Christmas Tree – 2023

Step 1: get the tree. Done!

Heather went with us to get it.

Big smiles. Big tree. Little truck.

No, those aren’t poorly-wrapped Christmas presents on either side … just sheet-draped geraniums (we’ve had a week of mid-20s temperatures at night).

This tree has strong, radial branches which are perfect for hanging LOTS of ornaments!

There was no snow yet, so it was easy to drive to a tree location and we found this one just off the forest road … so with the three of us, it was easy to load.

Over the weekend, we watched the endless stream of monster trucks and occupants zoom North, past the house — and then, a few hours later, zoom back South with tree(s) in their monster truck beds. It was probably bedlam up there in tree zone. Yesterday, it was totally quiet, and we saw only one monster truck as we were leaving in our little workhorse 2001 Tacoma with a monster tree sticking way out the back!

Thanksgiving 2023

It was just the two of us with our 31 lb turkey this year.

We gnawed a little around the edges.

We missed all our friends and family that typically gather ’round our long table, but it was probably what the doctor ordered for David. He had a relaxing day with great food. (He has 4 days off from treatment and is excited about that — he’s doing okay, some distress and tiredness, as expected).

We are thankful that David could be here instead of somewhere else for treatment, thankful for support of friends and family, thankful for each other, this abundant homestead, all the friends, family and WWOOFers that came to see us this year, for friends and neighbors who help us keep the water ditch running, David and Lucy’s cow share friends, and especially Heather who has been here, days-at-a-time, helping us keep things going.

Here are a few photos of the bird. It was the best ever! Yeah, we say that a lot, but we did cook it a little differently this year. We used a “Meater”, wireless thermometer in the breast with target of 165 and a 325-degree oven. It took seven hours – meat was like butter. Amazing. The wireless range on the “Meater” is a royal pain, but we managed.

Turned out to be about 7 hours.

Baked to perfection. Like butter.

Day 2 on the Road with the Bump

We won’t be making daily posts on this journey, but I figure every now and again will help answer some questions and provide general progress info while David undergoes treatment.

It seems a bit incongruent to dump poison and radiation into a body that is dedicated to producing, preserving, sharing and consuming naturally raised food. But sometimes, with potentially deadly pestilence, one has to bring out the big guns. We are hoping that our environment, food production, and David’s otherwise good health will help David’s body recover from the treatment, and that the cancer is terminated. Like our neighbor and friend said, “I know you will pull through, like Patrick says you are a beast.”

In this post, I’ve included three images, below. They are: 1) the treatment plan, 2) the radiation machine, and 3) the wearable chemo pump.

Here are David’s own words about how he’s feeling after the first day of treatment:

“Everything went smoothly yesterday. I’m getting two chemos. The first was for about an hour in the clinic and made me a little woozy. They had to slow it down some.  The second is delivered through a portable pump that I have to wear 24/7 until Friday afternoon. The unit is about the size of a loaf of bread so a bit cumbersome.  But, I managed to milk Lucy and do chores with no problems.  I slept well with it tucked up against me. My stomach was a bit unsettled this morning but I have anti-nauseous pills and that settled it down. I have one that I must take and others by choice if I’m not feeling well. I had radiation too and have to go back each work day from now until after Christmas.”

The treatment plan.

The radiation machine. This is a stock photo of the Varian Clinac IX. It looks much more imposing in a big, dark room. Photo credit Varian/Kevin Betker

This chemo pump must remain attached, 24/7, until Friday and it periodically makes whirring noises while it works through a few hundred milliliters of fluorouracil.

Saturday is turkey harvest. Bad timing, right? Oh, and it’s supposed to rain all day that day. However, friends are coming to help and thank goodness we only have 15 this year.

Three Years Later

A reporter from “The Guardian” just completed a story about the last big bump in the road here … the Bear Fire.

I was a little disappointed that the reporter left something out that has been forgotten … the U.S. Forest Service’s conscious decision August 17 to let the Bear Fire burn.

The Forest Service’s conscious decision to deprioritize the fire set us up for the disaster, and like the Hermit’s Peak fire in New Mexico in 2022, I think the Forest Service should be held responsible.  Renaming the Bear Fire the North Complex Fire, inadvertently, led to a collective “forgetting” the responsible party.

Anyway, if you have a moment, check out Dani’s story in “The Guardian” today.

A California town was leveled by a wildfire. Three years on, it feels the world has forgotten | Wildfires | The Guardian

Berry Creek’s struggle to recover is a harbinger of what’s to come in the era of climate crisis

by Dani Anguiano in Berry Creek

Another Bump in the Road

The bump is the “C”-word: cancer.

The last month has been a flurry of appointments, research, tests, procedures, lost sleep, etc.

Here’s where we’ve landed:

After consulting with local oncologists (chemo and radiation), and one of UCLA’s top oncologists (thank you, A.B. ❤️), David has decided to receive his cancer treatment locally, here in Oroville.

Surgery is not recommended by anyone, and the treatment regime for David’s type of cancer, one of concurrent chemo and radiation, is standard and has been around for decades.

The most onerous part of this treatment is 30+ days of radiation, 5-days a week for many weeks (the holidays will cause this to run into the new year).  The chemo happens at the beginning and end and will be delivered by a pump attached to David’s intravenous port (which he gets next Friday).

From what we’ve been told and our own research, cure rates are between 66% and 90%.  David is stage IIIA, a little more advanced than we first understood, but the specialists have a lot of confidence in this standard treatment.

We do feel that our local, primary care physician totally missed this … in hindsight, we should have been on the treatment path months ago.  We should have been more aggressive given the symptoms.  But we can’t do anything about that now (except look for a different, primary care provider and also more actively seek screening for things we might be at risk for).  Had this been caught earlier, the treatment would have been the same but the chances would have been even higher and David wouldn’t have had the summer of discomfort that he’s had. 

Over the years, we have periodically talked about what our response to cancer would be, given that chemo and radiation do exact costs on long-term health and quality of life.  In this case, David is seeking local treatment because we both believe it’s a reasonable choice for him.  We believe that because

a) the cancer is not stage IV,

b) the cancer has a known, time-tested, effective protocol for its current stage,

c) David’s in otherwise excellent health,

d) it is important to have the comfort of being at home in our happy place during treatment and

e) our local hospital, though small, currently has the specialists and equipment the treatment requires. 

We will meet the team doing David’s radiation setup and daily treatment on Monday.  Hopefully that experience will continue to encourage him and me on this path.  If so, the treatment will begin on Monday, Nov. 13, one month after we got the initial news.

2023 Vintage Will be a Limited, Red Blend

This is the first year we’ve been able to harvest our own wine grapes … a mix of zinfandel, cabernet, shiraz, and petite syrah.

The vines are still young and were significantly set back with last year’s Spring frost, so for 2023, we’ll have limited production. It will be our own, special, red blend … all grown here.

It is amazing to see how a tractor bucket full of grapes turned into 5 gallons of seeds and depleted skins and 18 gallons of primary fermentation. See images below:

2023 reds …

All that’s left of the grapes (before we pressed, we had about 27 gallons of must – the berries and the juice bubbling away)

18 gallons of wine in the second stage of fermentation (oak chips added to each carboy since we didn’t have enough wine for any of our barrels). Next step will be to “rack” or decant this new wine to discard the sediment.

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