to be cows. Oops.

What really confused me, though, is that when I wore my sunglasses and looked through the reading lenses at the bottom of the glasses, I could see distance better. That wasn’t right. I should see distance worse. Sure enough, when I put my readers on, I could see distance better than without them.

Eye Prescription
My current eye prescription shows a remarkable improvement in my vision.

So when I got to Arizona, I made an appointment at the same eye center I’d visited the year before, which is the same one I’d used when I lived in Arizona. After the usual eye health check up, I told the doctor what I’d noticed. He didn’t seem terribly surprised. We went through the usual exercise with the machine and eye chart to figure out what my prescription should be. The result: -5.50/-5.75.

My far vision had greatly improved over the past year.

He fetched some sample lenses and I popped in a pair. It was amazing. I could see perfectly again.

But what was even more amazing was that my close vision was also somewhat improved. Although I’d still need readers for small print, I could see good enough for most reading in good light. The doctor confirmed this: instead of +2.50 for readers, I could now use +2.00 readers.

I left the doctor’s office looking around me like a blind person who has just been given sight. I was drinking in everything I saw. The detail amazed me.

Needless to say, it really made my day.

The question both the doctor and I have is why my vision might have improved. He says that vision is often tied in with blood sugar levels and asked if I’d had any blood work done lately. I told him I had, about a month before, and that the doctor had given me a clean bill of health. He said that high sugar levels usually cause vision to get worse, not better. So now I’m wondering if I had high sugar levels last year when tested and they’d come back down gradually since then.

But I have to admit that I honestly don’t care. As long as I can see as clearly as I do now, I’m happy.

On Saturday, I treated myself to a new pair of good quality readers. On Sunday, I ordered two new pairs of bifocals, one of which includes snap-on sunglass lenses. For those interested in saving money on glasses, do check out Zenni Optical; I ordered two pairs of glasses for 1/4 of the price of one pair at Walmart Vision Center. You can’t beat that.

Glasses Order
My eyeglasses order. I decided to treat myself to two pairs: one just for indoors and the other for outdoors/flying. The pair with the snap-on sunglasses is a reorder with my new prescription. For some reason, they automatically applied a 10% discount so even with priority shipping, my order was less than $130.

Unpacking the “Table Linens” Box

More than just napkins and tablecloths.

I’ve had a sealed up moving box labeled “table linens” in various places in my bedroom for the past year and a half. I’ve been wanting to unpack it, but I wasn’t sure where I’d put the napkins, tablecloths, and placemats I assumed it contained. A few months ago, while cleaning up before expecting some guests, I shoved the box into my bedroom closet.

And promptly forgot about it.

Earlier this week, I finally cleared one of the shelves in my linen closet. This morning, while looking for something else in my bedroom closet, I found the box. Perfect! I thought to myself. I finally have the shelf space and can empty this box.

The first thing I found inside it, however, wasn’t table linens. It was a white Bed, Bath, and Beyond bag filled with paper-wrapped items. I pulled them out and unwrapped them one by one, remembering the day in autumn 2012 when I’d packed them.

They were a mixture of heirloom items I’d gotten as a child or adult from grandparents and some Native American folk art I’d bought on the Navajo Reservation back in the early 2000s.

The heirloom items were mostly Steiff stuffed animals — and yes, a clown (!) — that my father’s parents had given me when I was a baby. Even if they had been bought new back then — likely in Germany — they were at least 50 years old.

Heirloom Items
Some heirloom items, back on display in our new home.

There was also a dancing doll in Black Forest costume that’s almost identical to the one in this video. I remember getting that doll when I was about 10. My sister had gotten one just like it but I seem to recall that our dog tore hers up.

The Lladro figurine was one I’d bought for my mother’s mother for Christmas one year. She liked Lladro and I chose this one to remind her of all the nights I’d slept over at her house when I was a kid. When she died, my mother gave it back to me.

All of these items, due to their fragile nature, were safely tucked away in a big, glass-fronted cabinet in my old house. The cabinet had been a bookshelf in my wasband’s parents’ dining room, with dark wood shelves and lots of old books. My wasband inherited the bookshelf when his father died and it eventually made its way to our Arizona home. He replaced the wooden shelves with glass ones and added lighting — both of which really improved it. I never really did like the cabinet — it was too dark and heavy for my taste — but it did provide a great place to show off heirloom items. In addition to these things, it was also home to my Lenox china (still packed) and an original Hummel nativity set I got when my father’s parents died (and gave to my sister last year). There were some vases and crystal, too, but I left most of that behind; I was never a fan of cut crystal and since we’d gotten most of it from his family — he had an aunt who seemed to think we liked cut glass — I figured he should keep it.

The Native American folk art was more fun than meaningful and it lived on the mantel over the fireplace in my old house: a big wooden chicken and a smaller feathery rooster. I’d also picked up an ocarina and a little milk pitcher, both shaped like chickens. I used to have a sheep, but I think it was damaged and discarded. Or I may have given it away; I gave away a ton of things while I was packing.

Chickens
Folk art chickens and more.

I moved everything from the “linens” box to my new hanging wall cabinets. They fit nicely, except for the dancing doll, which is a tiny bit tall. Don’t tell anyone, but her hat is supporting the shelf above her in the photo.

It’s funny because just today I was wondering what I’d put in the cabinet to fill it. Last week, I sent my collection of Katsina figures to the shop where I bought them about 16 years ago in Arizona’s Hopiland to have them repaired and they’ll definitely get places in the cabinet. (I’ll pick them up during my travels this winter.) But until I unpacked the “linens” box, I couldn’t remember owning anything else that might fill those shelves. I figured I’d pick up more odds and ends in my travels and eventually fill them all.

Well, this is two less shelves that need filling.

As for the rest of the box’s contents, well, it was table linens. Three different sets of napkins, a few tablecloths, including a lace one, a handful of placemats, and more lace doilies than I know what to do with. Looks like I can change out my napkins with the seasons now; I have the perfect set for spring.

Best of all: another box unpacked and thrown away.

Fog & Sky Time-lapse

Probably the best time-lapse movie I’ve made so far.

A few weeks ago, we had an amazing day full of fog that drifted in and out for most of the day. It was a real joy to watch it from my home, mostly above the fog. But, of course, I didn’t have a camera set up for a time-lapse.

GoPro Camera Setup
I set up my GoPro on the deck outside my bedroom using a clamp mount my brother got me for Christmas last year. I have a USB power battery replacement for my GoPros that ensure I never run out of power.

Early this past week, the forecast mentioned fog for several days in a row. So I got out one of my GoPro cameras, put in a blank mini SD card, connected it to a full-time power source, and got it going taking one shot every 10 seconds.

That was on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday was a nice day. No fog. Not even much in the way of clouds.

Wednesday was kind of dreary with some clouds coming and going, but nothing really interesting.

Thursday was the same.

Friday was a bit more interesting, with clouds moving around a bit. I figured I could turn that into a time-lapse in a pinch.

But Saturday! Oh, Saturday, November 13, 2016.

Morning Clouds
This scene out the window beside my desk was my first inkling that it might be a good time-lapse day.

I was sitting at my computer finishing up a blog post about my home automation system when I happened to glance outside. My “office” window faces northeast. I see the Columbia River Valley as it narrows between cliff faces. And that morning, as it was just getting light, I saw the clouds clinging to the side of the cliffs near my neighbor’s house.

The fog was back.

I was almost afraid to see if the time-lapse camera was still running, but when it got light enough to see, I went out on the deck and took a peek. It was. Glad I’d bought that 64GB mini SD card.

I let it run. I went about my day, doing odd jobs at home and running errands in town. The camera continued to run. The fog came and went, the clouds moved around, it became a beautiful day. The wind kicked up and the clouds seemed to fly by.

And the camera continued to record an image every 10 seconds. All day long and into the night.

This afternoon, I shut off the camera and brought the SD card inside. I found the images starting at 6 AM and ending at 6 PM. I ran them through a batch action in Photoshop that cropped them to HD video size. I fired up QuickTime 7 Pro, which I have just for time-lapse work, and compiled the 4320 images at 6 frames per second. The result was too slow. I tried again with 15 frames per second. Perfect!

The result is what you see below.

Got five minutes? Take a break and watch my time-lapse. View it in full screen if you can.

If you’re wondering about the music, which seems to go perfectly with this video, it’s by Paul Avgerinos: Dance of Life from the album Sky of Grace.

Life above the Clouds

One of those days when I’m so glad I made my home where I did.

Pictures just don’t do it justice. I know because I’ve been trying to take a good picture of what I’m seeing outside my window for the past hour and a half.

It started before dawn, when the early morning’s gray light revealed the thick cloud blanketing the Columbia River in the valley far below me. It just sat there for a while, apparently still, shrouding the homes and roads and orchards that normally fill my view. I went about my morning tasks — making coffee, writing in my journal, unloading the dishwasher — sneaking peaks outside to see if the view had changed. Every time I looked, it had. Then I begin to notice the movement of the clouds, rising and falling, drifting to the south west, drifting back to the north east. For the hundredth time in as many days, I regretted not setting up one of my GoPro cameras to capture a time lapse of the movement of the clouds.

I took pictures. Dozens of pictures. I used my phone and my good Nikon. I brought the pictures into my computer and fiddled with them, hoping I could get them to show off what I was seeing. For some reason, they always came up short.

Cloud Pano
One of the first photos I shot was a panorama. Click this image to load and view the whole thing.

At one point, I watched the cloud grow and climb and drift right up my driveway to swallow my home. And then, just as quickly as it had come, it was gone.

Airport Clouds
Directly across the river from my home, the local airport is in a bright fog. Like me, it’s quite a bit above the river level.

Autumn
This zoomed in shot looking toward Wenatchee really shows off the autumn colors.

Even as I write this, now two hours after dawn, the view keeps changing. The bright sunlight plays on the autumn colors in the orchards and reflects bright white off farmhouses and shop buildings. I keep waiting for the fog to burn off, but instead it keeps drifting and rising and falling. Below the cloud, its a gray day, but above it, here at the Aerie, it’s bright and beautiful — almost springlike.

Foggy Home
A 300mm lens really compresses the distance between a home about a quarter mile away and the city of Wenatchee five or six miles beyond it.

I’m a view person, as I’ve stated numerous times here and elsewhere. I bought this piece land because of the view and I designed my home to take advantage of it. I don’t need pictures on my walls; I have windows. It’s amazing to me how often the view out those windows varies — with changes of time or light or season or weather. It’s a new show every single day, and although some days are better than others — like this morning’s show — they’re almost always amazing.

The other day, a friend came by for dinner. As we were sitting at my breakfast bar, enjoying our meal, we couldn’t help but take in the view of the city as late afternoon turned to evening and then to night. My friend turned to me and said, “I’m so glad that you haven’t taken your view for granted.”

I immediately knew exactly what she meant. My last home, in Arizona, also had some nice views. In the beginning, when I first moved there, I used to like to watch the way the setting sun turned the mountains to the north an amazing shade of copper red. After a while, however, I noticed that I wasn’t looking quite as often, even though the view was spectacular most afternoons. I had begun to take the view for granted.

I hope that doesn’t happen here.

As I was finishing this up, I noticed that the fog was finally dissipating, being burned off by the warmth of the sun. I took a quick break to shoot video of what I saw — it’s zoomed in a little so the quality of the video isn’t very good. It does give you an idea of what I was seeing and just how beautiful can be here.


A quick video from the deck.

I’m very glad I decided to make my home here.

The Floating Bodies

An explanation of why there’s a honking huge splint on the end of my left arm.

I’ll make this short, if I can. I’m using dictation because I can’t type very fast with one hand. It’ll probably take me longer to edit this than to actually dictate it.

It all started back in August 2013. I had closed on the purchase of the property where I’d build my new home and was spending most afternoons at the property tearing out koshia, a type of invasive weed here. I left for the day, hot and tired and sweaty, and did some grocery shopping. I put the groceries in the back of my truck, which I never do. When I got back to my trailer, I climbed into the back of the truck, gathered up the groceries, and then attempted to vault off the tailgate up as I had done many times before. On that particular day, however, one of my feet got hung up on the tailgate’s spray-in bed liner and I didn’t make a clean jump. I landed on my left side and seriously sprained my left foot. You can read the details of that little accident in another blog post.

Wrist Lump
Here’s the lump at its least swollen state as I waited for surgery. When it was inflamed, it would triple in size and be quite painful. The knob below the swelling is a bone that’s supposed to be there. I have very thin wrists.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I had also injured my left wrist. The problem manifested itself sometime later with some swelling in that wrist that never seemed to go away. Occasionally, after a hard day working at the house or in the yard, the swelling would increase and the rest will become very painful. On those days I had to turn to Ibuprofen and a wrist brace to keep the pain under control. Those little painful spells would often last several days, but the swelling would usually go down by the time I got to see a doctor about it. I did, however, get several tests done over the years, including x-rays, an MRI, and a cat scan.

This year, a bunch of little medical expenses added up to fill my deductible and I decided that it was time to fix this problem once and for all. The CAT scan identified what the doctor and I had suspected: there were tiny bone fragments loose in my wrist. He called these “floating bodies.” Apparently, when I moved my wrist under strain – for example, lifting something very heavy or twisting my wrist while I was holding something heavy —it caused these bodies to move, which would set off around of swelling and pain. The solution was to remove the floating bodies.

Cat Scan
Although the X-ray and MRI were inconclusive, the cat scan clearly showed the floating bodies in my wrist, including this big one.

I scheduled the surgery for a time after my helicopter had gone into overhaul so I wouldn’t need to fly. That surgery was scheduled for yesterday.

A neighbor drove me to the hospital at 7 AM and the surgery began promptly at 8 AM. I was under general anesthesia so I don’t remember anything from the moment I got into the operating room until I was in recovery. I was very surprised, however, to find my left arm in what looked like a cast from my elbow down to my hand. It turned out to be a clamshell type splint that would hold my wrist immobile. The whole thing was wrapped up in bandages that I would have to keep clean and dry for at least the next week.

Splint
I was not expecting this.

floating bodies
My souvenir.

The doctor came by and told me the surgery had gone well, taking about an hour and 45 minutes. I was shown (and then given) a tiny bottle containing the bone fragments, wrapped in cartilage, that he had removed. There was no need so end the lumps in for biopsy because we already knew what they were.

I’m one of the unlucky people who gets no pain relief from standard painkillers like oxycodone or Percocet or codeine. I know — I’ve tried them all several times as prescribed for various painful ailments. Fortunately, my doctor had another alternative, something called Dilaudid (generic called hydromorphone). They gave me some of this while I was in recovery and although it took about 30 minutes to kick in, it worked like a charm. I was assured that if the pain continued or got worse at home, I could combine this new medication with ibuprofen, which normally works like a charm for me.

A friend drove me home and, after letting Penny out and back in, I climbed the stairs and made myself some lunch. That was pretty easy — I just reheated the leftover pasta from the day before. I took my lunch and something to drink over to the sofa, sat down and got comfortable, and then turned on the TV. I was asleep before I even got a chance to touch my food or turn on Roku. I woke up about an hour later, reheated my lunch, took a painkiller (because it was time), and settled back on the sofa to have my lunch and watch some TV. And that’s how I spent the rest of my day — watching more television that I normally do in a week. The third time Netflix asked if I was still watching, I decided to go to bed. It was about 8:30 PM.

Fortunately, the pain never really came back. It was just a dull ache when I took three ibuprofen before going to bed. I had the stronger painkillers nearby in case I needed them but I slept straight through until about 3:30 AM. Even then, I had no serious pain. I wasted time on Twitter and Facebook and even worked on a crossword puzzle on my iPad. Then I put it all aside and fell back to sleep — until 8 AM!

This morning, I feel remarkably good. Not tired and not in much pain. In fact, as I write this now at 10 AM, I still have not had any painkillers. I’m pretty surprised about that but also very happy. I do not like to rely on painkillers — or any medicine — for comfort.

So life goes on with the addition of a clunky bandaged splint on the end of my left arm. I have full use of my fingers but feel pain anytime I try to grip something or twist my wrist. So I’ll just try to take it easy with that hand. I had no trouble making coffee or breakfast this morning. Using the dictation built into my Mac computer or my iPhone is making it a lot easier to communicate in writing. So I guess I can say that this really isn’t too much of a hardship. It’s more of an inconvenience.

My next doctor’s appointment is on Monday when they’ll remove the splint and bandages and take a look at the incision site. With luck, everything will be okay and they’ll replace the splint with the same old wrist brace that I’ve been using before. (Note to self: run brace through laundry.) It’ll be nice to not have that lump in my wrist and the occasional painful swelling that went with it.

I should mention that I got this done now, while I’m still relatively young, because I didn’t want it to become an issue as I aged. I refer to this as “body maintenance.” It’s a lot easier to maintain a young body than an old one — just like a car.

Prepping for Winter

I get started on my winter preparation chores.

Thought I’d write up a quick blog post to review a few of the things I did yesterday to prep for winter and maybe list a few that still need to be done.

Winter in Wenatchee

I should start off by saying that winter in the Wenatchee area, where I live, isn’t as cold and nasty as you might think. Yes, Washington is in the northwestern corner of the country and I live at about 47.4° of latitude there. But as surprising as it might seem, our winters are just about the same as the ones I experienced in Northern New Jersey years ago, which sits at about 41° of latitude. Here’s some data from Sperling’s Best Places:

Climate Comparison

I’m finding it hard to believe that we have fewer sunny days than the New York Metro area, but that’s likely due to the winter when we get cloud cover 4 out of every 7 days (my estimate). In the rest of the year, it’s sunny most days. The rainfall numbers (8.8 annual inches in Wenatchee vs. 42.6 in Harrington Park) and precipitation days (64 vs. 113) tell the tale. We even get less snow.

One of the two main reasons I left New Jersey back in 1997 was to get away from the cold winters. (The other was financial; I can have a much better lifestyle out west for the same or less money.) So I think it surprised a lot of people when I made the move to Washington State. But there are a lot of things beside the weather to attract and keep me here — I’ve mentioned a lot of them elsewhere in this blog.

Still, the weather does dip below freezing in the winter here and, like in Arizona, it does it earlier than it did back east. It seems that the coldest days here are right around Christmas. (Back east, it started getting coldest around New Year’s day and didn’t let up until mid February.) I’ve experienced freezes here as early as November, which is why I start winterizing as soon as we get our first frost.

That was this past Tuesday morning.

Irrigation

Because of our “high desert” like environment, the only way to get a garden or leafy trees to grow is to put them on irrigation.

I’m a real pro at setting up drip irrigation — I did it at my Arizona home not long after we moved in and were able to do some sort of landscaping there. (Long story; not worth retelling.) The benefit of drip irrigation over sprinklers is that you can bring water directly to the plants that need it. That saves water and cuts down on weeds.

I have four irrigation systems at my Washington home:

  • My vegetable garden was the first one I set up. It runs from a battery-operated timer and provides water to the raised garden beds, a flower garden beside my shed, and the flower garden at the entrance to my driveway. I also ran the line under my driveway to deliver water to the first trees I planted on the south side of my driveway, including a handful of fruit trees (cherry and apple).
  • My front lawn was the next one. The only reason I have a lawn is because my dog likes grass. The lawn is small and is bordered by rocks and my driveway on three sides and a row of lilac trees I planted right in front of my home on the other. This system also runs on a battery-operated timer and it includes three pop-up sprinklers in the law and a bunch of drip lines for the lilac bushes and some marionberry bushes a friend gave me.
  • Two professionally installed irrigation lines on a programmable 4-zone timer provide water to the trees I’ve planted along the road and all the way down in my bee yard. I have over 1,000 feet of road frontage and the lines run almost that entire length. I add drip emitters every time I plant another tree.

The main thing to worry about with irrigation lines in the winter is that if you don’t drain them, they’ll freeze and possibly crack. That means tracking down leaks and doing a lot of repairs in the spring. I obviously want to avoid that.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been cutting back on the water being delivered to my garden, lawn, and trees, mostly by adjusting settings in the irrigation systems. When the weather finally turned full autumn last week, I shut most of them off completely. A friend in the area suggested giving everything one final soaking before winterizing. Mother nature is doing that for me: there’s a double storm system coming through the area that should be delivering lots of rain. So I shut everything down yesterday and winterized it.

What does winterizing entail? Here’s what I do:

  1. Shut off the water source at the source. Three systems run from the “frost free” valve at my shed; the one from my lawn is a spigot at the front of my house. which has an internal shutoff valve.
  2. Disconnect the water lines. This makes it easier for them to drain. Or for water to expand if there’s any left in the water line and it freezes.
  3. Use an air compressor to blow out the lines. I bought all the equipment to do that last year: male and female hose fittings that can connect any hose fitting to my compressor. My compressor is a huge affair on wheels that my friend Bob gave me. I have it connected to a very long hose (also from Bob) on a reel I bought and installed my car garage. The hose is long enough — if you can believe this — to reach my shed about 100 feet away from my front door. So it took only minutes to run the compressor hose out there, hook it up to the various lines, and blow out each line. Then I cranked the compressor hose back in. Done.

Th only other thing I need to do is gather up and drain the hoses I’ve used around my yard, coil them back up, and store them in the shed until next spring. I’ll likely do that next week when the weather clears up again. They’re not at risk of freezing.

Water source
This Frankenstein’s monster is where the water comes into my building and goes all kinds of places — including a hose for the inside of my garage. I designed this crazy setup so I could actually drain all the water out of my pipes from one place.

Inside my garage, under the stairs where the water comes out of my slab and goes up into my home, my water lines also need a bit of prep. That’s easy. I have a ceramic heater that I place in front of the PEX pipes. I plug that into a Thermo Cube — a temperature sensitive outlet that turns on at 35°F and turns off at 45°F. So if temperatures get down to freezing inside my garage — which is possible once in a while — the heater will turn on and keep that area warm. No chance of pipes freezing.

The Garden

My vegetable garden this year was better than ever before. Until the tomatoes took over.

I planted and harvested sugar snap peas, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, okra, eggplant, beets, corn, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, various herbs, and potatoes. Everything except the brussels sprouts provided me with a good harvest. The sprouts were attacked by aphids and grasshoppers that I was simply unable to keep under control. The zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers were attacked by squash bugs, but I managed to get a good harvest before they came.

My Garden
Here’s my garden in the spring, before the tomatoes and sunflowers took over.

I also planted just four tomato plants. Unfortunately, some “volunteer” tomato plants also started growing. These were from seeds of tomatoes that had fallen to the ground, likely at the end of the previous season. At first, I pulled them out. Then I potted some and gave them to neighbors and friends. Then I pulled more out. Then I thought, well, what’s a few more tomato plants?

I went away for a week in the beginning of August. When I got back, those volunteer tomato plants had pretty much taken over one side of the garden, making it impossible for me to reach the second batch of corn that I wanted to harvest.

And then the spiders moved in. Big yellow and black ones that an entomologist friend assures my are not harmful. There were at least two that I saw. Who knows how many more lurked in the jungle of tomato plant leaves? I made sure I always wore gloves when picking tomatoes.

And then I started taking pruners with me when I picked tomatoes. Ever time I picked a basket full, I’d lop off huge branches of the plants. I eventually regained access to my eggplant plants, which began producing again. The peppers were a complete loss, as was the corn. If my chickens hadn’t met an untimely end, they’d likely be eating back the plants. But because they’re gone, the tomato plants soon invaded the fenced-in chicken yard.

Out of Control Garden
Out of control tomatoes and sunflowers in my garden. At this point, I’d already harvested much of my garden’s crops.

I should mention that there comes a point when your neighbors and friends stop taking tomatoes from you and you feel as if you eat another bowl of gazpacho, you’ll die of tomato poisoning (if there is such a thing).

When the frost set in the other day, I have to say that I was glad to see frost damage on some of those plants. I’d finally get rid of them.

But I will eventually have the task of cutting them all back and putting the plants in a compost pile. I’ve already been doing this a bit with grass clippings and other tomato plant cuttings. I put them in the raised planters I’ve already harvested from. When the snow falls, it’ll form a heavy blanket over each planter’s pile. Snowmelt will help break down the plants. In the spring, I’ll just use a rake to loosen up the previous year’s soil and new compost. Then I can add a half bag of fresh garden soil, work it in, and plant.

This year’s chore will be difficult. As soon as the frost kills the plants, I’ll get to it. I figure an hour or two a day through the rest of October will finish it up.

I almost forgot about the invading sunflowers. They grew all over my garden area and at the corner of my front walkway. They’ve been dying and I’ve been pulling them out for the past month or so. Still have a few to go. They go down to my big yard waste pile, which is a low area alongside the road just past my windsock. The quail are having a field day on the seeds that are dropping. I guess I’ll be fighting sunflowers next year, too.

Potatoes from my Garden
The last of the potatoes from my garden.

In the meantime, I harvested the rest of my potatoes yesterday. This was the first time I’d ever grown potatoes and I started with a few from my pantry that had grown “eyes.” I followed the instructions I found on the web and put them in their own pallet planter. I never put that planter on irrigation — I just watered it occasionally. Next year, I’ll irrigate; I think I’ll get more potatoes that way.

The Lawn

Bad Lawn
Here’s what part of my lawn looked like this spring. The top part of this photo shows the dead grass raked out; the bottom shows what long grass looks like if left under snow for months at a time. Lesson learned.

I learned my lesson about the lawn this spring: if you don’t cut the grass down short before the snow comes, you’ll start the season with an ugly brown patch that requires a ton of raking to prepare for spring growth.

Even though I’ve turned off the irrigation, my lawn continues to grow — although more slowly than it did in the summer. So I’ll keep cutting it.

It’s not a big deal because it’s a small lawn. I have an electric mower that works very well. The whole job takes about 15 minutes, including prepping the mower and then dumping the grass clippings and putting the mower away when I’m done. I suspect I’ll keep at it until either the first snow is forecast or I go away for the winter.

My Lawn
Here’s what my lawn looked like this summer. Not perfect, but I’m proud of it. It’s the first lawn I’ve ever planted, grown, and tended to in my life. (And yes, that is a pesky volunteer sunflower along the gravel area.)

My Cheat

Oh, yeah — maybe I should have admitted that at the top of the post: I don’t stay here for the winter. I actually never intended to — even when I first saw this homesite and knew it was what I wanted. As far as I’m concerned, this is a three season place. When the temperatures begin to drop and that cloud cover moves in like a cold winter blanket, I’m out of here, headed to points south: Arizona and California.

I’m lucky to have a very good house-sitter who comes with her Doberman to keep an eye on things for me. She’ll be here for most of the time I’m gone and has family nearby to help her if anything goes wrong.

Still, I want to prepare my place so it’s easy for her to tend to — and worry-free for me. That’s why I winterize.

Banking Stupidity

Yesterday’s snafu, which cost me about 3 hours of my life.

I hate when things don’t work the way they should — or even the way you’re led to believe they should. That bit me yesterday and caused a time suck for me. Here’s the story.

I recently moved all my banking to a local bank with branches throughout the state. I was tired of dealing with the mobile app deposit limits imposed by my business and personal banks (BofA and CapitalOne 360 respectively), neither of which had local branches. I figured that having all my accounts in one bank would make it easier for me to do my banking. And I found a bank I really liked, one where I was greeted with enthusiasm when I walked in and gave me service beyond my expectations. One with the online banking, bill pay, and banking by mobile app features that I needed to simplify my financial chores.

All Accounts in One Place
How refreshing to be able to see and work with all of my bank accounts in one place.

I set up the business accounts first and then the personal ones. To access all of my accounts via online banking, they set me up with their Business Manager system. I could see and work with all of my accounts (two checking and two savings) with one login. I could even easily (and immediately) transfer funds between accounts to handle surpluses and shortfalls in my checking accounts. All good so far.

I immediately set up my bill pay information for business and personal bills. I even set up e-bills and auto-pay, which would automatically pay bills on time without me having to remember to set up a payment. I’ve used this capability with online banking for years and it’s a great tool for anyone with a busy life, especially if you travel as often as I do. When I set this up, I was very careful to use the correct checking account for each payee — business bills to be paid from my business account and personal bills to be paid from my personal account.

So imagine my surprise when I got a letter from Premera Blue Cross saying they’d rejected my premium payment because they don’t allow payments from business accounts.

I wasted about 15 minutes confirming that I’d set up the autopay to pay from the correct account. I had.

I wasted another 5 minutes confirming that the payment that had been sent in September was sent from the correct account. It was.

I then spent a total of 30 minutes on the phone with Premera, most of which was on hold — of course — to tell them that they were wrong, that the payment had come from a personal account. They told me that the payment instruction — this was an electronic payment — indicated that it was from “Flying M Air L.” I had to explain at least three times in three different ways that it was a personal account held in the same bank as my business account. (Being on hold for so long put me in a pissy, frustrated mood that got me shouting at the guy and didn’t help my blood pressure reading when I stepped into the doctor’s office 20 minutes later.) The Premera customer service guy told me he’d start an investigation with the accounts receivable people but I was okay for now since my account was paid up for the month. He’d call back (which of course hasn’t happened yet.)

Later, I spent another 20 minutes on the phone with my bank’s customer service department. After not being able to figure out, at first, what was going on, they eventually told me that since I’d used a business log on to create the bill pay instructions, any payments would indicate that they came from my business no matter which account I used. If I wanted payments to show my name instead of my business name, I’d have to create a personal account login and use the personal banking app to manage payments. Fortunately, this wouldn’t change my ability to see and work with all of my accounts from the business login. I just couldn’t create personal payment instructions there.

So this morning, I spent over an hour recreating all of my payees and payment instructions on the bank’s website for personal accounts. And deleting those same instructions from the bank’s website for business accounts.

It’s dumb and its frustrating but at least (I think) it’s fixed.

Now don’t get me started on the bank websites’ crappy user interfaces.

But despite all of this stupidity, I am much happier with my current banking setup. Honestly: why did I wait so long to make this change?