Sunday, July 19, 2009

Your input urgently needed

As you probably are aware, the IDSA 2006 lyme treatment guidelines have been discredited, and the IDSA has been forced to revise. There is a one-day hearing July 30, to allow interested parties to provide input. The hearing will be broadcast live on the internet.

Lorraine Johnson,JD, MBA is the executive director of CALDA (California Lyme Disease Association), and is an attorney patient advocate. Her blog is Lyme Policy Wonk. She has made available a short survey as a way to collect as much anonymous patient information as possible to incorporate into statistics for her speech on July 30.

If you are a lyme sufferer, or were and are cured, or are the parent of a sick child, please fill out this survey as soon as possible. It only takes a few minutes, and no personal information is collected.

Thank you.

On a related note my LLMD, Steven Phillips, MD, will be presenting, and that's a very good thing for all of us. He's a powerful, evidence-based presenter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More garden photos

I took pictures of more than just the pond yesterday. Everything is blooming. Here's a bunch from the same general area.

I learned something cool today. I use Firefox 3 as my browser. I noticed that the colors of these pictures were washed out compared to iPhoto and Safari. It's a simple setting change in Firefox to fix this and see the colors that I see in the garden.

In Firefox 3's address box type 'about:config'. There will be a warning that you 'OK' through. Scroll down to the entry labeled 'gfx.color_management.enabled'. Click on it to set it to 'true'. I think you need to restart Firefox after this.


No wonder I can't grow parsley

Looking sulky after I shooed him off the plants (but now he's sitting on another)

Butterflies love the coneflowers

Daisies and coneflowers

Sweat bee on heavenly scented cream lily

Sundrop and magenta snapdragon

Bee Balm attracts hummingbirds (and bees)

Shasta Daisies in morning sun

This lily was split from one I showed yesterday. Doing well!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The pond garden

Not in the pond, but nearby. I couldn't resist posting anyway.

The view from the top

I installed the pond around ten years ago. It's roughly 7 x 11 feet, with a filter and hidden pump at the left (hidden under fake rock cover) which pushes water through a buried pipe back into the bottom of the waterfall reservoir. This way the waterfall appears natural, spilling over. The reservoir is a black plastic tub fronted with rock.

On the left side of the waterfall I planted a shrubby thing that gets white non-pareil flowers in the spring. It does a good job of hiding, and it hangs over the water. The birds use it and the nearby apple tree as perches and security while they hop in and out of the waterfall on hot days.

The right side of the waterfall doesn't look too good. I planted a white beach rose, not realizing that it would grow into a tree. It stands on tall legs, like an ostrich, the foliage and wonderfully scented flowers six to eight feet off the ground. You pretty much need a step ladder to smell the roses. Oh well. (Hey Joanne, if you're reading, any ideas? Can I prune it? I don't want to move it, and benign neglect has been my approach so far, and it's healthy...)

Waterfall, peppermint, sedge in background

The pond is terraced. The first shelf is just deep enough for cat litter pans used as planters for floating heart, sedge, mini-cattails, some kind of rush grass, and the whacking huge yellow flag iris. The second shelf is around twenty inches deep, I think. The water lilies sit here, four of them, in two (three?) gallon pots. The final level is small, 2 x 3 feet, and 42 inches deep. Deep enough so that the goldfish can winter over.

Cattails, peppermint, and pushy iris


This is the best picture I could get of any of the fish. Even though the photo isn't clear, I do like the reflections of the plants in the water. When I cleaned the pond this spring, the census count was fourteen goldfish. Some small, some black ninjas that might as well be invisible, and some decent size orange ones. I believe these fish are self-limiting--they might grow larger in a larger pond. Here, they seem to max out at around six inches long, but they have beefy 'shoulders'. All these fish were born here, as were their parents.

I stocked the pond with six colorful shubunkins and a couple of fantails ten years ago, and then added a carnival goldfish a few years later. At one point we came back from a vacation to find almost no fish. I think a heron must have got them. But there were still some, and these were the ancestors of the current fish. I think the fancy colors breed out and revert to plain black and orange over generations.

I don't care for the fish in any way. No food, no special winter care. I just clean the pond once a year in the spring, and net it in the fall to keep most of the leaves out (they rot and foul the water). No more than once a year I may add solar salt (not the yellowish kind--that's got a chemical that will kill the fish instantly). Salt isn't good for the plants, but is a cure-all for fish.

Occasionally I add water with a garden hose, making sure to run the water cold and clear first. I set it on a rock near the surface, so that it sprays in and aerates the water. Years ago we had a runty fantail fish we called "Whitey" and he loved the hose. He'd surf the current, swim around, and go again, for as long as the hose was in the water.

Massive yellow flag iris (note pond filter intake lower left)

Like most of the plants, the iris is as old as the pond. It started off as a single green shoot that arrived mail order, it's bottom in a little baggie. I thought "Hmm, five bucks. What a rip off." Not so. We've split this thing two or three times now. The chunks we've planted away from the water in other parts of the garden are doing well. Some of it I've just composted, as there's so much. The plant as you see it here is rooted in a single cat litter box, but only as a formality. It's broken the pan and most of the root system is just hanging in the water. The fish love to play in the cave created by the overhanging roots.

It has beautiful yellow flowers, as you can see, but it blooms very sparsely. It went seven years without a single flower. This year we had a bumper crop: two flowering stalks with three flowers each, plus one on one of the transplants away from the water.

Close up

Pond in early morning light

There are four water lilies. The one nearest the waterfall never blooms. It doesn't like the motion of the water, I'm told. But it still covers a good portion of the surface with it's pads. The pads covering the pond help control string algae. The water doesn't get enough sun for it to grow. String algae is nasty stuff and can make your pond a slime pit. For really bad infestations I'll use solar salt (see elsewhere in this post for warning). It kills plants, but the algae seems the most sensitive, so if I dose it right, I kill the algae and not the other stuff.

Water lilies

Two blooms at once on the same lily! This is a first. It's also my favorite water lily (don't tell the others). I love the clean, contrasting colors.

Peeking through the peppermint at another lily

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pictures of the garden

Mr. and Mrs. Grosbeak dining al fresco

Check out the new bird feeder. It's billed as being squirrel-proof, and so far it is. I wonder how it'll work in colder weather, when the beasties get desperate. They'll probably just unmount it and drag it into the woods like they've done with all the others I've tried. But as you can see, the birds love it! This was a surprise gift from my friends Anthony and Nadya. Thank you! (Sorry for the blurry picture, that's the best my non-telephoto lens will do without getting so close and scaring away the diners.)

My retreat

I love my pond garden. It's a relaxing spot on warm summer days. I like to sit in my nearby Adirondack chair, under a big market umbrella, and listen to the water. Just out of view is a patch of Bee Balm, which frequently attracts hummingbirds. Sorry, I couldn't get pictures of them--they don't stay still for long.

The only rose I haven't killed

I'm a serial rose killer. Just can't seem to keep them alive. But this little guy was the kind you buy in a 4-inch pot in the grocery store, planning to enjoy it in the house, and then consign it to compost. It wouldn't die, so I planted it, and look how well it's doing! Smells wonderful, too, but you have to bend over because the whole plant's only 8 inches tall.

My little helper in the garden

This is Stewart aka Boogernose. And in the garden he's known as Crusher. He sunbathes (in the nude) and in the process crushes everything in his path: parsley, thyme, painted daisies, petunias. Here he is in his fort under the deck stairs, taking a break from the sun and wallowing in the dirt.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the roller coaster again

Time has flown since my last post. I've been busy writing, helping my son fix up his vintage VW Bus, weeding the flower bed, and cleaning out the garage. Aside from the writing which doesn't tax me physically, I don't do nearly as much as it sounds like. I just poke along at Lyme-speed, marshalling energy, planning tasks in stages that I can spread out over multiple days.
Early Wakefield heirloom cabbage

The weather here in Connecticut has been great. It rained some part of almost every single day in June. I like that because it keeps the temperature down. And July has been unseasonably mild, including fifty-degree nights and highs around eighty, breezy with low humidity. Fort Hill Farm--the organic CSA farm we belong to--has been harvesting early crops for five weeks now. Amazing greens and lettuces, snap peas, summer squash, greenhouse tomatoes, onions, broc, cauliflower, broccoli rabe, a wonderful heirloom conehead Wakefield green cabbage, beets, carrots, escarole, strawberries, herbs, cut flowers, and on and on and on. Our farmer works thirteen acres just down the road from us, and from this small patch he feeds 400 families. In another couple of weeks we should get corn and field tomatoes and crisp yellow watermelons. I can't wait.

I'm enjoying the email-based writing course I signed up for two months ago. It's keeping me busy and I'm progressing steadily. I've produced three manuscripts and all are in various stages of the submittal process with various mainstream and literary magazines. No acceptances, but it's early days yet. Fingers crossed...

It may be time to say goodbye to feeling good for a little while. I've been on plaquenil/biaxin/tetracycline for three-and-a-half months now, and I've seen improvement. I saw my LLMD yesterday and he decided to keep the same regimen for one more month. Plaquenil is a slow-acting drug. It takes several months to ramp up. If I stop it now, and try something else, then to try it again requires another 3-4 month commitment down the road. I think my doctor felt it was worthwhile to try and squeeze one more month of benefit out of the current course before switching.

I've been on 1000mg tetracycline throughout this period. My first long-term antibiotic therapy back in August 2008 was 1500mg tetracycline, not paired with any other drugs. I was very sick back then, and herxed for five weeks straight. Tetracycline seems to always have the ability to bring out the Lyme in me. This is a good thing, but sometimes difficult to live through. The low dose has been much more benign.

Now, for this coming month, I'm on the highest dose of tetracycline ever, 2000mg, along with the biaxin and plaquenil. I started with last night's dose, and within an hour I was feeling it. My stomach feels like there's an egg-sized stone in it. Not quite nauseous. Food seems to help, but of course the tetracycline must be taken on an empty stomach. I watch the clock and eat as soon as I'm allowed. The stomach issues aren't lyme-related. That's just the drug's side effect. But the neurological stuff is definitely lyme. It all comes flooding back: pain in hands and feet, blurred vision, confusion, emotional instability including irritability and tears, sensory overload, muscle tics, and the list goes on. This morning's dose was even worse. I'm not sure if I have another month of this, or if it'll settle out in a few days. Either way is OK, as it means improvement in the long run.

My main complaint during these past months is a complete inability to sleep without some aid. I've been taking Neurontin a few hours before bedtime, and it usually allows me to sleep through the night. I wake groggy, but it's worth it. Without the Neurontin I lay down to sleep and immediately have restless legs. In the rare circumstance that I can fall asleep through this, or if I'm simply exhausted enough, I'm popped awake as soon as I enter deep REM sleep. And that's it for the night.

This is classic lyme-insomnia, both the restless legs and the mid-sleep awakenings. So, even though I may have been feeling better, there are still serious neurological problems. I suspect it's the plaquenil that's brought this symptom to the fore, and I'm desperately hoping for sleep relief on the next regimen a month away. I don't know what that will be, just that it won't include plaquenil.