Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Migraines and Caving Don't Mix

I think my problem started on Saturday when we went south to our friends' house in Guanica for some kayaking (in the wind which I hate) and floating near Gulligan's Island and Ballena. I am pretty sure that being on the water with reflections and getting dehydrated contributed to my Sunday migraine. I think I was pretty bitchy on Saturday and didn't connect the dots of my irritation. It has been about 12 weeks since I have had a migraine which is a very long time for me. I think eating raw and eliminating refined sugar, bread, meat and cheese has really helped me. I didn't recognize the signs of one coming ....and then it came....about an hour into the caving adventure. Tom Miller, Diana, Brett, Jeff and I went to the Camuy area to a cave Tom wanted to map. He was armed with a 30 year old map that had only partial information and he wanted to map a side passage we had traveled on a previous trip. Mapping is difficult, kind of boring, but can be exciting when you push into new sections or leads that may or may not go somewhere. Sometimes what you have to explore to get a complete survey ends up leading to the unexpected. It is also very satisfying to see the cave on paper and make deductions about surface features in the same area. We drove to the cave entrance, spoke with the property owners and then geared up. The walk to the cave was only 5 minutes which turned out to be a very good thing at the end for me! Tom and Jeff got the rope tied off and then we rappelled down the 15 feet, tied another rope and dropped the final 15 into the hole that is the entrance of the cave. When there are heavy rains this cave floods all the way to the ceiling so weather was a really important factor. It was supposed to be clear although Jeff was a little freaked on the way to the cave when we encountered scattered rain in the north . In super heavy rains you can't even enter the cave and I don't think I ever want to see that! Here Jeff has come through the entrance squeeze and Diana is right behind him (you can see a swatch of shirt). After the entrance squeeze there is a long section of what I call the "coffin tunnel" since it is a very flat, low ceiling and the sides are solid. This section is about 600 feet. The whole tunnel is kind of anti-gravity looking - it looks almost suspended and unreal. But that is caving.

Here Diana is entering the coffin tunnel. It starts out low and then gets lower so you have to crawl on jumbly rock. There was more water here than I remembered and the tunnel was longer than I remembered.

After emerging from the coffin we then encounter the "luge." This section looks like the sports track and I can hear the roar of water in my imagination - a roar that carved out this curvy waterway. We are now knee high to waist high in water. I had forgotten how cold it was. When I get migraines I get irritated at nothing, glare bothers me, sound and light bother me, smells REALLY bother me and the cold bothers me. Sometimes I see floating colored circles move from the right to left in one or both eyes and sometimes a pupil will blow out and I get "sci-fi eye." It is creepy. Anyway, I started getting cold.

We went through this area and traveled some more until we met up with the junction where we needed to hang a left. Look at the ceiling of this cave - it is white and smooth and kind of other-worldly.

At the branch I made a critical error and decided to leave my pack. This is always a mistake. I had made an error and brought my non-waterproof "good" camera since the cave was beautiful. I had intended to take shots of interesting features and of surveying in action. Hah! So the camera is in 2 zip locks which are difficult to open with muddy wet hands. The damn thing won't focus and I am starting to have trouble with just the cave climbing itself. I opt to leave the camera and bag at the junction while we survey. Big mistake. (didn't I just make this same mistake in Cueva Lechuga?) So we start the surveying and it is slow going as we have to climb muddy slippery spots and breakdown and the inclinometer is giving us problems (it does this a lot). We didn't bring the measuring tape (which always works). Because this section of cave has some turns and some big piles it is hard to get a line of sight. We do our best and then I just max out and can't function. I go back to the junction for my pack which has water, food, migraine medication and a warm fleecy surf shirt in it. There are enough people to continue the surveying which is good. I go back, pop the pill (which didn't work because I waited too long), put on the warm shirt, ate something (the wrong thing) and drank something and then headed back to catch up with everyone. I got to one spot where it was difficult to tell how they continued on. It had to be over or under and both ways looked a little difficult. I figured it out and joined up with the group at the end of the line. I did manage to push a little passage that Brett couldn't or didn't want to push. I really couldn't go that much further than he did, but it was far enough for me to signal with a light and he could see that the light went to a lower room that was a dead end. There were really nice bacon formations and shields. There was still water. It dead ended and we started the way back.

On the way back all I wanted to do was get out. The physical exertion was not good with the migraine thing and I just wanted to be not moving. Being in the dark was good but seeing the headlamps of the others was not so I basically ran ahead as fast as I could muster so I could get out and just stop. I didn't think I was going to get through the coffin tunnel. Moving my head and crouching was hard. I was going to stop and rest when Jeff told me we were at the entrance. I LOVE caving but I have never been happier to get out of one! Here is the squeeze out. So I went through the squeeze, climbed up the first section of rope and then the second section and ran out to the car as fast as I could. I just covered my eyes and laid on the trunk in the warm sun until Jeff came 20 minutes later with the car keys. I slept in the back seat and tried not to throw up. I rested for as long as I could and was dreading the 2 hour trip back. We had been in the cave for a little over 5 hours. Jeff wanted to eat with the others so we stopped for an overpriced meal at El Taino Restaurant (I brought my own raw food). After that I felt a little better and more able to manage the trip back. Monday still sucked but today I feel pretty good. So it was a great cave adventure that I really didn't have a great time at but that doesn't happen much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

3 Years in Puerto Rico (tomorrow I think) - Some Old and New House Shots

2 acres is a lot of land especially in the land where everything grows wildly fast. I wanted to plant everything in the first few years so that 1) you can live to see them big 2) after a couple years you start doing fewer big projects (novelty wears off) 3) it is very rewarding and I love working outside. Some of what I have been doing though are things that will make things easier - reduce some of the work. This slope is impossible for Jeff to weed whack so I planted some agave and am planting mani as a ground cover under it. The mani is going a little slowly since I am making cuttings from what I have and not buying it to do it in one swoop. The agave are a spectacular thing to drive up to but in the beginning, like everything, make weed whacking an obstacle course.

The driveway is a place we stop on the way in and the way out. It was sad.

I wanted a hedge to hide the pipes and ground cover to stabilize the slope so the driveway wouldn't get muddy in the rain.

The addition of the wall was a nice thing and now the plants are looking good too! The other side of the driveway was difficult to mow since it sloped and it is a long way to get the mower down there. I don't like the trashy house on the other side of the fence so I planted croton cuttings from our upper hedge and have replaced the grass with mani. We can water down there but this is a good time to plant stuff since it is the rainier time.

The hedge is getting taller and filling in and the mani is nice and dense.

For my upper arboretum I keep expanding the spots under my little trees and have begun to put plants under them. The understory plants are doing well under this moralon.

Here's the arboretum from above on the trail. This is the Ylang Ylang now - note the mani below it and the little red bush to the right.

Can you spot the Ylang Ylang here? Look to the left of the red bush.

So there has been some progress. It seems like it is taking forever until I look at the photos. 3 years isn't all that long especially since these plants haven't been in for that long since clean-up took a good 6 months. We are getting fruit off of some of the trees already (canisteel, longan, buddah's hand (citron), pomegranate, parcha and on and on. I haven't run out of steam yet - when the vision is completed I don't know what I'll do!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blanchito/a Needs a Family - NOT Ours

Two days ago I heard strong meowing coming from up on the hill behind our house. This puffball then moved to the bushes near the house. Then I came up the driveway to find it curled up sleeping on the cat dance stage and now I find it sleeping inside the house. It is snow white, very tiny, and is young enough to be socialized. This kitty will make someone very happy but please not us! Not sure what sex it is but it needs a good home.... as far as we know it is alone and there aren't others stashed up on the hill waiting to come down.
It is tiny and very patiently watching the other cats that are inside.

It is pulling out all-the-stops to look cute! Help! I am not a crazy cat lady (or at least I don't want to be one).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Cat Injury

Why do we take in cats? We just have too many. My favorite little Rip was on the bed snoozing with us and an hour later he was snoozing in the porch area with some blood on his leg. He is a friendly one (quite lovey) so I went to him to take a closer look. What I saw was a chicken leg! His skin was sliced and I was looking at muscle. What the @#&$ happened? I immediately put him in a crate and headed off to the Cabo Rojo Animal Hospital. Rip plays a lot with the other cats and plays rough so I thought maybe it was a play/fight gone wild. Just before I found him I heard something (not yowling though) and found a large palm leaf had fallen. Could he have gotten freaked out, jumped off the balcony onto the palm and dislodged a leaf? Maybe, but how did he get cut? Another cat? My suspicion is barbed wire. It looked like a puncture and then slice similar to what Princess had 3 years ago under her arm. Whatever it was I did not want it to get infected and it needed to be closed up so off we went. The vet took a look and figured it was play fighting - they peck at eat other and a tooth may have gotten caught and torn the skin...yes it can slice it cleanly. I wanted it cleaned up and then wanted to see it before they did anything (actually I prefer to watch the surgeries but they don't allow that). He put Rip under sedation and took a closer look. He called me in and I could see the puncture and then some little slices in the muscle too. Not really deep. He thought it had to be cyclone fencing...it wasn't a cat peck. This isn't far fetched...maybe he was chased by an unknown cat or dog and dipped under the fence and snagged his leg but kept running! The vet had to sew up the muscle tears, sew up the skin on the inside and I had him do some "insurance" stitches on the outside since he races around and jumps and climbs and plays a lot. So here he is fixed up.

In the states when your pet has surgery you don't get them back until they are conscious and have eaten, crapped and pissed. In Puerto Rico nothing is hidden....everything is how it is. Furniture has all its packaging, food is all wrapped up in cellophane and styrofoam and your pet looks dead in its carrier and stays that way for hours. He was conscious in around 3 hours and the trick now was to keep him calm.

He was snoozing in his carrier and the other cats came around and hissed or smelled. Stripes put out a paw and pushed Rip's leg and was freaked when he didn't move. I don't know if they have enough smarts to wonder about whether he is dead or not. We kept him inside (and the others out in the porch area only - they didn't like the change of routine) and he pretty quickly was running around as if nothing had happened. After 2 1/2 days I couldn't stand his wanting out, and I wanted to open the shutters and get the breezes through the house so I let him out. I knew he'd be hanging around and I'd be able to give him his antibiotics. So for 98 bucks I've got a healthy cat again. Why do we have them? Joy. There is joy in that sack of guts and a lot of personality too. Here's another subject. Raw food. I got a ring mold and made lunch in it. I took the ring and stacked avocado from the yard (we have more than we need), a cashew "cheese," roma tomatoes from the yard, more cheese, sun dried tomatoes (from a jar) and more avocado topped with Dulse (seaweed). It was very yummy and pretty healthy I believe!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Latest Goings On

I just got a new gadget to help me with the raw food stuff I have been making. I have been eating about 80 percent raw food (uncooked fresh veggies, seeds, nuts) and am really enjoying it - especially since I have seen HUGE improvements in my health in a short amount of time. My cholesterol used to always be around 140-160 until I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (dead thyroid) which made it creep up to 191 and my triglycerides up over 100. I did not like that. Besides needing to take levoxyl (gives me what I can't make) I decided now was the time to eat better. I did not think the health improvements would be so drastic so fast, but it has been about 4 months of eating primarily raw and my new blood work shows that my cholesterol dropped from 191 to 129!!!!!! My triglycerides are now 78!!!. My thyroid hormone levels were the same so it wasn't that that made the difference. Diet really matters - what you DON'T eat and what you DO eat. I haven't eaten bread, pasta (twice), cheese (on pizza twice), the only crackers have been rye crisp and no refined sugar. Agave and dates yes but refined white sugar NO. Amazing! So the spiral slicer arrived in the mail and I was able to find a zucchini so I spiraled away to make raw "pasta" out of it.
When you are done you are left with a little core of what ever you spiraled that you can chuck into the blender with your almond butter smoothie or whatever. This is a super slick device that is super easy to clean and work with. So here is the raw "pasta" dinner I made. Raw spiralized zucchini with a cashew nut ricotta-like "cheese" and fresh sauce (tomatoes, beets, dates, onions, garlic, herbs) topped with nutritional yeast (for vitamin B-12) and avocado. Yum. What I am finding with raw food is that the colors are beautiful and taste is much more flavorful than cooked stuff. I never thought about it before but why would you cook all this stuff? So I am a happy camper now that I like what I am eating and I love that my health (which was already pretty darn good) just gets better and better.

On to the rain. A rainy day and the kitties have collected all over the furniture. 12 cats are a lot and our "big 3" favorites are hangin on the bed. Chicken, Tuca and Rip.

Yesterday it rained almost 2 inches and today probably about the same (weather station says 2.39). I could hear the waterfalls and river barrel down our hill long before the rain got here. It pushed the vetiver grass flat.
Some more yard excitement a month ago involved a big rock coming down the hillside. It knocked the cement bench right off its stand and that sucker is heavy.

I had to wait for Jeff to move the rock - too heavy for me to roll. We had the equipment out to get set for caving and of course the cats take interest. Rip was diving in and out of the rope.

The next minute he was conked out sleeping all tangled up. We love him. I'll get out in the yard when the rain stops a little to get some photos of progress there. Trees are growing, mani is really working well as a ground cover and I continue to work on trails...