Sunday, 30 June 2019

More lack of updates.

If you're a long time reader of this blog, then you will know that over the past few months I have been having some serious health issues. Last weekend (Sat 22nd) those health issues seemed insignificant compared to what the next few days would bring.

At about 8pm I was rushed into St. Georges hospital A&E in an almost catatonic state. I was suffering from Pneumonia, Acute Kidney Failure (Stage 3), and a blood pressure of 66/40. I spent the next 3 days in intensive care whilst they flooded my body with intravenous antibiotics, masses amounts of fluids (to get BP back up), and generally tried their damnedest to save my life. Fortunately they are good at their job and it worked. Within two days they had brought the Stage 3 Kidney issue back to Stage 1.

After 3 days I was transferred to a Respiratory Ward where I was taking half a pharmacy's worth of tablets and still taking intravenous stuff through some of the many cannulas that infested my body.

Lets throw some numbers into the ring.
Days in intensive care : 3
Number of cannulas inserted : 8, 1 on back of each hand, 1 in left elbow, 1 dual-way arterial in right wrist, 4 way "central line" inserted in jugular.
Blood pressure when admitted : 66/40
Temperature when admitted : 39.0
Time taken to insert "central line" : 45 mins (normally 10-15 mins)
Total Number of times catheter bag has been emptied (that I know of) : 32
Numbers of times I disgraced myself by vomiting all over myself as I lay in A+E: 2
Number of blood tests : 18
Number of urine tests (that I know of) : 2
Number of CT scans : 2
Number of tablets taken : lost count around 50

The CT scans used some sort of blood dye (not sure exactly what), but they did discover "a left lower lobe dense consolidation" and a "solitary 6mm subpleiral nodule in R lower lobe". Basically an infection point and a cyst which they think is 98% benign.

I was discharged late on the 29th, and I'm resting now at home. I have zero chance of getting to the allotment anytime soon.

I'd just like to give a huge round of thanks to the folks at the London Ambulance Service, as well as the team in the St. George's Intensive Care unit. Without whom, I certainly wouldn't be writing this.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Help is appreciated

I'm still not well enough to do heavy work. But many weeks back I was contacted by a gentleman who is on the waiting list for an empty plot. He offered to help me do some of the more manual work on the plot. Today the first day that he helped out, and what a huge help he has been.

So, do you remember the photo I took a couple of weeks back showing the weeds at the front?

Well Micheal put his back into clearing them out. So now it looks like this...

Much better. We even managed to clear out the pathway that I put in a couple of years back.

Although moving just four wheel barrows of woodchips put me completely out of action.

Meanwhile, whilst Micheal was pulling weeds, I managed to throw the remaining unloved potatoes into the ground. These poor things have been sitting "chitting" for a couple of months. Last week I threw some of them in the Sweetcorn bed. These last ones are going into a mixed bed. Part Carrot, part, tomato, part beetroot, and part potato. Basically all the remaining leftover bits and pieces.

Elsewhere we've managed to plant up the cucumbers into buckets rather than small plant pots. They were a bit pot bound, however now they should be free to grow as big as they need. We planted three outside, and the remaining seven will be in the greenhouse. Also we planted up the chillies. Looks like we have several (27) plants that have grown true. Not bad for the seed that collected from last years crop.

Slowly, but surely we're pulling the plot back into shape. But only with help from others.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

3 hours to plant Sweetcorn?

You can tell how still unfit I am. It's a long recovery process and these past few weeks have definitely taken a huge toll on me.

The Sweetcorn has been sitting in the greenhouse for ages now. The are becoming potbound. But we do have a nice plot for them. It was last years courgette heap that has been covered all winter. The soil underneath has broken down and composted into a really good tilth so it's relatively easy to break up and rake level. Which is just as well.

Now one other thing that has been sitting in the greenhouse is the potatoes. I put them out to start chitting back at the start of April and since then, I haven't been able to do anything with them. So it's kind of a waste. Fortunately this bed is rather large and can easily accommodate having some spuds in as well. If they survive and come up then thats OK. If they just rot and die, then thats OK too.

The only drawback is that it took me nearly three hours just to rake over this bed and get everything planted. And yes, there are still a shed load of weeds and grasses still lying around because I don't have the strength to clear them out as yet.

Meanwhile, elsewhere The Wife is plucking strawberries and weeds in equal measures. The bind weed is poking it's head up everywhere. Mostly though it's managed to weave itself in and out of the rhubarb. Only one thing for it... clear out some of the rhubarb.

4.3Kg of rhubarb later... I guess it's time to make a huge batch of Rhubarb and Ginger Jam.

Sunday Night Update: 4.3kg of Rhubarb, an equal quantity of sugar, a shed load of ginger and a bottle of pectin later... and there are 18 and a half jars of deliciousness waiting to be given away to my colleagues at work and neighbours.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Back on the plot

When last I was down the plot, things were just getting started. Now... the only things which have started and run away are the weeds.

The plot looks a mess. Hardly surprising when neither myself nor The Wife can get to the plot to keep it tidy. Fortunately not all is lost. The seedlings in the greenhouses have been regularly watered by our wonderful plot neighbours. So they're relatively safe, albeit a bit pot bound. But now that I'm feeling a little better I can get down the plot a bit more regularly. But I still can't do much.

At first glance it doesn't look too bad.

But as you look a bit closer you can see that the grasses, thistles  and bindweed is everywhere.

The onion bed by the shed is now just a mess of thistles. No chance of getting through this any time soon.

And the wild area at the back under the apple tree is now a wildflower haven.

Which is not so bad really as the bees absolutely love the Phacelia.

It's going to take a while to get things more manageable. I think we have to give up on the apple tree area this year. No way we can do anything with it without major intervention. Something we cannot do for the foreseeable future.

But we can make a start on the courgette bed areas. So we did. We managed to clear them. Or I should say, The Wife managed to clear them. Though I did dig the holes to plant the courgettes. Even this action left me short of breath. Not easy working on 40% lung capacity.

In the greenhouse the Pak Choi had bolted to seed. We did manage to get some of it before it went, so it's not a total loss. We've chopped it as a "cut and come again" option, so we may get second helpings if we're lucky.

But there is one consolation. It's now strawberry season. And The Wife's Strawberry Empire is really starting to prove it's worth.

The first of many to come...

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Sometimes it's not about growing food...

Sometimes it's all about the community.

I am ill at the moment. Let me clarify that. I am EXTREMELY ill. I am currently residing in the Royal Brompton Hospital, Chelsea under the care of one of the leading lung specialists. There is a suspicion that they have identified what is wrong with me.

In the past few weeks I have twice seen my local GP (who said it was a lung infection and provided a course of anti-biotics - Amoxicillin) and once been rushed to St Georges A&E (who said it was a lung infection and proscribed a course of anti-biotics - Doxycycline), neither of which seemed to do anything. My breathing got worse. So last Tuesday (14th May) I was given a referral to the Royal Brompton, where upon the Doctor immediately admitted me.

The RB are one of the leading hospitals in the country for heart and lung conditions. So if these says say things are serious then who am I to argue. Turns out I have a lung infection. Which is exactly what the other doctors said... but not the right kind of infection.

There are various kinds. Viral infection (things like Influenza and Colds) are common. These are fought off by your bodies natural immune system. Though vaccinations help - I get the Flu jab every year and so far it's kept me well.

Then there are the bacterial kind of infections. These can be nasty. I've had them quite often in my life, because as an asthma sufferer I have a weakened lung respiratory system and can be prone to such things. These are easily fought with the above mentioned anti-biotics. A few days under a strict regimen and a steroid course to keep the inflammation at bay and I'm as right as rain.

Finally there are worst kind of infections. Fungal infections. Now these are rare. Most healthy people breath in thousands of fungal spores and they have no effect. But occasionally there is that one little spore than finds the nice warm damp conditions of the lungs are nice place to set up home.

Que the fungus Aspergillus, this gives rise to the condition Aspergillosis. It's not confirmed at the moment that this is the actual cause, but it is a highly likely culprit. Looking back at the blog however there is a correlation as to when the possible infection started, and it's all down to cleaning. Back in February I cleaned the greenhouse. It would seem that the effect of splashing the water up onto the roof by using the watering can may have cause the fungal spores to become airborne and allowed me to breath them in.

Which begs the question over health and safety down the plot. The other major concern for allotmenteers is of course, Tetanus. Of course cuts and scrapes can occur whilst working on the plot, so having some kind of first-aid kit seems like a really good move. It's really quite easy to put together a basic kit. Here is a quick break down of what I would consider to be an essential bit of kit for working down the plot.

  • A mobile phone - These days this is pretty much a given. In the case of any major emergency a call to 999 can summon aid quick and effectively. But many allotments do not have official addresses or may be difficult to locate. Ensure you have accurate directions to guide the paramedics to your location.
  • Antiseptic/antibacterial gel - An alcohol based gel or cleaning solution can sterilise wounds and stop infections. Make sure you clean your hands thoroughly before handling any food.
  • Tweezers - a simple tweezer set are ideal for removing splinters.
  • Small Mirror - perfect if you get something in your eye.
  • Plasters - having a small range of plasters can cover over small cuts and wounds and keep them safe.
  • Fresh water - if you don't have water on tap, then make sure you bring a supply with you. It is essential to be able to wash wounds clean in uncontaminated water.

There really is no need for anything more major. I mean, it's not like you're camping in the wilds.

So where does the community bit come in? Well for one thing, most of the people down the allotment are of the same mind. They care about their food. They care about their plants. And they care about other people at the allotment. And proof positive of this last sentiment is that many people have offered to help. I have had offers of help to help dig the weeds out and get the plot a bit more presentable. I have had offers to help water the seedlings that are currently sitting in the greenhouses. These offers are highly appreciated as the Wife is also in difficulties at the moment due to a bit of a back issue where she cannot lift or twist at present and as she doesn't drive it's hard for her to get to the plot with my being incapacitated.

Allotmenteering is not just for food. Sometimes it's a way of life. And when you have friends like this, life is good. No matter how ill you become.

Thank you all for your help.