About Grunt and Grungy ...

For those of you who don't know about us, a little history to fill you in.

Between the two of us we had over a hundred years of experience gardening. (Now that makes me feel old.) We had gardened in climates that can be described as West Coast Marine, to Sub Arctic wilderness, to flat prairie and finally settled in what we commonly refer to as our little piece of paradise, here in the Creston valley, in south eastern B.C., Canada, located about 10 km. north of the Idaho panhandle and just below Kootenay Lake.
The property lies in a small microclimate that gives us a zone 5/6 Canadian version or 6/7 US version.
We were avid gardeners for years, and about 10 years ago noticed that more and more of the old varieties of vegetables were no longer being offered. Being raised in the generation that thought "if you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem", we decided to start growing heirloom and open pollinated varieties of vegetables (especially tomatoes) and offering the seeds to other gardeners.
Well one thing lead to another and we ended up starting a private seed bank so that our and your grandchildren will be able to have the same tastes that you are having now. This past couple of years we had gone past tomatoes and started seed banking (cold and cool storage) any annual vegetable seed.
If you have questions or would like to contribute to this blog, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Also for those who wish to trade please contact me at the below e-mail address and I will get back to as soon as possible. Thank you.

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old.

Much of the final years of Dan's journey is chronicled on this blog. He was a man who made a difference to many people, and his family believe that his thoughts in the last years and months of his life, and his work in preserving heritage seeds should remain available.


What I post about ways, methods, and results is based on what I observe in my garden. Your growing conditions may achieve results that differ from mine. I am putting this blog here to offer a site to exchange gardening ideas and methods, and to exchange seeds.
I welcome questions and discussions about anything gardening. The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask. I will try to find answers for questions that I can't answer, and may post links to sites that have clearer answers than I can come up with.


I do have tomato seeds to offer. The seeds are free, but I ask you to help cover the postage and handling in one form or another.
They can be obtained through trading seeds, or paying for postage at the rate of $2.00 for the first ten varieties or seed packs, and an increase of $1.00 for every ten varieties or seed packs beyond that. Seed packs are approximately 25 seeds each (not counted, just a pinch of seeds). Germination rate usually exceeds that of commercial seed packs. If you have problems with germination, let me know, and I will replace the seeds, either with more of the same variety, or with a variety that I think will give you something similar to what the original variety would have. Please note. I am not a seed company. Iwill only offer seeds from my current trade lists and also if I have lots to spare from previous years. I don't check germination on older seeds, but my experience has been over 80% on five year old seed.

2010 FALL SEED LIST = http://tinyurl.com/4whnxy3 Some seeds from this list may be in limited supply, but I will do my best to fill your request.

Albums containing photos of most of the varieties I have, and other photos that may be of interest, can be found at:
http://www.picasaweb.google.com/tvgrunt, or

When you have made up your list, send me a copy at grungysgarden@gmail.com

Changes ...

The status here has changed substantially, as you can see above. The blog will continue, hopefully with more frequent input than recently.
Seed saving and trading/sharing will also continue. I still want to bank seeds, not just of tomatoes, but I am older than the lead photo on the blog would indicate, and have passed the seed bank on to younger hands.
In the meantime, I will continue to pay it forward, and trade/share seed to all corners of the world, as I did with Val.
This poem, which we both have known since the 1960's gave us much comfort through Val's battle with cancer.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Life comes with no guarantee of quality or quantity. It is up to you to remember to smell the flowers, watch the sunset, hear the birdsong in early morning, and the spring frogs in the evening. What ever happens in your little corner of it, it is still a beautiful world, and you do yourself a great disservice if you fail to see and celebrate what is there.

A little footnote here, that will stay at the top of the blog. I have married again, for the fourth time. Another internet marriage, as Val's and mine was, and just as good, although completely different.
I was also diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2011, and started treatment to cure it in late August 2011.
The blog will carry on, in much the same vein as it always has. I will post mostly garden related articles, but also a few comments on things and life in general.
For a while, I thought Gump had it right = sh*t happens. He's wrong = LIFE happens

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old. His family wishes his blog to remain for those who wish to read Dans' journey.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sadly, Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012. His work continues.

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old.

The funeral service was held on Wednesday February 22, 2012 at the G.F. Oliver Funeral Chapel, with Pastor Brian Atmore officiating.

At the service, Dan's brother Cameron McMurray read the following eulogy. 


An adventurer at heart and a generous and kind man by nature, Dan will be dearly missed
by all those who have come to know him.

Dan lived life to its fullest, loved fishing, and loved being in remote places, or in his
garden and orchard. When he was retiring from the lighthouses in 2002, he went onto
his computer on the lighthouse and researched weather patterns to find a place with the
best climate for gardening and growing grapes. He found Wynndel, with its long growing
season and good soil, and when he retired from 28 years of service as BC lighthouse
keeper, settled in Wynndel.

Dan took to gardening much like everything he did – forcefully and wholeheartedly.
Many hours he labored in his garden and green house, and he became passionate about
preserving heritage seeds. He developed and grew over 400 varieties of tomatoes and
collected many seeds of vegetable varieties. He shared the harvest from his garden and
orchard with his neighbors, friends, and local churches.

Dan never shied away from challenging tasks, be it growing tomatoes, or the curve balls
life threw at him. He was widowed twice, but in his mid-sixties he fell in love again with
a woman named Shaoling, and he was happier than I’ve seen him in decades. Not a man
of words, he demonstrated his love for his friends and family by his actions.

He is survived by his beloved wife Shaoling, his brother Cameron and sister Vicki, his
his sons Cameron and Grant, and granddaughter Cherine.


Stories of Dan and his life as a gardener, fisherman, lighthouse keeper and beloved family member were shared by the funeral attendees, and the poem "Desiderata" - which epitomized so much of Dan's life - was read.

The heritage seeds that Dan collected and catalogued are being catalogued, and his work will be carried on by a local seed bank in Creston.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One more step down the road


Well, the stent has been installed, with an immediately noticeable improvement in blood flow. I could feel the difference before they finished the cleanup. Still had some initial swelling left, which went away and returned several times over the course of the first day and a half, with no discernible reason for any of it. It seems to have settled at partial facial swelling now, noticeable to me, but perhaps not everyone else. I can lean forward, bend over, and kneel now without feeling like my head is going to pop, so the main purpose of the stent (reopening the flow in the Vena Cava) has been achieved. I am now learning what pace I can do things at = for the past almost two months, I have been able to do nothing but walk, and that at a greatly reduced pace. I can walk a bit faster now, but that is going to have to be explored, to see what is a comfortable pace now, that will not have me chuffing in a block or two.


I chased the snow blower yesterday, at a much reduced pace from what I am used to, but I managed to do almost all of what I wanted to before I wore out for the day. Got up today, and rediscovered the “pleasures” of over doing it on muscle sets. It has been so long since I have done anything using more than walking muscles, that I feel every stria of muscle that was used more than once yesterday. Break out the menthol cream, and coat the affected parts. With in the hour, most of the pain is gone, but the muscles still don’t want you abusing them again. I will hit the area with more menthol tomorrow, and push myself into service. It’s the only way to get past this in any decent sort of time = work through it. I am going to do extremely easy work, to give myself a bit of a break, but I will work through it

Things change even as I write this from day to day. I have been modifying the results in the past, but I think that is a mistake now. I will leave what gets written as things progress. It will help me keep better track of what is going on too. The fluctuations in facial swelling seem to have subsided now, and my throat has stopped puffing. I am a bit fuller in the face than I remember, but I can live with that. Still feeling slightly out of phase with the universe, but not bad enough to quantify. It will change or not, and I will get on with my life.

I have to drive over to Trail tomorrow morning (about 90 miles) through one of the more notorious mountain passes. I am getting an echo-doppler scan of my heart, what ever that is. Because of the time of year and the weather we have been having, I have to plan in an extra two to three hours travel time, to allow for avalanche control.


Just back from the “echo doppler “ scan (read ultrasound) of my heart. The “pericardial effusion” (read fluid around the heart) is gone, the rest seems to be okay. The fluid was the initial reason for the scan = to see if it had increased enough to be causing the backup effect on blood flow. I was fairly sure the fluid had departed before i got the scan = I have been feeling radically better in the past 24 hours, and at the same time, dropped almost 8 lbs of weight = the only way I could drop that much weight in that short a time is by passing it out of my body, and I can assure you I would have definitely have noticed that amount of solids leaving me. Initially the weight loss alarmed me, as i have been fighting to maintain weight, even when my appetite was flagging. My chest and abdomen feel much better than they have for weeks. My breath comes easier, i have far fewer undefinable pains in my chest (you know the ones = your not sure if they are muscle aches from some action you have performed, a knock you don’t remember, or what). My stomach no longer feels slightly off, making it much easier to get enthusiastic about approaching a meal. It may all be just coincidence, but I will put it down to the stent returning blood flow to normal, which gave the rest of the systems a chance to repair and reset to a more normal function.

I have already regained about 2 lbs of the initial weight loss, and will likely be able to put most of the loss back on just by cutting back on coffee a bit (coffee is a great natural diuretic, but I don’t want to dehydrate), and eating normal meals. The problem with dropping the 8 lbs, is that those lbs were on while I was having all of my treatments, and indicate the weight that I should be carrying. I am sure that increasing my water retention now will not be a problem (won’t put fluid back around my heart) because there are no longer outside influences pestering my insides = no more radiation or chemo. I believe they set up the conditions (constriction of the Vena Cava) that created the fluid build up in the first place. Right or wrong, that is what I think.

The past 24 hours have increased my feeling of well being immensely, even before having the ultrasound. The physical sense of well being is comparative of course, but still immensely rewarding to me.

And the adventure continues

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The suspense still isn't over

Saw the oncologist on the 5th, and I know about the same as before I saw him, with a tentative confirmation of what I already suspect. Something is pressing against the vein that feeds blood from my head back to my heart, slowing the return and causing a build up of pressure in my head if I lean forward, bend over, or exert myself otherwise. This should be taken care of with the installation of a stent, which I am awaiting an appointment for.

There is a small amount of fluid around my heart (pericardial effusion), and fairly advanced emphysema = which is hardly surprising after smoking for 56 years.

The requirement for me to have a stent installed is possibly caused by advances made by the largest tumor I had = or by a clot = or inflammation from the radiation treatments. The major tumor in my lung has been reduced by ½, the smaller tumors in my lymph nodes have disappeared, but the largest tumor in my lymph nodes may be aggressing already. That is all unclear, because they did not use the contrasting dye when they did the latest CT scan, as I had a reaction to either the dye, or the Advair I had been put on at the same time. My bet was on the Advair, the family doctor went with the dye. I think I was right, as I still had the reaction when I stopped taking steroids. They switched me from Advair to Symbicort, and no more reaction. Unfortunately, someone forgot to correlate the data, so they didn’t use the dye in the last CT scan.

Once the stent is installed, they will do another CT scan, with the dye, and give me steroids in case of a reaction. Since the only problems I am experiencing right now should be cleared up with the stent installation, there is no rush to get a look at what is going on inside = if it is the cancer aggressing, there isn’t much they can do, as I have already had all the radiation there that I can handle, and the location makes it inoperable. A little more time will just give them a better base to make estimates on, as to what is going to happen, and the time frame involved.

Regardless of the actual circumstances, I am optimistic. I have known from the start that there might not be the best of outcomes, despite the assurances of the oncologist.

I have already been blessed with a long and full life, and do not feel that things are going to end anytime soon. It would be nice to have some clear information about what is going on, and what to expect, but it really doesn’t make that much difference. They could tell me I have 40 years left, and I step in front of a bus the next day, or they could tell me it’s short time, and I go into complete remission. Neither way is going to very much change the way I face the world tomorrow. I do not look forward to things ending, but I have always tried to live so that I will have no regrets.

This is not a farewell posting by any means. It is notice that I am going to pull back from the world a bit, and do a few more personal things, put some of the gardening aside for now, and live a bit more in the now. The emphysema says that I am not going to be quite as quick off the gun, or last quite as long at what ever I am doing, and the calendar has been telling me I can’t pack as much as I used to, or as fast, but I will still do what I want to = just a little slower.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

This is still the way I look at things.

And the adventure continues.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Now I wait.

Monday I went for my CT scan. Now I wait for them to tell me what they think has been accomplished. I have to go with the certitude that the cancer is now gone, and time will let me get back to what I was for healthiness. Right now, I am still someplace close to the bottom of the cycle = not much wind yet, and I can feel that there is still some interior inflammation from the radiation. I don’t have the strength I had before the treatments, but that will change.

My appetite has returned with a vengeance, but I’m not bloating up as a result = yet. I eat a meal, then want something more about an hour later, no matter how much I eat at the meal. Then I want to start snacking about a half hour before the next meal. Evenings are a series of small snacks until an hour before bed = usually fruit is what I want then, so it doesn’t load me too heavy for sleeping.

I was able to get in the garden this week, and rescue the leeks that had been frozen into their bed before I could get them out. Leeks, like onions, will take a fair amount of frost with no harm. We’ve had a few warmer days here, and 95% of the snow is gone. The ground in the beds has mostly thawed, which allowed me to fork out the leeks. I cut them slightly shorter than the tall ice cream pails I store vegetables in in the spud pit, and filled a pail to put in the pit. I do not know if they are going to store well or not, but I know that once the ground is frozen, I can’t get the leeks out of the ground anyway.

There are a few ice chunks left yet in the soil in the spud beds, or I would have planted my potatoes, and mulched them heavily until spring. Forecast for the next few days shows freezing lows, and single digit highs for the near future, so I likely won’t get to plant my spuds until spring, as the soil is unlikely to thaw again.

No snow left on the valley floor, but you only have to go up about 300 feet to find it. The mountains all have their bright winter coats on, but so far the amount of snow has been fairly reasonable. No problems going through the pass to get to the CT scan.

The ground in the garden is all clear now, but frozen solid, so I still can’t do much. I’ll try to scare up enough energy to get stuck into the pruning, and get that job out of the way. If I can get that done, the next major job before spring is knocking most of the growth off of the stumps along the driveway = I haven’t done that in about 3 years, and some of the growth is getting tree sized now. To do the stumps, I need to have a lot of extra energy, because the cleanup after I knock them down is going to be a lot of work = some of the growth is about 10” in diameter, so I’m not going to be picking up one end and dragging it to the burn pit

I have my tomato, melon and squash seeds processed and baggied, but still have about half of the beans to thresh out and clean. I’ll get a list posted sometime soon, I hope.

And the adventure continues

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Season wrap up

I’m pretty much back to normal now. I can eat pretty much anything, with only minimal care about swallowing, my weight is stable, and energy levels are coming back up.

I have an appointment for a CT scan December 5, and there will be a video conference with the chemo oncologist some time shortly after that, which will tell me how they did with the radiation and chemotherapy. I am confident that they have done what they said they would, and gotten rid of the cancer, but the verdict will be what it will be.

I got everything harvested, with the exception of the leeks = they are frozen in place now. I had them hilled up very nicely, so there would be more nice clean white stems on them. The hills are frozen solid now,and any attempt to get them out is going to thoroughly mash them. Still have to thresh out the majority of the beans, but they are all nice and dry. There are three bundles of Ethiopian lentils hanging under shelter, waiting for me to figure out just how to beat them out. They are dry enough that I think most of the plants are going to basically powder when I start thrashing. It doesn’t look like the pods are going to hold on to the seed very much = actually, I’m hoping I can get something around the bundles without losing too many seeds in the process.

Most of the tomato detritus is still in place in the rows, along with the rest of the debris. Cornstalks still standing, lots of immature onions frozen stiff and unusable now, Florida weave stakes standing alone and lineless now (I got most of the lines out of the way, but not past that). Potato beds are all set to receive seed potatoes = I intended to put them in and cover with a few inches of mulch, but we got a hard freeze (-9.5C or 14.8F) the night before they were to go in the ground. The ground was a little too stiff to dig them in, so I guess I do it in the spring. The leeks were supposed to come out right after the spuds went in = they aren’t going to be trialed in the spud pit this year after all.

Got all of the apples off for juicing. Still have four boxes in the basement, for consumption through the winter = that is a first here too. Usually, there are too few apples worth looking at at the end of the year, to do more than make juice. I can juice apples that are not in good enough shape to store for the winter, and there are usually too few left that have enough flavor to put in storage. This year, there was a bumper crop of good flavored apples on my Red Delicious. Most years there is either a poor crop, or the flavor just doesn’t develop in them, and they aren’t even usable for juice. I saved two boxes of Red Delicious, and got two mixed boxes of MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, Spartan and Jonogold from my neighbor for juicing all of her apples for her.

Most of the pruning is still to be done. Hopefully we will get some milder windless days through the winter, so I can get it done before spring. I would have preferred to get more done before the garden season ended, but I’m satisfied that I got the necessaries out of the way. There’s always next year to do better in, and I don’t foresee having any limitations to what I can do from now on.

And the adventure continues

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Eating is almost back to normal now. Still have to watch temperature and bite size, but with thorough chewing, almost everything is back on the menu now. Have to increase my fluid intake a bit more now, and stay hydrated. No stamina at all presently = the last round of chemo, and the over all effects of the radiation treatments, have me down to maybe ten minutes at a shot, then rest for a bit, and start off on what ever is next. I'll keep plugging at it, and pushing myself a bit, just to keep active, and try and shorten the recovery time. Still have 90% of the garden cleanup to get done this fall = if the weather holds for me for another three weeks, I might actually get some of it done.

Got into the orchard and picked the apples on Friday, and even had time to pull the last bed of carrots = the church will definitely be getting some of them, as there are at least another 6 pails = spud pit only holds 14 pails, and I still have to put spuds in it. There are already 6 pails of carrots in the pit, and I want to put a pail or two of leeks in, just to see how they do.

Finally got to press apple juice yesterday. It took me longer to get the press set up than it did to macerate and press the juice. One load in the press gave us 65 quarts of juice = still have another 40 quarts worth of apples to do for us today, and probably another 100 quarts or so for the neighbors. I did remember to take photos of the equipment and process, but rather than post 18 photos, I’ll give the link to the album they are in.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All this and Epigenetics too

In the first few days after the last post, eating became substantially easier. I still have to be careful with temperatures, make sure I chew everything very thoroughly, and swallow small amounts at one time = but I am eating almost normal amounts of softer foods = noodles, ground meat in soups, fish, and vegetables. I’ve already picked up about 2 pounds of what I lost, so I should be able to get back to what they will consider an acceptable weight for next week.

Temperatures are starting to drop at night (-9C or 15F), but we are still getting reasonable daytime temperatures (10C or 50F). If I can get enough energy together, carrots and spuds will hit the pit in the next couple of days, provided we don’t get rained out of digging. Still have to get the macerator and press wrestled out of the basement, so we can make some apple juice = I don’t think we have enough pears left to make pear juice, but I might try a small batch, if we can find enough to make it worth while.

Canned 44 quarts of pears, which finishes what Shaoling has not given away or been frozen. I guess we must have had a few nights that were colder than I thought, because we lost most of the remaining Asian pears to water core, which means they were frozen. Checking the max/min thermometer memory, we have already been down to -14.5 C (5.9F), so I guess the water core should be no surprise. I suppose they could have gone to a juicing attempt, but it didn’t occur to me until later.

I caught part of an interesting discussion/explanation of epigenetics on CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” on the way home from my second to last chemo treatment.

It is standard knowledge that DNA is formed from a combination of the parents DNA, and does not change through the life of the progeny. Epigenetics were explained this way = If you take the DNA as a string of letters that gets punctuated into words and sentences, epigenetics is what happens when the progeny are still in the womb, or in the early stages of life. Experiences and circumstances that significantly impact the mothers health and life style or quality, alter the punctuation to prepare the offspring for life. It does not alter the actual DNA, but rather alters the state of the expression of the DNA = turning some processes on, and others off. For example, if food is in short supply for the gestation period, then the ability to convert food into energy and save it is cranked up, trying to ensure the progeny will be better able to survive. If water is in short supply, the processes that regulate water utilization are fine tuned, to allow better usage in the progeny. The epigenetic “punctuation” may be changed to some degree by life experiences, or perhaps by chemical means (something they are trying to figure out).

The study that found this, used data from a long term, large bodied medical study, (for what I dis-remember) that had blood samples of those studied for a long period of time. They were looking for information that could show if there was any genetic footprint left on DNA by living in poverty. They tested DNA for individuals over a period of ten years, and could see the “punctuation” was altered by several indicators of poverty during the gestational period and early life. The “punctuation” was so definitely changed, that they could pick out individuals whose mother had smoked during the pregnancy, and even to some degree, the children who had two parents who smoked while the children were young. This would also tend to explain Fetal Alcohol Syndrome = scrambled “punctuation”.

The above might be something that would appear a bit strange in a gardening blog, but the phenomenon would be the same in the plant world = what your plants experience in your garden influences what their progeny are going to act like in the next generation. Gives you pause to think about how you might be able to “engineer” a little change in production or size in a variety, by how you treat this years plants. It would also explain why some varieties change over a fairly short period of time when grown in the same location year after year = epigenetics start changing the punctuation. Good examples are Blacktail Mountain, and Small Shining Light watermelons = first time I grew them, they came in at a size that was just about perfect for two people for one meal = this year they are about three times that size. And my weather conditions here are almost identical to those that Blacktail Mountain was developed in, with the exception that I have been feeding and watering mine somewhat more than the originals got. I have heard of people who have grown Blacktail Mountain for longer periods, and are now getting 20 - 30 pounders. I suppose the way to get back to the original size would be to grow them in less than optimal conditions for a few years, and get some of the original “punctuation” back, or re-punctuate in some way.

It is going to be squirming its way through my so called mind quite a bit now = what changes could I make if I........

I am now eating almost normally = only a small amount of pain when I get careless with swallowing. Tomorrow I get my last chemotherapy treatment. Sometime around the end of the year I will have another CT scan, and talk to both the Chemo and Radiation oncologists sometime in early January. There will be periodic checkups after that, to make sure things stay good, but other than that, I expect life will get back to what it used to be for many years to come = Shaoling says she wants "at least twenty years", and I intend to give her as many of them as I can.

We did get one carrot bed dug and into the spud pit = 6 pails worth. Still have almost as many more to pull from the other bed = they have sized up much better than I expected them to. I have a feeling the church is going to be getting quite a few of them, so I will have room for the spuds in the pit too.

This weekend should see us making apple juice, if the weather cooperates. I will be stripping the apple trees on Friday, weather permitting. For a change, all four trees have a good amount of fruit, and they have had enough water this year that they have a reasonably good taste = juice should be very good. I am fortunate enough to have a very good wine press to process the apples with. I'll try to remember to get the camera out and document the process, from box, to macerator, to pressure cooker. The result always beats anything you can buy.

And the adventure continues.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Last Pick Off

I am slowly getting a few things done around here now. All of the beans have been picked/pulled, and are spending at least their nights in the greenhouse. The larger piles of greener pods get dragged out on tarps for the day, if it’s sunny, trying to get them dried down so they can be shelled and frost treated before storage. All of the vines have been cleaned up, and the poles are stacked, waiting for me to decide next spring if they are still strong enough to use again. I will likely grow more bean varieties next year, as they are a nice trouble free crop that needs no babying through the summer. Takes me a bit longer to set up in the spring, and a year like this stretches the growing season a bit later than I like, but they are good calorie return for effort = the local church can use the extra calorie/protein input for their lunch program, and I like beans a lot myself. The only real crop producer in the squash was the Musquee/Muscade de Provence, but I have a feeling they got a few extras during the growing season.

I have dill scattered through all of the main garden beds, and it will be even more so next year = I think about 80% of the umbels shattered on me while I was in Kelowna, which means not only the beds they grew in, but the pathways have an abundance of seed in them. If I get the time to till at least the beds before freeze up, I may be able to reduce at least some of the volunteering by burying the seed. The pathways are going to be dill central, if I give them a half chance to get started. There are onions all over the place that are no where near mature enough to try and harvest, most don’t even have identifiable bulbs on them, they’re just over sized green onions. If I can get one bed tilled before freeze up, I think I’ll try direct seeding a bunch of Australian Browns this fall = if they come up YAHOO!! = if they don’t, I still have lots of seed. I think I’ll try the Amish Bottle in one end of the same bed too = if I get to do it at all. I know I am letting myself in for a lot of weeding in the spring, until I find out if the onions will do anything.

Carrots and spuds are going to have to be pulled/dug very soon, and stuck into the spud pit. I’m going to try putting some leeks in a bucket or two as well, just to see if it will work. Next summer I may dig another pit, and use it for fruit storage = apples and pears. I know the regular pears won’t hold long, but some of the Asian pears will hold several months.

There are going to be a lot of tomatoes going into the compost bins this year = likely over a ton. Nobody came around to pick any = I guess they thought it wasn’t worth the labor, and I’m just too lazy to feel like picking them so they’ll come take them away. Frost has put an end to pickability now, so it’s just a matter of taking the wheelbarrow around and filing it up for the compost bins. Ah well.

I did find out this year that I have not been watering enough in the past = Shaoling misunderstood my watering directions while I was in Kelowna, and was watering every other day while I was gone = the plants showed the effects very quickly, and I ended up with an almost normal production from most of the plants, despite the extremely off year, weather wise.

So next year, everything gets much more water than last year, unless it turns out to be an extremely wet year. This year was a bit wetter than usual, and for the most part, much cooler.

Still not much stamina yet = I sleep well and long, and have to kick start myself to get out the door and get going, and don’t last very long yet, but keep plugging at it. The radiation oncologist warned me it would be like this for several weeks, and would then get gradually better = the chemo doctor gets to hit me for one more series of three treatments, which will likely make me stumble a bit again = that will happen the first week of November. After that, things should start getting steadily better. They will do another CT scan in early January, and let me know how successful they have been = they can’t do it sooner, because the radiation has everything inside inflamed, so nothing will show clearly. I am expecting to hear that all is as they wanted it to be, and the cancer is completely gone.

This week has had frost every night, starting with just enough to bother the tomato plants, but not the fruit, getting slightly colder every night, until it has reached the point that there are no longer salvageable tomatoes left, or anything else aside from spuds, carrots and leeks. The leeks don’t even realise it’s getting cold, and the carrot tops are only just starting to show the effects. Spud tops were still growing until the first frost hit them.

We have been watching skeins of geese build up in a couple of fields alongside the road we do our morning walks on = probably close to 1000 birds gathering in one field over the past few days. Wednesday morning was one of those fog bowl events, where the fog gradually tips its way off the fields, and exposes the mountainsides across them. The geese started lifting off when we were still about a half mile from our closest to them, wheeling under the fog, and clamouring as only they can when they are about to leave. I wanted to sprout feathers and follow them, a feeling that I have had every time I hear that sound, spring and fall, since I was twelve years old.

I can remember the first time I ever heard geese heading south. I was sitting outside on the back porch,with my grandfather, watching the skeins of geese stream across the face of the moon, singing, = both of us shivering and shaking, and unwilling to leave long enough to get a coat or blanket to keep warm with. It was probably about 1948, in the south Okanogan, just north of Oliver. A magical time in a magical place that is no longer there.

The radiation oncologist has had his final statement verified = I am having more trouble swallowing, I am very aware of my chest, and have less energy and endurance = even a mild Tai Chi session is more than I can comfortably handle. I’m managing to keep my weight up, which is difficult when every swallow causes a twinge, even with just liquids. The saving grace to all of this, is that it should start to get better in about another ten days. I believe I have hit what he would describe as the lowest or worst point now, where I will sit for a few more days, then progress upwards.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself here = I bought this ride with 56 years of smoking, and knew it was possible for most of those years. I am talking to myself here, as much as to the followers of the blog.

I will give a plug here for a stop smoking drug, because for me it worked extremely well, when nothing else has. If you really want to quit smoking, give Champix (Chantix in the USA) a try. I understand that it can have some bad side effects, but had none myself. If you get through the trial dosage with no problems, but have side effects with the full dosage, try doing the trial dosage for the whole treatment. For me the whole experience was stress free = no physical withdrawal symptoms at any point, no feeling like I was going to crawl out of my skin, no loss of sleep, or lethargy. I did fall off the wagon four times while using the drug, but after that, no problem. I eventually started forgetting to take the medication for a day or two at a time, then just quit taking it altogether.

Got out in the garden for the final go around of picking tomatoes = got about 70 lbs of greens and maybe 5 lbs of ripe, or close to ripe tomatoes, that were protected to some degree by foliage. Now I can go around, and pull all of the sidelines and Florida weave from what is left. That will make it much easier to pull what I can and put it in the compost bins. I think I’m going to be seeing a lot of volunteers for the next few years.

I am finding a bit more energy, and eating just a bit easier the last two days. I have about four pounds to regain by November 1, and I feel like it will be possible to do it. If I don’t, they may hold off on the chemo then, and I’d just sooner get it over and done with. I do believe I have passed the low point now, and should be starting up the other side. What the last chemo does to me, I don’t yet know, but don’t think it’s going to be that large a problem. So far, except for the 70+% hair loss, there is nothing that I can attribute directly to the chemo. I would imagine that part of the debilitation i feel is due to the chemo, but I can’t tell how much.

My last chemo is next week.

And the adventure continues.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I managed to keep my weight up enough to get this round of chemo. I just have to make sure I don’t lose any weight over the next three weeks. Since I will be eating at home for two of those weeks, it should be no problem. They have adjusted the last three treatments to Nov 1, 2, & 3. to allow me to have the pre-chemo blood test done in Creston, the town nearest where I live, on October 31. They do a blood test before each chemo series to make sure they haven’t beat your system up too badly to continue beating it. Actually it is a good thing they do = they can seriously compromise your immune system, if they hit you too hard, and that and red blood cell count are the two main things they look at. Weight loss is a general systemic indicator that they are doing a bit too much. In my case, the weight loss is a side product of the radiation, not the chemo, but they will not differentiate between the two.

I also found out that my receiving chemo and radiation at the same time for three of my four chemo series is a bit unusual = most often they only do two of the four series in conjunction with radiation. Doing them at the same time apparently substantially increases the effectiveness of the chemo drugs. I’m not sure why they made the exception with me = providential timing, trying to recoup the time lost when I fell through the cracks, I was in better shape than most when my cancer was discovered, the extra is needed to accomplish or make sure of a cure, or my attitude said I could take the extra hits. What ever the reason, I’ll take it as it is given. They know a lot more about what they are doing than I do, so I won’t second guess them.

I am looking forward to getting back into the garden for real this weekend, even if I won’t have the stamina to accomplish all that I would like to. I won’t have to short-plan everything to prep for coming back here. Being able to drop a project in mid-stride, and know that I can come back to it the next day, is not something I have looked at as a bonus or a luxury before, but it is.

So far, I have brought about 90 lbs of tomatoes, 30 lbs of squash, and 15 lbs of dried beans, to the kitchen here at the lodge. I’ve also put about 20 lbs of cherries tomatoes and 20 lbs of plums = Green Gage and Italian Prune Plums, in the activities/TV/lunch room. I have a hard time eating the cherry tomatoes and plums, but I nibble a bit from time to time = they usually last about two days, and are all gone.

One of the places I walk past on a daily basis here, has a filbert/hazelnut tree in the front yard. Last week, the morning after we had a fairly strong wind system go through here, there was a woman raking up leaves and debris from one part of the yard (not where the tree is), and I commented on passing, that there were a lot of nuts under the tree. She replied “Take them if you want them, no one here eats them.”

I came back later with a few plastic grocery bags to pick them up, and filled two of them, about 10 pounds. These will make some excellent nut butter this winter, among other things. This week, I paid her back with about 30 lbs of tomatoes (two tall ice cream pails full). I figure we made an even trade = we each gave away something we couldn’t use, and received something we wanted = although she didn’t know at the time that it was going to be a trade.

This next bit will sort of date me a bit, and it’s slightly political, which I usually steer clear of, but it’s something that has been going through my head every time the news mentions anything about the “Occupy Wall Street” phenomenon that has hit all 50 states.

Buffalo Springfield originally released this in 1967 as For What It's Worth but it’s more commonly known as Something’s Happening Here. Judge for yourself if it’s as applicable now as it was then.

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What gets me about the whole phenomenon, is that half the politicians seem to be blind or tunnel visioned about it. One has been on the news saying he is becoming alarmed at how pervasive it is = when he should be alarmed at why it is so pervasive it is = something is seriously broken in the system, and it is not just an American phenomenon. There are versions of it starting in many parts of Europe, it is about to migrate to Canada, and likely will show up elsewhere.

Combine this with what has been seen to happen in the “Arab Spring” phenomenon, and I think the politicos have to start looking real hard at the rule books they have created due to manipulations by big business, both home grown and multinationals. I strongly dislike the violence that I see at things like the G8 and G20 summits, but I think what they have been like will be nothing compared to what may come if no one listens to what is coming out of the “Occupy Wall Street” phenomenon. So far it has been almost entirely non-violent, and I would hope it would continue that way = but I know that sooner or later, if something doesn’t start happening as a result, some group is going to hijack the forum and start preaching violence by example. It happened in the 1960’s, and will happen again. The “99%” want to be heard.

And that’s all the “political comment” for this week.

There are a few new photos of this years garden at https://picasaweb.google.com/108421163807481105353/KOZULACOLLECTION2011



Many of the tomatoes look less than optional, but the photos were taken in October.

I will leave it at that for this post. The next one will be posted from home in about a week or ten days, after I have had a chance to really see what has been happening in the garden, aside form stupendous weed growth, and great late tomato production. Except for the cherry tomatoes, it is hard to see where anything has bee taken from most of the tomato plants, but I know there has to have been at least 1000 lbs taken since the first week of September. I’ll try and document a bit of that and add it to one of the albums.

And the adventure continues.

Monday, October 10, 2011

One short week left

Swallowing got to be enough of a problem that I started losing weight I didn’t want to lose, and had fallen below my start weight for chemotherapy. Had a visit with Dr. Davies, my chemotherapy doctor, and she gave me a prescription for “Dr Akabutu’s Mouthwash” = I saw the list of ingredients = the first on the list is 2% lidocaine. It has to be made up fresh by the pharmacist, and takes them about an hour to make it. It doesn’t completely dispel the pain if I swallow wrong, or too coarse a food, but it mutes it enough that I have regained 2 pounds in a day and a half. To me this is very important, because Dr Davies told me, if I lost more weight, they would have to hold my next chemo series back until I regained some = and that I do not want.

Next week I start my third of four chemo series. After that, the final series is scheduled for Oct 31, November 1, and 2. The end of next week also sees the end of my radiation = which is what is making my throat sore. Basically, the peripheral radiation from shooting the tumor is cooking the lower part of my larynx, and the upper swallowing muscles in my esophagus. About two weeks after I finish radiation therapy, I should start to notice a lessening in discomfort when I swallow = after that things get better in a hurry.

For those of you curious about the mouthwash, it was easy to find with Google =

The formula:

For a 240 ml Bottle


Cortef 10 mg (cortesone)

Ratio-Nystatin susp 100,00 U/ML (anti fungal)

PMS-Lidocaine viscous 2% 100ml

Lens Plus 360ml (saline solution) which contains salt 0.9%

It does not taste as bad as you might think, but it’s also not a flavor that I am likely to become enamoured of. The taste leaves your mouth fairly quickly, and it does make it possible to swallow somewhat easier, but care and temperature control must be exercised.

Energy levels are pretty low now too = I can still do what I used to, just not quite as fast, and it takes a little more for me to convince myself to get moving. The initial burst of 180 paces a minute when walking is a thing of the past, but the walk still goes at the usual 120 paces a minute.

We have had rain here the past three days, so walking gets a little more complex = have to watch for breaks in the rain, and hope they are long enough to let you stay dry. I have still managed a minimum of 5 kilometers a day (~3 miles), but getting started is sometimes problematic. Since getting the magical mouthwash, I have been taking in enough extra calories that I have a bit more energy.

I got very few photos of the garden this year, because garden photo season seemed to coincide with the start of my cancer treatments. Tomatoes didn’t started ripening until after that, so I have almost no photos of any tomatoes with color this year, which is a shame, because I have all of the Kozula collection in the garden, and most of them are uniquely and beautifully colored. Weather and time permitting, I will try and get some photos of the different varieties this weekend = they likely won’t get posted until I am back here next weekend, if I do take them, as I don’t like to waste good garden time on editing photos. I need some photo documentation of what was grown this year for myself as well, because I know I will not remember what color half of the varieties were without it.

The forecast for the next few days has lows of 3 C, which means the tomatoes may get hit with frost this weekend = we often get a touch of frost here, when the forecast is 3 or less. I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, the call goes out to come strip the plants, and I start ripping beans down and inspecting for frost damage before storing to dry. Melons and squash are close enough to the ground they may not be affected if there’s only a light touch, but a killing frost means I start processing and freezing squash immediately, and melons may or may not be usable right away. Seed harvest will get a big boot in the butt = do it or lose them. It looks like most of my walks while I am home this weekend, will be in the garden, for one reason or other.

Well, I’m back at Kelowna again. Got most of what had to be done, done = I think. Got to take the photos of the Kozula collection, but the plants and fruit are showing the effects of weather in most case. Considering that it’s already October 10, it’s hardly surprising. A real different year. I still have grasshoppers flitting around, if the day warms up enough for them to move, and there are still yellowjackets showing up in unusual places, hiding out to try and survive a little longer.

My Chires Baby corn has decided it will tassel and start ears now, thank you. Supposed to be 75-85 days = I planted it first week of June = 120 days, and still no cob formation.

This long row of squash foliage is one hill each of Musquee de Provence, and Muscade de Provence. I wanted to see if they were actually the same variety that had just been misnamed someplace along the road. It seems they are the same thing = I can see no difference in the fruit from the two hills. I duplicated the experiment in a different area of the garden, with the same result, but lower production.

This barrow load was hiding under the squash foliage in the above photo. 94 Kilograms, or 208 lbs.

The greenhouse has become bean drying central for the moment = also onion and what ever else makes it in here.

There are a couple of cucumbers and a few tomatoes waiting for me to get to seeding them, but they will hold until I get home at the end of the week.

The majority of the beans have been picked but not threshed. There are a few bush beans that need to be done,and a couple of lima beans that I am leaving up as long as I can, because they haven't started to get dry pods yet. Got very few chick peas, a much smaller crop of soy beans than I expected, and far more Ethiopian Lentils than I expected. Now I just have to find out if I like eating them = I hope so, as they are a very good source of protein and are high in calories as well = and they are dead easy to grow. I tried munching a couple while they were immature, and they are as sweet as peas, but somewhat different flavored.

I have this one week of treatments left = actually only four days = then I go home to stay, and get to wear myself out in the garden, instead of wearing out my shoes walking. I am hoping for at least a few days in the garden before frost hits hard, but likely won't get it. Fall rains started last week, and the forecast is for lowering night temperatures = down to 2C Saturday. Being home and able to work in the garden will definitely speed my recovery along = too many things to do to lay around, regardless of how little I feel like getting started. Keeping myself moving is the best way for me to rebuild, provided I stoke enough calories in = and Shaoling will see to that. I look forward to Friday, and going home. They didn't wear me down as much as I expected with the radiation or chemo, and I have been lucky enough to have missed most of the side effects of the chemo that were possible. I have lost about 70% of my hair, but not all = yet. I expected to be able to polish the dome before this = I still may, but it doesn't seem like the second round of chemo cost me any hair at all.

And the adventure continues.